A patent filing made by eBay Inc. from June 2012 shows intention of a programmable currency.
The US Patent and Trademark office (USPTO) published eBay’s patent application on December 19th 2013. The patent is referred to as “Gift Tokens”, and at first glance one would think the patent is for an internal credits system. When looking further into patent application 20130339188, it is shown to be a lot more than a simple credit based wallet, but more of an internet-based currency. The patent reveals the tokens to be a form of programmable-money that can be transferred from user to user, similar to cash, or when discussing internet based currencies, Bitcoin.
Delving further into the patent claims shows the tokens having the ability to be used with brick and mortar establishments as well as online stores. The use of the tokens does not require an account to be made by the user in front of the payment provider, and the transactions are simply wallet to wallet transfers.
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“Systems and method are disclosed for giving gifts or payment instruments in the form of security or payment tokens, according to an embodiment. A gift or payment instrument can be given from a user of a payment provider, such as PayPal, Inc., to a gift recipient. The recipient can be a member of the user’s family, a friend, a sub-contractor, or any other person or entity. The recipient can use the token to purchase a product using the payment provider. The purchase can be made from a brick and mortar store or an online store. The purchase can be made without requiring the user to create the user’s own payment provider account,” an expert from the USPTO patent claims made by eBay Inc.
The name “Gift Tokens” is misleading, and makes the patent feel like a credit based system for eBay purchases or for eBay’s own PayPal. However the patent shows the tokens being used as viable tender for goods and services. Believably due to regulatory concerns, nowhere in the patent does it refer to the tokens as a currency.
When PayPal’s president David Marcus made his predictions for 2014, he mentioned digital currencies like Bitcoin would gain in popularity and price. On the other hand he mentioned he finds it hard to believe Bitcoin will be a viable form of payment due to its instability given by its decentralized nature. We are left wondering if this prediction was made with the privatized Gift Tokens in mind.