An Open Call for Patent Violation


As part of the extended programme of WORK, BODY, LEISURE, the theme of this year Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, The Institute of Patent Infringement is concerned with the existing legal infrastructure that allows ‘Big Tech’ a strangle-hold on questions surrounding automation, both today and in the future.

As we go through an ‘AI spring’ we’ve seen a gold rush to patent radically new forms of automated environments, driven through advances in deep learning and combined with increases in big data, machine-learning algorithms, computer processing power and cloud technology.

Yet, while companies like Microsoft or Apple tinker with endless patent variations on consumer products, it’s Amazon, with their own brands of automated futurism, which seem intent on merging processes of machine learning with principles of spatial organisation.

Since 2010, Amazon Technologies Inc. has filed 5,860 patents that range from the seemingly banal to the resolutely absurd. Illustrated by dry line drawings these patents provide a glimpse and representation of the automated future Amazon aim to create.

The implications of this are broad. Amazon look set to define future typologies, bypassing the input of traditional professions. To take an example, management modules indicated in Amazon’s patents, can now map space more effectively than a surveyor, produce floor layouts to be more efficient than an architect and oversee retail facilities more productively than a retail manager.

An obsession with efficiency has further led to the quantifiable worker, seen through countless patents for technology that monitors and evaluate workers. But the scope of the quantified body goes far beyond this, and as patents for human RFID tags suggest, Amazon are equally at home with the technology transferred to the general public. Put another way, Amazon’s broad ambitions, seen through their patents, affect us both as practitioners and also as citizens.

Underlying this is the wider practice of intellectual property protection and patenting rights used as a means to define the direction of automation. It is a process that has proved an essential weapon in technology companies’ growth strategies and key to their monopolistic dominance over the last twenty years.

Intellectual property today is a complex web of international treaties, patent laws, institutions and steering committees that serve to create a legal infrastructure enclosing and privatizing knowledge. International legislation including the TRIPS Agreement and Patent Law Treaty has produced a closed framework that allows multinationals a monopoly on technological development.

Exploiting this legal framework, Amazon’s patent filings over the last seven years can be seen as a concerted effort to own both the digital and physical infrastructure of our unfolding landscapes of automation.

Open Call

To negate this top-down and closed system, The Institute of Patent Infringement thus invites submissions from students, industrial designers, architects, urban planners, artists, programmers and the wider public to merge, reimagine, infringe and hack existing Amazon patents.

The crux of the open call is to emphasise the radical and emancipatory potential inherent in these new technologies assembled by Amazon. To reveal this potential, submissions may chose to challenge: the hyper individualised and consumption based nature of Amazon’s wider patent filings; the emphasis on efficiency and quantification through data collection inherent in these new technological regimes; labour, social relations and the role of automation within this; the relationship with nature and the environment; unequal global processes of production and distribution; and the affect of these technologies on everyday life.

This may include ideas working at scales from the body to the planetary and from the rural to the urban. Relevant themes may ask: can patents for the wearable monitoring of workers be appropriated to hack and monitor nature? How could Amazon’s global distribution network be rethought? Can we think of new ideas to repurpose data centres, potentially merging these with other functions?  What might arise from the collective ownership and control of data?

Could fully automated warehouses be refunctioned as spaces of infinite leisure? What role does labour play in this new world?  Can smart road management systems for automated cars be used for an extensive and sustainable public transport network? How could Amazon’s quest for algorithmic efficiency, be used to plan a zero growth, zero carbon economy? And how might these technologies work if bottom up and participatory rather than top-down and monopolised?

Above all, submissions are encouraged to think of radical interventions challenging the essence of Amazon while considering the social role technology may potentially in any future.

Format of Submission

-       A4 sheets (maximum 3 portrait)

-       Title

-       A five digit numerical code (any five numbers used to identify your submission)

-       A description of the proposal including what patents are being used or merged (300 words maximum)

-       Black and white line drawings of proposal  (a maximum of 5 drawings, see below for rules on patent illustrations)


-       Submission is open to individuals or groups of architects, urban planners, designers, artists, programmers, students and anyone interested in the wider theme of the open call.

-       Deadline for submissions is midnight (GMT) 16th April

-       Submissions should be sent to as a single PDF file in the format title_ submission-number.pdf

-       Selected successful submissions will be informed of the results by the end of April.

-       Any questions related to the open call can be sent to

Selection Process

All submissions will be evaluated anomalously with the most relevant to the open call selected for display in the Dutch Pavillion as part of WORK, BODY, LEISURE at this year’s Venice Biennale.

A wider selection of proposals will be displayed through exhibitions at Het Niuwe Instiuttut in Rotterdam and London during Autumn 2018. 

An amount of €1500 will be divided among the successful entries while all exhibiton costs will be covered .

Selection will be through Het Nieuwe Instituut’s research team and the Institute of Patent Infringement.


A collection of existing Amazon patents drawings with a brief description is available to download as a pdf document.
Patents have been grouped into three themes – production, distribution and consumption – and further arranged in order of scale.  Any number of patents can be joined together or you may chose to work with just one.

Drawing Rules

With reference to Rule 46 of the European Patent Convention, A4 sheets and drawings should be submitted as follows:

1.      Format

(a)    On sheets containing drawings, the usable surface area shall not exceed 26.2 cm x 17 cm. The usable or used surface shall not be surrounded by frames. The minimum margins shall be as follows:

top 2.5 cm
left side  2.5 cm
right side 1.5 cm
bottom 1 cm

2.     Drawing

(a)    Drawings shall be executed without colourings in durable, black, sufficiently dense and dark, uniformly thick and well-defined lines and strokes.

(b)    Cross-sections shall be indicated by hatching which should not impede the clear reading of the reference signs and leading lines.

(c)     The scale of the drawings and their graphical execution shall be such that electronic or photographic reproduction with a linear reduction in size to two-thirds will allow all details to be distinguished without difficulty. If, exceptionally, the scale is given on a drawing, it shall be represented graphically.

(d)    All numbers, letters, and reference signs appearing on the drawings shall be simple and clear. Brackets, circles or inverted commas shall not be used in association with numbers and letters.

(e)    Generally, all lines in the drawings shall be drawn with the aid of drafting instruments.

(f)     Elements of the same figure shall be proportional to one another, unless a difference in proportion is indispensable for the clarity of the figure.

(g)    The height of the numbers and letters shall not be less than 0.32 cm. For the lettering of drawings, the Latin and, where customary, the Greek alphabets shall be used.

(h)    The same sheet of drawings may contain several figures. Where figures drawn on two or more sheets are intended to form a single figure, the figures on the several sheets shall be so arranged that the whole figure can be assembled without concealing any part of the partial figures. The different figures shall be arranged without wasting space, preferably in an upright position, clearly separated from one another. Where the figures are not arranged in an upright position, they shall be presented sideways with the top of the figures at the left side of the sheet. The different figures shall be numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals, independently of the numbering of the sheets.

(i)      Reference signs not mentioned in the description and claims shall not appear in the drawings, and vice versa. Reference signs to features shall be consistent throughout the application.

(j)      The drawings shall not contain text matter. Where indispensable to understand the drawings, a few short keywords, such as "water", "steam", "open", "closed" or "section on AB", may be included. Any such keywords shall be placed in such a way that, if required, they can be replaced by their translations without interfering with any lines of the drawings.

3.      Diagrams

Flow sheets and diagrams shall be deemed to be drawings.

Source for patents: European Patent Office
Image copyright Amazon Industries, Inc