back to article Google lands patent for, um, estimating shipment time

Four months and nine days after April Fools' Day, Google was granted a patent for telling a customer when a product shipment will arrive. The patent, entitled "Electronic shipping notifications" and awarded this Tuesday, covers the calculation of the estimated time of a shipment's arrival based on an order's status and "other …

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  1. Oscar

    Amazon?

    Surely Apple would be the more tactical target?

  2. jake Silver badge

    Holy farting Mary ...

    Can I patent a convenient switch, just within a doorway, always at the same height & distance from the non-hinge-side of the door-frame, that allows (me/others/everyone) to provide electrons to a lightbulb by reflex, thus lighting the room so (I/we/people) don't trip over anything in the dark?

    The mind boggles ...

  3. Pete 43
    Stop

    excuse me

    I hold the patent for taking the pith out of stupid patents, that'll be 5 dollar pounds please!

    Shades of Monty Python

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Ha...

      ..in house we have a workaround...Called builders sparkees that put the switch on the hinge side.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Probably not the electrician's fault ...

        It was probably the idiot who hung the door after the wire went in ;-)

        Or the rookie bleeding on the plans.

        Or the daft git who ordered the wrong "pre-hung" door.

        Or the guy who shipped the wrong "pre-hung" door.

        Or ... I could go on and on. I'll spare you. But blaming Sparkie for that particular mistake is probably not in order.

    2. P Saunders

      I hold the patent for...

      suing the supplier if the shipment doesn't arrive as predicted by the patented technology. I see my payday looming close.

  4. mt_head

    Far be it from me...

    ... to disagree with El Reg's signature snark, but I suspect that this filing is much more of a defensive move than offensive. Rather than Google vs. Amazon, I think this is meant to prevent (or at least forestall) Lodsys vs. Google.

  5. Roger Varley
    Facepalm

    You have got to be kidding ...

    'Nuff said

  6. AndyS

    title?

    In a previous job, I had to do a patent search relating to unconvntionally powered cars. My favourite one I came across was for powering a car with a steam engine.

    Like, you know, the first cars ever made, in the eighteen hundreds. Talk about prior art.

  7. Nader
    Holmes

    Algorithm

    What's the algorithm?

  8. gribbler

    Very disappointing G

    I'd love to believe Google's arguments against the software patent system (even though I know they're doing it out of self interest, I still believe it's a worthy cause) but when they go and do this sort of arsehattery it just makes them look like the 2-faced onanists they (and all large corporations) are. FAIL

  9. Richard 1
    WTF?

    Let's all get in on the action!

    It's all getting a little silly but I think that with this in mind I have an idea that I'm going to patent - delivering ordered items... WHILE FULLY CLOTHED! Yes, that's right. I'm going to patent wearing clothes while you deliver products. I think a number of logistics companies backed by some big names are going to be shelling out to use my idea or risk having their operatives turn up at people's houses stark naked!

  10. TeeCee Gold badge
    FAIL

    That's odd.

    Most logistics businesses use a rather more complicated flowchart than that. That's just the little delivery estimation bit that sits in the shipping process. It should have realtime updates of transit delays in there too, everyone else does that and they'll never compete without it.

    I wonder whose they copied it from?

  11. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    WTF?

    A modest proposal....

    How much does it cost to acquire one of these POBOs (Patents Of the Bleeding Obvious)?

    It might be an interesting Reg endevour to develop your own one (I can imagine that Patent specialists who read the Reg might provide some free support?).

    Then, when you have a patent on telling the time of day from the height of the sun, or something equally obvious, we can all incorporate it in our work, and pay you for the privilege....

  12. SuperTim

    Super.

    How natural that google (a company who before last year didn't sell anything that could be delivered) will use this "already in the wild for quite a long time" idea to enrich all of their lawyers' lives.

  13. Bernard

    I'm afraid I've patented the process for mocking inane patent awards

    My bill for $147 in actual damages and $796,456,123,357 in emotional trauma will be in the post (I'd send it via email, but someone in Nigeria has almost certainly patented the delivery of spurious bills through an electronic medium).

  14. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    WTF

    Why was this granted a patent?!

    Unless I'm missing something ridiculous (and it's pre-first coffee of the day, it IS possible), Google can sue Amazon, and Amazon can *trivially* lay the smackdown of prior art for most of a decade on the filing.

  15. StChom

    No evil.

