There is no larger online retailer in the world than Amazon.com, an international electronic commerce corporation with its headquarters based in Seattle, WA. After establishing itself as a major Internet service for retail shopping, the company has focused on developing its line of Kindle tablet devices and shipping services in recent years. This company just made major waves in Chinese consumer markets by releasing its Kindle Fire HDX reader in that country for a retail price starting at about $278 USD. In the American market, we’ll likely notice the influence of this company in television over the next year, as Amazon.com gets ready to roll out its TV set top box technology for Internet video content.
Every time we visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to view Amazon’s recently published applications and issued patents, we’re genuinely piqued to learn about this retailer and electronic device manufacturer’s plans for the future of digital content consumption. Today, IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series takes a hard look at the recent innovations coming from Amazon.com and its subsidiaries.
Our look at Amazon’s patented technologies focuses heavily on the shopping experience that online users encounter on their website, or their ability to view content in innovative ways. One patent protects a gaze-based technology for eBook scrolling on a reading device. Another couple of patents we feature protect innovative ways of providing consumer feedback for digital content, such as chapter reviews within an eBook or methods of soliciting feedback from users based on their catalog searches.
The featured Amazon application describes a system of registering a fleet of electronic devices when purchased by an organizational administrator. These devices can be authorized for use by organizational members or employees, while also allowing members to connect their own personal electronic devices to the organization’s mobile network. We also discuss one patent application that would protect a system of determining temporary pickup locations for users who purchase material items through Amazon.com, as well as some Kindle device improvements.
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Managing a Fleet of Electronic Devices
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140006567
Many organizations want to implement electronic devices in widescale fashion to serve their various employees and clients. Some companies could roll out a large fleet of mobile electronic devices to serve business operations and distribute information quickly. Colleges, non-profits and other groups could also benefit from connecting with their students or other members through technological means.
However, there are some drawbacks to the widespread use of an electronic device fleet from an organizational standpoint. Organizational members may learn how to de-register a device from a fleet and then use that device personally or even sell it for profit. The cost of replacing devices often prohibits larger organizations from implementing a fleet. Additionally, it’s difficult to add a user’s personal device to an existing fleet when joining an organization through current methods.
This patent application, filed by Amazon.com with the USPTO in June 2012, would protect a method of ordering a fleet of electronic devices for an organization to overcome some of these drawbacks. A business could order a group of eBook tablet readers from Amazon, for example, and indicate that all of the devices are for a single organization while ordering online. The devices are then automatically registered to an account that a business administrator can control.
The offering signal presented to an employee or other user when they first power the device prevents de-registration or deauthorization of that device from the fleet network. Administrators are able to control content sent to various devices in order to disseminate important information to specific users. Users with a personal electronic device can add their device to the network by scanning a quick response (QR) code or other unique identifier.
Claim 1 of this Amazon.com patent application would protect:
“A method comprising: under control of one or more computing systems configured with executable instructions, receiving an order for one or more client devices; determining whether the one or more client devices are to be associated with an account; at least partly in response to determining that the one or more client devices are to be associated with the account: associating each of the one or more client devices with the account; and sending configuration instructions to each of the one or more client devices, the configuration instructions adapted to modify a setting of each of the one or more client devices to prevent the respective client device from disassociation from the account, wherein the account is associated with specified content, the specified content being accessible by each client device that is associated with the account.”
Other Patent Applications
Amazon.com is a giant in the retailing world, even when taking into account the brick-and-mortar operations of other retail corporations. Most of the innovations that we noticed this company has developed involve better systems of delivering products to customers or improvements to devices sold by the company, like their line of Kindle eBook reader devices. We were intrigued by one invention, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140052661, entitled Customer Centric Pickup Locations. This patent would protect a software method of offering temporary pickup locations to customers who would rather not select mail forwarded shipping. We also noticed better systems of deploying software applications for customers described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140047115, which is titled Immediately Launching Applications. App developers could upload an updated app to a wireless network through this system without having to disable the older version, allowing third-party users to continue to access services during this changeover.
We also took some time today to look over some interesting improvements to Amazon’s electronic device products. These have become a much more significant part of the company’s operations over just the past few years. First, we opened up U.S. Patent Application No. 20140047677, filed under the title 90 Degree Magnetic Latch to Prevent High Surface Flux. This innovation comprises a cover for an electronic device that connects to a magnetic latch. The magnetic components are positioned so that any magnetic flux is directed away from delicate electronic components. We also decided to look through U.S. Patent Application No. 20140022622, titled Electrowetting Display Device and Manufacturing Method Thereof. This technology seems to represent a growing interest in electrowetting technologies for flat panel electronic device displays, as opposed to liquid crystal (LCD) or plasma displays, among device manufacturers.
Issued Patents of Note
Every week, the USPTO releases a fair amount of patents assigned to Amazon or its subsidiaries, like Amazon Technologies of Reno, NV. To judge from what we’re seeing out of USPTO patent databases, Amazon’s patent portfolio has been beefing up in recent months, with some weeks seeing a dozen or more issued patents.
As always, Amazon is interested in protecting its improvements to the online shopping experience for various users. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8660912, issued under the title Attribute-Based Navigation of Items, protects better systems of searching through electronic catalogs online to find relevant items. This system improves on drawbacks presented by drop-down hierarchical systems that preclude retail options as you narrow the menu further. (e.g., when “Point-and-Shoot Cameras” are selected from the “Digital Camera” menu, less retail options appear.) U.S. Patent No. 8656040, entitled Providing User-Supplied Items to a User Device, protects a system that allows users to upload digital content for sale on a website, including personal audio, eBooks and even subscription-based material. Mobile device users may very well be surprised by the online shopping experience protected by U.S. Patent No. 8643680, which is titled Gaze-Based Content Display. This issued patent describes a system capable of determining what sector of a screen a user is looking at, and adjusting features of that screen section in response to better highlight the content. For example, if an eBook reader is viewing the bottom of the page, the reader could scroll the content upward accordingly.
Better systems of collecting and distributing user feedback are the focal point of a few other recently issued patents that have been assigned to Amazon and its subsidiaries by the USPTO. U.S. Patent No. 8660910, entitled System for Enabling Electronic Catalog Users to Create and Share Research Data, protects a method of collecting user input on catalog items through research notes. For example, if a user searches for “LCD HDTV” through the online store’s search engine, the system may ask a user to contribute notes on what they think of different items within that category. Finally, we also were intrigued by U.S. Patent No. 8650476, which is titled Localized Feedback for Content Creation. This system allows digital media consumers to localize positive or negative feedback within a particular section of a digital work. This would allow eBook customers to provide feedback about a particular chapter, for example.