Smucker's, believe it or not, has a patent for the process of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You should see the filing, too -- based on the complex diagrams you'd think it detailed architectural concepts or maybe even some weird new camera lens. While the PB&J company won't likely sue for damages the next time you make yourself some lunch, a recently granted Amazon patent addresses another very simple concept, one used by professionals around the world: photography (and video) of items against a white backdrop.
The patent, simply called Studio Arrangement, accounts for one of the most essential foundations of commercial photography: shooting objects in front of a clean white background with very controlled lighting. Though the concept is one familiar to virtually all studio photographers, the patent narrows in on some very particular settings, which Amazon apparently thinks eliminate the need for much post-production work. These include "an ISO setting of about 320," an elevated surface "positioned about 21 inches above a floor level" and so on. Heck, it makes Apple's famous slide-to-unlock patent look incredibly general.
According to Kyle Coburn, a Dallas-based wedding photographer, Amazon's patent for such a well-known technique is "absurd. That fact that it was granted by the patent office is even more ridiculous." After all, it definitely makes you wonder what the point is -- and why the USPTO would be willing to go along with it.
Since the patent entails so many specific settings, it's unlikely that Amazon reps will be able to tell if you're guilty of using a "plurality of light source consuming about 40 kilowatts." Still, what does Amazon have in mind in addressing such a widely used practice?
We can only hope Amazon -- and Smucker's before it -- is making a joke of the US patent system by demonstrating just how much companies can get away with. Piling onto the ridiculousness might not be the quickest way to bring about reform, though. In any case, we've reached out to the e-commerce giant for comment, and will update the post should we get a response.