Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

Started Mar 7, 2006 | Discussions
ILoveNikon New Member • Posts: 7
Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

A patent was issued two months ago (Jan. 2006) that could have a big effect on event photographers everywhere. It was issued to a Peter Wolf, the owner of Photocrazy.com. Anyways, you can read up on all the gory details here:

http://forums.robgalbraith.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=394529&page=7&fpart=all&vc=1

boris tahmasian Regular Member • Posts: 378
Re: Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

It is a pretty sophisticated system. Unless someone is trying to do exactly the same thing, I would not worry about it.

It seems that the patent is only part of the story. There seems to be a lot more components involved to get the job done.

It is a cool idea. If you try to reverse engineer the process, I am sure it will take a good amount of time and effort and funds. If someone tries to duplicate his exact process then they need to worry about patent infringement. Otherwise, this should not be of concern to the average event photographer.

mrfitz Senior Member • Posts: 2,444
Yeah dont worry its just some geek with too much time!

Keep on shooting!

event-photos Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

Whilst I agree in principal with the previous poster I do take a different stance based on some experience of legal matters.

The problem as I see it is that although it is the patent holders responcibility to prove his case against you, you still have to defend the action, this can be expensive, is certainly time consuming and has the added poison of whilst you are defending this action you will not be concentrating on your business.

Have any cases been brought before the US courts of this guy defending his patent?

I have read the patent quickly and as I see it I do not use the system he describes but that may not prevent him from having a pop at me!

It is in our best interest to see if we can prove "Prior Art" existed before the date he applied for the patent. Based on the fact he has linked event photographers using both film and digital there may be guys who used a similar system before.

Spread the word to any other event photographers and see if between us we prove "Prior Art" this would render his patent useless and it can then be revoked.

Any other ideas anyone?

Best regards

Ian Griffiths

http://www.event-photos.co.uk

Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Re: Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

This is interesting, but it does not really (that I can see, from a glance) conflict with the manner in which many events are shot. For example, photos from a soccer tournament might be organized into fields and game times, and the participants browse electronic or physical proofs at the event, looking for shots they like from the games that they (or their kids, whatever) participated in.

This would not touch his patent, from what I can tell and is a system that was widely used prior to his patent. In fact, he even acknowledges that event photographers have tagged photos by participant, so it is unlikely that he is trying to claim ownership of that concept either. It sounds like he is just trying to create a better way to gather that data.

As an interesting aside, he states that the reason for the invention is at least partially because of obscured bib numbers for runners. Other than recording the exact date and time of the photo (which is in the EXIF data, so he did not invent that, nor is it likely he could convince anyone that he invented the idea of searching for photos or organizing photos based on EXIF data), he has not really proposed a solution, other than to have runners wear transmitters, which send identifying data to the photographer as they pass.

This is very interesting and may be the basis for the patent.

I did not read it very carefully, but I do not see anything that would cause me great concern if I was still doing event photography. It seems likely that he is going to try to sell some product based on these ideas. I do not expect to hear about him spying on event photographers, looking for bits of their workflow that allegedly violate his patent. I am no patent attorney, though.

event-photos Regular Member • Posts: 236
Re: Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

What he is proposing is to sell a licence for you to operate using a system that many already use.

Patents are always money driven, its never done for the betterment of a product service or procedure, patents are very expensive to register.

I'm not supporting his claims, far from it but neither am I prepared to bury my head in the sand.

Best regards

Ian Griffiths

http://www.event-photos.co.uk

Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Re: Event Photographers: Do you know Peter Wolf?

event-photos wrote:

Patents are always money driven, its never done for the betterment
of a product service or procedure, patents are very expensive to
register.

He may be planning to bring a product to market and he does not want Express Digital or someone else to offer the same technology. That is what patents are usually for.

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,247
Sporting events only- Wolf's other patent applications

As it turns out, I have a web site that predates Mr. Wolf's patent application, and in some ways is similar to his patent.

We have contestants who wear signs with identifying information.

We enter the identifying information into a database, and upload the images to our web site.

We allow people to find photos by searching by the identifying information, or by the date (our events sometimes run as long as 3 weeks).

Our biggest customers for this service are beauty pageants.

