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Publication numberUS20080198014 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/022,890
Publication dateAug 21, 2008
Filing dateJan 30, 2008
Priority dateFeb 15, 2007
Also published asEP2115776A2, EP2115776A4, US8022832, US8248254, US20080197969, US20080198013, US20080201094, US20120019398, WO2008106329A2, WO2008106329A3
Publication number022890, 12022890, US 2008/0198014 A1, US 2008/198014 A1, US 20080198014 A1, US 20080198014A1, US 2008198014 A1, US 2008198014A1, US-A1-20080198014, US-A1-2008198014, US2008/0198014A1, US2008/198014A1, US20080198014 A1, US20080198014A1, US2008198014 A1, US2008198014A1
InventorsEric E. Vogt, Ruth Churchill
Original AssigneeVogt Eric E, Ruth Churchill
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Methods and systems for providing, by modules in a shipping facility, mechanisms for certifying provenance of an alcoholic beverage
US 20080198014 A1
Abstract
A system for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of an alcoholic beverage includes a packing module, a shipping module, and a storage element. The packing module associates a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage. The shipping module validates the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number and activates the second radio-frequency identification tag and activates the second radio-frequency identification tag. The storage element stores the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
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Claims(12)
1. A system for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel comprising:
a packing module associating a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage;
a shipping module validating the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and activating the second radio-frequency identification tag; and
a storage element storing the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the packing module further comprises a transmitter sending, to the storage element, a tag identification number stored by the second radio-frequency identification tag attached to the case.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein the second radio-frequency identification tag is configured to measure a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the case.
4. A method for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel, the method comprising the steps of:
(a) associating, by a packing module, a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage;
(b) verifying, by a shipping module, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag;
(c) activating, by the shipping module, the second radio-frequency identification tag; and
(d) storing, by a storage element, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
5. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of transmitting, by the packing module, to the storage element, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
6. The method of claim 5 further comprising the step of associating, by the packing module, the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag with the identified bottle tag number for each wine bottle in a plurality of bottles containing alcoholic beverages stored in the case.
7. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of validating, by the packing module, the bottle tag number.
8. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of validating, by the packing module, the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
9. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of updating, by the packing module, a status identifier associated with the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and stored by the storage element.
10. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of updating, by the packing module, a status identifier associated with the bottle tag number and stored by the storage element.
11. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of validating, by the shipping module, the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.
12. The method of claim 4 further comprising the step of verifying, by the shipping module, the bottle tag number for at least one bottle containing an alcoholic beverage stored in the case.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/890,149, entitled “Impeccable and Efficient Distribution of Wines Combined With Consumer Insight” filed Feb. 15, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present disclosure relates to methods and systems for certifying provenance of alcoholic beverages. In particular, the present disclosure relates to methods and systems for providing, by modules in a shipping facility, mechanisms for certifying provenance of an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Each year, 38 billion bottles of wine are produced in the world. The most critical component of certifiable value to the consumer, provenance (typically defined as authenticity, traceability and knowledge of storage temperatures), is unverifiable, anecdotal at best. When a winemaker ships wine to a consumer, there are various intermediaries between the wine maker and the end consumer, including master distributors, negociants, importers, wholesalers, wine retailers and restaurants. Many of these entities are customers of the previous entity in this distribution chain and in between them all are various forms of shippers and movers. Untracked temperature fluctuations during transport can harm the quality of this asset, yet no standard methods for temperature monitoring exists through this process. Wine producers care profoundly about the quality of their wines—it is the mainstay of the value of their brand. Yet they have had no way to consistently monitor the care given to their products in transit.

Furthermore, as fine wine increases in value, the sophistication of counterfeiting efforts grows, more and more counterfeit bottles are appearing, and many of these counterfeits go undiscovered. As it becomes more difficult, especially for the average wine consumer, to discern authentic from counterfeit, the need for winemakers to protect their brand, by enabling consumers to feel sure that they have an authentic bottle, mounts.

Additionally, counterfeit bottles are disruptive to the secondary markets such as fine wine auctions. Increasing amounts of testing are required for participation in fine wine auctions, especially by the more well known houses, such as Sotheby's. Many auctions planned over long periods of time have had to be cancelled or modified due to the unexpected discovery of counterfeit bottles in a collector's cellar. The ensuing legal battles from these discoveries result in negative publicity for all involved and may reduce the number of participants in fine wine auctions.

Counterfeiting is a serious issue among spirits as well as wines. The spirits market consists of the sale of brandy, gin & genever, liqueurs, rum, specialty spirits, tequila & mezcal, vodka and whisky. The global spirits market generated total revenues of $179.7 billion in 2005. Exports of all European spirits such as whisky and vodka to China reached

200 m in 2007, from just 8 m in 1999. In November of 2007, a quarter of all spirits brands claiming to be of European origin now sold in China are counterfeit, according to Jamie Fortescue, director general of the European Spirits Organisation. Fortescue stresses that the problem of fake brands is not unique to China—or for that matter Asia—by adding that there were also growing concerns regarding counterfeiting of alcohol in many Eastern European nations among others.

Manufacturing similar-looking counterfeit bottles, labels and capsules is also a common practice. In this case, a high-volume manufacturing operation produces counterfeit a alcoholic beverage and fills the counterfeit bottles, complete with counterfeit labels and capsules, with the counterfeit beverage. It may be difficult to distinguish a counterfeit bottle and its contents from an authentic bottle and its contents without opening the bottle and analysing the contents.

Refilling authentic spirits bottles with counterfeit beverages is a frequently used method in the counterfeiting of spirits. Conventional methods to validate content have to this point required chemical testing and typically require opening the bottle. Counterfeit spirits often include considerable health issues as substances such as methanol are known to be used in the production of the counterfeit beverages. Methanol can create health issues such as severe abdominal pain, drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision leading to blindness, and coma with breathing difficulties. The symptoms of methanol poisoning can be delayed for several hours further obfuscating cause and effect conclusions.

Spirits can have considerably higher alcohol content than wine; some even in the 30% range. As such “freezing” temperatures are less of an issue with spirits than with wines, but temperature-controlled containers for shipping are still required for most spirits especially in warmer climates and seasons to avoid issues with heat. Spirits, like wines, can be “cooked” at higher temperatures.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, a system for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel includes a packing module, a shipping module, and a storage element. The packing module associates a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage. The shipping module validates the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and activates the second radio-frequency identification tag. The storage element stores the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. In one embodiment, the packing module includes a transmitter sending, to the storage element, a tag identification number stored by the second radio-frequency identification tag attached to the case. In another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag is configured to measure a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the case.

In another aspect, a method for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel includes the step of associating, by a packing module, a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage. The method includes the step of verifying, by a shipping module, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. The method includes the step of activating, by the shipping module, the second radio-frequency identification tag. The method includes the step of storing, by the storage element, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.

