Ars covered the grant of Amazon’s controversial patent last month. This guest post is by Charles Duan, director of the Patent Reform Project at Public Knowledge. It’s an essay meant to answer a question frequently asked on Ars: how do bad patents get issued in the first place? 
I. The problem
The patent examiner sat down at her desk and pulled up the next item on her examination docket. Patent application 13/292,359. “Studio Arrangement.”
“Right in my area,” she thought. She scanned the patent application text and flipped through the drawings. It seemed straightforward—a camera, a platform for holding an object, a couple of lamps, a backdrop. She’d seen all of this before.
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