11 Jun 2012

Post & Parcel: RPost obtains patent over digital mail tracking technology

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by Post & Parcel

US firm RPost has been granted a patent covering email technology that could already be in use by digital mail systems run by postal operators.

The patent has been approved by the US Patent Office with the number
8,161,104, covering the tracking of email openings via the use of web links embedded in a message.

The technology includes the detecting of opening of an email by any kind of link within the message, either a system in which a link is clicked, or a link that is designed to activate upon opening, the company said.

Los Angeles-based RPost said it invented the technology in the late 1990s, as part of a range of technology for which many more patents are still pending, and has been using the system ever since in its range of registered post services.

Many other companies have cited the original RPost technology in their own patents in this area, with the company stating its belief that it is used by thousands of email marketers and involved in as many as 40bn email messages each year.

RPost is offering to license its technology, individually or as part of a package of electronic mail services.

For those that use the technology without permission, it promised to “vigorously” pursue infringement proceedings.

Zafar Khan, the RPost CEO, explained to Post&Parcel that for postal operators around the world, there was a “fantastic opportunity” to partner RPost in taking its technology to their local market.

“They could help us license this element of RPost technology in their marketplace and have a much bigger volume opportunity for revenue,” he suggested.

On the other hand, he warned that postal operators looking to start up new electronic communications platforms, particularly registered mail services and digital mailboxes, now needed to ensure their providers comply with the Intellectual Property laws if using this technology.

“On the registered email side, this certainly is an important technique used to determine proof of receipt of messages and proof of opening, proof of delivery,” explained Khan. “They should make sure if they’re looking at any other provider that that provider is not infringing RPost technology.”

The RPost CEO added: “On the ePost-box side of the business, they certainly should make sure any ePostbox company that will be building it themselves properly licenses this RPost technology – if they intend to have any analytics around message delivery built into that platform.”

Enforcement

RPost has now obtained around 36 patents for technology in the registered electronic mail field, covering aspects ranging from tracking of delivery, tracking of email opening to the association of message content with tracking information, the association of time stamps with tracking information and the authentication of information.

The company is in the process of taking legal action against a range of organisations it claims has been using its technology without permission, including Swiss Post, Canada Post, Docusign, Adobe Echosign, RightSignature and Farmers Insurance.

The cases look set to go for a jury trial in the Eastern District of Texas in August 2013.

Discussing the latest patent, Khan said: “This is technology that RPost did invent, in 1999, and now the patent office is confirming that RPost is in fact the original inventor of this technology.

“From the context of the posts, this presents a fantastic opportunity for those posts that choose to partner with RPost, and it also demonstrates the breadth of the RPost technologies.”

Khan said other patents involved in digital mail systems were also expected to be granted soon, which could also affect platforms operated by posts.

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