Best Buy patents focus on universal chargers, personalized gift cards

By Steve Brachmann
December 11, 2015

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“Best Buy” by Mike Mozart. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE:BBY) of Richfield, MN, is a multinational retailer of consumer electronics operating stores in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Along with many retailers which we’ll be profiling here on IPWatchdog ahead of the holiday season, Best Buy had been heavily focused on Black Friday retail activities in the days leading up to the end of November. Reports out of San Francisco indicate that consumers had camped outside Best Buy as early as 4 PM on Wednesday, November 25th, to get an early spot for Black Friday sales. Over in Brooklyn, OH, a suburb of Cleveland, police patrols were stepped up around local Best Buys to handle the day’s influx of customers. In Canada, technical issues with Black Friday customers trying to place orders through Best Buy’s Canadian website resulted in a great deal of dissatisfaction among e-commerce consumers.

Best Buy 2015 clusterJust a little more than a week prior to Black Friday, Best Buy released its latest earnings report which showed that sales at its American stores were up slightly from $7.9 billion in last year’s third quarter up to $8.1 billion in the most recent quarter. However, a decline in international sales resulted in a year-over-year decline in revenue of about $200 million in the quarter. Best Buy executives were bearish about the prospects for sales of consumer electronics through the holiday season as it advised investors to expect a single-digit decline in sales over the upcoming quarter. The weak earnings report was a major reason why Best Buy decided to make some of its Black Friday deals available in advance of the typical Friday holiday.

Best Buy’s patent filing activities with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office certainly aren’t rampant, evidenced by the fact that the company did not place among the Top 300 U.S. patent earners in 2014 as reported by the Intellectual Property Owners Association. Thus far in 2015, Best Buy has earned 20 patents from the USPTO, which has also published another 15 patent applications filed by the retail company. Although most of the company’s research and development is in disparate fields, as the text cluster from Innography shows us at least some R&D focus in the fields of electronic devices, audiovisual content and television monitors.

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Best Buy’s Issued Patents: From Mounting for Electronics to Social Media-Enabled Body Weight Scales

A television monitor which can be more easily assembled in the proper way is at the center of the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 9072379, which is titled Television Monitor Combination Stand and Wall Mount. It claims a monitor attachment assembly with a base plate having a plate surface, a bracket-fastening site on the plate surface and a first bracket-hanging site; the assembly also has a first bracket with a pedestal segment having two monitor-fastening sites and a bracket hanger. This innovation results in a modular television stand which can be converted into a wall mount assembly while having components which prevent a user from installing a television monitor onto the stand backwards. We also took note of a novel technique for mounting tablet computers within tablet headrestautomobiles, featured within U.S. Patent No. 9010597, titled Headrest Mount for Tablet Computer and Method. It discloses a method for mounting a tablet computer to a vehicle headrest by attaching a headrest coupling to the vehicle headrest, coupling a tablet housing to a tablet computer, attaching the tablet housing to the headrest coupling by retracting a retractable tab found on the circumference of a circular attachment disk of the headrest coupling, inserting the circular attachment disk into a circular cavity of the tablet housing and extending the retractable tab into a track found in a circular cavity wall; the method further involves rotating the tablet housing relative to the headrest coupling and stopping the rotation of the tablet housing by locating a stop in the track to prevent further rotation of the retractable tab. This invention serves as both a vehicle mount as well as a protective housing for a tablet computer while enabling rotation of the tablet into vertical or horizontal positions.

We took note of a couple patents issued in the field of electronic device charging, such as the invention detailed within U.S. Patent No. 9059590, entitled Universal Battery Charger System and Method. It discloses a universal battery charger for a battery-powered device with a charging port and radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag, the charger having a power convertor, a charging selector regulating a charging output and connected to the power convertor, a charging cord having a plug at its end, an RFID antenna at the end of the charging cord and a processor receiving RFID tag information and selecting a charging output to be provided by the charging selector to the charging plug. This innovation makes use of passive RFID tags, which do not require electricity to function and have a lower cost than active RFID tags, to interrogate a device RFID storing information on the charging system utilized by the magnetically connectedrechargeable battery. Novel device charging schemes are also featured within U.S. Patent No. 9142913, titled Magnetically Connected Universal Computer Power Adapter. This discloses a power adapter having a power supply supplying power over a power cord including an integrated connector with a cord connector face presenting multiple cord connection points carrying direct current (DC) power and a cord connector magnet, and then a connection plug having a plug connection face having multiple plug connection points, a tip electrically connected to the plug connection points that interfaces with a computer’s power socket and a connection plug magnet to attract a cord connector magnet. The magnetized connection port of this innovation is designed to quickly align with various types of computer power connection components to engage and disengage in a way which is optimized for convenience and safety.

grip-enabledBest Buy is also making forays into the development of electronic device accessories, as is reflected by U.S. Patent No. 9063588, issued under the title Grip-Enabled Touchscreen Stylus. It protects a grip-enabled stylus having a stylus shaft, an electrically-conducting stylus tip, a first activation button on the stylus shaft and a stylus actuator causing a stylus tip to become active while the button is contacted by the user. This innovation is designed to encourage the proper grip of a stylus for touchscreen devices by become inactive when the stylus is held incorrectly.

