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Archive 2009 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim
  
 
nathanlake
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p.1 #1 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


This topic has been discussed on FM in the past, but not since the most recent legal events.

For those of you not familiar with this case, Peter Wolf (owner of PhotoCrazy) was granted a patent that basically says he owns the process for posting event photos on a web site. An abstract of this patent is found here: http://www.google.com/patents?vid=USPAT6985875


The last time this was discussed on FM, Wolf had filed suit against a number of prominent web providers claiming patent infringement and trying to force them to either stop allowing posting of events photos, or pay PhotoCrazy a licensing fee. These companies include: Brightroom, Elizabether Kreutz, Bird's Eye View, Digilabs, Printroom, SmugMug, and Hour Photos (dba Master Photos USA).

The general assumption was, even among some very good patent attorneys, that once it went to court, the case would be dismissed and the patent found to be invalid. However, not a single case went to court. Every single defendant folded and cut a deal with Wolf. Therefore, the patent still has legal enforcabiltity. Furthermore, the deal that those companies cut only applies to postings of less than 500 images. If you post more than 500 on one of those sites, you are supposed to contact Wolf to buy a license to do to. If you are posting event images on your own site, you supposedly would have to pay a license fee regardless of how many you post. Here is the statement from the SmugMug site...

Notice for Professional Account holders:
Uploading more than 500 photographs of participants in a single
sporting event may require a License from PhotoCrazy, Inc.
To avoid patent infringement, please contact:

PhotoCrazy, Inc.
Attn: Peter Wolf
509 Raindance Street
Thousand Oaks, California 91360-1219
Email: peter@photocrazy.com







May 06, 2009 at 09:46 PM
PierreB
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p.1 #2 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


I've never heard of this before but it sounds incredible to me that none of the 'defendants' wished to test the water in court. The fact that SmugMug are posting that statement lends significant credibility to PhotoCrazy's position.

Does anyone know if this is a worldwide or US only patent?



May 06, 2009 at 09:57 PM
Alex Nail
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p.1 #3 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


That is one of the most unbeleivable patents I have ever read. Surely this breaks the 'non-obvious' rule straight away? I mean anyone with any understanding of the internet and event photography would find this highly obvious. What even more unbeleivable is that the patent was registered in 2006!


May 06, 2009 at 10:01 PM
Raskill
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p.1 #4 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


Companies will often do anything to avoid a costly trial. Pay him 50% of the projected costs to run the matter at Court, and you are still far better off than you would be.

Like you said, by not testing the water and posting their statement certainly adds cred to this guys claims...



May 06, 2009 at 10:04 PM
rowan57
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p.1 #5 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


I will admit to only having a basic understanding of US patent law, but were the patent people drunk when they allowed this to go through? Someone needs to take the guy to court, wipe the floor with him and make them reverse the patent acceptance.


May 06, 2009 at 10:08 PM
XFBO
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p.1 #6 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


This seems incredible to me, it would seem as if anyone could get a patent on anything then that will limit the actions of an individual.


May 07, 2009 at 02:39 AM
PierreB
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p.1 #7 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


If it's a US only patent, it would be simple enough to circumvent by using an ISP in an alternative country. The world wide web is just that - world wide.


May 07, 2009 at 08:15 AM
rowan57
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p.1 #8 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


Nope, there have been cases of holders of US patents going after international companies i believe. My experience with patent law is regarding Plant Patents, but one of the major issues with Plant Patents is that people can say patent a specific use for a plant, then the people who have been using the plant in that way for generations are supposed to pay for that knowledge? The courts have been known to reject the patents on appeal however. This sounds like a very similar situation & it baffles me that none of these big old companies has had the balls to stand up and be counted.

Another equally foolish example in plants is the patenting of plant genes 'just in case' they are ever useful. I.e. they have no current use, but if you patent every plant gene in the world, someones likely to have to pay something at some point.

Regards
Rowan



May 07, 2009 at 09:14 AM
philber
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p.1 #9 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


I agree with the point you make, Rowan, but not in this case. Because this time, it would be up to Photocrazy to go after the infringement, and therefore go to court, where the whole patent would be at risk. With such a "weak" patent, the strategy is to scare people into "nuisance" settlements, but not actually go to court and risk the golden goose getting slaughtered. So a foreign ISP is workeable in this case, IMHO. Just my $0.02


May 07, 2009 at 09:49 AM
mdude85
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p.1 #10 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


philber wrote:
With such a "weak" patent, the strategy is to scare people into "nuisance" settlements, but not actually go to court and risk the golden goose getting slaughtered. So a foreign ISP is workeable in this case, IMHO. Just my $0.02


There is no such thing as a "weak" patent. All patents are granted the same terms, conditions and rights according to the law. Perhaps there are some patents whose inventions are more obvious than others, but that doesn't at all diminish the level of protection on the invention once the invention has been patented, since whoever allowed this patent decided that it passed at least a required threshold for novelty.

