Peter Wolf’s Techdirt Profile


About Peter Wolf

Emigrated from Germany in 1961. University of Illinois alumni. Research & Development for various companies in Chicago and California. Inventor or co-inventor on 16 U.S. Patents. Developed a patented method of sports event photography. Happily married for 38 years, 4 children and 8 grandchildren. Hobbies include Ham Radio, Tennis, Hiking, Bicycling, Chess, pistol shooting & reloading ammo. Actively involved in developing a non-profit Hospice House ( and supporting the Reagan Legacy Foundation.

Read more about Peter in a Published Biography - Any proceeds are donated to Our Community House of Hope

Visit Peter's professional websites at: and

Peter Wolf’s Comments comment rss

  • Aug 27th, 2014 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Patents out of control

    Most of the original intent of patents was to protect someone who did not have a lot of resources from being undercut by someone .... who had a lot of resources.

    That is certainly the case in my situation. PhotoCrazy is a one person company with no photographers and working out of a garage being taken advantage by Capstone with several employees a sizable office and 400+ photographers all over the country. Their revenue is 10 to 20 times what my income is.

    If it weren't for my patents, I wouldn't have a prayer against someone like Capstone who blatantly use my IP to generate their revenue.

  • Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    Yes, but the explanation doesn't have to [be] sensical or correct. The patent office routinely approves all kinds of obviously bogus patents.

    The "obviousness" of something is a very contentious and often very complex issue when it comes to patents. I have personally argued with the USPTO about "obviousness" and things got very technical. What may seem obvious to many people may not legally qualify as obvious. It is the legal definition that usually surpasses what a lay person may think.

    I would recommend looking at the patent "File Wrapper" to understand why something that seems obvious was ruled by the USPTO as not obvious. Usually the arguments include prior court rulings and case law. It gets very involved.

    Until you study the "File Wrapper" please don't jump to conclusions. The law is not always perfect but we need to adhere to the written law to avoid total chaos.

  • Aug 27th, 2014 @ 11:02am

    Re: Patent Troll

    First of all, I take offense to being called a "Patent Troll". I am not, please take a moment and google what a "Patent Troll" is and you should then apologize for calling or referring to me as such.

    Here is how Wikipedia defines a Patent Troll:

    A patent troll... is a person or company who enforces patent rights against accused infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question, thus engaging in economic rent-seeking.

    My entire (100%) livelihood has been made since 1999 by practicing what I claim in my patents. I am not a Patent Troll.

    Mr.Wolf Likes easy money.

    LOL, Do you have any idea what it costs to get a patent and then enforce it? If you did, you would quickly realize that it is NOT "easy money". Far from it. However, I do like to be compensated for my Intellectual Property when someone else uses it. That is fair.

    I don't profess to be the best photographer, not by a long shot. There are many photographers much more talented. The quality of photography has nothing to do with me expecting some compensation for using my IP.

    I commented earlier on the notion you expressed of me building my business instead of pursuing others to pay for using my IP. Here is a quote from what I had said earlier:

    My interests lie in developing new products, methods and ideas. That is what I do best and I have been doing it successfully for many years. Companies paid me good money to be on their R&D team. They also benefited significantly from my innovations and patented ideas.

    Building a better business than the competition requires skills I am not very proficient at. i.e. marketing, leadership, business savvy and of course good people skills. People tend to gravitate towards their strong skills and things they enjoy doing. I don't make my living using patents or the "system". I find patent law fascinating and the complexity intrigues me. I make my living inventing, tinkering, working hard and solving problems.

    I offer others a reasonable arrangement to use my patents. Kind of like someone wanting to buy a car. You negotiate with the car dealer, agree on a price, make the payment and drive the car away. If someone simply came to the lot, picked a car and drove it away without paying that is not right and it is called stealing. Same goes for intellectual property (patents). A patent is intellectual property whether you agree with the validity of the patent or not. You can challenge the validity or how you use it in court but until the patent is determined invalid by the USPTO, it is valid and you are obliged to license it to use it. If you don't, the consequences can be as severe or more than the person stealing a car.

    The hardship and unfair competition I was referring to is the same kind of hardship the car dealer would have in the example above. The car dealer has vested his time and money in selling cars. When someone comes and steals his cars, the owner will have hardships. Same with me. I invested much time and money in my intellectual property and when others use it without some agreed on compensation, I loose out. There is no ROI.

  • Aug 27th, 2014 @ 6:55am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    I'm not the same AC

    You may want to use your real or at least some pseudo name.

    ...several other companies developed the same idea...

    Once my website went public everyone seem to jump on the wagon. Many companies simply copied my webpages exactly (often not even changing out the "PhotoCrazy" name) and claimed it to be their idea.

    I like to think that I sparked the idea and others just copied my efforts. I have worked on other R&D projects and noticed that once a new idea was made public other companies immediately claimed it to be their invention/idea. That's why documenting and filing patent claims is so important.