We also took some time to explore an invention designed to encourage users who are trying to live a healthier lifestyle which is described within U.S. Patent No. 9157787, entitled Body Weight Scale with Visual Notification System and Method. It claims a notification system having a body weight scale with a plurality of light-emitting indicators on the scale, a computer processor and a tangible non-transitory scale memory; the invention also has programming residing on the scale memory which is configured to record a scale use event, produce a visible use-scale light signal after a predetermined time interval, alter the use-scale light signal after a second predetermined time interval, reset the use-scale light signal when the scale is used, assign individual light-emitting indicators to a different scale user and cause individual light-emitting indicators to produce use-scale light signals based on each scale user’s independent scale use. The scale protected by this invention is further capable of recording audio messages, transcribing them into text, posting that text to social networks and returning social media responses that are positive in nature.

 

Patent Applications of Note: From Personalized Gift Cards to LED Light Diffusion

digital picture frameWe came across a couple of Best Buy patent applications describing technologies intended to encourage consumers to make purchases or provide gift card value, such as the innovation at the center of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150077425, titled Stored Value Digital Picture Frame. It would protect a stored value digital picture frame having an electronic digital picture frame including a screen, an account identifying device associating the stored value digital picture frame with a stored value account, tangible digital media storage sufficient to store a plurality of digital images and logic embodied in hardware and software that causes a stored digital image to be displayed on the screen. This innovation enables customers to purchase gift cards for others which can be personalized by incorporating a picture. Systems for processing electronic gift cards are the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150206134, filed under the title Electronic Gift Card Tracking System and Method. It would protect a method for managing activation of electronic gift cards by receiving an electronic indication of an activation transaction for an electronic gift card which includes a customer identifier, associating the customer identifier with a card number of the electronic gift card and reconciling a payment for the electronic gift card with the activation transaction of the gift card using the customer identifier. This system was devised in order to provide useful tracking tools for the issuance of large batches of electronic gift cards.

upgrade notificationsMethods of encouraging consumers to purchase new electronics after a device upgrade cycle has finished are detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150235270, which is titled Upgrade Notifications and Promotions for Electronic Devices. It discloses a method performed by a processor on a computing device which involves obtaining an upgrade status of the computing device determined from a contractual obligation with a service provider, obtaining an operating characteristic of the computing device, obtaining a promotional offer customized to the obtained operating characteristic and upgrade status for an upgrade of the computing device, and then displaying the promotional device on the computing device. This innovation intends to capitalize upon consumers who aren’t aware that are eligible for upgrade discounts through their mobile service provider. Increased retail sales are also the target of the technology outlined within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150287066, titled Affiliate Marketing System: Method and Apparatus. The method claimed here involves wirelessly receiving an electronic coupon including an affiliate ID from a mobile electronic device during a sales transaction at a retailer, applying the coupon to reduce the costs of covered products sold by the retailer, calculating a total amount received from the consumer for products sold during the transaction, recording the discount amount in non-transitory computer-readable storage, calculating a commission amount applicable to the sales transaction and transmitting an accounting including the commission amount to the affiliate. E-coupons used by this system could be issued by affiliates to consumers who would be able to redeem them either online or at physical store locations.

A lot of our recent surveys of American retailer R&D have turned up innovations meant to improve shopping experiences at brick-and-mortar establishments and we’re finding another filed by Best Buy as U.S. Patent Application No. 20150235161, titled Wireless Customer and Labor Management Optimization in Retail Settings. It claims a method performed by an electronic tracking system accessible in a real-world retail environment which involves establishing a network connection with a portable electronic device via a wireless network, identifying a user associated with the portable electronic device, triangulating a position of the portable electronic device relative to defined locations in the retail environment, tracking movement of the device and delivering shopping information to the device selected for the user based on commerce activities in proximity to their location. This invention is designed to increase customer interaction in physical retail locations in such a way that could improve sales.

A smart television that can store information on locally channels in available in disparate geographic regions is featured within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150181282, titled Multiple Location Channel Database for Digital Television System and Method. The digital television disclosed here includes a geographic location identification system, a digital television tuner and a channel memory containing a number of channel scans having an associated geographic location and a plurality of frequencies at which the digital television can receive a digital signal when the television is located at the associated geographic location. Providing a database of channels available in different geographic locations expedites the process of performing a channel scan when the television travels between regions.LED bulb

Finally, we were intrigued to note an invention in light-emitting diode (LED) technology which is detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150084497, entitled LED Bulb Optical System with Uniform Light Distribution. The LED light bulb this would protect includes a bulb envelope with a base portion, an upper portion and a middle portion extending between the base and upper portions, the middle portion also having a plurality of light-dispersing thickness variations in the bulb envelope’s middle portion; the bulb also includes a plurality of LEDs pointed towards the light-dispersing thickness variations. This innovation is intended to address the shortcoming in most conventional LED lighting solutions in which hot spots of light intensity are more uniformly dispersed, such as is the case with incandescent light bulbs.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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