In one embodiment, the method includes the step of transmitting, by the packing module, to the storage element, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. In another embodiment, the method includes the step of associating, by the packing module, the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag with the identified bottle tag number for each bottle in a plurality of bottles stored in the case. In still another embodiment, the method includes the step of validating, by the packing module, the bottle tag number. In still even another embodiment, the method includes the step of updating, by the packing module, a status identifier associated with the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and stored by the storage element. In yet another embodiment, the method includes the step of updating, by the packing module, a status identifier associated with the bottle tag number and stored by the storage element.

In still another aspect, a system for providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel includes a neck seal applicator module, a bottle tag attachment module, and a storage element. The neck seal applicator module attaches, to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage, a neck seal including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant. The bottle tag attachment module attaches, to the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage, a radio-frequency identification tag storing a bottle tag number. The storage element stores an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number.

In one embodiment, the storage element stores a local registry of associations. In another embodiment, the system includes a global registry, in communication with the storage element, storing a copy of the association. In still another embodiment, the system includes a control station in communication with the neck seal application module and the bottle tag attachment module. In yet another embodiment, the system includes an attachment station including the neck seal applicator module and the bottle tag attachment module. In some embodiments, the bottle is a wine bottle. In other embodiments, the bottle contains malt liquor. In still other embodiments, the bottle contains spirits.

In yet another aspect, a method for providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel includes the step of attaching, by a neck seal applicator module, a neck seal to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage, the neck seal including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant. The method includes the step of attaching, by a bottle tag attachment module, a radio-frequency identification tag to the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage, the radio-frequency identification tag storing a bottle tag number. The method includes the step of storing, by a storage element, an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number.

In one embodiment, the method includes the step of attaching, by the bottle tag attachment module, to the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage, a neck seal including a bar code associated with the neck seal identification number. In another embodiment, the method includes the step of attaching, by the bottle tag attachment module, a passive radio-frequency identification tag to the bottle. In still another embodiment, the method includes the step of attaching, by the bottle tag attachment module, an active radio-frequency identification tag to the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage. In yet another embodiment, the method includes the step of depositing, during a bottling process, on a neck seal, an invisible security taggant.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The foregoing and other objects, aspects, features, and advantages of the disclosure will become more apparent and better understood by referring to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1A is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of a network environment comprising local machines in communication with remote machines;

FIG. 1B is a block diagram depicting one embodiment of a computing device useful in connection with the methods and systems described herein;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram depicting one embodiment of a system including a neck seal applicator module and a bottle tag attachment module and providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage;

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram depicting one embodiment of the steps taken in a method for providing, via a neck seal applicator module and a bottle tag attachment module, mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of a system including a packing module and a shipping module and providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage;

FIG. 5 is a flow diagram depicting an embodiment of the steps taken in a method for providing, via a packing module and a shipping module, mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage; and

FIG. 6 is a block diagram depicting an embodiment of a system for providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to FIG. 1A, an embodiment of a network environment is depicted. In brief overview, the network environment comprises one or more clients 102 a-102 n (also generally referred to as local machine(s) 102, or client(s) 102) in communication with one or more servers 106 a-106 n (also generally referred to as server(s) 106, or remote machine(s) 106) via one or more networks 104.

The servers 106 may be geographically dispersed from each other or from the clients 102 and communicate over a network 104. The network 104 can be a local-area network (LAN), such as a company Intranet, a metropolitan area network (MAN), or a wide area network (WAN), such as the Internet or the World Wide Web. The network 104 may be any type and/or form of network and may include any of the following: a point to point network, a broadcast network, a wide area network, a local area network, a telecommunications network, a data communication network, a computer network, an ATM (Asynchronous Transfer Mode) network, a SONET (Synchronous Optical Network) network, a SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) network, a wireless network and a wireline network. In some embodiments, the network 104 may comprise a wireless link, such as an infrared channel or satellite band. The topology of the network 104 may be a bus, star, or ring network topology. The network 104 and network topology may be of any such network or network topology as known to those ordinarily skilled in the art capable of supporting the operations described herein. The network may comprise mobile telephone networks utilizing any protocol or protocols used to communicate among mobile devices, including AMPS, TDMA, CDMA, GSM, GPRS or UMTS. In some embodiments, different types of data may be transmitted via different protocols. In other embodiments, the same types of data may be transmitted via different protocols.

A server 106 may be referred to as a file server, application server, web server, proxy server, or gateway server. In one embodiment, the server 106 provides functionality of a web server. In some embodiments, the web server 106 comprises an open-source web server, such as the APACHE servers maintained by the Apache Software Foundation of Delaware. In other embodiments, the web server executes proprietary software, such as the Internet Information Services products provided by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash., the SUN JAVA web server products provided by Sun Microsystems, of Santa Clara, Calif., or the BEA WEBLOGIC products provided by BEA Systems, of Santa Clara, Calif.

The clients 102 may be referred to as client nodes, client machines, endpoint nodes, or endpoints. In some embodiments, a client 102 has the capacity to function as both a client node seeking access to resources provided by a server and as a server providing access to hosted resources for other clients 102 a-102 n. A client 102 may execute, operate or otherwise provide an application, which can be any type and/or form of software, program, or executable instructions such as any type and/or form of web browser, web-based client, client-server application, an ActiveX control, or a Java applet, or any other type and/or form of executable instructions capable of executing on client 102. The application can use any type of protocol and it can be, for example, an HTTP client, an FTP client, an Oscar client, or a Telnet client.

The client 102 and server 106 may be deployed as and/or executed on any type and form of computing device, such as a computer, network device or appliance capable of communicating on any type and form of network and performing the operations described herein. FIG. 1B depicts a block diagram of a computing device 100 useful for practicing an embodiment of the client 102 or a server 106. As shown in FIG. 1B, each computing device 100 includes a central processing unit 121, and a main memory unit 122. As shown in FIG. 1B, a computing device 100 may include a visual display device 124, a keyboard 126 and/or a pointing device 127, such as a mouse.

The central processing unit 121 is any logic circuitry that responds to and processes instructions fetched from the main memory unit 122. In many embodiments, the central processing unit is provided by a microprocessor unit, such as: those manufactured by Intel Corporation of Mountain View, Calif.; those manufactured by Motorola Corporation of Schaumburg, Ill.; those manufactured by Transmeta Corporation of Santa Clara, Calif.; the RS/6000 processor, those manufactured by International Business Machines of White Plains, N.Y.; or those manufactured by Advanced Micro Devices of Sunnyvale, Calif. The computing device 100 may be based on any of these processors, or any other processor capable of operating as described herein.

The computing device 100 may include a network interface 118 to interface to a Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN) or the Internet through a variety of connections including, but not limited to, standard telephone lines, LAN or WAN links (e.g., 802.11, T1, T3, 56 kb, X.25), broadband connections (e.g., ISDN, Frame Relay, ATM), wireless connections, or some combination of any or all of the above. The network interface 118 may comprise a built-in network adapter, network interface card, PCMCIA network card, card bus network adapter, wireless network adapter, USB network adapter, modem or any other device suitable for interfacing the computing device 100 to any type of network capable of communication and performing the operations described herein.

