Title:
Shipping Information Transfer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Systems and methods of the present invention for transfer of shipping information are provided. A set of data is selected by a user. The set of data may be a set of contact information, which may be associated with one or multiple contacts. Alternatively, the set of data may need to be searched to find the contact information present. A contact manager is searched based on the contact information from the selected data set. The shipping information associated with the contact information is provided to a shipping vendor or plurality of vendors designated by the user



Inventors:
Marks, Peter R. (San Anselmo, CA, US)
Emery, Ryan T. (El Cerrito, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/122658
Publication Date:
11/20/2008
Filing Date:
05/16/2008
Primary Class:
1/1
Other Classes:
707/999.003, 707/E17.014
International Classes:
G06F7/06; G06F17/30
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Other References:
Endicia.com, "Tarantula 'Print Staging' Program", accessed 4 March 2006, available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20060304111623/http://www.endicia.com/endicia-usa/hot/tarantula.cfm
Endicia.com, "Harry's Hints: How to Print Several Addresses at Once", accessed 18 February 2006, available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20060218183945/http://www.endicia.com/endicia-usa/hot/batchprinting.cfm
"Endicia integrates Internet postage with fulfillment", ePostal News, n 265, p. 1, 8 August 2005
"Sales OnLine Direct's aiSeller Enhancements Expedite Online Auction Checkout", PR Newswire, 1 October 2003
Primary Examiner:
FLYNN, KEVIN H
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARR & FERRELL LLP (MENLO PARK, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for transfer of shipping information comprising: receiving a selection from a user concerning a set of data; reviewing the selected set of data to determine contact information; determining what shipping information is associated with the contact information; and generating a request for a vendor indicated by the user, the request concerning the determined shipping information.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the set of data comprises a plurality of contacts from a contact manager.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein generating a request further comprises generating a plurality of requests, each of the plurality of requests directed to one of a plurality of vendors.

4. The method of claim 2, wherein the contact information comprises an email address.

5. The method of claim 2, wherein reviewing the selected set of data comprises searching an email field.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein the contact information comprises a name associated with a contact person.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein the contact information comprises a plurality of names associated with a plurality of contact people.

8. The method of claim 1, wherein providing the determined shipping information comprises providing a unique resource identifier of the shipping information.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein providing the determined shipping information to the shipping vendor comprises organizing the shipping information in a format specific to the shipping vendor.

10. A system for using an integrated database for tracking shipping information comprising: a search module configured to search a selected set of data for contact information; a processor configured to determine shipping information associated with the contact information in a contact manager; and a shipping request generation module configured to generate a request including the shipping information associated with the contact information from the selected set of data.

11. The system of claim 10, further comprising an input module configured to receive a selection from a user concerning the set of data.

12. The system of claim 10, wherein the selected set of data comprises one or more fields of data and the search module is further configured to search the one or more fields.

13. The system of claim 10, wherein the selected set of data comprises an email.

14. The system of claim 13, wherein the selected set of data comprises an email attachment.

15. The system of claim 13, wherein the search module is configured to search a field of the email for contact information.

16. The system of claim 10, wherein the contact information comprises a name associated with a contact person.

17. The system of claim 10, wherein the contact information comprises a plurality of names associated with a plurality of contact people.

18. The system of claim 10, wherein the shipping request generation is further configured to provide a unique resource identifier of the shipping information.

19. The system of claim 10, wherein the shipping request generation is further configured to provide the shipping information in a format specific to the shipping vendor.

20. A computer-readable storage medium having stored thereupon executable computing instructions for performing a method, the method comprising: receiving a selection from a user concerning a set of data; reviewing the selected set of data to determine contact information; determining what shipping information is associated with the contact information; and generating a request for a vendor indicated by the user, the request concerning the determined shipping information.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims the priority benefit of U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/928,516, filed May 16, 2007 and entitled “Methods and Systems for Shipping Management,” the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

The present application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/009,033 filed Jan. 15, 2008 and titled “Real-Time Pricing Information for Shipping Vendors,” U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/009,126 filed Jan. 15, 2008 and titled “Integrated Database for Tracking Shipping Information,” and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/009,014, filed Jan. 15, 2008 and titled “Documenting Mail Work Flow.”

