Apple has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a system and method that combines the use of a virtual currency and a digital wallet that allows consumers to store value, such as credits, in the cloud and make payments from their iPhones.
In the patent request, Apple says the invention represents a method and system for providing credits, vouchers or coupons representing monetary value to users of phones and other mobile devices. The users of the devices may use the value of the credits to purchase goods or services at the point of sale “and the like.”
In this case, they’re doing everything they can to completely refuse to have anything to do with Bitcoin, while at the same time filing a patent for their very own digital currency. They obviously like the idea, but want to keep it in the Apple family and, knowing Apple, they’ll try to market this new virtual currency as some kind of better alternative to “unstable and volatile Bitcoin.”
Apple refuses to support mobile Bitcoin wallets or apps that allow Bitcoin trading, and that likely is because of the pressure the U.S. government is putting on entities that exchange bitcoins for dollars to comply with money-transmitter laws. Apple doesn’t want to get in the middle of all that. But its experiences with companies using its Passbook app to store and support coupon and other value exchanges via QR codes appears to have struck a chord among Apple’s developers, who want to take the concept further, or at least own the process in case someone else does.
It’s interesting that Apple notes in the patent request Near Field Communication capabilities as an existing mobile-payment method tied to credit cards, but it doesn’t show its hand in terms of whether it might soon support NFC. Instead it notes on how mobile devices can exchange coupon value at the point of sale, where free samples also can be received using the phone. NFC, which supports such two-way communication, seems an ideal fit in that scenario.
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