Obviously, Mr. Wolf's patent was of interest to me. I have spoken to Mr. Wolf, and he has assured me that his patent only applies to sporting events. He assured me that a Beauty Pageant is NOT a sporting event, and therefore our sites to not infringe on his patent.

I found Mr. Wolf's words to be reassuring, as my initial reading of his web site ( http://www.photocrazy.com/FAQ.html ) led me to believe his claim covered all event photography.

Depending on the sort of events you cover, you may NOT be infringing on his patent.

For some really interesting reading, you may widh to look at Mr Wolf's other patent applications:

Application 20040036015 , Serial No.: 224674
using an electric eye to trigger a camera.

Application 20050117018 Serial No.: 008697
using remote controlled cameras to take pictures of a sporting event.

I would expect that unless someone demonstrates prior art, these patents will also be granted.

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Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Re: Sporting events only- Wolf's other patent applications

Interesting.

His provisional patent application dates back to November, 1999 and I don't remember, off the top of my head, if Photoreflect or SEPN or anyone else had anything at that point. My feeling is that there were several.

If he is claiming ownership of online proofing and ordering, he will likely have a difficult time defending the patent.

Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Prior Art?
Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,247
Re: Sporting events only- Wolf's other patent applications

Ted Marchut wrote:

Interesting.

His provisional patent application dates back to November, 1999 and
I don't remember, off the top of my head, if Photoreflect or SEPN
or anyone else had anything at that point. My feeling is that
there were several.

My sites were up at that point. I suspect that Mr. Wolf position is that the pre-existing sites don't intrude on his patented process.

If he is claiming ownership of online proofing and ordering, he
will likely have a difficult time defending the patent.

I am not a patent attorney, but my limited understanding is that he is only claiming ownership of online proofing of SPORTING events where the participants are identified by a sign they are wearing. For instance a marathon race where everyone is wearing a number.

Generic online proofing sites without a search function, or not involving sporting events, may not be in conflict with his patent.

Of course, one should never rely on internet advice, and one should always consult with a knowledgeable attorney for advice in these matters.

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BobbyC Senior Member • Posts: 1,005
He seems to mislead a bit on his site...

Her is what he has on his website:

The concept of offering event photos for inspection, selection and > distribution via the Internet is protected by U.S. Patent No. 6,985,875. > Photographers performing event photography services in a manner > covered by the patent need to be licensed. In some circumstances, > those working in association with the photographer, such as event > organizers, may also be found to infringe the patent.

It seems he thinks he owns the process of selling prints online period, or at least wants to imply that. Yes he says "in a manner covered by the patent", I guess if one actually reads it they might understand.

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,247
No fancy electronics need for infringement

Which version of the patent did you read? The version at the US Patent and Trademark web site ( http://USPTO.GOV search for patent 6,985,875) is a searchable text document, that includes a section entitled "What is claimed". The version at Mr Wolf's web site ( http://www.photocrazy.com/Patents/Patent6985875.pdf ) is not searchable, and seems to be missing that section.

The version at the USPTO claims the patent is for "...A process providing event photographs of a sporting event for inspection, selection and distribution via a computer network"

The version at the patent office clearly states that the identifying information is selected from at least one of a variety of sources, including a number worn by the participant or the participant's name. The fancy automatic data collection systems are not a requirement for patent infringement.

Reading the numbers off a sign or a shirt and entering them into a publicly accessible photo database for sale, is a clear infringement of the patent. No fancy electronic devices are required.

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mrfitz Senior Member • Posts: 2,444
Re: Just one question!

Michael Fryd wrote:

As it turns out, I have a web site that predates Mr. Wolf's patent
application, and in some ways is similar to his patent.

We have contestants who wear signs with identifying information.

We enter the identifying information into a database, and upload
the images to our web site.

We allow people to find photos by searching by the identifying
information, or by the date (our events sometimes run as long as 3
weeks).

Our biggest customers for this service are beauty pageants.

Obviously, Mr. Wolf's patent was of interest to me. I have
spoken to Mr. Wolf, and he has assured me that his patent only
applies to sporting events. He assured me that a Beauty Pageant is
NOT a sporting event, and therefore our sites to not infringe on
his patent.

I found Mr. Wolf's words to be reassuring, as my initial reading of
his web site ( http://www.photocrazy.com/FAQ.html ) led me to believe
his claim covered all event photography.

