Amazon Patents ‘Anticipatory Shipping’ Of Your Stuff Before You Buy It

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News Posted: Sat, Jan 18 2014 12:26 PM
Amazon never stops looking for ways to get packages to people in as little time as possible, and its latest effort on that front is shipping packages before you even order an item.

Amazon is calling it “anticipatory shipping”, and the company just landed a patent for it. Simply put, Amazon will pack up items before anything is ordered, ship them to a general geographic region, and not specify the exact address until it’s already in transit.

We can see this being a smart, relatively low-tech way to get deliver packages faster. Certainly there are many regular orders from customers that Amazon deals with every day, and further, it can’t be that hard to maintain a database of which products tend to be ordered with greater frequency in various regions.

Amazon anticipatory shipping patent

For example, orders from a rural area will tend to look different than those from a densely populated urban area. And if a customer orders X number of the same widgets every month, after a while it would make sense for Amazon to anticipate that order and get it out the door and down the road so that by the time the customer actually makes the order, the package is nearly at the doorstep.

However anticipatory shipping shakes out in real-life applications, it certainly portends a less terrifying future than those octo-rotor drones Amazon’s been testing.
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3vi1 replied on Sat, Jan 18 2014 2:37 PM

Haven't warehouses been setting inventory levels based on past sales... forever? They believe this is inventive because they're putting items together in a package at the first warehouse instead of the last? The reason most companies don't do that is that it results in the inefficient shipping of individual items vs. those packaged in bulk.

Even if no one else were already doing it, which I doubt, I don't see how this is novel or non-obvious enough to warrant protection via a patent.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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Dave_HH replied on Sat, Jan 18 2014 3:46 PM

I sort of see your point and agree, 3vi1 but apparently the USPTO thinks it was novel enough.

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3vi1 replied on Sun, Jan 19 2014 8:47 AM

But that is the same patent office that thought rectangles with rounded corners (http://www.google.com/patents/USD670286) is novel, and swinging sideways (https://www.google.com/patents/US6368227) is worthy of patent protection.

I'm pretty sure they just rubberstamp everything now, which ends up forcing a company that gets sued down the road to pay litigation fees while the patent undergoes re-evaluation.

I see nothing about the Amazon patent that would not be thoroughly obvious to another company, if the method were to actually work for them.  And I would almost bet my left arm that there's some form of prior art.  

Amazon has proven to be a "bad citizen" when it comes to patents on obvious and pre-existing business methods (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1-Click), and should be given more scrutiny when filing for new ones.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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