One of the interesting facets of retail patent litigation is understanding what “retail” means.  It used to be simple — brick and mortar stores and their suppliers (which were usually manufacturers as well).  Today, the definition is much less clear.  Between the internet, a more global marketplace and the intense specialization of many businesses, the retail world is larger and harder to define.  I often tell clients that in its broadest sense, retail is any link in the supply chain that gets goods and services to customers or end-users.  Susan Reda, the Editor of STORES Media, provided a very thoughtful and succinct definition of retail as a lead in to STORE’s 2011 Top 100 Retailers report:*

A retailer was easier to define [years ago]. Think of it this way: If someone said they were going shopping, one had a pretty good idea of what they meant. Obviously that’s not the case anymore. Today, shopping is a multi-channel, multi-dimensional event. It takes place on smartphones and inside pop-up stores that are here one day and gone the next. Innovative and sometimes gourmet foods can be purchased from food trucks. Produce and frozen foods are now commonplace items at mass merchants like Target and Walmart. And music can be purchased 10 ways to Sunday – except, ironically enough, at what used to pass for “music” stores.

The rules have changed: Retail’s business tomes are being rewritten, and the industry, such as we knew it five or even three years ago, has been transformed along with them.

Reda explains it well.  The retail industry and its supply chain have undergone a transformation over the last half-decade, and those of us who operate in the industry have to continue our effort to understand what retail means and what it will come to mean because the tranformation is far from complete.

*  The actual Top 100 Retailers list and report is also availabl