I agree with the others that it is almost always less expensive to license the invention from a patent than to spend millions of dollars and many years tied up in litigation to invalidate the patent.

Also, keep in mind that this invention was applied for in November 1999 (although it was granted as a patent in 2006). So prior art on this patent would need to exist in some form or another before Nov. 1999. The first digital cameras for professional use were just coming out around this time, and the Internet as it exists today was still infantile, so it is possible that when this patent was applied for, the invention was considered novel.



May 07, 2009 at 03:02 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



jojosung
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p.1 #11 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


from my understanding on this issue. the guy didn't just go after the photographer.. he went after the event organizer as well... threatening the event organizer of possible being liable for the photographer if they didn't hired the licensed photographer.

The thing is that it doesn't cost more for event organizer to just hired one of the photographer with photocrazy licensed.

Thus by sending these thratening letters out to the organizer, it does limit your ability to have a fair chance as competing for the job, despite the fact that you might be using an international ISP.

Crazy and only in USA can this thing be happening.



May 07, 2009 at 03:43 PM
rowan57
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p.1 #12 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


philber wrote:
I agree with the point you make, Rowan, but not in this case. Because this time, it would be up to Photocrazy to go after the infringement, and therefore go to court, where the whole patent would be at risk. With such a "weak" patent, the strategy is to scare people into "nuisance" settlements, but not actually go to court and risk the golden goose getting slaughtered. So a foreign ISP is workeable in this case, IMHO. Just my $0.02


While i agree with you on the premise, I believe it is more a fundamental issue to do with US Patent Law, which is widely accepted as being overly complex (I have friends with ~30 years experience in the british government who don't understand it) and open to abuse. The chances are that the US courts would stand behind the patent holder unless an extremely sympathetic judge was found.

Regards
Rowan



May 07, 2009 at 06:27 PM
rowan57
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p.1 #13 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


A quick addendum: An interesting read for anyone with time to spare


May 07, 2009 at 06:29 PM
PierreB
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p.1 #14 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


rowan57 wrote:
A quick addendum: An interesting read for anyone with time to spare


I thought...'I have time to spare, I'll take a look.'
88 pages?? That'll have to wait until I really have nothing else to do.

Thanks for posting the link though. I'll look through it over the weekend.



May 07, 2009 at 09:14 PM
Arka
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p.1 #15 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


mdude85 wrote:
There is no such thing as a "weak" patent. All patents are granted the same terms, conditions and rights according to the law. Perhaps there are some patents whose inventions are more obvious than others, but that doesn't at all diminish the level of protection on the invention once the invention has been patented, since whoever allowed this patent decided that it passed at least a required threshold for novelty.


True, but some are easier to invalidate than others. At the time of filing, the claims in this patent may have been anticipated, though I take your argument that the state of digital photography and digital distribution was relatively primitive in 1999. That said, if you can find someone was doing this at this time, you can invalidate the patent. I wonder if Yahoo's or Lycos' archives stretch far enough back to do a search...

I agree with the others that it is almost always less expensive to license the invention from a patent than to spend millions of dollars and many years tied up in litigation to invalidate the patent.

Indeed, especially since patent litigators are expensive. That said, I would be pretty interested in trying it, if I could find the time.

Arka C.



May 07, 2009 at 10:28 PM
pipspeak
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p.1 #16 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


Someone will eventually challenge it or find an easy way to circumvent it. Perhaps a photographer who's also a lawyer

Seems like there probably enough prior art out there in this case, but simply coming up with a way to circumvent one or more of the patent claims would probably be easier.



May 08, 2009 at 06:28 AM
AmIgone
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p.1 #17 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


Iíve got a great idea. How about if I take a few pieces of glass at different curvatures, make it so they can magnify an object, so it can be viewed clearly, Iíll call if focusing. I donít want to patent the actual product, I just want to patent the conceptual design of creating focus.


May 08, 2009 at 02:52 PM
mdude85
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p.1 #18 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


AmIgone wrote:
Iíve got a great idea. How about if I take a few pieces of glass at different curvatures, make it so they can magnify an object, so it can be viewed clearly, Iíll call if focusing. I donít want to patent the actual product, I just want to patent the conceptual design of creating focus.


I agree, you should try it!



May 08, 2009 at 02:52 PM
butchM
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p.1 #19 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


Let me get this straight ... was the patent in question granted to cover posting images to the net .... or the fact that he applied searchable metadata/keywording to the images before they were uploaded ..... or both ..... ?


May 08, 2009 at 04:25 PM
mdude85
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p.1 #20 · PhotoCrazy Patent Claim


butchM wrote:
Let me get this straight ... was the patent in question granted to cover posting images to the net .... or the fact that he applied searchable metadata/keywording to the images before they were uploaded ..... or both ..... ?


The patent covers the scope of the words in the claims -- you can click the links the OP posted and they will direct you to the patents where you can read exactly what the patent covers and what it does not cover.



May 08, 2009 at 05:39 PM
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