Just a week ago, on June 5th, 2012, Apple was granted a mobile wallet technology related patent 8,195,547 that few seemed to notice in Finland. But an interesting backstory is that the patent was originally filed by two Finnish IPR specialists Janne Aaltonen and Sami Saru in UK in 2007. Aaltonen is a former exec of Nokia and Blyk. What makes this case curious is that Apple did something that it usually doesn’t do, as it offered to buy international rights to an existing patent from Aaltonen and Saru in 2011.
The patent itself describes a mobile wallet approach, where advertiser can issue credits, vouchers and coupons to the user of the mobile device, when the user is shown an advertisement or interacts with the advertiser.
The core idea of the patent seems to be rather obvious and might not be very defensible so it’s interesting that Apple decided to do a rare act and buy rights to an existing patent. As both Aaltonen and Saru are IPR specialists, maybe the patent was worded just right to make it dangerous enough for any system using mobile coupons.
Aaltonen is ex-Nokia exec and was Head of IPR in free advertisement-based mobile operator Blyk in 2006-2010. Saru is an IPR specialist and former pattern attorney. Given the time frame, it’s likely that this patent was filed when Aaltonen was working in Blyk and it seems to fit Blyk’s businesses model, thus it might well be that Blyk had rights to the patent.
Also Nokia has a long history with mobile wallets. I remember talking to a frustrated colleague in 2002. He described how one mobile wallet project failed because no-one of big players (operators, banks and credit card companies, device manufacturers) were willing to give billing rights, or in the other words the customer relationship, to other parties. Given that mobile payments are still in a nascent state outside of Japan and Korea, maybe all players missed the big opportunity by protecting their turf too fiercely.
More details about the story can be read from Brian Roemmele’s excellent Quora post