A wide variety of I/O devices 130 a-130 n may be present in the computing device 100. Input devices include keyboards, mice, trackpads, trackballs, microphones, and drawing tablets. Output devices include video displays, speakers, inkjet printers, laser printers, and dye-sublimation printers. The I/O devices may be controlled by an I/O controller 123 as shown in FIG. 1B. The I/O controller may control one or more I/O devices such as a keyboard 126 and a pointing device 127, e.g., a mouse or optical pen. Furthermore, an I/O device may also provide storage and/or an installation medium 116 for the computing device 100. In still other embodiments, the computing device 100 may provide USB connections to receive handheld USB storage devices such as the USB Flash Drive line of devices manufactured by Twintech Industry, Inc. of Los Alamitos, Calif.

In some embodiments, the computing device 100 may comprise or be connected to multiple display devices 124 a-124 n, which each may be of the same or different type and/or form. As such, any of the I/O devices 130 a-130 n and/or the I/O controller 123 may comprise any type and/or form of suitable hardware, software, or combination of hardware and software to support, enable or provide for the connection and use of multiple display devices 124 a-124 n by the computing device 100. For example, the computing device 100 may include any type and/or form of video adapter, video card, driver, and/or library to interface, communicate, connect or otherwise use the display devices 124 a-124 n. In one embodiment, a video adapter may comprise multiple connectors to interface to multiple display devices 124 a-124 n. In other embodiments, the computing device 100 may include multiple video adapters, with each video adapter connected to one or more of the display devices 124 a-124 n. In some embodiments, any portion of the operating system of the computing device 100 may be configured for using multiple displays 124 a-124 n. In other embodiments, one or more of the display devices 124 a-124 n may be provided by one or more other computing devices, such as computing devices 100 a and 100 b connected to the computing device 100, for example, via a network. These embodiments may include any type of software designed and constructed to use another computer's display device as a second display device 124 a for the computing device 100. One ordinarily skilled in the art will recognize and appreciate the various ways and embodiments that a computing device 100 may be configured to have multiple display devices 124 a-124 n.

In further embodiments, an I/O device 130 may be a bridge between the system bus 150 and an external communication bus, such as a USB bus, an Apple Desktop Bus, an RS-232 serial connection, a SCSI bus, a FireWire bus, a FireWire 800 bus, an Ethernet bus, an AppleTalk bus, a Gigabit Ethernet bus, an Asynchronous Transfer Mode bus, a HIPPI bus, a Super HIPPI bus, a SerialPlus bus, a SCI/LAMP bus, a FibreChannel bus, or a Serial Attached small computer system interface bus.

A computing device 100 of the sort depicted in FIG. 1B typically operates under the control of operating systems, which control scheduling of tasks and access to system resources. The computing device 100 can be running any operating system such as any of the versions of the MICROSOFT WINDOWS operating systems, the different releases of the Unix and Linux operating systems, any version of the MAC OS for Macintosh computers, any embedded operating system, any real-time operating system, any open source operating system, any proprietary operating system, any operating systems for mobile computing devices, or any other operating system capable of running on the computing device and performing the operations described herein. Typical operating systems include: WINDOWS 3.x, WINDOWS 95, WINDOWS 98, WINDOWS 2000, WINDOWS NT 3.51, WINDOWS NT 4.0, WINDOWS CE, WINDOWS XP, and WINDOWS VISTA, all of which are manufactured by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash.; MACOS, manufactured by Apple Computer of Cupertino, Calif.; OS/2, manufactured by International Business Machines of Armonk, N.Y.; and Linux, a freely-available operating system distributed by Caldera Corp. of Salt Lake City, Utah, or any type and/or form of a Unix operating system, among others. A server 106 and a client 102 may be heterogeneous, executing different operating systems.

In some embodiments, the computing device 100 may have different processors, operating systems, and input devices consistent with the device. For example, in one embodiment the computing device 100 is a TREO 180, 270, 1060, 600, 650, 680, 700 p, 700 w, or 750 smart phone manufactured by Palm, Inc. In some of these embodiments, the TREO smart phone is operated under the control of the PalmOS operating system and includes a stylus input device as well as a five-way navigator device.

In other embodiments the computing device 100 is a mobile device, such as a JAVA-enabled cellular telephone or personal digital assistant (PDA), such as the i55sr, i58sr, i85s, i88s, i90c, i95cl, or the iM1100, all of which are manufactured by Motorola Corp. of Schaumburg, Ill., the 6035 or the 7135, manufactured by Kyocera of Kyoto, Japan, or the i300 or i330, manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., of Seoul, Korea.

In still other embodiments, the computing device 100 is a Blackberry handheld or smart phone, such as the devices manufactured by Research In Motion Limited, including the Blackberry 7100 series, 8700 series, 7700 series, 7200 series, the Blackberry 7520, or the Blackberry PEARL 8100. In yet other embodiments, the computing device 100 is a smart phone, Pocket PC, Pocket PC Phone, or other handheld mobile device supporting Microsoft Windows Mobile Software. Moreover, the computing device 100 can be any workstation, desktop computer, laptop or notebook computer, server, handheld computer, mobile telephone, any other computer, or other form of computing or telecommunications device that is capable of communication and that has sufficient processor power and memory capacity to perform the operations described herein.

In some embodiments, the computing device 100 comprises a combination of devices, such as a mobile phone combined with a digital audio player or portable media player. In one of these embodiments, the computing device 100 is a Motorola RAZR or Motorola ROKR line of combination digital audio players and mobile phones. In another of these embodiments, the computing device 100 is an iPhone smartphone, manufactured by Apple Computer of Cupertino, Calif.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a block diagram depicts one embodiment of a system providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel. The system includes a neck seal applicator module 202, a bottle tag attachment module 204, and a storage element 206. The neck seal applicator module 202 attaches, to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage, a neck seal 210 including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant. The bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle containing the alcoholic beverage, a radio-frequency identification tag 220 storing a bottle tag number. The storage element 206 stores an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number. In some embodiments, the bottle is a wine bottle. In other embodiments, the bottle contains malt liquor. In still other embodiments, the bottle contains spirits. The alcoholic beverage may include, without limitation, wine, spirits, malt liquor and other alcoholic beverages.

Verifiable provenance of fine wine, spirits, malt liquor and other alcoholic beverages, in terms of the quality of storage, authenticity, and traceability of each bottle containing the alcoholic beverage, demonstrably increases the value of the alcoholic beverage. In one embodiment, the system provides modules used in a bottling process to provide mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage during its progress through a distribution channel. In another embodiment, the system includes local modules, residing at a winery, chateau, or bottling facility, which produce a bottle including the mechanisms for authenticating the contents of the bottle. In still another embodiment, the system includes local modules, residing at a winery, a chateau, or a bottling facility, which produce a bottle including the mechanisms for certifying the provenance of the bottle. In some embodiments, the system includes a control station providing a centralized location for coordinating authentication processes, storing records and providing descriptions of provenance to purchasers of the bottle. In other embodiments, the system provides modules used in a labeling process to provide mechanisms for authenticating contents of the bottle. In still other embodiments, the modules are provided in either a stand-alone system or as modules for incorporation into an existing bottling or labeling process. In yet other embodiments, the modules are integrated with a bottling or labeling production line.

