Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Google files patent for mobile commerce

It would allow users to pay for goods via text message

Google Inc. has filed a patent that would allow users to pay for goods from vending machines and retailers -- as well as make larger payments -- via text message, or SMS (short message service) technology.

U.S. Patent 2007/0203836, called "Text message payment," was published last Thursday by Google engineer Ramy Dodin. The invention, dubbed Gpay in the supporting drawings, is described as "a computer-implemented method of effectuating a payment, comprising: receiving at a computer server system a text message from a payor containing a payment request comprising a payment amount sent by a payor device operating independently of the computer server system; debiting a payor account for an amount corresponding to the amount of the payment request; and crediting a payee account that is independent of the computer server system."

According to the drawings, users could use Gpay to make payments to various retailers, doctors or even their landscapers.

However, there are several companies, including two in the Philippines, that already offer such a service. Globe Telecom offers Globe GCash, a system that "enables any Globe or TM subscriber to send and receive money and make payments just through text/SMS." And Smart Communications Inc. offers Smartpadala, a cash remittance service via text.

It is unclear whether these two companies have filed patents for their technology in the U.S.

A Google spokesman said the patent filing doesn't necessarily mean Google plans to develop the technology described.

"We file patent applications on a variety of ideas that our employees come up with," a Google spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. "Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don't. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patent applications."


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