    That and latest developments in their various suits, and you see there's no end to Google hypocrisy.

    Truly the new Micro$oft.

    Start typing G$$GLE.

    1. Eddie Edwards
      Boffin

      Algorithm

      It appears to be that Google's servers will ping DHL's servers regularly the day before delivery, presumably noting the time at which it transitions to (say) DHL's warehouse nearest your house, and from that estimating the time of arrival based on this data and no doubt terabytes of previous experience with DHL in that area in true Google style.

      Stupider things have been patented.

      1. CD001

        Hmmm...

        If it's DHL that's doing the delivery, then the estimated time software had better have some damned good isNAN Exception handling in place.

        1. A handle is required
          Thumb Up

          @CD001

          I LOL'ed!

    2. VinceH Silver badge
      Coat

      Letters, digits.

      Could you also file a second patent as well, on delivery men being, well, men. That way, if my goods MUST be delivered by someone in the nude, at least it's going to be a woman.

      1. CD001

        aksdjnasdkjn

        ... called Helga... with a beard.

    3. SuccessCase

      Yes, good idea let's trust them...

      Same as we can trust them not to read our emails, trust them to open source Android code on release as they said they would, trust them not to sniff our wifi, and trust them not to take our photo's, or books for "end-in-itself" services generating them advertising revenue, like Google images or Google books. Same as if you were a competing business who owned and produced film content you could trust Google owned You Tube not to accept it from illegal sources and show it and use it to build business and their advertising model without asking your permission. They didn't have to be dragged by court action into controlling that at all did they.

    4. Goat Jam
      Pirate

      Perhaps

      Perhaps they are attempting to demonstrate the complete and utter crapness that is the US patent office these days.

      We can but hope I guess . . . .

  16. Mako

    Texting...

    "On my way. Will bring a curry. should be there about 7.."

    *BEEP-BOOP!* THIS TEXT MESSAGE IS IN VILOATION OF PATENT#7,996,328. PLEASE REMAIN STILL WHILE LAWYERS ARE DISPATCHED TO YOUR LOCATION

    Because, you know, there's no prior art here at all.

  17. Is it me?

    A cunning plan

    Perhaps Google have a competition going to see how long it takes to subvert the US Patent system with ridiculous patents. And if they happen to make money.

    I don't know the US patent system, but I'll be there are thousands of flowcharts out there that pre-date google's existence by at least a decade, doesn't prior art trump this?

  18. F. D. R. Stuart
    WTF?

    title

    You write "Born to Kill" on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What's that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?

  19. theBatman
    Stop

    I, I, Me, Me, Mine!

    That's just not what patents are for. Grrrr.

    These big corporations are like snotty little kids fighting over their toys. The progress of humanity is at stake here!

    So the next time I want to know how long a parcel's going to take to get to me someone has to pay a Google tax?

    Why don't they just patent eating or something?!

  20. loopy lou

    FFS

    I ordered something from CCL recently. They sent me a text giving the 1 hour timeslot that it would be delivered in. So now Google "owns" that process?

    We've had a few problems lately in the UK with people arbitrarily reassigning ownership of things. How exactly is this different from what the USPTO does? It is time there was some hefty punishment for them when they do idiotic things like this.

  21. poohbear
    Alert

    Elementary, my dear Watson

    Clearly Google is just trying to demonstrate how stupid the US patent system is.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    still looking for evidence that the patent system is broken?

    any way:

    "Mark my word, dear reader. It won't be long before you read in The Reg about Google launching a suit against, say, Amazon, for infringing upon US Patent #7,996,328."

    if I understand it correctly, it is not "we estimate the delivery in 2 to 3 days", but when the box is put on the delivery truck you will get an SMS or Email telling you that the package is on it way to your door.. so be ready.

  23. Stu J

    Idea

    Ship all of our looters and rioters to the US. Lie to the US authorities about their criminal records, naturally. Then direct them all to torch the USPTO, and to beat and rob any "patent examiner" they come across.

    For the price of a couple of charter flights to the states, this would solve us some enormous problems.

    1. It would (temporarily, at least) stop any more stupid patents from being granted.

    2. It would move the problem of the feral youth out of our jurisdiction, into one where......more extreme punishments are available.

    1. MrCheese
      Pint

      And a damn good idea at that!

      Enjoy a complimentary pint from the Society of Wishful Thinkers :D

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      I already get those

      from at least 2 companies I've been getting deliveries from for a number of years now

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Me too.

