Prepaid debit cards are a relatively recent phenomenon (some say the original prepaid debit card is the Visa TravelMoney card from the mid- 1990’s). These cards experienced tremendous growth in the first decade of the 21st Century. We thought it would be interesting to look at prepaid debit card patent trends for the first decade. Here’s what we found.
Patent Filings for Prepaid Debit Inventions are Increasing
Although it is difficult to get exact numbers on patent filings (for example, because there is no “field” or “category” for prepaid debit card inventions, we needed to use keyword searches, also, not all patent applications are published), we did several searches and found the following.
First, the number of published patent applications that use the words “prepaid debit” are increasing (and have been almost every year since 2001).
Check out the graphic below that shows the trend.
Next, of the companies that list their names on the published applications, surprisingly few are ISOs or issuers of prepaid debit cards. The majority of published patent applications from 2001-2010 that use the words “prepaid debit card” were made by just a few companies, including the payment networks Visa (NYSE: V), MasterCard (NYSE: MA), Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) and American Express (NYSE: AXP), and processors including First Data Resources.
Several prepaid debit ISOs, including Account Now, Inc., MiCash, Inc., Plastyc, Inc., PreCash, Inc., and OboPay, Inc. filed one or more patent applications that published between 2001 and 2009.
The Big Brands are Getting the Patents
We also did some searches for patents that actually issued in 2009 (for this search, we expanded the keywords somewhat, including terms like “stored value card”). We found that the patents that actually get issued seem to be those filed by the big brands, or companies with deep pockets. Very few prepaid debit patents issued to smaller companies such as ISOs. Check out the results below.
We will continue to watch innovation in the prepaid debit card space, and expect many more prepaid debit card patents to issue and publish in 2010.
Please contact us if you want to discuss prepaid debit card innovation in more detail.