According to the US Patent & Trademark Office: “An automated apparatus suitable for transporting containers arranged in a row of stacks or partial stacks includes an overhead gantry system. The overhead gantry system has a moveable support for supporting at least one stack or partial stack of containers and moving them along the row.”

It added: “The gantry system also has an engagement device such as arms which are moveable transverse to the row independently of the support between a first position in which the engagement device can engage with a required container in the row, and a second position in which the engagement device and containers engaged therewith are above the support to allow the containers to be placed either on the support or on another partial stack supported by the support.”

And concluded: “The support can travel along the row when the engagement device is in the second position.”

The inventors were issued US Patent Number 7,329,081 on February 12 2008.

The patent has been assigned to Bakvertisi Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.

The original application was filed on November 9 2004.