Patent Strapcutters

Discuss

44 Responses to “Patent Strapcutters”

  1. Ivan Knezevic says:

    Pesky kids getting in way of your photography. Lord knows that in life, the paramount thing is to be able to wield a DSLR WITH LENSES, at all times!

    • noah django says:

      I concur wholeheartedly.  After learning photography with a fully manual SLR [probably the last generation to learn on film with darkrooms,] I put aside photography for quite some time.  When I recently started again, I wanted a digital machine, but much as I loved my old SLR, the ONE thing I was excited about was NOT lugging that awkwardly-shaped heavy beast around everyday.

      Sure, I miss manual controls on the lens; but I can shoot RAW format, get thru-the-lens framing, and use manual settings on a camera that fits in my pocket!

      It baffles me how many amateur photographers lug DSLRs around with bags full of extra gear.  I can get the same shots, usually.  Embrace the obvious advantage of the digital format:  miniaturization.  You can hold both a baby and a smaller camera, then forget about special straps and patent-trolling altogether.

      [sage for off-topic but the post itself switched topics a few times so I don't feel too bad]

    • You might note that, in the very first paragraph, I took the piss out of myself in that regard.

  2. Michael Christian says:

    I have a Quick Strap attached to my camera and after looking at the Black Rapid I’d guess mine came from the same Chinese assembly line and they just swapped out a “Q” for an “R” on the shoulder. I paid $15 rather than $60 though. It’s a good product and I do like it much better than my old school neck strap.

  3. ToMajorTom says:

    What a Catch 22 for innovators — damned if you do (filing silly patents and perpetuating a broken system) and damned if you don’t (everyone else is doing it and will sue you). 

    If a budding entrepreneur/innovator/inventor looks at the patent system and the proliferation of patent trolls (not that Black Rapid is a patent troll), he/she is likely to give up before getting started.  And that’s a shame.

  4. Big_Onion says:

    Blog post dating back to 1885? That’s impressive! :)

    • lhaeger says:

      read it this way: “…provides examples … dating back to 1885…”. Where? In a blog post. When? no idea…

      • Big_Onion says:

        Makes more sense that way. This is what I get for reading and commenting before any caffeine intake.

        Kind of an awkwardly worded sentence. Regardless, if something existed as far back as 1885, it surprises me that a patent was awarded. Then again, that seems like a common issue.

  5. David Yoon says:

    I still don’t really get patents. Let’s say I patented the push button electrical circuit way back when. Wouldn’t I be able to sue the pants off everyone on the planet trying to make keyboards, console buttons, foot pedals, game controllers, and whatnot?

    I don’t mean to be snarky or anything…I’m honestly confused and kinda always have been. I only get more confused when I browse around Google Patents and see so many filings for super similar things.

    • Patents are supposed to be extremely specific. So you’re not supposed to be able to patent he notion of a general switch, but a very specific one with diagram that show the function, and then make specific claims (in a weird patent language in which every word has only one meaning). So you can’t say, “Hey, a switch goes on and off.” Rather, you have to show a switch function and claim what’s unique, non-obvious, and worthwhile.

      The very broken part of the patent system is that courts (not Congress) allowed the existence of business-method patents, which describe how to do something abstract using a computer as the device that carries out the task. This is how LZW and SSL and other things were patented. That is what most businesses object to, even though with huge patent libraries, because it’s a distraction. The touchscreen patents Apple has would mostly stand, as they are hardware implementations; but interface and action patents would not.

      Also, patents have a limited lifetime. SSL was patented so early that the patent expired when the Web started to expand, allowing its replacement by TLS (which novel concepts were not patented or had the patents donated, not sure which) without lawsuits.

      • David Yoon says:

        Wow, thanks for the awesome response. I am elucidated!

        One things still bothers me though…why would Black Rapid go after a company as small as Luma? Well, er, I mean, why now? What (I wonder) was the spark that gave them the idea, “hey, let’s sue those guys!” Do you think they’re trying to be the only player in the camera strap sling world? Because for the most part there’s always at least two competitors in any product niche, it seems.

        • Graysmith says:

          BlackRapid hasn’t gone after them. Luma Loop stopped producing their straps because they feared they might get sued, but if you read the article there’s nothing to suggest that BlackRapid has done anything at all except file for the patent.

      • Graysmith says:

        Yeah, that’s precisely what bothers me about patents, the vagueness of what can be patented. None of these guys should own the exclusive right to have a strap with another sliding strap on it, that’s just way too simple an idea. What they should be able to patent in this case is the actual connection mechanism between the strap and the camera, which in the case of these two are very different.

        I own a BlackRapid strap myself which I absolutely adore, and with a product that good you shouldn’t worry about there being others doing similar kind of products. But of course if they don’t patent it, another company will so it’s really not their fault.. It’s the whole patent system that must become more strict and specific.

