The Image Fulgurator by Julius von Bismarck Copied?

The Image Fulgurator by Julius von Bismarck Copied?

Earlier today I posted about a new product on the market, the Flash Blaster. I was quickly notified by our reader Ryan Dunn that this device looks and acts much like Julius von Bismarck's Image Fulgurator. I quickly did some searching to find out if this was true and stumbled across Julius' website and an interview he did back in 2008 with Wired. Where he is quoted saying he applied for a patent on this device... Do you think they simply copied his device?

Julius idea was to add "graffiti" to other people's photos with this device. He wanted to patent the device so marketing companies could never use this. Pretty slick idea. To see all the details on Julius von Bismarck's device check out his website.

I have contacted Julius regarding his patent and will update if any more news comes across.


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A worldwide patent is immensely expensive. No way any ordinary person, not backed up by a large company, could ever afford it.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

He has a patent pending since 2007, now I am not 100% sure what kind etc, however if a lawyer thought they could make money from this they would back him.

This is a form of optical projector used in theater and photoshoots for decades. How could he patent the idea

Jayson Carey's picture

the addition of a slaved flash would be considered an improvement of the original design. additionally, patents are only good for so long - usually 20 years - and that's assuming there is a patent on a simple projector. pinhole projectors have been around since the 4th century BC, and image projectors have been around since the 17th century.

Jorje Castillo's picture

I think this "up in arms" attitude about the LightBlast is extremely silly. I'm sure Mr. Julius may not have even been the first to come up with this idea, but is just the most known for it. This argument is much like a DIY ring flash VS the Orbis/Ray Flash. Apple iphone/pad vs EVERY smartphone/tablet. Multiple people/companies coming up with products that do the same/similar things are inevitable. Maybe if they had made a device to adapt your old film camera to hold a flash and replicate his efforts, then YES that can be considered a rip-off. BUT they just took an idea, that I'm sure MANY have already had, and streamlined it into a product. To me, this is like a Dyson vacuum, they didn't invent the vacuum, but when you use a Dyson all you can think is "why don't ALL vacuums work this way!?"

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

So you just don't believe in patents nor the possibility of an original idea? Julius used a camera to hold a slide for a flash to project the image. It is the same thing.

Jorje Castillo's picture

I don't know anywhere near legal-ese to comment on patents. but it feels like how do you patent an idea like this? you could argue Julius's is ripping off original slide projectors, old film projectors. I'll use the Dyson argument again: can you patent the idea of a vacuum cleaner? I imagine not the general and vague concept itself, but rather the specifics of how YOUR machine EXECUTES said idea.

And not to get all philosophical, but I actually don't. I think "original idea" is kind of an oxymoron as every idea we could ever come up with or ever will come up with comes from experience, inspiration, trial and error, necessity etc.

Seriously, are we arguing about Julius now? He "Invented" that thing years back and it was/is seriously cool. Now there is a firm, that has basically the same device and they are getting hyped and will make a lot of money as a result of it, on an idea Julius invented (and patented). And we argue "but there was something similar before". Sure, Julius didn't invent the projector (which would make him pretty rich, with the right marketing), but he invented a device, which uses a strobe to project slides or basically anything that size, on to a surface. It sure looks a hell of a lot, like the "NEW" Flash Blaster. And it gives you the same functionality......

Patent law isn't that vague. From what I saw, Julius' device does not project slides. It requires a camera body and uses threaded film. The new device doesn't use either of those. It wasn't even intended for the same purpose, although it could certainly be used that way. Beto's point is valid and I suspect any court would uphold the difference between these devices.

I once saw an episode of Pitchmen and there was a kid who invented a better screwdriver of some sort. There was a patent exactly like it so they changed the way something flipped out on it, not changing the overall use of the product and it cleared for production. They said as long as it made it better it was good to go.

Do I really care? Nope I'll be glad when they create a digital version were you can load a picture and not print a slide (aint nobody got time for that)

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

you mean a projector?

I was able to do this before too, but was not thinking about no patents or making money, i had a vision and was able to reproduce it in real life,

does that dude need a patent for that camera that he is using to hold the film?
if anyone has any links towards that kind of legal stuff hit me up on my twitter @motzo

i am in the process of developing a couple of Lens Modifications and was wondering what is the best way to "legalize" these products