Patents and Patent Pendings issued give a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, strategies and possible future product plans of payments company executives. Although many issued patents never morph into products, someone thought the idea was worth preserving as an option.

But it can also include plenty of “What the heck were they smoking?” ideas. This week’s batch of Patents and Patent Pendings—from Visa, MasterCard, Paypal and eBay—doesn’t disappoint.

Will MasterCard Now Have To Mirandize Shoppers?

In a patent filing accepted Dec. 3, MasterCard said it would be a great idea for it to have access to a wide range of law enforcement records, so that those criminal files can be overlaid on top of purchase histories. The intent is not to help catch crooks. It’s to help sell better to consumers.

“There is a need for a technical solution to linking aggregated criminal and law enforcement activity data with purchase behavior in order to benefit merchants, advertisers, and other entities. The law enforcement and criminal activity data may include number of crimes, types of crimes, population densities, number of law enforcement agents, law enforcement coverage, types of coverage, reported crimes, etc. for the geographic enforcement area at one or more periods of time,” penned a MasterCard attorney who definitely needs to find a hobby. “In some instances, the law enforcement and criminal activity data identified by the law enforcement agency may be based on multiple periods of time. For example, the law enforcement and criminal activity data may include increases or decreases in crime for the geographic enforcement area or a particular location over multiple periods of time.”

The application continued: “The processing server may identify economic impacts of changes in law enforcement or criminal activity, such as increased or decreased spending in one or more categories during multiple sub-periods of time. In some instances, the processing server may identify an economic impact based on a specific merchant or merchants. In such an instance, the processing server may identify transactions involving a specific merchant or merchants, such as a particular merchant or a particular industry (e.g., electronics stores). The processing server may then identify an economic impact of the law enforcement and criminal activity with the transaction data for the specific merchant or merchants. As a result, the identified economic impact may be indicative of a correlation between the law enforcement or criminal activity and the specific merchant or merchants. For instance, the processing server may identify an increase in criminal activity due to a merchant opening a new location, or a merchant having increased revenue due to an increase in law enforcement coverage.”

You Are What You Sell: PayPal Wants QR Codes To Look Like What They Represent

PayPal was issued a Patent on Tuesday (Dec. 8) for a way to make QR codes look more interesting. But it’s beyond having QR codes look better. The idea is to have the shape telegraph to shoppers the item or service that is waiting behind the code.

“Despite all the popularity and success QR codes have been enjoying these days, one disadvantage or shortcoming is their unattractive appearance. Except for some consumers who might see a geometrical beauty in them, to most consumers the monotonous, all look-alike two dimensional array of black dots in QR codes is simply a turn-off and non-inspiring as they convey no impression, memory, or association with the product or service they are used with,” PayPal said. “Therefore, a need exists to provide merchants a system or way, as a substitute for conventional QR codes, to communicate to consumers the same kind of information or benefits as the QR codes do, with a more pleasing or personalized appearance of such a code.”

PayPal has a specific idea for how this could be done. “A picture or image associated with a particular product or service of a merchant, is to be shown to consumers. The merchant could be a manufacturer, distributor, retailer, or service provider. In a physical store, the picture mark may be directly printed on an outer surface of a shelved product, or printed on a paper or plastic label which may be in turn attached to the product, or otherwise displayed close to the product, such as at an adjacent shelf or catalogue hanging. In an online site of a merchant, the picture mark may be next to a picture or description of particular product or service on a screen of a computer or mobile device. The picture marks in different embodiments provide similar functions that QR codes do in the current market, but have several advantages over them.”

That’s Entertainment: MasterCard Wants To Use Purchase History To Recommend Theater And Sports Tickets

MasterCard on Dec. 3 filed for a patent on a way to use a shopper’s purchase history—across multiple retailers—to suggest the highest-priced entertainment venue tickets that the system thinks the shopper can afford.

“It is common to sell tickets automatically online (i.e., via websites) for events such as musical performances, theatrical performances and sporting events. In some cases, the user/ticket-buyer may be presented with a display which by color coding indicates what seats remain available for the event that the user is interested in. In other cases, the user may be prompted to select a section of the venue (e.g., orchestra front, orchestra rear, mezzanine, balcony, etc.) and upon selection of a section by the user, the website computer may automatically assign seats according to an algorithm that automatically selects the ‘best seats available,’ where the ‘best’ is determined according to considerations such as nearness to the front and center of the stage or according to a geometric relationship between the available seating and certain portions of the playing surface (in the case of a sporting event),” the application said. “In the course of receiving and relaying the authorization requests and responses, the payment network may receive and store large quantities of transaction data, including, for each one of many transactions, the PAN (primary account number), the date and time of the transaction, the transaction total amount, the merchant, and the store location. In some cases, the transaction data may also be indicative of the type of goods or services purchased. This transaction data may serve as the raw material for deriving user profiles for the payment card account holders. These user profiles may be used to enhance operation of automated event seating websites.”

