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eBay’s Retail Tech Patent Spree

Recent patent filings by online retailer, reseller and auction mega-site eBay have pundits guessing at whether the company intends to take its offerings into the brick-and-mortar space in the coming months and years.

As IPWatchdog recently reported, the online mega-retailer filed nearly 250 patents in 2014, placing them 149th in U.S. patents earned that year; to date in 2015, they have only filed 106. However, there is a trend emerging among these filings that suggests eBay is working on new technologies that aim to increase sales for its brick-and-mortar retail partners.

Taking a closer look at individual filings reveals specific technologies to help consumers find local retailers, solve shipping issues and even innovate around the dressing room experience.

U.S. Patent Application No. 20150287084, titled “Systems and Methods for Implementing Online Marketplace for Local Merchants,” describes an online marketplace designed to bring together local merchants and eBay users to complete their purchases at small and medium-sized businesses to reduce the cost and environmental impact of shipping items purchased online. Another patent details a system designed to help shoppers avoid heavy foot traffic at local retailers, thus avoiding headaches associated with a crowded store.

IPWatchdog took note of another interesting filing: U.S. Patent Application No. 20150310532, entitled “Vehicle Trunks for Commerce,” which outlined an innovative product shipping system that would take advantage of the underutilized trunk space of for-hire vehicles (like the personal vehicles used by Uber and Lyft drivers) to deliver goods to consumers in heavily populated urban areas.

Yet another filing proposes an interactive fitting room experience for physical retail locations. Explained in U.S. Patent Application No. 20150262280, entitled “Social Fitting Room Experience,” an interactive mirror installed in a fitting room would present an image of the consumer and then look for feedback by polling social network contacts or an anonymous audience. In another related filing, there would also be functionality for suggesting clothing items through the interactive mirror interface.

While there seems to be a heavy focus being placed on bridging the gap between online and in-store experiences, eBay is also staying true to its eCommerce roots with a series of other innovations it has rolled out recently just in time for the holiday season. “Wishbone Deal” gave shoppers a fun way to choose between two discounted deals on Black Friday, while shoppers in the U.K. have been treated to the “first-ever” online concierge-style gift giving service designed to help those struggling to find the perfect gift for everyone on their list this holiday season.

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