Patents for Getting Your Food Fast

“Take out” food is a very old concept. As the BBC reported, the ancient Roman city of Pompeii (and probably most other Roman cities) had a food counter (thermopolium) that served hot food and drinks to go.

The idea of a delivery service for ready-made food is also quite old. The first recorded food delivery service was for naengmyeon (cold noodle) in Korea, in 1768.

Food delivery apps have thrived during the pandemic. According to MarketWatch, the top-four delivery apps (DoorDash, UberEats, Grubhub, and Postmates)

raked in roughly $5.5 billion in combined revenue from April through September, more than twice as much as their combined $2.5 billion in revenue during the same period last year.

This is because

A Cowen & Co. survey of 2,500 consumers showed that in July, 52% said they would avoid restaurants and bars even after they fully reopen, and a recent rise in COVID-19 cases nationwide means many restaurants are again facing onsite-dining restrictions. According to restaurant-reservation platform OpenTable, the number of seated diners in the U.S. decreased an average of 52% the week of Nov. 19-23.

Although the IDEA of home food delivery is old (and thus not patentable), the specific technology that powers the food delivery apps is covered by several patents.

For example. U.S. Patent No. 10565604, a System and Method for Determining Competitors of a Restaurant, is owned by GrubHub. So is U.S. Patent No. 11080801, a System, Method and Apparatus for Assessing the Accuracy of Estimated Food Delivery Time, and U.S. Patent No. 9710799, a System, Method and Apparatus for Receiving Bids From Diners for Expedited Food Delivery

DoorDash has its own patent for estimating when food will arrive at the doorstep: U.S. Patent No. 11037055, a System for Dynamic Estimated Time of Arrival Predictive Updates.

DoorDash also has a patent on containers used to deliver food: Patent No. 10657486, Containers for Crowdsourced Delivery. The patent seems to assume, perhaps over-optimistically, that someone receiving their own food order can be enticed to deliver someone else’s:

The container may include a location sensor and a communication interface to enable the container to provide its location to at least one of a service computing device, a courier device, a sender device, or a recipient device. In some cases, a service provider may employ public transport vehicles to transport the container along a portion of a delivery route. One crowdsourced courier may pick up the container for placement on the public transport vehicle and another crowdsourced courier may pick up the container from the public transport vehicle and deliver the container to the delivery location. Further, the container may include multiple compartments, and recipients who receive a shipment in the container may be solicited to deliver the container to a delivery location of a next recipient.

DoorDash also has a design patent, U.S. Patent No. D920870, for a cute little autonomous delivery vehicle that could get the food there on its own.

However, as NOSH reports, autonomous food delivery vehicles face certain challenges:

A man who told police he was sick of Kiwibot delivery robots roaming Berkeley streets stole one and put it in his trunk Thursday night, authorities report.

Police used GPS to track the robot to the man’s vehicle, then remotely made the robot move, said Lt. Peter Hong of the Berkeley Police Department.

“They were able to pinpoint exactly which car it was in by having it move,” Hong said. “They could hear it in the trunk.”

Categories: Patents