    • Mike Warady says:

      Patents grant exclusivity for a finite period of time, roughly 20 years from the filing date.  So, you could sue the pants off everyone just for that time period, then it is in the public domain for free use.  

      • MrWoods says:

        Holy Shit! 20 years, for a camera strap. 20 years seems like a ridiculously long time to have a monopoly.  Although I do think this is a great example of someone coming up with a gadget that makes the world better.

        I think the premise that people wouldn’t be making these things if there wasn’t exclusivity is BS.  Patent life should be tied to the R&D investment in the product, and contingent on you actually making the product.

    • Phil Culmer says:

      Only for a limited period – I think it’s about 20 years in the UK for example.

      That’s why (for example) big pharma spends so much on research: not beccause they want to find new cures, or better ones, but because they are losing their monopoly on the old ones, and need to find something else that no-one else can sell without buying a licence from them.

  6. glatt1 says:

    Sounds like both companies have legitimate points.  What we need is an independent person (like, oh, I don’t know.  A judge?) to decide who wins.  The real problem here is the cost of litigation.  Small companies simply can’t afford it.

  7. bengee says:

    An amazingly insightful post about the death of innocence in late capitalism disguised as a gadget advertisement? What are you trying to do to my reading habits !? 

    When they started embedding poetry in spam I began to worry. . . what if the next Philip K Dick writes life insurance advertisements? SECRET INITIATIONS.

  8. ahecht says:

    Black Rapid never went after Luma. They files for a patent, which may have been an offensive OR a defensive move. Luma is shutting down per-emptively to avoid a future lawsuit should Black Rapid sue.

    That said, this move seems a bit drastic. Did Luma reach out to Black Rapid to discuss a licensing arrangement? Even if they didn’t want to or couldn’t license the patent, a request for ex parte reexamination only costs $2520, which is a very small price to pay to keep a business afloat. Heck, they could probably raise a good percentage of that by asking for donations, given the fan following they seem to have.

    • glatt1 says:

      The $2520 is what the PTO would charge them.  What would the attorney who prepares the request for the reexam charge them?  $10K?  $20K?

  9. the_engineer says:

    I’m not quite sure what the point of this article is. It goes from praising a product (which isn’t available) to talking about a patent issue that has abosultely nothing to do with this product, and then goes back to talk about why this product isn’t on the market. I suppose this raises the profile of Luma slightly, but i’m not sure what’s at issue here. The author speaks of “Prior art” but cites nothing of actual prior art to speak of. Is he talking about the Military’s M-16 straps or what?

     I actually just recieved a BlackRapid (BR) Strap for an anniversary present from my wife and did do a double take when I saw the “Patent Pending” Statement on the strap itself, so i’m not entirely surprised to see a situation like this, but couldn’t Luma Just talk to BR (who very obviously got there first) and come up with a licensing deal? This is hardly black market extortion, BR got there first in terms of patents. Period. The total fees to dispute this patent will probably cost way more than Luma is likely to pay BR unless of course they’re greedy bastards (which I doubt). Luma might even be able to get away with a one time fee Paid to BR in an approximate amount of what might get spent in the otherwise ensuing patent lawsuit.  To me anyhow, this article seems like just so much ado about nothing. 

    Business is Business. TANSTAAFL

  10. hub says:

    One thing I’m sue that I will disregard BlackRapid products forever, unless there is a change… And I will make sure to tell people why.

    I have both kind of strap and I can tell you that theirs is not as good as Luma Labs’.

  11. phil baird says:

    sounds like both products borrow heavily from what is called a single point rifle sling–or even better for a camera a single point bungee sling.  I know photographers who use modded rifle slings for just that purpose, I have a dozen slings at home i’m using for a accordion strap project.

    • the_engineer says:

      This is interesting and must be the “prior art” and “obviousness” the author alludes to but never mentions. Personally i’m pretty sure BR hasn’t done ANYTHING to deserve negative attention here. Bringing patent trolls into the discussion was totally unnecessary.

    • siliconsunset says:

      Phil, your comment hit while I was typing mine out and is much better stated. How is this *significantly* different, thus patentable, than a single-point rifle sling?

    • gadgetphile says:

      IIRC, Luma Loop chose a manufacturer who makes parts for single point rifle slings to make their quick releases.

      The interesting challenge here is to prevent the blatant knockoffs as mentioned in the second comment while encouraging innovation. It was my understanding that the Luma Loop’s distinguishing characteristics were the pro strap and the push button quick release (vs. the carabiner style Blask Rapid uses).

      An over the shoulder strap with a freely gliding attachment seems a bit too general, even if specifically applied to cameras. The stops to restrict some of the motion may or may not be so straightforward.

