Monday, April 14, 2003
James Frazier loses patent for his camera lens.
A federal judge in Los Angeles has nullified the patent for one of Hollywood’s most advanced camera lenses, saying the cinematographer who won an Academy Award for inventing it lied to US patent examiners about its capabilities.
The Panavision/Frazier lens, invented by Australian wildlife photographer James Frazier, was touted as having revolutionary depth-of-field capabilities. That is, the lens could hold small objects in the foreground and background images in sharp focus at the same time. Frazier and two others won an Academy Award in 1997 for scientific and technical achievement for developing the lens with Panavision, which had bought exclusive rights to manufacture and rent the lenses in 1994.
On Thursday, US district judge Gary Feess ruled that Frazier had obtained the patent and his deal with Panavision by convincing patent officials and the company that the lens could defy the laws of physics.
"As it turns out, however, the optical system Frazier sought to patent was not capable of producing results that differed materially from existing lens systems," Feess concluded in a ruling issued in a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Panavision and Frazier. [...]
The judge said that in a 2001 deposition in the case, Frazier admitted to misleading Panavision by claiming that he had achieved remarkable depth of field with a single L-shaped lens, when he had actually shot the images with a "trick" photography system known as aerial image relay lenses. Frazier used the images to back up his 1994 patent application for the L-shaped lens.
As esoteric a matter as many people will probably find this to be, I'm profoundly disappointed by this. I remember there being some hype about Frazier and his lens all those years ago, and I was impressed by this local boy inventing this marvellous thing and taking it to Hollywood. Doesn't look so bright now, does it...