- Non-technology companies from Walmart to Bank of America are scrambling to patent technology inventions to protect ownership of potential new products, the Wall Street Journal reported.
- A variety of businesses have opened innovation labs and are moving to patent what’s being produced there.
- Patents tend to lend credibility to a company's investments in innovation.
In the era of online and mobile commerce, the retail sector is jumping into patent technology as innovation labs from industry heavyweights like Wal-Mart, Target, and Staples keep popping up. These tech hubs serve as incubators for a variety of digital projects and products.
In April, Wal-Mart filed a patent application for a method to make e-commerce product recommendations based on what a shopper’s friends and acquaintances recommend, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Drug chain Walgreens was awarded a patent in July for a system that enables shoppers to send photos from their social networks via a mobile device to a local Walgreens for printing.
As retail-tech labs proliferate, guarding proprietary inventions comes with the territory. “The best way for a business to protect their investment in R&D is to patent their ideas,” Dave Ballai, chief information officer and vice president of operations at Reed Technology, told The Wall Street Journal.
Target, for one, has been on a technology tear of late. Last month, the cheap-chic discounter announced plans to launch a technology accelerator with Techstars next year at its Minneapolis headquarters. In July, the retailer showed off its Target Open House in San Francisco – what it describes as part retail space, part lab. Target also boasts a Silicon-Valley based technology center.
“We know that technology will continue to revolutionize retail, and that Target’s future will be built on innovation,” said Casey Carl, Target’s chief strategy and innovation officer, in a post on the retailer’s website. “That’s why we’re so excited to partner with Techstars and invite the world’s most promising startups to work with Target right in our backyard.”