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to shipment management. More specifically, the present invention relates to the transfer of shipping information.

2. Description of Related Art

There are presently a variety of uses for shipping information. One common use is for making various types of deliveries and shipments by one or more shipping vendors, which may include creating and tracking shipping manifest information. Available shipping vendors may include various well-known national and international vendors, such as FedEx®, United Parcel Service (UPS®), United States Postal Service (USPS®), and DHL®, as well as various local same day and regional couriers. The availability of shipping services by shipping vendors may vary from location to location. For example, a local courier may only provide service within a particular city.

A shipment may also be sent using a variety of shipping options, including date and time restrictions, packaging options, shipping vendor acknowledgement, and the like. For example, a package may need to be delivered in a padded envelope by a certain date and acknowledged by the shipment recipient's signature. The availability of various shipping options may also differ from vendor to vendor. For example, a particular vendor may not offer overnight shipping, some vendors require overnight shipments to be ready for pick-up by a certain time, some vendors may have size and weight restrictions on overnight shipments, etc. In addition to size and weight restrictions, various other package specifications (e.g., shape, contents of package, value of contents) may also limit the availability of shipping options.

The variety of available shipment options and shipping vendors allows users to tailor their shipments in a variety of ways. Further, having multiple options for shipping vendors allows for price shopping and alternatives should a first shipping vendor be unable to ship a package or provide a certain shipping option. However, these multiple options for shipment can complicate information management processes.

A shipment is typically associated with a variety of information from a variety of sources. In some cases, a shipping transaction may include searching for information in multiple sources. For example, a user may receive a message from a customer asking for a shipment. Such a shipment may include looking up the customer's shipping address, shipping preferences, various shipping options, etc. Further, entering shipping information for a contact into a order form for shipping vendor, for example, may be inefficient, time-consuming, and prone to error. Where there are multiple shipping vendors and multiple shipments to multiple contacts, the process may be even more complicated.

There is, therefore, a need in the art for improved systems and methods for transfer of shipping information.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Exemplary systems and methods of the present invention provide for transfer and designation of shipping information. Shipping information is the information used to create a shipping manifest for a shipping vendor. A user may select a set of data from a contact manager. The selected set of data may be reviewed to determine whether it includes necessary contact information to complete a shipping transaction. Alternatively, the shipping recipient may be contained in an email (e.g. an e-mail address) and the necessary contact information may be looked up and retrieved from an associated in a contact manager (e.g., MS Outlook®, Lotus Notes®, SalesForce.com® or other portal containing contact data (e.g., Facebook®, MySpace). The shipping information is provided in an electronic request to the shipping vendor designated by the user for generation of a shipping request and shipping manifest (e.g., shipping label). For example, the user selects several contacts in a contact manager. The contact information for each selected contact is looked up. It is then determined what shipping information to use for each contact, and shipping manifests (labels) are generated according to each shipping vendors requirements. In some cases, different shipping vendors may be used for each contact.

Various embodiments of the present invention include methods for transfer of shipping information. Such methods may include receiving a selection from a user concerning a set of data, reviewing the selected set of data for contact information, searching a contacts manager for shipping information associated with the contact information, and providing the determined shipping information required by the various shipping vendors indicated by the user. In some embodiments, the set of data may include one or more emails, email attachments, combinations of the foregoing, and the like. Reviewing the emails and attachments for contact information may include searching certain fields, such as email address fields, headers, and the like. In some embodiments, the set of data may include information concerning a plurality of contact people from the contacts manager, such that shipping information for each of the plurality may be automatically provided to the designated plurality of shipping vendors for creation of shipping requests in the each of the vendors' proprietary system (e.g. FedEx or UPS shipping systems) and creation of each shipping vendor's specific shipping manifest (label).

Some embodiments of the present invention include systems for transfer of shipping information. Such systems may include a search module for searching a selection of data for contact information, a processor for determining shipping information associated with the contact information in a contacts manager, and a shipping request generation for providing the determined shipping information to a shipping vendor designated by the user. In some embodiments, the system further includes an input module for receiving a selection from a user concerning the set of data.