The neck seal applicator module 202 attaches, to a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage, a neck seal 210 including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant. In one embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 is part of an attachment station in a bottling line. In another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 includes a transmitter for communicating with the attachment station; for example, the neck seal applicator module 202 may transmit to the attachment control station an identification of a neck seal identification number included on a neck seal 210 and associated with the bottle. In still another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 includes a transmitter for communicating with a bottling or labeling control station; for example, the neck seal applicator module 202 may transmit to the bottling or labeling control station an identification of a neck seal identification number included on a neck seal 210 and associated with the bottle.

In some embodiments, during the bottling or labeling process, when the neck seal is applied to the bottle, a module prints the neck seal identification number on the neck seal. In one of these embodiments, the module is the neck seal applicator module 202. In another of these embodiments, a supplier produces a neck seal 210 including the invisible security taggant but not including the neck seal identification number. In still another of these embodiments, the association between the neck seal identification number and the bottle tag number is made when the neck seal is applied to the bottle during a subsequent bottling process. In yet another of these embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 includes a transmitter for sending the neck seal identification number to a module for association with a bottle tag number when the module scans the neck seal identification number.

In some embodiments, the invisible security taggant is a physical marker, such as a chemical marker, deposited on the neck seal 210. In other embodiments, the invisible security taggant includes an authentication code detectable by the first reader. In still other embodiments, the invisible security taggant is a chemical marker mixed with ink, coating or other media and applied to the neck seal. In one of these embodiments, the invisible security taggant is a taggant such as those manufactured by InkSure Technologies, Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., or by SICPA Holdings SA of Lausanne, Switzerland. In still other embodiments, the neck seal is a neck seal such as those produced by George Schmitt & Co., Inc., of Guilford, Conn.

The bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle, a radio-frequency identification tag 220 storing a bottle tag number associated with the neck seal identification number. In one embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module 204 is part of an attachment station in a bottling line. In another embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module 204 includes a transmitter for communicating with the attachment station; for example, the bottle tag attachment module 204 may transmit to the attachment control station an identification of a bottle tag number stored by the RFID tag 220 and associated with the bottle. In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle, a radio-frequency identification tag 220 storing a bottle tag number associated with a bar code number.

In some embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is referred to as a promiscuous tag. In one of these embodiments, the RFID tag 220 responds to all requests for data stored on the RFID tag 220. In other embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is referred to as a secure tag. In one of these embodiments, the RFID tag 220 requires authentication prior to responding to a request, for example via passwords or secure keys. In still other embodiments, the RFID tag 220 includes a sensor for measuring the plurality of values of the environmental condition, including, but not limited to, sensors for measuring temperature, humidity, motion levels, or ambient light. In still even other embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is a tag such as those produced by CHIPCO International of Raymond, Me., or by EmbedTech Industries, Inc., of Raymond, Me., or by KSW Microtec AG of Dresden, Germany. In yet other embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is a tag such as the VARIOSENSE line of tags or the passive RFID transponders produced by KSW Microtec AG of Dresden, Germany.

The storage element 206 stores an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number. In some embodiments, the storage element 206 stores a database of associations. In one of these embodiments, the database is a local registry storing associations between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number. In another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 stores an association between the bottle tag number and an identification number laser-etched onto the bottle. In still another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 stores an association between the neck seal identification number and a bar code number on a bar code label attached to the bottle. In yet another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 stores an association between the neck seal identification number and an identification number laser-etched onto the bottle. In other embodiments, the storage element 206 stores, at least, bottle tag number, date and time of attachment, lot number, alcohol name, bottle size, and producer for one or more bottles. In one of these embodiments, the storage element 206 associates the bottle information with the neck seal identification number. In another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 associates the bottle information with the bottle tag number. In another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 associates the bottle information with a bar code imprinted on a label attached to the neck seal.

In some embodiments, the database stores data in an ODBC-compliant database. For example, the database may be provided as an ORACLE database, manufactured by Oracle Corporation of Redwood Shores, Calif. In other embodiments, the database can be a Microsoft ACCESS database or a Microsoft SQL server database, manufactured by Microsoft Corporation of Redmond, Wash. In still other embodiments, the database may be a custom-designed database based on an open source database such as the MYSQL family of freely-available database products distributed by MySQL AB Corporation of Uppsala, Sweden, and Cupertino, Calif. In yet other embodiments, the storage element 206 includes an Internet-based user interface allowing users to access data associated with a bottle and stored by the storage element 206.

In some embodiments, the storage element 206 resides on a server 106. In one of these embodiments, the server 106 includes a transmitter for sending data stored by the storage clement 206 to a second server 106′. In another of these embodiments, the second server 106′ includes a second storage element 206′; for example, the second server 106′ may include a global registry storing data received from a plurality of storage elements 206. In other embodiments, the storage element 206 resides on a control station in communication with the neck seal applicator module 202 and with the bottle tag attachment module 204, as described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6. In still other embodiments, the global registry includes an Internet-based user interface allowing users to access data associated with a bottle and stored by the global registry and the storage element 206. In one of these embodiments, the global registry includes an Internet-based user interface allowing users to access a description of a provenance of an alcoholic beverage contained in a bottle tracked by the system. In another of these embodiments, an authorized user can access the global registry, via a web-based interface, to view all of the identification numbers associated with a bottle and the events associated with the identification numbers. In yet other embodiments, a global registry, in communication with the storage element 206, stores a master copy of the associations between various identification numbers and pertinent information relating to the bottles identified by those numbers, such as bottling date and time, ship date and time, vintage, identification of an importer receiving the bottles, and values of environmental conditions of the bottle during its transit through a distribution channel.

Referring now to FIG. 3, a flow diagram depicts one embodiment of the steps taken in a method for providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle during its progress through a distribution channel. A neck seal applicator module attaches, to a bottle, a neck seal including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant (step 302). A bottle tag attachment module attaches, to the bottle, a radio-frequency identification tag storing a bottle tag number (step 304). A storage element stores an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number (step 306).

Referring still to FIG. 3, a neck seal applicator module attaches, to a bottle, a neck seal including a neck seal identification number and an invisible security taggant (step 302). In one embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 inscribes, on the neck seal 210, during a bottling process, the neck seal identification number. In another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 inscribes, on the neck seal 210, during a bottling process, a bar code. In still another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 inscribes, on the neck seal 210, during a bottling process, a bar code in invisible ink; for example, the neck seal applicator module 202 may deposit, on the neck seal 210, an irradiating ink, ink visible only in ultraviolet light, or other ink that is not human perceptible. In yet another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 deposits, on the neck seal 210, during a bottling process, an invisible security taggant.

