Walker Digital, who stepped into the legal spotlight earlier this year when it went to sue over 100 technology companies for patent infringements, is at it again. This time, they have their sights set on The Walt Disney Company, specifically Disney Photo Imaging, the business unit behind the Disney PhotoPass service at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts.
At the heart of the complaint is Walker Digital’s patent titled ‘Method and Apparatus for
Automatically Capturing and Managing Images’ which, in all fairness, is a rather creative device in which a camera (or user of a camera) sets parameters to determine if a photo is worth keeping and, if so, either compresses or forwards the image to another device to recover lost space. The keyword throughout the patent is automatic and the image analyzer uses a point system to determine if a photo is worth keeping or if it should be deleted, so that when left alone in the wild, it never suffers from storage concerns.
Specifically what Walker Digital claims, however, is that Disney PhotoPass is violating claim 1 of the patent in which a camera (or user) sees if a photo meets desired qualifications and then sends it off somewhere else for storage, or as the complaint states: ‘By way of example and without limitation, Defendant’s camera systems that are part of the Disney PhotoPass service allow Disney’s photographers to pre-program the system to transmit later acquired images when certain conditions are satisfied.’
This can very loosely be applied to how the PhotoPass system currently works (to my understanding, anyway). Firstly, the photographer really has no QA concerns as far as I’m aware. If they did, over-/under-exposed and out-of-focus and other problematic photos would simply not exist in guests’ accounts. The fact is, PhotoPass does have a quality assurance department who reviews every photo after the image has been transmitted wirelessly. Although they do not reject photos based on quality of the photos, they do reject photos that violate the terms of service and that could apply to what Walker Digital claims but for the fact that, again, it happens after the photo is transmitted to a secondary device. In essence, while Walker Digital aims to resolve issues with limited local storage being consumed, Disney PhotoPass transmits photos wirelessly for convenience to both the photographer and the guests. Therefore, the spirit of the patent does not match the spirit of the PhotoPass service.
In addition to compensatory damages and lawyers’ fees and the like, Walker Digital is seeking a permanent injunction against the Disney PhotoPass service (even eliminating the wireless aspect may not help the cause) and a trial by jury.
Earlier today, The Walt Disney Company was delivered a summons notifying them of the lawsuit and that they have 21 days to respond to the complaint which we include here for those who are interested in reading it. Be prepared, however, to read how Walker Digital created Priceline.com ad nauseum.