Depending on the sort of events you cover, you may NOT be
infringing on his patent.

For some really interesting reading, you may widh to look at Mr
Wolf's other patent applications:

Application 20040036015 , Serial No.: 224674
using an electric eye to trigger a camera.

Application 20050117018 Serial No.: 008697
using remote controlled cameras to take pictures of a sporting event.

I would expect that unless someone demonstrates prior art, these
patents will also be granted.

Why does this idiot feel the need to patent this? I mean whats the motivation? Let me guess........

Money............

Pathetic

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,247
Why we have patents

mrfitz wrote:

...

Why does this idiot feel the need to patent this? I mean whats the
motivation? Let me guess........

...

The patent process is supposed to help society in the long run.

The theory is that the government grants the exclusive rights to a process to the inventor for a limited period of time, in exchange for the developer making the details of the invention public.

The inventor wins in the short term, and society wins in the long term when the invention becomes public domain.

Without patent protections, inventions would remain trade secrets, and may never pass into the public domain.

An example of this can be found in the drug market. Companies spend millions of dollars on drug research. Most of this investment never generates a product. Occasionally a useful drug is invented. The company sells it exclusively for a number of years until the patent runs out, then others can manufacturer the same drug (we call these generic drugs). Due to competition, generic drugs sell for a lower price.

Without patent protection, drug companies would keep drug formulas a secret. Drugs would never go generic, and consumers would lose.

Patents are not supposed to be issued for obvious ideas.

Some people have expressed outrage at the granting of Mr. Wolf's patent. I suspect the problem is not the concept of patents, but simply disbelief that Mr. Wolf actually invented something new, or a belief that the process described is obvious.

In general, properly issued patents are a good thing. They reward inventors and provide incentives for the development of new products.

The questions here are:

  • Did Mr. Wolf actually invent this process?

  • Was the process in use prior to Mr. Wolf's patent application?

  • If the process was in use, was Mr. Wolf aware of that?

  • Is the process obvious, and not patentable?

  • Should the patent have been issued in the first place?

  • Has any information come to light which might be useful in having the patent overturned?

  • Does anyone have the necessary budget to pay for a fight over the patent?

I think a major lesson learned is that it is far easier to stop a patent from being improperly issued than to overturn an issued patent. I urge everyone to occasionaly review patent applications for their professional fields, and where they know of prior art, to inform the patent office.

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Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Re: No fancy electronics need for infringement

Michael Fryd wrote:

Which version of the patent did you read? ...

The version at the USPTO claims the patent is for "...A process
providing event photographs of a sporting event for inspection,
selection and distribution via a computer network"

Like I said, I scanned the whole thing. The first claim, which forms the basis of all the other claims, is on an entire process, which comprises the following parts:

1) taking photographs of at least one participant of a sporting event along at least one point of a course or field thereof;

2) associating identifying data with each photograph taken, wherein the identifying data is selected from at least one of:
a number corresponding to a number worn by a participant,
a participant's name,
a code acquired from a component worn by a participant,
a date and time, including hour and minute the photograph was taken;

3) informing the sporting participants of the identifying data;

4) transferring the photographs to a computer network server;

5) cataloging each of the photographs in a web-site server according to the identifying data;

6) accessing the server at a location other than the sporting event and searching for a photograph of a particular sporting event participant utilizing the identifying data;

7) displaying the photograph of the sporting event participant for inspection and ordering.

It is my (very limited) understanding that any process that does not include all of these parts is not covered by the patent. So, if you are cataloging by groups of photos (i.e. male 20-30 yr old runners, or whatever the divisions are, you do not violate the patent). If you are offering them for sale at the event, you do not violate the patent. And so on.

Where I am not clear, is whether the patent only covers the sum total of all of the claims. Claim 3 specifically states:

"The process of claim 1, wherein when the identifying data comprises a code acquired from a component worn by the sporting event participant, including the step of triggering a camera to take a photograph when the component passes a predetermined point. "

This piece is mentioned repeatedly in the patent document and seems to be central to what he has "invented" and the reason I mentioned this specific item is because it is the only thing that strikes me as unusual enough to hold up in court. If he is going to try to defend the broad scope of simply proofing and ordering online, even within the confines laid out in claim #1, he is going to have difficulty, I believe.