Embodiments of the present invention also include computer media containing executable instructions for validation of shipping data and required shipping information for the selected shipping vendor or vendors and transfer of shipping information to the selected shipping vendor or vendors. The instructions may further provide for transferring shipping information associated with a plurality of contacts (recipients of the shipment)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary implementation on a computer network of a system for transfer of shipping information.

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an exemplary shipping information application.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart depicting an exemplary method for transfer of shipping information.

FIG. 4 is an exemplary screenshot of a contact manager accessed by the shipping information application in an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an exemplary screenshot of an interface presenting a list of multiple contact people in an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is an exemplary screenshot of an interface that allows a user to edit shipping information in an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention includes systems and methods for transfer of shipping information. A set of data is selected by a user. The set of data may be a set of contact information, which may be associated with one or multiple contacts. Alternatively, the set of data may need to be searched to find the contact information present. A contact manager is searched based on the contact information from the selected data set. The shipping information associated with the contact information is provided to the shipping vendor designated by the user for the selected contact or contacts.

FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary implementation on a computer network of a system for transfer of shipping information. Internet 110 allows for communication between user network 120 and various services 160A-C. User network 120 is communicatively coupled to the Internet 110 and may include various user devices (e.g., user devices 130A and 130B), each including a contact manager (e.g., contact manager 140A and 140B), and a shipping information application 150. The various services 160A-C may also be communicatively coupled to the Internet and, thus be able to receive and transmit information to user network 120. In some embodiments, the system 100 may include a user device 130C communicatively coupled over the Internet 110 to an application service provider (ASP) 170, which can provide user device 130C with the same services as shipping information application 150.

User network 120 may be a local, proprietary network (e.g., intranet), a part of a larger wide-area network, and/or a hosted network. For example, user network 120 may be a local area network (LAN) in an office. Alternatively, a user network 120 for a large organization may span multiple offices in multiple buildings in multiple locations and in multiple countries.

User network 120 may include one or more user devices (e.g., user devices 130A and 130B). Such user devices 130 may include various computing devices, workstations, etc. that allow users to communicate with various other components of system 100. For example, using user device 130A, a user may designate a contact as a shipment shipping vendor, view shipping information, request various shipping specifications, etc. Each user device (e.g., user device 130A) may include a contact manager (e.g., contact manager 140A) configured to store information regarding various contacts, including addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and the like. Contact manager 140 may further correlate contact information with various shipping specifications (e.g., a particular address, such as a contact's office, may be associated with a particular courier service or particular delivery hours). Examples of contact managers may include Microsoft Outlook®, Lotus Notes®, Novell GroupWise®, Facebook®, MySpace®, etc.

A shipping information application 150 may also be installed in user network 120 or in the application service provider (ASP) model by application service provider device 170. Described in further detail with respect to FIG. 2, shipping information application 150 allows for user devices in user network 120 to transfer shipping information. For example, shipping information may be transferred as part of various shipping-related transactions and communications with various shipping vendors. Shipping information application 150 may be any collection of routines that perform various system-level functions and may be dynamically loaded and unloaded by hardware and device drivers as required. The modular software components described herein may also be incorporated as part of a larger software platform or integrated as part of an application specific component. In various embodiments, shipping information application 150 may be installed on a server in user network 120, on one or more user devices in user network 120, on an application service provider 170, or in any other appropriate fashion.

Shipping information application 150 may further allow for shipping information to be transferred in formats specific to the shipping vendor. Shipping vendor 160A, for example, may receive shipping information in a format specifically for shipping label generation. For example, the user may select multiple contacts in the contact manager (e.g., contact manager 140A). Shipping information application 150 can automatically determine the shipping information to be used for shipping to each of the multiple contacts designated by the user, shipping information to be provided to each of the shipping vendors, whereupon the user may select various preferences for each of the multiple contacts, and edit shipping information for each of the multiple contacts before sending the shipping information to the designated shipping vendor.

Alternatively, a user may receive one or more email requests concerning various shipments. The user may select the email. Shipping information application 150 can review the email, find the contact information in the email (e.g., an email address), look up the email address in a contact manager (e.g., a Microsoft Outlook contacts list associated with the user), determine a shipping address (e.g., a particular mailing address) based on the information in the contact manager, and provide the information to a designated shipping vendor (e.g., Fed-Ex®). In some embodiments, the user may select multiple emails or multiple email addresses.

