The patents Apple’s Tim Cook hopes will make the company digital payments king

One can only think that Apple has some form of Disney-esque spell placed on it by its innovative godfathers, aka the creative CEOs that have been at its helm. Those were the opening lines of a Real Business article published at the beginning of 2015.

The consensus was that whatever magic Apple had would eventually fizzle out after the loss of Steve Jobs. This has only been backed by the board putting pressure on CEO Tim Cooks to perform. After all, aside from Apple Watch, the company has done little innovating – focusing predominantly on upgrading previous products.

However, he has managed to bring mobile payments technology to the masses – after years of filing patents. Mobile app Apple Pay aimed to revolutionise the “fairly antiquated payments process”, but it was far from the only company to focus on the concept.

Indeed, as the industry starts to adopt a more “startup” method of thinking, it has paved the way for major disruption. Banks like Citi have integrated mobile check deposit technology into their apps and P2P mobile payment startup Venmo has made an appearance. It also means that Apple has needed to file a few patents to stop rivals from getting further ahead. 

Cook got busy in his first year on the job, with Apple being granted a total of 1,135 patents in 2012 alone. But which patents has he pinned his hopes on to gain the online payments crown?

2012

Helping Cook make a bang was a patent that had been applied for in January 2009, which kicked in seven months after he became CEO. The “parental controls” patent allowed parents who provided their children with a payments account to use their mobile phone to track spending on the subsidiary account in real time. It also had a more corporate function in fact that it enabled businesses to use the same technology to track employees’ spending.

This was followed a few months later by the “card swipe” patent, which established plans for a virtual payment card. Instead of swiping a card at the register, consumers using would swipe a finger on the phone screen to authorise a mobile payment. The application suggested that Apple would be able to address its shortcomings in mobile payments as the design called for “one or more graphic elements” that users must interact with to confirm a payment. 

Read more about online payments:

2013

In January 2013, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that revealed an invention intended to be a part of “Wallet”. According to Apple Patently, the Wallet app invention at that time was shown to offer a series of future services including a number of sub categories for credit and debit and an ad-hoc cash dispensing network using iTunes and Maps. Apple stated that there were times when users just needed cash and without an ATM in sight their new network would be able to bring a cash requester together with a cash provider using a new app that made the processes somewhat painless.

That same year, the US Patent and Trademark Office published a series of 37 patents in June – one of which related to setting financial rules for controlling a subsidiary account via an iTunes “Mobile Pay” service

2014

In 2014, Apple set out a system that used a secure element to store payment card data “through various air interfaces”. Once an initial link-up had been established via NFC, payment card data would be sent from the device to the application processor and then on to the POS terminal, via WiFi or Bluetooth, in an encrypted format. 

2015

Apple has recently applied for a patent regarding a method of transferring money from one iPhone to another. Two individuals would be able to make person-to-person payments. The transaction would appear to take place in the Wallet app, and Touch ID would be used to authorise both ends of the transaction. According to Apple, “credit card providers usually charge higher fees for financial transactions where there is no proof that a physical credit card was present. If two individuals attempt to directly conduct a financial transaction, they may face higher fees, which may discourage them from using their electronic devices to conduct the financial transaction”.  

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