It is also worth noting that he claims far more than sporting events. In the first paragraph of the Detailed Description of the Preferred Embodiments, he states:

"The event can comprise any organized event, such as a dance or graduation ceremony, but is particularly suited for athletic events such as bicycling, marathon, triathlon, hockey and other organized sporting events."

I do not believe the patent will be enforceable, except possibly in cases involving trigger mechanisms and ID transmitters or whatever you want to call the system. Even then, I believe the technology may have been in place in amusement parks before his patent application (or was that just a concept I reviewed many years ago?).

Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,247
Re: No fancy electronics need for infringement

Ted Marchut wrote:

...
It is also worth noting that he claims far more than sporting
events. In the first paragraph of the Detailed Description of the
Preferred Embodiments, he states:

"The event can comprise any organized event, such as a dance or
graduation ceremony, but is particularly suited for athletic events
such as bicycling, marathon, triathlon, hockey and other organized
sporting events."

I spoke to Mr. Wolf via telephone and he assured me that his patent only covers sporting events. He further assured me that beauty pageants (even those with talent competitions) are NOT sporting events.

Assuming Mr. Wolf is an honorable man, his word should be sufficient.

On the other hand, Mr. Wolf is in a difficult position. There are many web sites out there that existed long before he applied for his patent. He needs to be careful to make sure he excludes pre-existing web sites from his claim. Obviously, it is to Mr. Wolf's benefit to exclude only the sites he needs to exclude, and to include as many sites as possible.

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mrfitz Senior Member • Posts: 2,444
Re: No fancy electronics need for infringement

Michael Fryd wrote:

Ted Marchut wrote:

...
It is also worth noting that he claims far more than sporting
events. In the first paragraph of the Detailed Description of the
Preferred Embodiments, he states:

"The event can comprise any organized event, such as a dance or
graduation ceremony, but is particularly suited for athletic events
such as bicycling, marathon, triathlon, hockey and other organized
sporting events."

I spoke to Mr. Wolf via telephone and he assured me that his patent
only covers sporting events. He further assured me that beauty
pageants (even those with talent competitions) are NOT sporting
events.

Assuming Mr. Wolf is an honorable man, his word should be sufficient.

On the other hand, Mr. Wolf is in a difficult position. There are
many web sites out there that existed long before he applied for
his patent. He needs to be careful to make sure he excludes
pre-existing web sites from his claim. Obviously, it is to Mr.
Wolf's benefit to exclude only the sites he needs to exclude, and
to include as many sites as possible.

A decent man would not feel the need to even attempt patents on this. Whats up with him? Worried about the competition....this is the sort of loathsome behaviour that is anti competetive, and looks like nothing other than an attempt to milk cash out of people...

People like this shouldnt be in business...let alone a photography business

Ted Marchut Contributing Member • Posts: 642
Re: Why we have patents

Good points. There has actually been a growing concern that patents are being awarded too loosely, perhaps because the patent office is overwhelmed, perhaps because they do not understand a lot of the new technologies, perhaps for any number of reasons.

I agree that patents are very important. In theory, they would prevent Nikon or Canon from stealing whatever great idea you or I dream up the next time we are out shooting and thinking about what would make our cameras better.

event-photos Regular Member • Posts: 236
Confirmation??

Hi Ted,

Did you get him to put it in writing?

Whilst I have no reason to doubt Mr Wolfs word, patents do get traded almost like stocks and shares, any new owner may not be so honourable and if in the worst case senario, Mr Wolf passed away, how could you prove the validity of your conversation?

The issue that could arise is the definition of 'sport' here is how the Oxford English Dictionary defines sport.

sport

• noun

1 an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others.

2 informal a person who behaves in a good or specified way in response to teasing, defeat, etc.
3 success or pleasure derived from an activity such as hunting.
4 dated entertainment; fun.

5 chiefly Austral. NZ a friendly form of address, especially between unacquainted men.

6 Biology an animal or plant showing abnormal or striking variation from the parent type as a result of spontaneous mutation.

It is a sad fact that there are solicitors / attorneys out there who would argue that a Beauty Pagent is a sport as they are competing against eachother.

This isn't my interprutation of sport however experience has taught me not to think laterally!

Protect your butt!

Best regards

Ian Grififths

http://www.event-photos.co.uk

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