The application continued: It “may indicate that seating recommendations provided by the service will be based on a computer analysis of the account holder’s payment card account transactions. The transaction data may at least partially reflect purchases made over a period of time by the user, and thus may be indicative of spending habits of the user. In addition or alternatively, the overall amounts of the transactions reflected in the transaction data for the user may be indicative of an overall spending level by the user, and thus may be indicative of the status of the user in terms of the user’s spending power. Still further, the record of purchases indicated by the transaction data for the user may be indicative of demographic information for the user. One example of such potential demographic information would be a potential inference that the user is the parent in a family that includes children. This inference could be expressed by categorizing the user as having a ‘family-oriented’ demographic status, particularly if the transaction data is indicative of a considerable volume of purchases likely to have been made for children. During analysis of the user’s transaction data, the user profile server computer may have discovered a rule that indicates that 95 percent of the times when the user attends a game at Yankee Stadium, the user purchases food from the Shake Shack outlet there. This particular discovered rule may be included in the profile for the user.”

My Name’s Siri And I’ll Be Your Waitress Today

EBay understands the challenge of splitting a check and making this effort easy on the consumers as well as on the retailer. So it applied for a Patent on Dec. 3 on allowing diners to speak their orders into a microphone, which transcribes and relays the order to the kitchen. The point? Beyond having to tip less, all orders can be attributed to a specific diner’s voice and thus be easier to split later.

“A group of users are seated at a table in a restaurant and each user provides their order by saying menu items out loud. A waiter device and the mobile devices of the users capture each voice order. A service provider receives the voice order, each voice order is associated with a specific user, and an inventory of items ordered by the specific user is created. When the group of users are ready to pay the bill, the waiter device can transmit the total bill to each of the users at the table. The service provider then splits the bill according to the inventory of items ordered by each user so that each user can pay only for what they ordered,” the application said. “The users at the table, however, may decide to split the bill differently. For example, the users may specify what portions of the bill they want to pay or the users may agree to split the bill equally. In some embodiments, the service provider identifies who among the people in the group the bill should go to. In other embodiments, the service provider identifies subgroups within the group and combines the costs of members in the subgroup on one bill.”

Visa: Let’s Use Video Image Recognition For E-Commerce Payment Authentication

In a Patent app filed by Visa on Dec. 3, the largest card brand said that physical transactions give retailers a variety of ways to authenticate purchases. (The fact that in-store associates hardly ever use these verification methods is, for the purposes of this Patent app, beside the point.) They wanted to try and replicate some of those authentication methods for E-Commerce.

“During an in-store transaction, a sales clerk may request signed photo identification in order to verify that the person tendering the credit card is the true authorized user of the credit card. The sales clerk may then compare the signatures on the credit card and the sales slip against the signature on the picture identification, and also verify that the consumer is the same person shown on the picture identification. Moreover, the possibility that picture identification may be requested serves as a potential deterrent against using an illicitly acquired payment instrument during an in-store transaction. In some cases, sales personnel learn to recognize the names and faces of frequent customers. Additionally, given the nature of the transaction, the sales clerk may visually and physically inspect the credit card offered to assess whether or not the card is authentic or a counterfeit,” the filing said.

The idea is to online video to try and make sure that the shopper actually has the payment card being used and that it is shown to the camera. “Video data may be received including a representation of a payment instrument and a background. One or more payment instrument characteristics may be identified from the received video data and one or more background characteristics may be identified from the received video data. One or more of the identified payment instrument characteristics may be compared to corresponding fraudulent payment instrument characteristics to calculate an assessment score. In addition, one or more of the identified background characteristics may be compared to corresponding fraudulent background characteristics to further calculate the assessment score. The assessment score may be reviewed to determine whether it satisfies a validity threshold and an authorization indicator, which may be positive or negative, may be provided in response to the determination. Payment devices have physical characteristics and these physical characteristic may change in predictable ways. Further, backgrounds may also have physical characteristics which may change in predictable ways. By examining digital images for physical characteristics, some of which cannot even be seen, a better decision on whether a transaction is fraudulent may be made.”