Swirl Awarded Its First Patent For Beacon-Based Mobile Targeting

The marketplace among beacon platforms is getting crowded. How to differentiate? One way is to demonstrate — and protect — intellectual property.

Swirl's Todd Boes
Swirl’s Robert Todd Boes

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued Swirl Networks a patent for its brand of beacon marketing technology in a process that took over a year-and-half.

Swirl’s patent, No. 8,781,502 B1, is for its “Systems and Methods for Display of Supplemental Content Responsive to Location.” In essence, the patent describes the technology and system for using beacons to trigger delivery of targeted content to a mobile device based on a user’s location.

The patent lists Thomas Middleton, the company’s CTO, and Robert Todd Boes, VP of Product, as the inventors of Swirl’s beacon technology.

“Swirl views the issuance of this patent as a stamp of approval from the Patent Office that we are the original inventors of the process of using a BLE signal combined with the cellular network for the purposes of ‘beacon marketing,’” said Rebecca Schuette, Swirl’s director of Marketing, in an email exchange with GeoMarketing.

While that distinction probably won’t put other beacon providers out of business by itself, the recognition of owning a specific piece of technology associated with proximity marketing has clear benefits when it comes to establishing itself as a pioneer in an area that many retailersand consumers — are still catching up to. And with the initial filing date of Dec. 2013, it is evident that Swirl has been far ahead of the game when it comes to indoor marketing and messaging.

As industry directory Proxbook recently noted, about 62 percent of the companies listed in its database have been founded during the last three years, with 2014 as the peak year. That level of competition points to an ultimate pruning of brands in the space, either through consolidation or by simply getting lost at the back of the line as major retailers and media companies place their bets with a handful of players.

Swirl's Tom Middleton
Swirl’s Tom Middleton

Swirl, in particular, is coming off a year of certain growth and investment and is well-positioned as beacons will appear more prominently in thousands of retail outlets during the crucial holiday shopping season.

In April, Swirl raised an $18 million third funding round from Twitter Ventures and the investment arm of Hearst, impressed by its roster of high-profile clients, including Lord & Taylor, Urban Outfitters, Timberland, Kenneth Cole, Alex and Ani, among others.

The Hearst connection showed itself earlier this month, when Swirl was tapped to handle the beacon program on behalf of Elle magazine’s Shop Now promotion in honor of its 30th anniversary. The brands launching with Shop Now! include Barnes & NobleLevi’sVince Camuto, and Guess.

While this is the first of Swirl’s patents, the company strongly hints that it isn’t the last.

“Swirl is constantly iterating on our technology in the effort to advance beacon marketing for our retail and brand clients,” Schuette said. “We have a handful of other related patent filings waiting approval by the Patent Office.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.