Is there value in protecting IP you don’t intend to use?

In this piece Peter Finnie discusses how defensive patents can be of value to your business.

Having long ago established itself as the first port of call for anyone wanting to check online for lower prices while out shopping on the high street, Amazon sent shockwaves through the retail industry recently when it emerged that it had secured a US patent on technology that appears designed to prevent the very behaviour that the company has benefited from for so long.

US patent no. US9665881B1, titled ‘Physical Store Online Shopping Control’, details a mechanism by which a retailer can prevent a person within one of their brick-and-mortar stores from ‘showrooming’, the practice of looking at items in the store but buying them online at a lower price. The technology analyses mobile web browsing activity of consumers within the store and takes action upon detection of the potential consumer attempting to access competitor websites.

The action can include directing the consumer to a different web page that provides information related to a product that is complementary to the product that the customer was initially searching for, as well as redirecting the consumer to a different web page entirely. The technology does however have its limitations as it can only affect devices connected to the store’s Wi-Fi network, relying on the various permissions the consumer implicitly consents to, and can’t affect the experience of consumers browsing on their carrier’s 3G or 4G network – but any reduction in showrooming behaviour is likely to help retailers protect sales.

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