The Slatest

Why Did Amazon Patent the Process of Taking a Picture of Something Against a White Background?

just white space, that's all


A photography site called DIY Photography wrote this week that the Amazon corporation applied for—and received—a patent for the process of taking a picture of an object against a white background. Despite the technical detail in the patent documentation, the DIY site says, Amazon is ultimately claiming exclusive rights to a basic version of an extremely common practice:

The patent number is 8,676,045B1 and you can read the entire boring text on USPTO, or just about any basic studio photography book.


(Several comments by self-professed photographers on the site TechDirt echo this analysis.)

The obvious question, given that it seems unlikely that Amazon would actually file or win a patent infringement lawsuit against a mom and pop photography studio based on this claim, is: why get the patent in the first place? TechDirt’s commenters suggest a variety of possibilities:


- their legal department was looking for busywork to justify its existence

- an outside law firm was looking for busywork to pad its bills

- it makes the total number of patents owned by Amazon sound more impressive

- it’s a potential bullet in an arsenal to use against a theoretical large, well-funded Amazon competitor who Amazon would sue for a bunch of reasons all at once (extrapolating a little: maybe this patent would have some use against an online-retail company that used white backgrounds and was imitating Amazon in many other ways as well?)

- it’s a pre-emptive defense against a potential fraudulent “patent troll” suing Amazon and claiming he or she actually invented the white-background technique

There was also a theory that involved the “World Police” and the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. Hey, it’s a comment section.