In one embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches the neck seal 210 to the bottle after validating a neck seal identification number. In another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches the neck seal 210 to the bottle with a tamper-resistant adhesive. In still another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches a tamper-resistant neck seal 210 to the bottle. In yet another embodiment, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches the neck seal at a location on the bottle such that the neck seal is attached to both a part of the bottom of the bottle capsule and to a part of the bottle below the bottle capsule. In this embodiment, the capsule cannot be removed without destroying the neck seal. In some embodiments, and as described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6, the neck seal applicator module 202 communicates with an attachment station. In other embodiments, and as described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6, the neck seal applicator module 202 is integrated into a bottling line.

In some embodiments, the neck seal has an identifier—such as a bar code number—pre-printed on it. In one of these embodiments, the neck seal is applied using the neck seal applicator module 202 and no additional inscription or deposit on the neck seal is required. In another of these embodiments, the neck seal includes a bar code number printed on it in irradiating ink. In still another of these embodiments, a bar code reader validates the bar code number during the process of attaching the neck seal 210 to the bottle. In still even another of these embodiments, the bar code reader transmits the bar code number to another module such as an attachment station 602 described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6—and the receiving module associates the bar code number from the neck seal with a bottle tag identification number of a bottle tag attached to the bottle. In yet another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 stores the bar code, the bottle tag identification number and the association between the two.

In some embodiments, during the bottling or labeling process, when the neck seal is applied to the bottle, a module in the bottling or labeling process scans the bar code associated with a pre-printed neck seal identification number on the neck seal. In one of these embodiments, the module is the neck seal applicator module 202. In another of these embodiments, a supplier produces a neck seal 210 including the invisible security taggant, the neck seal identification number printed on the face of the neck seal and a bar code printed on the back of neck seal liner, which is associated with the neck seal identification number. In still another of these embodiments, the association between the neck seal identification number and the bottle identification number is made when the neck seal is applied to the bottle during a subsequent bottling or labeling process. In yet another of these embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 includes a transmitter for sending the neck seal identification number to the local or global registry for association with a bottle identification number when the neck seal module scans the bar code on the back of the neck seal liner, associating it with the neck seal identification number.

In other embodiments, no identifiers have been pre-printed on the neck seal 210. In one of these embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 inscribes the neck seal identification number on the neck seal 210 prior to attaching the neck seal 210 to the bottle. In another of these embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 transmits the inscribed neck seal identification number to another module—such as an attachment station 602 described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6—and the receiving module associates the neck seal identification number with a bottle tag identification number of a bottle tag attached to the bottle. In yet another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 stores the neck seal identification number, the bottle tag identification number and the association between the two.

A bottle tag attachment module attaches, to the bottle, a radio-frequency identification tag storing a bottle tag number (step 304). In one embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to a bottle, a passive radio-frequency identification tag. In another embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle, an active radio-frequency identification tag. In still another embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle, a radio-frequency identification tag configured to measure a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the bottle. In yet another embodiment, the bottle tag attachment module embeds into the bottle, an RFID tag 220. In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module attaches, to the bottle, an RFID tag associated with a unique bottle identification number. In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 also attaches, to a bottle, a neck seal including a bar code associated with the neck seal identification number. In other embodiments, and as described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6, the bottle tag attachment module 204 communicates with an attachment station. In still other embodiments, and as described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6, the bottle tag attachment module 204 is integrated into a bottling line.

In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches, to the bottle, an RFID tag that has been registered with a particular alcohol-producing facility, such as a winery. In one of these embodiments, the storage element 206 associates an alcohol-producing facility with a plurality of RFID tags (via, for example, tag identification numbers), bar code numbers, and neck seals (via, for example, neck seal identification numbers).

In one embodiment, a bottle tag is placed in a bottle holder of a bottle tag application module in an inverted position. In another embodiment, the bottle tag is checked for validity by ensuring that it has a unique bottle tag identification number that matches a number indicated as associated with the bottle tag in the local registry. In still another embodiment, a validated bottle tag is attached to a bottle.

In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 validates a bottle tag identification number stored by an RFID tag 220. In one of these embodiments, an RFID tag reader on the bottle tag attachment module 204 reads a chip in the RFID tag 220 to retrieve the bottle tag identification number. In another of these embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 accesses a data file provided by a supplier of the RFID tag 220 to compare the bottle tag identification number with a bottle tag identification number associated with the RFID tag 220 by the supplier of the RFID tag 220 and identified in the data file. In still another of these embodiments, upon validating the bottle tag identification number of the RFID tag 220, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches the RFID tag 220 to the bottle. In other embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches to the bottle an RFID tag 220 storing a unique bottle identification number associated with a unique tag identification number encoded in the memory of the tag during the manufacturing process by the manufacturer of the RFID chip component.

In some embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches an RFID tag 220 to a bottle before the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches a neck seal to the bottle. In other embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches an RFID tag 220 to a bottle after the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches a neck seal to the bottle. In still other embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches an RFID tag 220 to a bottle that has been filled, corked, and labeled on a bottling line. In yet other embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 only attaches a neck seal to a bottle already processed by the bottle tag attachment module 204.

In some embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches a neck seal to a bottle but the bottle tag attachment module 204 does not attach an RFID tag 220 to the bottle. In still other embodiments, the bottle tag attachment module 204 attaches an RFID tag 220 to a bottle but the neck seal applicator module 202 does not attach a neck seal to the bottle. In yet other embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is attached to the bottle by a bottle manufacturer. In one of these embodiments, the RFID tag 220 is attached to an empty bottle. In another of these embodiments, the neck seal applicator module 202 attaches a neck seal to a bottle received from a bottle manufacturer with the RFID tag 220 already attached.

A storage element stores an association between the bottle tag number and the neck seal identification number (step 306). In one embodiment, the storage element 206 stores a local registry of associations between bottle tag numbers and neck seal identification numbers. In some embodiments, the storage element 206 stores, in a database, radio-frequency identification tags 220, bottle tag numbers, neck seal identification numbers, and associations and events involving the different tags and numbers. In other embodiments, the storage element 206 records an identification of an event associated with a bottle. In one of these embodiments, the storage element 206 records a status of a bottle. In another of these embodiments, events associated with bottles, include, but are not limited to, the attachment of a radio-frequency identification tag to a bottle, the attachment of a neck seal to a bottle, the attachment of a radio-frequency identification tag to a case storing a bottle, the packing of a bottle, the shipping of a bottle, the receiving of a bottle, and the consuming of the contents of a bottle. In still another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 transmits a record indicating the occurrence of an event to a global registry. In still other embodiments, the storage element 206 receives an identification of the occurrence of an event from a module in the bottling process, such as a neck seal applicator module 202 or a bottle tag attachment module 204.

In other embodiments, the storage element 206 receives, from a global registry, a record indicating the occurrence of an event. In one of these embodiments, the storage element 206 receives, from a global registry, a record indicating the occurrence of an event, the record transmitted to the global registry from a second storage element 206′. For example, a storage element 206′ residing at a channel member facility transmits to the global registry an indication of a shipment of a bottle including a bottle tag tracked by the storage element 206 and the global registry transmits the indication to the storage element 206 residing at a winery, chateau, or other bottling facility.