        Several companies have been doing it for ages with SMS and or email updates on progress through the delivery system.

  24. Paul M 1

    Title

    I think it's pretty obvious what Google are doing... I wonder how many other patently obvious "inventions" they've filed so that once they are granted can be used to discredit the whole system.

    P.S. - that's a funny phrase isn't it - "patently obvious"?

  25. Blofeld's Cat
    Devil

    Good grief!

    This was one of the first uses of the telegraph - how much prior art do you need?

    I notice that USPTO is an anagram of "to sup". I just hope they have the traditional long spoon available.

  26. GatesFanbois
    WTF?

    Whatever next?

    Next they'll be patenting changing the logo on your website... oh they already have

  27. Tchou
    Devil

    It's a medical case

    "Patenting Diarrhea". Can be deadly. Highly contagious. Often associated with severe nausea.

  28. Usually Right or Wrong
    Happy

    And for the next patent...

    Using toilet paper to wipe your arse. Probably plenty of patents out there on making toilet paper, pills for and against shitting and all that, but none on how toilet paper should be used. (Feel free to correct me on this.)

    So the process to be patented would go: Sit on toilet - deposit faeces in toilet – take sheets of toilet paper – wipe rectal opening – deposit toilet paper in toilet.

    Including flushing of the toilet would probably infringe on other patents, so I have omitted this. By implication, the patent covers shitting somewhere other than a toilet and using different paper, for example, printouts of patents.

  29. alabony
    WTF?

    Ridiculous

    Quote from UK IPO:

    Your invention must have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject

    What's inventive about this?? Now, I wonder if we can get a petition going (ideally initiated through Google+) to get this thing rescinded...

    1. BoldMan

      this is a title

      Try reading the article dimwit - this is the US Patent office. the UK Patent office isn't quite so dumb... yet.

    2. LAGMonkey
      Trollface

      I shall counter-patent

      with my very own patent for using toilet paper. However my flow-chart will go as follows...

      Sit on toilet - deposit faeces in toilet – take sheets of toilet paper – wipe rectal opening – deposit Toilet paper into portable wrapping

      again im ommiting "put portable wrapping into bin" as that can be mixed in with the patents that relate to kitchen or garden waste.

      Portable wrapping could mean plastic/paper/cloth bag etc.

      am i doing patent right?

    3. MrCheese
      Coffee/keyboard

      New Keyboard Please!

      "By implication, the patent covers shitting somewhere other than a toilet and using different paper, for example, printouts of patents"

      Priceless :D

  30. amanfromearth
    Trollface

    Cue Commentards!

    .. tell us about how you will patent the act of breathing in and out, thus making you million$

  31. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A universal estimator: +/- 3 days guaranteed

    Well, if we're going to award patents for silly ideas, here's one that will estimate the arrival day of anything, anywhere with a guaranteed accuracy of 3 days or better - earlier or later.

    Wednesday

    Every day of the week is within 3 days of Wednesday, hence anything will always be delivered (assuming it's not lost in transit) within 3 days of a Wednesday.

    [This was told to me last christmas by a younger member of the Pete 2 clan: "I bet I can tell when your birthday is - oh yeah, within 3 days .... Luckily 7 year-olds don't know about intellectual property]

  32. dotdavid
    Thumb Up

    Not sure this is a big deal

    "Google loves to whine about how bogus the whole patent-protection racket is, even as they play the game to their own benefit."

    Personally I don't have a problem with silly patents, until they're used to launch silly lawsuits. Google haven't done so yet, so I'll reserve judgement.

  33. aldude

    Don't forget...

    That the actual protection is defined in claim 1. Which is this:

    A method of providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising: periodically querying, by a broker computer system independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises: requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and receiving status information in response thereto; responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date; restarting, by the broker computer system, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query; responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and sending, by the broker computer system, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer.

    So, not such a simple patent after all!

  34. Stephen Moll
    Joke

    it is...

    "patently ridiculous"

  35. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Most accurate

    The most accurate method of estimating delivery time would be to have the delivery driver phone up the recipient as they set off from the previous delivery point. Patent #1,234,567,890

    1. Tom Wood

      Still, prior art.

      *phone shop*

      "Have you shipped my thingy yet?"

      "No"

      *wait a bit*

      *phone shop*

      "Have you shipped my thingy yet?"

