Recently, blogs and online news sources have engaged in speculation over the future trajectory of Uber. Is it a ride-sharing company? A delivery service? A freight carrier? The media outlets once devoted to articles rehashing the latest scandal of former CEO Travis Kalanick are now placing bets on the likelihood that Uber is actually tomorrow’s Amazon.
The innovators at Uber are also placing bets on themselves, and in the IP data world, we have access to public declarations of these bets in the form of trademarks. Trademarks can tell us something about the trajectory that companies see for themselves. Unlike patents, trademarks require an owner to eventually engage in commerce. This means that a trademark application is usually accompanied by a real intention to do business.
What Could the Powerloop Trademark Mean for Uber?
So, what has Uber been up to? On June 19th of this year, Uber applied for the Powerloop trademark for “Management and leasing services for transportation equipment,” indicating an intention to move even further into the rental and leasing space.
Uber Trademark for Powerloop
In the past, there has been some variation in the time that it takes Uber to go from trademark to business venture. The first Uber Health trademark was filed in 2015, but the business wasn’t announced until just this year while Uber Freight was launched less than a year after filing, and the Uber Rent trademark application came five days after the new feature was announced.
This pattern is likely driven by the differing amounts of upfront investment and time Uber needs to put into planning their new businesses. While Uber Rent can be viewed as a feature added to the existing app, Uber Health would require extensive evaluation and testing to ensure HIPAA compliance. Uber’s timeline for Powerloop might fall somewhere in the middle.
At this early stage, it is difficult to tell precisely how Uber might enter the transportation equipment leasing market. They could make a large upfront investment in equipment or they could market an app to existing transportation rental companies. Uber may want to build out strong analytics capabilities because forecasting demand is important for maintaining margins. Too much equipment sitting around means the business is losing money, but too little means missed opportunity. On the other hand, the regulatory burden will be much less than that of the healthcare industry which is a notoriously complex and difficult legal environment to navigate. Taking these facts into consideration, we might start to hear news about Powerloop within the next few years.
The Bigger Picture
Not one month after Powerloop, Uber filed a completely unrelated trademark application for Spotlight pertaining to travel arrangements and transportation services.
Uber Trademark for Spotlight
One thing that these recent developments strongly signal is Uber’s continued aim to take over the logistics space which is defined by the problem of moving people and stuff to the right place, at the right time, as efficiently as possible. This problem is the thread tying together a set of seemingly random trademark filings.
The logistics market is still ripe for invention, and minor changes to Uber’s core product could repurpose the software for new challenges. This is why articles dating back to 2013 have been speculating that Uber can leverage its infrastructure to take over nearly every aspect of our lives. Now that Uber has a HIPAA compliant app, will they move into medical materials transport coordination? What about commercial and home moving? Keep an eye on their trademark portfolio in the coming years to find out.