    In this particular case, the elements existed for quite a while but no one put them together in a manner as I did on my first website in 1999. Most of my friends belittled what I did and didn't think it would be successful. My wife thought I was "crazy" - hence the "PhotoCrazy" company name.

    Anyone in the photography industry of course immediately saw the potential this would have for just about anyone who wanted to start an event photography business.

    Novel and new ideas require a "spark". I like to think that I provided that "spark" since absolutely no prior art has ever been found. Had prior art existed, hundreds of people would have been using these methods by the time I started it.

    Same goes for some of my more recent patents of putting advertisement on the event photos to offset the cost of buying photos with advertising dollars. The trend these days is to offer the photos for free to anyone. That trend will continue and hopefully also include registration fees for the event. i.e. Let advertisers pay for everything at sporting events.

    Regarding the "Post-Alice", you will find by careful review of the claims that the majority of the claims to not fall into "do it on a computer". I believe the patents will hold up just fine with "Post-Alice".

  • Aug 26th, 2014 @ 5:05pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    You are a greedy sack of crap

    Hey "Anonymous Coward" I am reluctant to respond to your comments because you may just get upset again like before. Besides, your logic just doesn't make sense. We better stop it here.

  • Aug 26th, 2014 @ 8:40am

    Re: Re: Technology has existed for many years

    You will note on "marathon-photos" website that they existed since 1999. That does NOT predate my patents. Same with FinisherPix, Gameface Media, etc. None used the methods described in the patents prior to 1999.

    Keep looking. The USPTO searched for 6 years for prior art and hundreds of others including myself searched as well. Nothing prior to 1999.

    Why is it so hard to accept that someone sparked the idea and it went viral from then on? In hindsight most things seem obvious but as I mentioned before at the time of the invention, it was novel and unique. Most of my friends doubted I would have success with that business model.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 11:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    I agree that we definitely disagree.

    Let it go at that before we say nasty things to each other. It's ok to disagree with another. No shame in that but let's just let it go. I respect your opinions, I just don't agree with them and for the most part don't understand them.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    "It's worked pretty good so far."

    Obviously, reasonable people can differ on this point.

    Of course people can differ and I respect their opinions. I do have first hand experience what it was like living under Communism in East Germany until I was 14 years old. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares to the freedom and opportunities we have in this country. It's not perfect but the most perfect I have seen.

    BTW, my earlier comment about some people being "overwhelmed with the complexity of patent law and see it as dysfunctional" was not meant towards anyone in particular in this forum.

    Also, I don't make my living using patents or the "system". I find patent law fascinating and the complexity intrigues me. I make my living inventing, tinkering, working hard and solving problems.

    I am very exciting about introducing in a few months some new products that will add a whole new dimension to event photography.

    It is a pleasure exchanging ideas with you, John.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    I do think the current patent system is extremely dysfunctional and is harming society more than helping

    I have been involved with patent applications, execution through the USPTO, licensing and enforcing patents through the courts for for the past 40 years. I find it fascinating and have had first hand experience in each of these areas.

    Patent law is very difficult and patent lawyers typically have some 4 year undergraduate degree in the sciences, then another 2-3 years of law school and then another 2-3 years of specific training in patent law. That's a minimum of 8 years and generally 10 years of intense education.

    Most lay people who read a few patent related articles or who have the misfortune of defending themselves against some infringement claims have a hard time comprehending the complexity of patent law. They often get overwhelmed and see it as dysfunctional.

    Like I said, I have been involved in every aspect of patent law for the past 40 years. I have read about and been personally part of numerous trials. I carefully studied and contributed to the execution of at least a dozen personal patents through the USPTO. (BTW, not every patent I applied for has been issued) I have met and discussed specific patents with patent examiners, their supervisors, attorneys and experts.

    All of this has left me with the highest respect and admiration for patent attorneys, patent examiners and their supervisors. People are fallible and can make mistakes but in general I believe the system works and those who run it are very hard working, intelligent, well trained individuals. Albert Einstein was a patent examiner. Maybe not everyone is at his caliber but there are some bright people who work for the patent office and lawyers who deal with them.

    Just to clarify, I am not an attorney. I am an inventor, I love solving problems and I am a one man company trying to forge out a living for myself and my family.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    I don't find it significant that you accepted another form of payment.

    You missed my point and maybe I wasn't clear about it. She was the personal photographer for Lance Armstrong and getting a signed picture of my ex-hero was a token gesture/payment. There were other extenuating circumstances involved with this particular licensee. i.e. I am not hard-nosed and inflexible about extenuating situations.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 11:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    My point is that you cannot rely on the fact that your patent was issued to prove that it's a legitimate patent.

    I agree but until the patent is invalidated, it is valid and enforceable. I may be biased but of course I think it is also "legitimate". :)

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    some economists who believe patents do more harm than good and should be abolished altogether

    I get very skeptical and skittish when someone proposes to mess with our constitution. Patents were mandated by our founding fathers. They seemed to know what they were doing. It's worked pretty good so far.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    You know someone successfully patented a tire swing

    Can't say I am familiar with that one. I do know that if you read my patents there is a reasonable explanation in them why they should be issued.