      "No"

      *wait a bit*

      *phone shop*

      "Have you shipped my thingy yet?"

      "No, but we'll send it next Thursday"

      *wait till next Wednesday*

      *phone shop*

      "Have you shipped my thingy yet?"

      "Yes. First class. It should be there tomorrow."

      *wait till tomorrow morning*

      *phone postman*

      "Have you got a thingy addressed to me"

      "Yes. I'll be round about 11"

      *stop*

    2. MrCheese
      Stop

      A short point made long

      That's merely the expression of the following; build SMS server which queries delivery partner's database (for a myriad obvious shipping details) and once requested information is passed back to SMS server forward SMS (or other) response to customer.

      The lack of simplicity comes from the legalese description of an otherwise obviousa and simple process and not the process itself; any halfwitted sysadmin could knock up a system like that in day, it's no different from network server monitor software other than you;re monitoring someone else's database

    3. Disintegrationnotallowed

      New Patent

      I am going for a variation patent, I estimate all items to be delivered, anywhere, on a friday

    4. Marco van Beek
      Facepalm

      ...the bit they are really patenting

      Is that only they will be able to set up a third party service. So presumably the idea is to add a function to Google Apps / Dashboard / browser that tracks all my packages. Which, of course will require me to tell them what I am shipping from where. At which point I will get diverted to an entirely different website that sells tries to sell me the same bit of kit, or more likely, something entirely different.

  36. Pshoot
    Mushroom

    Why let...

    Why let the facts get in the way of a good story!?! If you actually take a look at their claims to patent monopoly you'll see that this is a far more complex system than the very broad flow chart chosen to illustrate the "good story".

    Why are people so quick to dismiss patents as the spawn of Satan? Without the patent system many companies would not exist, indeed could not exist!

    1. MrCheese
      Mushroom

      No one here hate patents...

      ...Just illegimate patents covering yet-to-be-realised concepts; if Google have this in operation now then I will fully recind all negative statements made about this patent but otherwise granting a patent to cover a methodology IS EXACTLY what stifles innovation and prevents real competetions from new players.

      The next time an awesome little startup with an awesome idea gets borged by one of the blue chips it'll most likely be as a result of patent hoarding/trolling by G$$gle, M$ or Crapple and that's all the USPTO's good for.

    2. jake Silver badge

      @Pshoot

      "Why are people so quick to dismiss patents as the spawn of Satan? Without the patent system many companies would not exist, indeed could not exist!"

      Your point was ... what, exactly?

  37. Lamont Cranston
    FAIL

    Nevermind the patent,

    does the Google system work, or is it the same old "6-hour window" job that everyone else uses?

    I get the feeling that examples of prior art won't be hard to find.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Here's the actual patent claim...

    - Remember, it's *the claim* that is what is actually protected by a patent, not some dumb figure:

    1. A method of providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising: periodically querying, by a broker computer system independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises: requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and receiving status information in response thereto; responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date; restarting, by the broker computer system, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query; responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and sending, by the broker computer system, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer.

    - It seems to be about periodic delivery status checks and suspending periodic status checks based on delivery estimates, in addition to any final notification. It's still not rocket science but it's a lot more specific than the article suggests... though of course there would be no article (or frothing commentary) without some willful misinterpretation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Unhappy

      Its still bullshit

      Despite your detailed description it still isn't worth patenting as these systems already exist and are in use daily by companies such as DHL, Parcel force, Fedex etc etc and the customer gets to track their parcel every step of the way. How is this patent bringing anything new?

    2. Fresnel
      FAIL

      Still BS

      Standard patentese waffle. Dressing up a simple idea so it sounds complex and innovative - to a moron (or a lawyer)...

    3. MrCheese
      Boffin

      More Concise

      That can all condensed down to: poll delivery company's shipping systems and forward responses to customer.

      Pretty standard to me, you could use off the shelf software to do it too and as for accuracy it'll only be as good as the delivery company's shipping system (or the level of access granted).

      I could see it being of real value if/when product packaging starts including smart security tags, which among other things can be tracked via GPS but that'll an innovation that's nothing to do with G$$gle.

  39. Graham Lerant
    FAIL

    It's time to stop

    reporting on these feeble Patent stories.

    Second thoughts - I think I'll patent 'sitting down to take a dump'.

    I may not have been the first person to think of it, I may not have been the first person to have done it, but I'll patent it anyway.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      By the time you reach the crapper

      you will owe me zillions for breaching my bipedal mechanism for reaching destinations for the performing of actions of the bleeding obvious.