In another example, a user may select contact information from another source, such a social networking site (e.g., Facebook®, MySpace®). In some embodiments, the contacts may be associated with email addresses, which may be looked up in a contact manager (e.g., contact manager 140A).

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of an exemplary shipping information application. As illustrated, shipping information application 150 can include input/output 210, search module 220, processor 230, shipping request generation module 240, and communications interface 250.

Input/output 210 is configured to allow for communication between various components of shipping information application 150, various other elements of user network 120, various users, various shipping vendors designated by users, etc. Input/output 210 may be configured to communicate using various hardware and software components, such as network ports, wireless connectors, an Ethernet or TCP/IP standard, etc. Information communicated through input/output 210 may include user selections, contact information, shipping information, etc.

Search module 220 is configured to review a selected set of data designated by the user and look up contact information using a contact manager. For example, a user may enter a list of names, a list of email addresses, select contacts from a list of contacts, etc. Search module 220 may then look up contact information for each contact person, which may include name, nicknames, titles, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, preferences, etc.

Alternatively, the user may select one or more emails, which may or may not include email attachments. Search module 220 may review the selected emails to find contact information and look them up in a contact manager. In some embodiments, this may include searching certain email fields, matching names from a contact manager, various combinations of the foregoing, etc. For example, the contact information may be a name of a contact person, an email address, or the like.

Processor 230 is configured to determine what shipping information is associated with the contact information from the data set selected by the user. In some embodiments, this may involve operating in conjunction with search module 220 and a contact manager associated with a user (e.g., contact manager 140). For example, the user may select several names from a list provided by a contact manager 140A. The search module 220 may look up all contact information associated with each name in the contact manager. The other contact information for each name may include mailing addresses, telephone numbers, shipping preferences, etc. Further, the contact information may include various default shipping preferences concerning shipping vendor, shipping options, etc. Such information may be provided to various shipping vendors for use in shipping labels, for example. Processor 230 may determine, based on various default and/or user specifications, what shipping information to use for each contact selected by the user.

Shipping request generation module 240 provides one or more shipping requests concerning the shipping information (i.e., information used in shipping manifests, shipping labels, etc.) to one or more shipping vendors designated by the user. In some embodiments, the reports may include the shipping information formatted in a manner specific to the shipping vendor. For example, a shipping vendor may require certain information in a certain format, including vendor account numbers, client account numbers, etc. Such information, including previously designated default information, may be associated with each contact person, stored in the contact manager, and provided to shipping request generation module 240 by processor 230. Shipping request generation module 240 receives the determined shipping information from processor 230 and generates reports to designated shipping vendors. In some embodiments, the shipping request generation module 240 may further allow for the shipping information to be stored, to a file, for example, which may be sent to the various shipping vendors.

Communications interface 250 allows for communication with various services, including shipping vendors (e.g., shipping vendor 160A), local couriers (e.g., local courier 160B), and other services that use shipping information. In some cases, communications concerning a shipment from a particular shipping vendor may involve using a particular interface specific to that vendor, and communications interface 250 may include various vendor-specific application programming interfaces (APIs). For example, generating a shipping manifest or shipping label to be used by FedEx® may involve using an API specific to FedEx®, receiving an invoice from UPS® may involve using an API specific to UPS®, and so forth.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart depicting an exemplary method for transfer of shipping information. In this method, a selection is received from a user concerning a set of data, the selected set of data is reviewed to find contact information, a contact manager is searched for shipping information associated with the contact information, and the determined shipping information is provided to a shipping vendor indicated by the user.

In step 310, a selection concerning a set of data is received from a user. In some embodiments, the selection may include the user highlighting certain data, checking boxes, clicking on various option buttons, a combination of the foregoing, etc. For example, a user may select an email or contact by checking on a box or button provided on a user interface of the user device (e.g., user device 130).