In still other embodiments, the storage element 206 stores a global registry of associations. In one of these embodiments, the global registry stores associations received from a plurality of local registries. In another of these embodiments, a local registry in a plurality of local registries stores associations between bottle tag numbers and neck seal identification numbers on bottles for a winery, chateau or bottling facility. In still another of these embodiments, the global registry stores a copy of the associations stored in the storage element 206. In yet another of these embodiments, the storage element 206 transmits the stored association to a second storage element 206; for example, a storage element 206 residing at a winery may transmit a stored association to a second storage element 206′, such as a global registry stored by a central server 106.

In some embodiments, the global registry associates a plurality of authorized identification numbers to a winery or alcohol-producing facility. In one of these embodiments, the plurality of authorized identification numbers includes, but is not limited to, RFID tag identification numbers, bottle tag identification numbers, case tag identification numbers, identification numbers for RFID tags configured to measure values of environmental conditions, neck seal identification numbers, and identification numbers laser-etched onto the bottle. In another of these embodiments, the plurality of authorized identification numbers can be used by the winery or alcohol producing facility to establish a bottle's provenance.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a block diagram depicts one embodiment of a system for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of a bottle during its progress through a distribution channel, the system including a packing module 402, a shipping module 404, and a storage element 406. The packing module 402 associates a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle. The shipping module 404 validates the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and activating the second radio-frequency identification tag. The storage element 406 stores the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag.

Referring still to FIG. 4, and in greater detail, the packing module 402 includes a transmitter sending, to the storage element 406, a tag identification number stored by the second radio-frequency identification tag attached to the case. In one embodiment, the shipping module 404 is located at a winery or other alcohol-producing facility. In another embodiment, the shipping module 404 is located at a location operated by a member of the distribution channel, such as a master distributor or an importer. In some embodiments, the packing module 402 and the shipping module 404 reside in a pack-and-ship station, such as those manufactured by Northern Apex Corp., of Fort Wayne, Ind.

In one embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag is an active RFID tag. In another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag measures a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the case. In still another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag is an RFID tag 220 as described above in connection with FIGS. 2-3. In yet another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag is referred to as a case temperature tag, since, in this embodiment, it is attached to the case and measures a plurality of values of the temperature of the case.

In some embodiments, the storage element 406 is a storage element 206 as described above in connection with FIGS. 2-3. In one embodiment, the storage element 406 is in communication with another module—such as a control station 604 described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6—from which the storage element 406 receives the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. In another embodiment, the storage element 406 stores pertinent information about a shipment of the bottle, such as date and time of shipment, importer receiving the shipment and vintage.

In some embodiments, the bottle includes a neck seal imprinted with a neck seal identification number. In one of these embodiments, the packing module 402 makes the association between the neck seal identification number and the tag identification number of the second RFID.

Referring now to FIG. 5, a flow diagram depicts one embodiment of the steps taken in a method for certifying provenance of a bottle during its progress through a distribution channel. The method includes the step of associating, by a packing module, a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle (step 502). A shipping module verifies the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 504). The shipping module activates the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 506). A storage element stores the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 508).

Referring still to FIG. 5, and in greater detail, a packing module associates a bottle tag number stored by a first radio-frequency identification tag attached to a bottle with a tag identification number of a second radio-frequency identification tag attached to a case storing the bottle (step 502). In one embodiment, the packing module 402 makes the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag. In another embodiment, the packing module 402 transmits, to a storage element 406, the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. In some embodiments, the packing module attaches the second radio-frequency identification tag to the case. In other embodiments, pertinent information about the bottles in a case, such as type of wine, vintage, lot number and date and time of bottling are entered into the packing module 402 and associated with the bottle tag identification number and with the tag identification number of the second RFID tag.

In some embodiments, the packing module 402 makes an association between a neck seal identification number imprinted on a neck seal of the bottle and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag In one of these embodiments, the packing module 402 makes the association between the neck seal identification number and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag in addition to the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag. In another of these embodiments, the packing module 402 makes the association between the neck seal identification number and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag instead of the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second RFID tag.

In one embodiment, the packing module 402 validates the bottle tag number of an RFID tag 220 on the bottle. In another embodiment, the packing module 402 validates the bottle tag number of an RFID tag 220 associated with the bottle. In still another embodiment, the packing module 402 validates the bottle tag number of an RFID tag 220 attached to a case storing the bottle. In some embodiments, the packing module 402 validates the bottle tag number by confirming that the bottle tag number matches a number associated with the RFID tag 220 provided by a supplier of the RFID tag 220 in a data file received with the RFID tag 220. In other embodiments, the packing module 402 validates the bottle identification number by confirming that the bottle identification number in included in a block of valid bar code label bottle identification numbers transmitted by the global registry for use at a facility that uses the packing module 402.

In one embodiment, the packing module 402 updates a status identifier associated with the bottle tag number and stored by the storage element. In another embodiment, the packing module 402 updates a status identifier associated with the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag and stored by the storage element. In still another embodiment, packing module 402 transmits, to the storage element 406, an identification of an event—such as validation of a tag identification number of an RFID tag associated with the bottle—to the storage element 406.

In some embodiments, the packing module 402 activates a second radio-frequency identification tag for a case that is going into inventory. In one of these embodiments, the packing module 402 performs this activation because a user has requested environment tracking for their inventory facility. In another of these embodiments, and for example, a consumer purchasing a case of alcoholic beverages, such as wine, wishes to continue monitoring a plurality of values of environmental conditions of the bottles in the case after making the purchase. In still another of these embodiments, a chateau or other alcohol-producing facility wishes to continue monitoring a plurality of values of environmental conditions of the bottles in the case after packing the bottles into the case but before shipping the case. In yet another of these embodiments, the packing module 402 activates an active RFID tag that is configured to measure a plurality of values of at least one environmental condition of the case.

In other embodiments, the packing module 402 activates an RFID tag attached to a bottle that is going into an inventory facility. In one of these embodiments, and for example, a consumer purchasing a bottle containing an alcoholic beverage, such as a bottle of wine, wishes to continue monitoring a plurality of values of environmental conditions of the bottle after making the purchase. In another of these embodiments, a chateau wishes to continue monitoring a plurality of values of environmental conditions of the bottles in the case after packing the bottles into the case but before shipping. In still another of these embodiments, the packing module 402 activates an active RFID tag that is configured to measure a plurality of values of at least one environmental condition of the bottle.

In other embodiments, the packing module 402 reads the bottle tag numbers for each bottle in a case and validates that there are a plurality of tags in the case. In one of these embodiments, the packing module 402 verifies that there are at least 12 tags, depending upon case configuration and bottle size. In still other embodiments, the packing module 402 associates the case tag identifier with the bottle tag identifiers. In one of these embodiments, the packing module 402 updates the status of each case and bottle identifier as inventory and then updates the storage element 406 to include the association and the status update. In another of these embodiments, the storage element 406 transmits the association and the status update to a second storage element 406′, such as a global registry 614, described in greater detail below in connection with FIG. 6.

