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Most Americans, Texas residents included, do at least some online shopping. This means that traditional brick and mortar businesses like Walmart need to find a way to stay relevant and up-to-date in order to compete with other online retail giants like Amazon. In fact, Walmart is now hoping that patent law will support its application for a new online system that is already being touted as similar to the "Dash" buttons that Amazon uses.

The patent describes an "automated home subscription system" that appears to be based on Amazon's easy reorder system. Walmart's application says its system goes beyond Amazon's. Walmart's new system would not require customers to push a button in order to reorder a frequently used and ordered item. Instead, it uses the Internet of Things to track the usage and expiration of products.

This is done through tags on commonly purchased products that track usage and send the data to the server. When a customer's supply of something included in the subscription expires or becomes low, it is automatically reordered and sent to the customer. The program could also include a feature to recommend other products. For instance, if a customer orders chocolate and milk, the program may suggest chocolate milk.

Whether this new technology becomes part of Walmart's offerings to its customers remains to be seen. Like any other application, the invention must first make it through the patent law process. Since similar technology already exists, it will first need to be judged different enough and provide enough improvement on another patent in order to be approved. Texas inventors must make it through this same hurdle when they come up with an idea that will improve an existing technology or product.

Source: consumerist.com, "Walmart Files Patent For Amazon Dash-Like Device", Ashlee Kieler, May 5, 2017

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