In some embodiments, the user may select one or more contacts directly from a contact manager. Alternatively, the user may wish to select a set of data, which contains contact information for one or more contacts. In optional step 320, the selected data set is reviewed for contact information. If the selected data includes one or more emails, for example, the review may include searching certain email fields, such as email address fields, header fields, footer fields, etc. In some embodiments, this may include searching the selected data for any matches to contact information saved in a contact manager (e.g., contact manager 140). The contact information may include contact names, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. Further, the contact information found in the selected data may be associated with multiple contact people.

In step 330, the contact manager is searched based on the contact information. This may include a search module (e.g., search module 220) looking up contact information associated with each of a selection of names or entries of names in a contact manager. For example, if the contact information is a name of a contact person, contact manager may be queried based on the contact name. Alternatively, the contact manager may be queried based on the other contact information, including email addresses, phone numbers, etc.

In step 340, it is determined what shipping information is associated with the contact information. Once the contact manager is queried based on contact information from the selected data set, the result may include other information concerning the particular contact person. The name of the contact person, for example, may be associated with various types of shipping-related information, including shipping addresses, shipping preferences, shipping vendor account numbers, etc. In some embodiments, this step may include the user designating certain shipping information (i.e., a particular shipping address out of multiple shipping addresses associated with the contact information).

In step 350, a shipping request, which may include a shipping manifest or shipping label) is generated concerning the shipping information. Some embodiments may include generating the report in a format specific to an indicated shipping vendor. For example, if the shipping information is intended for a shipping vendor, such as Fed-Ex®, the shipping information may be formatted in a manner specific to Fed-Ex®.

In step 360, the report generated in step 350 is provided to one or more shipping vendors designated by the user. Various services require that shipping information be provided before that service can be performed. The providers of these services may include various shipping vendors, local couriers, delivery-based businesses, and the like. The report may be provided over the internet, by email, for example. In some embodiments of the present invention, the report may be provided as a shipping label form, an order form, a service request, etc.

FIG. 4 is an exemplary screenshot of a contact manager accessed by the shipping information application in an embodiment of the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 4, a contact may be associated with various information that may be used in shipping-related transactions. In some embodiments, there may be multiple addresses associated with a particular contact person. Therefore, a user may have to choose one address for shipping. In some embodiments, the user may designate a default address to be used in the absence of instructions to the contrary.

FIG. 5 is an exemplary screenshot of an interface presenting a list of multiple contact people in an embodiment of the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 5, embodiments of the present invention allow for the transfer of shipping information associated with each contact person from a group of multiple contact people. The user may use the various options provided to view details, delete, or edit the shipping information for each contact person.

FIG. 6 is an exemplary screenshot of an interface that allows a user to edit shipping information in an embodiment of the present invention. If the user wishes to edit information for a particular contact person, the interface allows the user to edit various information related to shipping, including billing information, vendor to provide shipping services, vendor information, shipping specifications, etc.

It is noteworthy that any hardware platform suitable for performing the processing described herein is suitable for use with the invention. The terms “computer-readable medium” and “computer-readable media” as used herein refer to any medium or media that participate in providing instructions to a CPU for execution. Such media can take many forms, including, but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media and transmission media. Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks, such as a fixed disk. Volatile media include dynamic memory, such as system RAM. Transmission media include coaxial cables, copper wire and fiber optics, among others, including the wires that comprise one embodiment of a bus. Transmission media can also take the form of acoustic or light waves, such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared (IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, a hard disk, magnetic tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM disk, digital video disk (DVD), any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of marks or holes, a RAM, a PROM, an EPROM, a FLASHEPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave, or any other medium from which a computer can read.

Various forms of computer-readable media may be involved in carrying one or more sequences of one or more instructions to a CPU for execution. A bus carries the data to system RAM, from which a CPU retrieves and executes the instructions. The instructions received by system RAM can optionally be stored on a fixed disk either before or after execution by a CPU.

The above description is illustrative and not restrictive. Many variations of the invention will become apparent to those of skill in the art upon review of this disclosure. The scope of the invention should, therefore, be determined not with reference to the above description, but instead should be determined with reference to the appended claims along with their full scope of equivalents.

While the present invention has been described in connection with a series of preferred embodiment, these descriptions are not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular forms set forth herein. It will be further understood that the methods of the invention are not necessarily limited to the discrete steps or the order of the steps described. To the contrary, the present descriptions are intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims and otherwise appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art.