A shipping module verifies the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 504). In one embodiment, the shipping module 404 validates the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag. In another embodiment, the shipping module 404 verifies the bottle tag number for at least one bottle stored in the case. In still another embodiment, the shipping module 404 verifies that there are 12 bottle tags or more, depending upon case configuration and bottle size. In still another embodiment, shipping information including, but not limited to, order number, Case Identification Number, Bar Code Identifier, Shipping Date and Time Stamp and Importer or Shipper Information are manually entered at the shipping module 404. In still even another embodiment, shipping information including, but not limited to, order number, Chateau Case Identification Number, Bar Code Identifier, Shipping Date and Time Stamp and Importer or Shipper Information are transmitted to the shipping module 404 from a winery or other alcohol-producing facility. In yet another embodiment, the shipping module 404 updates the local storage element 406, which may in turn update a global registry 614, or directly updates the global registry 614. In some embodiments, the shipping module 404 also provides functionality for use in receiving shipments.

The shipping module activates the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 506). In one embodiment, an RFID tag reader in the shipping module activates the second RFID tag. In another embodiment, the RFID tag reader configures the second RFID tag to measure a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the case to which the second RFID tag is attached. In still another embodiment, the RFID tag reader identifies at least one environmental condition for measurement by the second RFID tag. In still even another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag begins measuring a plurality of values of an environmental condition of the bottle upon activation. In yet another embodiment, the second radio-frequency identification tag begins measuring a plurality of values of an environmental condition of a case storing the bottle upon activation.

In some embodiments, the shipping module 404 provides functionality for use in a receiving process, in addition to the shipping functionality described above. In one of these embodiments, members of a distribution channel, such as a master distributor or a wholesaler, can use the receiving functionality to enhance a description of a provenance of a bottle. In another of these embodiments, when a case of bottles is received by a channel member, the identification numbers, including, but not limited to, a bottle tag identification number, a case tag identification number, and pallet identification numbers can be read by RFID readers or bar code readers and transmitted to a local shipping module 404. The shipping module 404 can then upload the data to a global registry, provided by a server. In still another of these embodiments, data associated with a bottle, such as the identification numbers, can also be manually entered via a web-based user interface. In still even another of these embodiments, receiving functionality provided by the shipping module 404 verifies the authenticity of the identification numbers of the bottles and cases and update the status of these numbers to received by the distribution channel member. In yet another of these embodiments, the shipping functionality described earlier can also be completed by distribution channel members.

A storage element stores the association between the bottle tag number and the tag identification number of the second radio-frequency identification tag (step 508). In one embodiment, a storage element 406 stores the association. In another embodiment, the storage element 406 receives the association from the shipping module 404. In still another embodiment, the storage element 406 receives the association from the packing module 402. In yet another embodiment, the storage element 406 transmits the association to a global registry.

Referring now to FIG. 6, a block diagram depicts one embodiment of a system for providing mechanisms for authenticating contents of a bottle during its progress through a distribution channel. The system includes an attachment station 602, a control station 604, a bottling line control station 606, an integrated neck seal applicator module 608, an integrated laser etch module 610, a pack and ship station 612, a global registry 614, a bar code label module 618 and a server 106. The attachment station 602 includes a neck seal applicator module 202 and a bottle tag attachment module 204. The control station 604 is in communication with a storage element 616. The pack and ship station 612 is in communication with a packing module 402 and a shipping module 404. In some embodiments, the modules in the system communicate over a network 104 as described above in connection with FIG. 1A.

In one embodiment, the control station 604 resides at a facility such as a winery, chateau or bottling facility. In another embodiment, the control station 604 is in communication with a plurality of modules at the facility. In still another embodiment, the control station 604 is in communication with the bottling line control station 606, the attachment station 602, and the pack and ship station 612. In yet another embodiment, the control station 604 is in communication with the global registry 614, directly or via a server 106. In some embodiments, the control station 604 resides on a module, such as the pack and ship station 612.

In some embodiments, the control station 604 includes a storage element 206. In other embodiments, the control station 604 includes a storage element 406. In still other embodiments, a single storage element is both a storage element 206 and a storage element 406. In yet other embodiments, the control station 604 is in communication with a storage element providing a local registry.

In some embodiments, the attachment station 602 includes the neck seal applicator module 202. In other embodiments, the attachment station 602 includes the bottle tag attachment module 204. In still other embodiments, the attachment station 602 is an attachment station such as those manufactured by Adaptek Systems of Fort Wayne, Ind.

In one embodiment, the attachment station 602 validates a bottle tag identification number stored by an RFID tag 220 attached to a bottle processed by the attachment station 602. In another embodiment, the attachment station 602 validates a neck seal identification number associated with a neck seal attached to a bottle processed by the attachment station 602. In still another embodiment, the attachment station 602 associates a bottle tag identification number stored by an RFID tag 220 attached to a bottle with a neck seal identification number associated with the neck seal attached to a bottle. In still even another embodiment, the attachment station 602 receives the association from one of the neck seal applicator module 202 and the bottle tag attachment module 204. In some embodiments, the attachment station 602 transmits the bottle tag identification number to the control station 604. In other embodiments, the attachment station 602 transmits the neck seal identification number to the control station 604. In still other embodiments, the attachment station 602 transmits the association to the control station 604. In yet other embodiments, the bottle tag identification number, the neck seal identification number, and the association between the two numbers are manually provided to the control station 604.

In still other embodiments, the attachment station 602 transmits to the control station 604 an indication of an action performed by the neck seal applicator module 202 or by the bottle tag attachment module 204. In one of these embodiments, the attachment station 602 notifies the control station 604 when the neck seal applicator module attaches a neck seal to a bottle. In another of these embodiments, the attachment station 602 notifies the control station 604 when the bottle tag attachment module 204 attached an RFID tag 220 to a bottle. In yet other embodiments, the attachment station 602 transmits, to a global registry, directly or via a server 106, an indication of an action performed by the neck seal applicator module 202 or by the bottle tag attachment module 204.

In some embodiments, the bottling line control station 606 is in communication with an integrated neck seal applicator module 608. In other embodiments, the bottling line control station 606 is in communication with an integrated laser etch module 610. In still other embodiments, the integrated bottling line module is a module such as those manufactured by Adaptek Systems of Fort Wayne, Ind. In yet other embodiments, the attachment station 602 is in communication with the integrated laser etch module 610.

In some embodiments, the system includes the integrated neck seal applicator module 608 in place of the neck seal applicator module 202. In other embodiments, the system includes neither the integrated neck seal applicator module 608 nor the neck seal applicator module 202 and neck seals are applied manually. In still other embodiments, the system includes both an integrated neck seal applicator module 608 and the neck seal applicator module 202.

In some embodiments, the tagging of the bottles happens as the bottles are being filled and corked. In one of these embodiments, the integrated applicators are part of a bottling process, such as a wine producer's bottling line. The integrated applicators engage the bottle and place the relevant object and/or data—neck seal, bottle tag, laser etch, etc.—on the bottle after it has been sealed, corked and—in the case of the neck seal applicator—after the bottle has also been capsuled. In other embodiments, the tagging of the bottles is happening after the filling and corking of the bottles has occurred. In these embodiments, the applicators are used in a standalone format as there is no bottling line with which to integrate.