    You will find abuse and insanity with any system but that doesn't mean that the system is bad. My experience with the USPTO has been good. Frustrating at times but in general it was good. I even had a chance to visit the USPTO offices in Washington with an attorney (at great expense) and meet with patent examiners, their supervisors and experts. It was a great experience.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    I assume you wouldn't let them off the hook if they wrote you a letter explaining how much they love what they're doing. You want money.

    Not true at all. Money is not always the solution and several of our licensees don't pay a penny. We reached an agreement with one licensee in exchange of an autographed picture of Lance Armstrong. That was during Lance's prime. I think I threw the picture away I was so disgusted with his dishonesty.

    I abhor dishonesty. I am no saint but I try to be honest in all my dealings with others.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    What patents are intended to do is to discourage people from keeping their inventions a secret. The purpose of patents is to increase the sharing of knowledge.

    Touche - yes I agree with you. However, without patent protection fewer companies would have R&D budgets, hence fewer employees, fewer new products, etc. My personal incentive to invest enormous amounts of money to get these patents was to benefit from charging reasonable royalties.

    With me it was a business decision. I saw first hand with my previous employers how my patents with them generated millions of dollars in revenue. When given the opportunity to file my own patents, I jumped at it. It was a very risky decision.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: The other side of the story

    The USPTO will not issue a patent unless the applicant explains why the patent is reasonable and worth issuing. Please read the patent in its entirety and I explain clearly why it should be issued. No reason to re-state all that here.

    My point of "The other side of the story" was to explain why I filed a claim against Capstone and Michael Skelps. Many contributors of this forum portrait me as a "Patent Troll" trying to take advantage of the little guy.

    Quite the contrary. I am NOT a "Patent Troll" and I am a one man operation stopping a company with 400+ photographers/employees and 10 times greater annual revenue trying to rip me off.

    Our patent system is one of those rare instances where the little guy (me) has a fighting chance to stop the larger company from rolling over the little guy.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 8:51am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    LOL, not so. Taking pictures of athletes and the joy it brings is free for anyone to do. Using my IP is against the law unless you are licensed to do so. Most of our licensees simply want to do the right thing and we work out an arrangement that fits their budget.

    Breaking the law (any law) has its consequences and sooner or later the lawbreaker is held accountable.

  • Aug 25th, 2014 @ 8:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    We need to agree at this point that we definitely disagree with each other.

    Nothing you said in your last response made much sense to me and I suspect nothing I said made any sense to you.

    No problem, I am glad we tried to understand each other in a civil manner. It doesn't always work and we should leave at that.

  • Aug 24th, 2014 @ 11:24pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    When patents are what allows shell companies to sue smaller companies for thousands of dollars - for the simple act of scanning a document with a generic scanning machine and sending the scanned image in an email - I find them less defensible.

    Hmmm? Not quite sure what you are referring to here but like with any system there are those who try to take advantage of it and abuse it.

    Contrary to what many have expressed on this forum, I am not one of those. I am forthright and sincere in my efforts and have no intentions of taking advantage of anyone.

  • Aug 24th, 2014 @ 11:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The other side of the story

    If intellectual property is as real as real property then you must be paying out an awful lot of your income to others for all the ideas on which you are doing your business.

    I took for granted that by "intellectual property" you would understand it to mean valid patents. Intellectual Property (IP) is generally synonymous with "Patents".

    That said, of course I would be willing to pay anyone who claims they have a valid patent for what I use. Generally most of us use ideas that may have been patented at one time but they are now in the public domain. That's the whole idea about patent law. The inventor has a short monopoly window (20 years) but then it becomes public domain.

    Those patent laws create the incentive to innovate and invest in new ideas. Without them, there would be little incentive to spend any money on new ideas and products. Especially by the little guy (like me) who doesn't have the resources or know-how to fully develop and market his new ideas. The US patent system levels the playing ground so that anyone can benefit from his/her new idea.

    Ideas are a dime a dozen...

    Yes, I agree. Getting something through the patent office (USPTO) and being issued a patent on a new idea or product is not so simple. Try it if you think it is so easy.

    So no your ideas are not worth much.

    Easy for you to say since you probably never filed for or obtained a patent. I don't think you have any appreciation for what it takes to come up with a novel idea and get a patent issued for those ideas.

    I have a sign in my office (garage) that I look at daily, especially when I get discouraged about something:

    A patent requires a long-term commitment. Be ready to invest years, thousands of man-hours, and thousands of dollars to successfully bring your idea to market. Don't get discouraged; all worthwhile things in life require perseverance.

    And you tell me in a cavalier way that "my patented ideas are not worth much". You seem to have no idea what it takes to get a patent. Please don't belittle something that you have no first hand experience with. I have the highest respect for patent holders because I know first hand what it takes to get one.

    The rest of your comments seem a bit abstract and I couldn't follow what your point was. Sorry.

    Thanks for your feedback. I do hope I clarified some things for you.

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