Alexa, tell these guys that your grocery shopping features do not infringe any patents.
On Tuesday (June 22), a federal jury ruled in favor of Amazon in a case in which Israeli connected technology company Freshub accused the retail giant of knowingly using Freshub’s patented grocery voice-ordering technology in its Alexa and Echo smart home devices, Bloomberg reported.
In a complaint filed in September of 2019, Freshub owner Ikan alleges that Amazon has been aware of its patented technologies since 2010, has been aware of Freshub since 2015, and had been in talks with Freshub to collaborate for years. The company alleges that Amazon has “acted recklessly,” and that it continues “to willfully, wantonly and deliberately engage in acts of infringement.” Ikan pointed to three of its patents that it accused Amazon, the retailer’s Prime Now app and its Whole Foods Markets grocery brand of knowingly incorporating into their own technologies. Following one week of testimony that began on June 14, Law360 reported, the jury of the Waco, Texas court ruled that Amazon’s technology did not infringe upon these patents.
The case comes as smart speaker ownership is actually falling overall, though many of the consumers who do use voice-controlled assistants are very actively engaged. PYMNTS data from How Consumers Live in the ConnectedEconomy, which surveyed over 15,000 U.S. consumers, found a sizable dip in the number of owners of voice-controlled assistant devices: While a third of consumers owned such a device in August 2020, by April, that fraction had fallen to just over a quarter. Still, a portion of these device owners is interacting with their smart assistants frequently: 15 percent reported making or altering shopping lists using voice-activated devices multiple times per day.
For Amazon’s part, a huge portion of consumers surveyed (43 percent) reported that they would trust Amazon to enable connected commerce opportunities, and this number jumps to 53 percent when looking at just super-connected consumers, those who own at least six connected devices. Given that 56 percent of consumers from this group tend to order groceries online, there is a significant opportunity for Amazon to get more of its Alexa owners on board with the grocery voice-ordering technology that, according to the Waco jury, is all Amazon’s (at least legally speaking). Another PYMNTS survey, the How We Will Pay study created in collaboration with Visa, found that only about a fifth of voice assistant owners had made a purchase by voice in the preceding 24 hours.
In addition to the opportunity to grow the channel’s user base, voice ordering also provides an opportunity to guide consumers along their commerce journey.
“I think with voice, we are going to find that customers are more and more okay with giving up the nearly infinite selection choice over to Alexa, to narrow it down for them,” Amazon Pay Head of Product Kris Zanuldin predicted to Karen Webster in a September interview. “And I think that’s where we envision it in the future. It’s a road to get there — but eventually, just like any trusted friend, you will ask for a recommendation. And more likely than not, you’ll take advantage of that resource.”