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot
      Happy

      I claim prior art from when I got up this morning!

      Hmmm....patent trolls!

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I can hear

    I can hear a few IP lawyers rubbing their hands together in glee. It seems all the American system is good for is making such people a lot of money while stifling innovation and competition.

  41. Old Tom
    Headmaster

    I declare it void due to poor spelling

    It refers to 'compact disks' [sic] and 'writeable compact disk (CD)' [sic]. Such crass mistakes should always render such documents null and void.

    Apart from that, the entire document seems to consist of incoherent waffle.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Are they protecting themselves ...

    ... from someone else who has a patent on full-stops and paragraphs?

    A method of providing notification of impending delivery of a shipment shipped by a shipper to a shipping address specified by a customer, comprising: periodically querying, by a broker computer system independent of the shipper and a merchant and which enabled the customer to purchase an item contained in the shipment from the merchant, a shipper computer system to obtain status information for the shipment with each query, wherein a periodic query of the shipment computer system comprises: requesting status information from the shipper computer system by providing a shipment identifier of the shipment to the shipper computer system; and receiving status information in response thereto; responsive to status information obtained with a periodic query indicating an estimated delivery date for the shipment, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and scheduling the restart of periodic queries of the shipper computer system a day prior to the estimated delivery date; restarting, by the broker computer system, periodic queries of the shipper computer system the day prior to the estimated delivery date to obtain updated status information with each query; responsive to updated status information obtained with a periodic query indicating that the shipment is out for delivery to the customer, halting, by the broker computer system, the periodic queries and calculating an estimated delivery time for the shipment based at least in part on the status information; and sending, by the broker computer system, an electronic message including the estimated delivery time to the customer.

  43. Nick Galloway
    Paris Hilton

    Emigrate to the US...

    ... and patent a chair. I think I could probably make a lot of money claiming compensation from all those people out there infriginging on my 'idea'.

    I thought the UN and the Olympic committee were losing relevance but the USPTO really has entered a whole new world of fantasy that makes the other look very muc in touch with the real world!

  44. Suburban Inmate
    WTF?

    WTF next?

    Electronic Error Notification?

    <homer> MMMMmmmmm...... Blue Screen Of Dosh! </homer>

  45. bertino
    Pint

    A Method To Fix The US Patent System.

    I am patenting this, so if they implement it I should get money for every patent application....

    The US patent office only gets paid when they REJECT the patent application. This will force them do some research and find a reason to not to grant the patent in order to get paid.

    Now this may result in no patents being granted at all, but hey ho........

    Trebles all round!

  46. Shane Kent

    Someone should patent...

    make computing device run faster and/or easier to use. One patent to rule them all, lol.

  47. Eguro
    Thumb Up

    A master plan

    I think I'll patent the process of getting a patent.

    Or more precisely I'll patent:

    The process whereby a person, company, or other, may claim sole rights to distribution, supervision, development and employment of any thing, idea, product, thought process, or other, that they will want to market; to ensure full customer and manufacturer satisfaction, the patent must be legitimate for all previous development of previously mentioned product, idea, thought process etc. To ensure fairness for all a static price will be used to charge for any and all patent claims - 1% of a person's, company's, or other's net worth for every year they continue to use any one patent.

  48. Steven Roper
    FAIL

    That patent won't apply in Australia

    since my company's been doing exactly what this patent describes on our own website since 2006, and we have the documentation to prove it. I know, because I wrote much of the code that does it. We have prior art on this one. I'm not surprised though, that with all the patent grubbing going on in the last few years, that someone should sooner or later come up with one that we've already done first.

  49. Jim Birch
    Black Helicopters

    The patent system is crazy.

    The patent system needs to be subverted. The big patent holders have it sown up to everyone's cost. It won't improve until it becomes unworkable for the big players. It's a pity Google don't have a patent on the electronic submission of patents.

    Patents are supposed to support real invention, not be a land grab by the powerful. Software patents are the worst case. There's very few patents that a few smart people couldn't reinvent in a few hours - or minutes - when presented with the problem. They are incremental improvements in systems that fail any realistic obviousness test.

  50. goodthankyou
    Coat

    learner

    I think a number of logistics companies backed by some big names are going to be shelling out to use my idea or risk having their operatives turn up at people's houses stark naked!

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