      Maybe Luma Loop needs to market their strap for rifles that have a thin strap attachment point?

  12. siliconsunset says:

    This is a single-point rifle sling attached to a camera. How can anyone sue over this?

  13. While sadly this recommendation has nothing to do with any IP drama, I cannot suggest strongly enough that any SLR user get a side strap such as this one. It allows the hand to hold and control the weight of the camera, while not involving the fingers at all. This gets you as close to protracted one-handed operation as you’re likely to get with an SLR.

  14. TFox says:

    Litigation is expensive and risky for the patent holder too, especially if there are serious questions about the strength of the patent. They risk losing the entire patent! A patent that, rightly or wrongly, they’ve spent many years and a lot of money obtaining. I’d think a smart patentholder with a weak patent would be eager to license it to a competitor, rather than have to spend money defending it and lose anyway. But it’s business decisions and a poker game for all sides.

  15. Tim Drage says:

    tl;dslr

  16. DaveP says:

    communication is helpful.  luma loop, pick up the phone and call black rapid and maybe you can work something out.

    • Matt Popke says:

      The cynic in me wonders if this isn’t Luma’s idea of communicating. Rather than call BR and talk it out, they decide to write a public letter that makes BR look like patent trolls and hope the ensuing public discussion makes their case for them. It could be that some communication occurred already before the patent was granted and Luma does know BR intends to go after competitors (maybe BR offered a licensing agreement to competitors shortly after filing, but before approval, and no one took them up on the deal because they thought the patent wouldn’t pass muster). 

      The optimist in me thinks Luma is just overreacting to a threat that hasn’t fully materialized yet (no one has filed suit against anybody). They’re just making a decision to discontinue a popular product and telling their customers why. This same part of me thinks BR filed this patent in good faith because they sincerely believe it qualifies (though I disagree with them on that point).

      The photographer in me prefers Black Rapid’s straps anyway but is now conflicted about buying one because of IP issues. So score one point for Luma I guess, though I’m not certain that’s a good thing either. One thing about the ability to publicly shame people and companies online (or just talk about them without trying to shame them) is that a lot of shots get fired without asking questions first and people’s emotional response to stories tends to overwhelm their reasoning. I’m second guessing a holiday purchase because a company I know little about filed a patent for a device that may or may not qualify for one and another company I know little about is upset by that. 

      • Matt, you shouldn’t worry or second guess a decision about buying a Black Rapid strap because of this.

        Personally, I’m a strong believer in that everyone should use the gear that helps them to be their most effective when they are out in the field. Everything you buy and use should be in the service of making images—that’s the most important thing. If you prefer it to any other single point sling (or any other strap for that matter) still on the market, then that’s the one you should get. And I’d tell you that even if the Loop were still for sale. 

      • DaveP says:

        I think there’s a good chance of that, Matt… of course Luma is overreacting!  Good grief, they shut down production altogether instead of picking up the phone and calling Black Rapid?  I’m not saying its likely, but there is the potential that this gets resolved with a ten minute chat and then GF can write twenty paragraphs about something more interesting.

        • I wouldn’t assume that there was no communication between the companies. It’d be absolutely silly to remove a product from sale right before the busy holiday season without good reason.

  17. kbryan44 says:

    There’s a key difference between the Rapid Strap and a single poing rifle sling. With the RS, the strap itself doesn’t move. The attached camera slides along the strap from the hip to shooting position. With a single point rifle sling, the the strap moves around the body as you move the rifle from storage to firing position.

  18. Johan Broad says:

    What amazes me here is that someone tried to copyright what is essentially a strap and a clip. Both of which can be purchased at a hardware store for less that $10.00.

    Nylon Straps, Snap clips, and quick release buckles are cheap and plentiful. If you are a photographer, go make your own!!!

  19. jimkirk says:

    My name is on a few patents, and I’ve also designed circuits to skirt around others’ patents.  Sometimes the “novel and non-obvous” aspect isn’t apparent to the designers; several times I’ve been told “well, it wouldn’t be obvious to anyone else…”

    Still, my favorite lawyer joke was told to me by a patent lawyer:  “I don’t like to use Laten, per se…”

  20. hinten says:

    I got the C-Loop from Custom SLR when they started the project on Kickstarter. Couldn’t be happier with the combination of their Split Strap.
    Now I wonder why they didn’t see any patent conflict issues and they, to my knowledge, were never approached by any lawyers.
    Just a happy customer: http://www.customslr.com/

    I don’t know this space very well but after reading this article I cannot decide between ‘unjust’ and ‘premature hyperbole’.

  21. Def-Proc says:

    Isn’t this a perfect case for “if you’re going to kill it, open source it”?

    Patents allow for public discussion of the ideas, and Luma Labs have already decided to sell no more. Everybody wins!

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