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Google’s battle against Microsoft and Apple over their use of “bogus” patents promises to result in greater scrutiny of its own intellectual property holdings. And we have a hunch that, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service and pretty much everyone else in the shipping business will be highly interested in this new addition to Google’s portfolio.

The search giant this week was awarded a patent on electronic shipping notifications, of all things. Here’s the abstract, explaining the approach.

A broker facilitates customer purchases from merchants. Shippers ship shipments containing the purchases from merchants to the customers. A shipper identifies a shipment using a shipment identifier. The broker uses the shipment identifier to obtain the status information for the shipment from the shipper. The broker analyzes the status information in combination with other information to calculate an estimate of the time that the shipment will arrive at the customer’s address. The broker sends an electronic message, such as an email or text message, to the customer prior to the estimated shipment arrival time to inform the customer of the impending arrival. The customer can thus arrange for someone to be at the shipping address to receive the shipment at the estimated arrival time.

Of course, the real test is whether Google will assert the patent against anyone who does something similar, as Microsoft and Apple are doing against Android with their own patents.

In the meantime, we’ll be left scratching our heads over the need to patent something like this.

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