In one embodiment, a laser etch module 610 etches a unique laser etch identification number on the bottle. In some embodiments, laser etching occurs when the bottle is empty. In other embodiments, laser etching occurs when the bottle is sealed and corked. In still other embodiments, laser etching occurs when the bottle is sealed, corked and capsuled. In still other embodiments, the integrated laser etch module 610 is located on the bottling line and etches an identification number on a bottle after bottle tagging has occurred.

In some embodiments, the laser etch module 610 associates the laser etch identification number with the bottle tag identification number. In other embodiments, the laser etch module 610 associates the laser etch identification number with a bar code number on a bar code label attached to the bottle. In still other embodiments, the laser etch module 610 transmits the laser etch identification number to another module—such as the control station 604 or 606, or to the attachment station 602—for association with a bottle tag identification number or neck seal identification number. In some embodiments, the storage element 206 stores the laser etch identification number. In other embodiments, the control station is in communication with the laser etch module.

In one embodiment, the integrated laser etch module 610 etches a unique bottle number, the laser etch identification number, onto the bottle. In another embodiment, there is an integrated RFID antenna mounted under a conveyor at the integrated laser etch module 610. In still another embodiment, the bottle tag is read by this antenna. In yet another embodiment, the integrated laser etch module 610 transmits the unique laser etch identification number to an integrated RFID Reader and the laser etch identification number is linked to the Bottle Tag Identification Number.

In one embodiment, a bar code label module 618 imprints a bar code label with a bar code including a bottle identification number. In another embodiment, the bar code label module 618 attaches the bar code label to the bottle. In still another embodiment, the bar code label module 618 applies, to the bottle, a label which has a pre-printed bar code containing a bottle identification number. In yet another embodiment, the bottle identification number is associated with at least one of the neck seal identification number, the bottle tag number, and the laser-etched identification number. In some embodiments, the bar code label with the unique bottle identification number is attached to the bottle instead of the RFID tag 220. In other embodiments, the bar code label with the unique bottle identification number is attached to the bottle in addition to the RFID tag 220.

In one embodiment, the bar code label module 618 is part of a stand-alone attachment station. In another embodiment, the bar code label module 618 is integrated in an alcohol bottling production line or bottle making production line. In still another embodiment, the bar code label module 618 includes a transmitter for communicating with stations and modules including, but not limited to, the attachment station 602, the storage element 206, or the global registry via an internet connection; for example, the bar code label module 618 may transmit, to the attachment station 602, an identification of a bottle identification number stored by the bar code label module 618 and associated with the bottle.

In one embodiment, a station or module in communication with the bar code label module 618 associates a bar code number imprinted on a bar code label with a second tag identification number. In another embodiment, the station or module associates the bar code number with a second tag identification number associated with a tag attached to a case storing the bottle. In some embodiments, the attachment station 602 is in communication with the bar code label module 618. In other embodiments, the control station 604 is in communication with the bar code label module 618. In still other embodiments, the bottling line control station 606 is in communication with the bar code label module 618. In yet other embodiments, the pack-and-ship station 612 is in communication with the bar code label module 618.

In some embodiments, a server 106 receives a plurality of measured values measured by an activated REID tag. In one of these embodiments, the server 106 retrieves a stored plurality of measured values from a database of measured values, such as the global registry 614. In another of these embodiments, a member of a distribution channel, such as an end customer purchasing a wine bottle, can remove and ship an RFID tag 220 activated by the pack-and-ship station 612 to a centralized location from which the plurality of measured values are transmitted to the server 106. In other embodiments, the server 106 generates the description of provenance of the alcoholic beverage based upon an analysis of the plurality of measured values. In still other embodiments, the server 106 provides, via the user interface, a display of at least one of the plurality of measured values, of statistical data generated responsive to the plurality of measured values, and of the generated description of provenance.

In some embodiments, associating the RFID tags with the bottles or cases and generating a description of provenance of the alcoholic beverage based upon values measured by the RFID tags during the bottles' transit through the distribution channel offers unique advantages to each member of the distribution channel. In one of these embodiments, a producer of the alcoholic beverage, such as a winemaker, knows that its bottles have been shipped appropriately and that the alcoholic beverage received will taste as it did in the facility for producing the alcoholic beverage, such as the winery. Hence, the expert reviews received will be accurate to the product as it was produced. In another of these embodiments, the importer will know that the bottles did not languish on the docks in the hot sun or other intemperate setting—before shipping. In still another of these embodiments, the retailer will know that the bottles he received were housed in an appropriately refrigerated warehouse after shipping and before reaching his own storage facility. In still even another of these embodiments, the end customer will know—based on identification numbers associated with the bottle—that he or she does indeed have the bottle he or she purchased and that it was appropriately handled during shipment. In still another of these embodiments, members of the distribution channel may view data specific to them at devices appropriate to their location. For example, and in yet another of these embodiments, a supplier can view the data from an office desktop computer, a retailer will be able to view it on a handheld inventory device with internet access and consumers will be able to view their data on cell phones equipped with internet access as the consumer ponders potential additions to their cellars while in a liquor store.

The systems and methods described above may be provided as one or more computer-readable programs embodied on or in one or more articles of manufacture. The article of manufacture may be a floppy disk, a hard disk, a CD-ROM, a flash memory card, a PROM, a RAM, a ROM, or a magnetic tape. In general, the computer-readable programs may be implemented in any programming language, LISP, PERL, C, C++, PROLOG, or any byte code language such as JAVA. The software programs may be stored on or in one or more articles of manufacture as object code.

Having described certain embodiments of methods and systems for providing mechanisms for providing mechanisms for certifying provenance of an alcoholic beverage, it will now become apparent to one of skill in the art that other embodiments incorporating the concepts of the disclosure may be used. Therefore, the disclosure should not be limited to certain embodiments, but rather should be limited only by the spirit and scope of the following claims.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7864053 *Mar 13, 2008Jan 4, 2011Visible Assets, Inc.Visibility radio cap and network
US8459462Oct 10, 2008Jun 11, 2013Quest Diagnostics Investments IncorporatedSystem and method for sorting specimen
US8710990 *Dec 30, 2010Apr 29, 2014Visible Assets, Inc.Visibility radio cap and network
US20080250483 *Oct 12, 2006Oct 9, 2008Hang Kyung LeeMethod and System for Authenticating Products Using Serial Numbers and Passwords Over Communication Network
US20110298582 *Dec 8, 2011Visible Assets, Inc.Visibility Radio Cap and Network
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Classifications
U.S. Classification340/572.1
International ClassificationG06Q10/00, G08B13/14
Cooperative ClassificationG06Q10/00, G06Q10/087
European ClassificationG06Q10/00, G06Q10/087
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Feb 19, 2008ASAssignment
Owner name: EPROVENANCE, LLC, MASSACHUSETTS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:VOGT, ERIC E.;CHURCHILL, RUTH;REEL/FRAME:020523/0995
Effective date: 20080207