Upload & Sell: Off
Last year, I had the distinct displeasure of dealing with Peter Wolf. He contacted me out of the blue to demand that I start paying his company a licensing fee, as I had been posting my event photos in a manner that allowed my customers to click on a link bearing their (bike) number. Frustratingly, his US patents for organizing online photos by a visible (bib, number plate, etc) number - or by a time, are both valid.
My own opinion is that Wolf's tactics are deplorable, and if there is a hell, there's a special place waiting there for him. However, he is acting completely within his legal rights in terms of the patents themselves. As a result of my own interactions with Wolf, I immediately pulled all of the event photos I had online, re-posting them using a different organization scheme, and from the point of our correspondence forward, I never again posted photos on my site that were organized by participant number. I was clear in all my correspondence with him that I had no intentions of ever paying him a licensing fee, nor "thanking him" (his suggestion) for his supposed "inventing" the idea of sorting/organizing photos by competitor number. He was disappointed that I was not going to pay him, but he did not take any legal action.
I found it interesting to learn that Printroom (which I stopped using a couple months prior to my hearing from Peter Wolf) had been reporting sales of their own customers to Wolf, and paying a licensing fee for photos sold in cases where they infringed on Wolf's patent. When I was their customer, I had no idea Printroom was doing this behind the scenes. Peter asked me to confirm the number of sales I'd made, which Printroom had apparently reported to him. And at that moment it occurred to me: How could he ever know whether the reported number was accurate, unless a case went to court and records and payment checks were subpoenaed? Perhaps the folks at Printroom despise Wolf and his stupid patents as much as the photographer community...
I also found it interesting that the lawyer for the (GranFondo) race organizer dismissed Wolf's patents as "neither novel or non-obvious". He is, in essence, challenging Wolf to take them (or their hired photographers) to court. To my knowledge, the patents ARE valid, and while most photographers cave and reach a financial settlement (and/or licensing agreement) with Wolf before it ever gets to court, I believe Wolf has won at least two cases that did go to court. Challenging the patents is something that really needs to be done, but no one photographer or group is likely going to be able to take it on as a solo effort.
I would love to see a class action get underway. I bet hundreds or thousands of photographers would be willing to participate, and share the burden of the enormous expense it would take to fight the patents. But you know what? My own gut feeling is that EVEN THOUGH the idea of looking for one's photos by participant number is COMPLETELY OBVIOUS (how else would you identify one competitor in a field of dozens or hundreds or thousands?), the patents would be upheld, because apparently no one can produce evidence that someone was doing this before Wolf filed for his patents (versus the date the patent was granted, which was several years later).
At least a year ago, I had read on another forum that there was a Supreme Court case pending which would have affected (among other things) the validity of Wolf's online photo search-related patents (he claims to have many other patents than the ones we're questioning here). My understanding about that particular case is that if Wolf's patents were in fact overturned as a result, the bigger issue is that it would have somehow negatively affected the pharmaceutical industry, and as such, they (of very deep pockets) were extremely keen to fight the case. I have no idea what that case was about, and whether it was ever resolved...and I must apologize for any mis-information - again, this is based on a year-old memory of what I'd heard was going on.