eBay Patent

A Look at eBay’s Patent for a Robotic Auto Listing System

Patents by tech companies are always a bit intriguing as they give a glimpse into the work of their development teams and a peek into the future.

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Often, companies file patents early just to protect their ideas, even if they don’t intend to use them or have no idea if it makes any business sense to implement them.

Patents can range from crazy ideas like Motorola’s skin tattoo providing a system and method for “auxiliary voice input to a mobile communications device,” to the ‘Steve Jobs Patent‘ that is just one of many that defined the iPhone.

Let’s take a look at one of eBay’s patents the company received recently from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

eBay Patent: Auto Posting System

eBay was granted a patent this year for a robotic selling assistant that could relieve sellers of listing and order fulfillment duties.

The robotic selling assistant would receive the item from the seller, automatically generate a listing describing the item, store the item until sold, and then ship or deliver the item to the buyer.

The robotic selling assistant could use the barcode, QR code, make, model, serial number, or other identifying markings from the item image(s) to create or retrieve a description, product manual, and other descriptive information to include in the listing.

For electronic devices, the robotic selling assistant could plug into the item (ie. through a USB port) and identify and evaluate the condition of the electronic device.

In addition, it could also use Bluetooth, Wifi, or other wireless connectivity to connect to the electronic device.

For order fulfillment purposes, the robotic selling assistant would be able to weigh and size the item based on a 3D model or laser-based measurement, determine proper packaging materials, and estimate shipping costs.

The patent also describes a process in which the robotic selling assistant could use seller-supplied item information and highlight potential discrepancies between the seller-provided data and the assistant’s determination.

At that point, the seller would have the option to make adjustments to the listing, continue the sale of the item, or have it returned to them.

To combat fraud, the robotic selling assistant would also be able to determine if the seller is intentionally misdescribing the item and flag the item and/or seller for review.

An intriguing option in the patent application is that the robotic selling assistant could be an autonomous vehicle that picks up and delivers items, including the use of drones.

The vehicle would be capable of taking images from multiple angles using a manipulation arm and/or turntable to lift or rotate items.

eBay robotic selling assistant vehicle

High Tech Version of eBay Valet or eBay Authenticity Program

At first glance, this sounds like a hands-off and high-tech listing and fulfillment process similar to the previously shut down eBay Valet service.

However, the better fit for this patent is the newer eBay Authenticity Program, which currently covers watches, sneakers, and handbags.

The autonomous vehicle concept seems a bit far-fetched for now as we are still waiting to see the Amazon Scouts roam the world.

There is another interesting side to this patent, one that could make it into the platform sooner and without much capital investment.

Some of the technology in this patent could be implemented through the standard listing process, specifically the technology related to identifying product details from an image.

This could speed up listings for some sellers, but also add an element of listing “verification” as described earlier.

eBay could utilize image recognition technology to identify potential counterfeit items or flag products for policy violations. The patent does suggest the technology could be used in other ways.

Read the full patent here.

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