Apple Piles Up Patents as ‘Defensive’ Strategy, Analysts Suggest (Dec. 10, 2012)
Dec. 10, 2012
Apple Inc.’s Passbook mobile wallet app gradually is gaining momentum with merchants and card issuers integrating with the mobile wallet app. And while Apple continues to remain mum about plans to add NFC to its handsets, where Apple is going with its proliferating number of other payments-related patents is anyone’s guess. Apple in late November received a patent for its EasyPay mobile payment technology enabling merchants to process payments in stores and online using a smartphone. Apple launched the service in its stores in November 2011 and is rolling it out worldwide, and patenting it suggests Apple could license EasyPay to third parties. After purchasing fingerprint sensor technology company AuthenTec Inc. in July, Apple in October filed a patent for a biometric application that some observers speculated could be related to a new payment authentication technology.
But Apple’s recent patent activity does not necessarily suggest the company has plans to become a purveyor of payment technology or services, Aaron McPherson, practice director with IDC Financial Insights, tells Paybefore. “I suspect these are defensive patents, where the company is filing something they’ve created without making a decision on whether to include it in an actual device,” McPherson says. In the case of Easy Pay, it would be “a real change” for Apple to “reach outside its walled garden and pursue an open strategy,” he suggests.
Indeed, filing patents has become an essential practice for any “good product company,” Rick Oglesby, a senior analyst with Aite Group, tells Paybefore. “[Companies] file patents on every idea that is potentially valuable and build up a portfolio,” he says, adding that it doesn’t necessarily mean the company will put any particular patent it files to use. “That being said, Apple has a lot of assets that could be turned into a more comprehensive digital commerce offering than they have now,” Oglesby says. For example, Apple has been “taking some steps toward becoming an advertising engine,” he notes, pointing to the company’s recent creation of a proprietary maps application and their iAd service. Developing “a payment engine” could help Apple monetize certain advertising assets and possibly “extend the iTunes business model into new areas,” Oglesby suggests.