USA: WineAccess Applies for Patent on Company's Online System
Central to the invention is the integration of a retailer's point-of sale system with a web site, allowing the retailer a hands-free means to keep their web site consistent with what is available in the store. This integration is also key to driving the unique product recommendation engine that bases suggestions on a consumer's purchase history and preferences. The business method embodied by the patent gives a local retailer, who generally has the best means to service a customer and is someone who the consumer trusts, the ability to compete amongst industry giants and pure web retailers.
"Business systems such as the WineAccess model, when patented, are proprietary business combinations and, accordingly, are accorded full legal protection against any type of commercial infringement," according to Jay Delmaster, Esq., Patent Counsel to WineAccess.
To date, WineAccess has contracts and commitments to license its invention to approximately 71 stores, representing over $300 million in sales volume. James Weinrott, WineAccess founder explains, "Selling wine is a very personalized business. Consumers rely on local retailers to guide them in their selections and offer a forum for discussion. WineAccess gives retailers and consumers the ability to maintain and enhance these relationships through the web sites driven by the WineAccess tools."
The company's website, WineAccess.com is a national community of wine consumers online, each one a customer serviced by an actual local retail store. WineAccess custom builds each wine shop's website, using each store's own point-of-sale system to automatically update and market that store's inventory of wines on the Web.
To the online consumer, it is a virtual walk through their local wine shop. They can query their store manager, see what items are currently in stock, find out about local tasting events, and sort the top rated wines by other WineAccess.com site members throughout the country.
Right from the store's website, the consumer also has access to a database of over 250,000 wines; wine-tasting groups; member reviews of wines, restaurants and places to stay, rated on a five-star system; members-only discussion forums, and a "wine finder" service through which member stores will search for hard-to-find wines. Members also have a personal web page that keeps track of their "wine portfolio", a listing of wines purchased, tasted and rated by each member.
WineAccess, based in Narberth, PA, received $6 million in investment capital from Mellon Financial Corporation's Mellon Ventures, Safeguard Scientifics' Pennsylvania Early Stage Partners, and RAF Industries in 1999, and an additional $3 million in funding from the same group in September of 2000.
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