QR Payments

Over dinner one evening at Dev8D, we fell to chatting about payment mechanisms in restaurants, and how the credit card payment model requires you to hand over your card so that it can read in a third party carder reader – that is, a device that is not under your control.

How much easier it would be if you could be handed your bill with a QR-code attached, which, when scanned, created a Paypal style payment that you could pay via a client on your phone. That is, your phone could become the payment appliance; the transaction is exectued on your mobile phone, using your PayPal account. A web-enabled till could then be used to confirm that the payment had been made.

Easy – and probably hack togetherable via the PayPal or Amazon Flexible Payments API?

For example, you could on the fly create a short-lived web page detailing the bill with a PayPal or Amazon “Pay now” button on it (or ideally, a mobile payments site, such as PayPal’s Mobile Checkout); generate a URL to the page in the form of a QR code; let the user grab the URL with their phone and go to the appropriate payment page on Paypal or Amazon Payments. Job done?

PS it seems there’s probably a patent or two out there already trying to lay claim to this sort of idea, such as this one for a Distributed Payment System and Method.

Which raises a question for me. Patents allow invents a period of grace to recoup expenses incurred during a process of invention. So if you can easily hack a solution together using bits of string and RESTful APIs you can find scattered around the web, what is it that actually merits the right to protection?

PS and lo, it came to pass… Now There’s Even an App That Lets You Pay for Coffee at Starbucks. See also Starbucks Launches First Dedicated iPhone App for Stored-Value Cards for screenshots.

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

8 thoughts on “QR Payments”

  1. > So if you can easily hack a solution together using bits of string and RESTful APIs you can find scattered around the web, what is it that actually merits the right to protection?

    Lawyers.

  2. Before you dump the idea guys ….

    I’m not a patent lawyer but I thunk it would be pretty hard to patent this idea. All your doing is essentially scanning a QR code which points to a URL.

    Believe it or not Neomedia actually held US patent #6,199,048 for scanning a QR code and visiting a website and their European patent had to be changed as the EPO stated that companies like yahoo/google have been retrieving URL’s based keywords / scans for years. Their European patent was changed to only cover the scanning of UPC codes.

    The US Patent office rejected the 95 claims (http://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2008/07/u-s-patent-office-rejects-all-ninety-five-neomedia) recently. If anyone knows of any updates on this please let us know.

    Once you make your first million… let me know.. I’ll come round and be a hanger on.

    Regards
    Ian
    Founding creator. QRme.co.uk. Realtime print ad tracking

  3. “I’m not a patent lawyer but I thunk it would be pretty hard to patent this idea. All your doing is essentially scanning a QR code which points to a URL.”

    That was sort of my point, eg wrt to the “Distributed Payment System and Method” patent.

    IMHO, the way that the patent system is being used today to patent pretty much everyhting that can be thunked (?!;-) is an abuse of the original rationale behind the patent system – which was to foster and encourage innovation…

  4. Reminds me of Japan, where you could pay for vending machines, railway passes, and many other things with your cellphone. I guess the issue here is that you need immediate confirmation that the bill went through and was legitimately paid for? (I’m not as techy as you, so sorry if I am understanding this wrong.)

    But you might do some research on how they manage it in Japan. They had a lot of neat features using barcodes readable by your cellphone that then link to custom webpages. (ie: if you ordered a standard or custom burger at McDonalds your burger came with a barcode printed on the wrapper that, if scanned with your cellphone, took you to a custom webpage showing the exact nutritional information for the burger you ordered.) Maybe some aspect of that technology could be transferrable here?

  5. Update 27/02. The US patent office recently announced that it intends to reissue 89 out of the original 95 claims (some clams have been amended). NeoMedia now holds the patent in the US for scanning a barcode which then uses a remote server to retrieve a URL. If your based in the USA and provide this type of service it may be now wise to check with Neomedia.

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