[Photo Credit: CNET UK]
In a previous article titled “At It Again: Apple’s Slow But Sure Reception of NFC and Mobile Wallet Payments,” I discussed Apple’s public dislike or uncaring attitude towards NFC and its claims that the new technology complicates the process between consumer and merchant. While Apple VP Phil Schiller made a comment similar to the previous statement last September, the company has been working on its own unique NFC feature ever since. Passbook can now be used for Apple Store purchases. Apple, however, is not stopping there: this week, the company decided to file another patent pertaining to mobile payments – this time, regarding motion-based payments. While the last article dealt with this, it is not all of Apple’s pursuit of NFC and its unique iPhone feature. The company has been dabbling into NFC and mobile wallet payments for the last—get this!—NINETEEN years (1994-2013). I will detail a few of the patents below so that you can get an excellent idea of just how much Apple has invested into NFC.
In 1994, Apple filed a patent called “Universal Electronic transaction card including receipt storage and system and methods of conducting electronic transactions,” US Patent # 5590038. To be brief, the patent discusses user accounts that are in accord with current institutions with which the consumer does business (bank, credit card company, stores, etc.) by way of “a replica of a card corresponding to…a plurality of service institution accounts.” In statement #13 of the patent filing, Apple claims that “the image size of the replica is approximately the size of a credit card.” The card replica phrase is a dead giveaway that Apple is interested in a mobile payment system where the card on your phone display looks identical to your credit card or gift card in your wallet. This patent was not approved until 1996.
In October 1996, Apple filed another patent known as “Children’s credit or debit card system,” whereby children could have some sort of expense card that could be monitored by parents and come with spending limits set by parents. The credit or debit card would provide the options of 1) not allowing child purchases, 2) allowing a limited number of purchases, or 3) an unlimited number of child purchases. This patent was not approved until 1999.
There are others. In 2000, Apple filed a “Method and system for processing internet payments using the electronic funds transfer network” patent describing a “traditional digital wallet” that lets consumers “fund their account, shop on the web, pay bills, pay anyone, store electronic receipts and transaction history, and check their recent wallet activity.” It was approved in 2003.
In 2004, Apple filed a “purchasing and inquiring method through label capturing cellular devices” that would allow consumers the ability to either 1) pay or 2) find more information about an item by way of scanning a barcode in a retail store. Again, this is yet another patent that pertains to consumer financial transactions by way of a cellular device. In 2005, Apple filed a patent called “Method for electronic payment” that allows “the merchant platform to receive transaction information through voice communications from a subscriber” and involves a “merchant platform, system platform, and a subscriber mobile device.”
Here are other patents pertaining to mobile wallet payments:
- Methods and Systems for performing credit transactions with a wireless device
- Method and system for providing transaction notification and mobile reply authorization
- Methods and Systems or Providing a Payment in a Mobile Environment
- “ ” for Payment Method Selection by a Payee in a Mobile Environment
- “Making a Payment Via a Stored Value Card in a Mobile Environment
- “ “ Presenting Multiple Transaction Options in a Portable Device
- “ “ Distribution of a Mobile Wallet for a Mobile Device
- Enrollment and registration of a device in a mobile commerce system
- Transfer of value between mobile devices in a mobile commerce system
- “ “Providing Billing and Payment Service using settlement service function of a Mobile Electronic Wallet…
From these patent names and a few descriptions, it is obvious that Apple has quite a vested interest in mobile wallet payments. So, what can we make of the idea that Apple has filed 54 patents relating to mobile wallet technology (counting the two most recent ones)? While many believe that Apple is only interested in protecting its ideas and may never use these, I think they will. After all, if the recent Passbook patent tells us anything, it’s that Apple is more in love with the idea of NFC than it claims.