In brief:
Walmart, the US retail giant has been granted a patent for a blockchain-based digital marketplace to resell purchased products.

According to US Patent and Trademark Office, Walmart has been granted a patent for a blockchain-based digital marketplace to resell purchased products. The patent was filed in 2017 and granted on May 17, 2018.

The US retail giant in view of expanding its digital services to retail customers filed a patent for a blockchain system which will be able to track items that stores sell to a particular customer. Thus, the company is looking to adopt digital technologies for expanding its intellectual property holdings.

The patent states, “The increasing competition from ‘non-traditional shopping mechanisms’ as an incentive for ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers to stay ahead of new technologies that could improve customer experience.”

According to the application, the system will allow the tracking of retail products brought by a customer. A customer (storehouses or retail), under the proposed system, would “register” a product after purchase. The customer would then be able to choose a defined price for resale to individuals while using Walmart’s framework as a digital marketplace.

The patent further states that customers may want to resell an item because they are not always interested in possessing a purchased item for its entire lifespan. Such customers who use an item for a limited period and wish to sell it, later on, are “left to their own methods to arrange for a subsequent resale.

The document noted that proposed patent can provide “additional support to greatly ease and facilitate their later reselling of items.” The interface could be web browsers, mobile platforms, or a physical point-of-sale.

The previous patent filed by Walmart described a system of automated delivery vans or trucks connected via blockchain technology. Now, the company’s latest patent outlines a “distributed delivery record blockchain”. This will update every transaction as the products are bought in bulk, sold to customers, and handled by couriers.

How will the system work?

Under the blockchain mechanism, the seller and courier have to provide their private keys to make a transaction. After the verification of keys from the buyer, seller, and courier, the transaction will be immediately broadcasted to the network and added to the blockchain. The purchase process will end once the buyer receives the package and the courier confirms the handover by using their private key after which blockchain is instantly updated with the transaction.

The company states, “By one approach, the transfer from the seller to the courier may require signatures from both the sender and the courier using their respective private keys. The new transaction may be broadcasted and verified by the sender, the courier, the buyer, and/or other nodes on the system before being added to the distributed delivery record blockchain. When the package is transferred from the courier to the buyer, the courier may use the courier’s private key to authorize the transfer of the digital asset representing the physical asset from the courier to the buyer and update the delivery record with the new transaction.”

It is to be noted that the retail giant had filed for a number of blockchain patents in the past, however, those are yet to be applied to its operations.

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