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IBM's But-I-Only-Got-The-Soup Patent

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the next-they-patent-blue dept.

Patents 267

theodp writes "In an Onion-worthy move, the USPTO has decided that IBM inventors deserve a patent for splitting a restaurant bill. Ending an 8+ year battle with the USPTO, self-anointed patent system savior IBM got a less-than-impressed USPTO Examiner's final rejection overruled in June and snagged US Patent No. 7,457,767 Tuesday for its Pay at the Table System. From the patent: 'Though US Pat. No. 5,933,812 to Meyer, et al. discussed previously provides for an entire table of patrons to pay the total bill using a credit card, including the gratuity, it does not provide an ability for the check to be split among the various patrons, and for those individual patrons to then pay their desired portion of the bill. This deficiency is addressed by the present invention.'"

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Go to restaurant (5, Funny)

Colourspace (563895) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898981)

1. Eat food.. 2. Split bill.. 3. ??? 4. IBM Profits!!!

Re:Go to restaurant (5, Insightful)

Archimagus (978734) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899599)

This patent seems legit to me. It is not a process patent on splitting the bill. It is a patent for a device at the patrons table where they could enter there credit card and choose how much they wish to pay. I am sure there is a patent for all those self checkout lines at every grocery store chain. This is the same thing except for restaurants and it allows multiple credit cards to be used toward paying the same bill.

Re:Go to restaurant (1, Insightful)

squizzar (1031726) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899641)

It's a patent on a calculator. The machine adds the values that are taken from each card, rather than the waiter. How is it not bleeding obvious.

Some things should be a given when using electronics. Basic mathematical operations such as adding and taking away (no matter how big/small/accurate/fast the calculation) should not be enough to make a patent unique.

NO IT'S NOT!!!! Damn... (4, Interesting)

somethingwicked (260651) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899769)

Really. A 20 second glance at the patent link answered this.

Should they be able to patent this. Not likely...its an obvious idea but they are making something than CAN do something very useful.

BUT, even if you ask for seperate checks up front, this approach is very attractive.

Think about being out with a large group, trying to make it somewhere by a certain time, trying to hunt down the waitstaff because everyone's ready NOW vs. when they came by 20 min ago and one person was still eating, identify who got what, how much to put on what card, wait for them to ring it up, put slips in little balck books, bring em back, hand them out, etc.

Device shows check.
You can select the items you had through the touchscreen interface.
It gives a total.
You pay your part.
You FN leave.

Re:Go to restaurant (1)

StewBaby2005 (883886) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900005)

I worked on budget allocation system 25 year ago that did exactly this. Funds were allocate at a certain level and a percentage thereoff and further percentages thereoff allocated down the line until there was no money left....

For everything else, there's the patent office (2, Funny)

Drakkenmensch (1255800) | more than 5 years ago | (#25898991)

Two burgers and fries: 8$ Two large drinks: 3$ Tax and tip: 1.75$ Getting paid for something most people can just do with simple mental math: PRICELESS.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899025)

Two burgers and fries: 8$ Two large drinks: 3$ Tax and tip: 1.75$ Getting paid for something most people can just do with simple mental math: PRICELESS.

No, it's not priceless ... I'm certain a firm owning a patent portfolio could give you a pretty nice quote on that patent.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (4, Informative)

Hacksaw (3678) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899143)

Making a wry comment based on someone else's poor interpretation of an article: $0.02.

Making a joke in a cliched format you didn't invent: $0.00

Reading the damned source article all the way before you make a fool out of yourself in public: Well, I wouldn't call it priceless, but something like that.

The patent describes a device for accepting credit card payments at the table of the patron, allowing them to pick their amounts paid, and therefore saving the patrons and the waitrons from the hassle of communicating all this back and forth and dealing with the subsequent mistakes.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899335)

Oh, so they pay while sitting down? How novel!

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899339)

Sooooo...

Now the servers won't have an opportunity to skim just *one* credit card but they can potentially skim numerous cards at once.

Way to go IBM!

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899795)

Are you really that stupid? The whole point of the device is that the CUSTOMERS swipe the card/enter the amount, not the servers. So now the servers don't have the opportunity to skim *any* cards.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899947)

Are you really that stupid? The whole point of the device is that the CUSTOMERS swipe the card/enter the amount, not the servers. So now the servers don't have the opportunity to skim *any* cards.

You don't know all the tricky ways skimming cards can be done do you?

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (5, Insightful)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899569)

I've worked with point-of-sale systems that allowed this at the register. Is it novel because it happens at the table? Gah! That's patentable?

Maybe if we stopped granted patents for these trivial things, people would be forced to innovate for real. And lots of lawyers would have to go out and do something productive in society.

(Sorry, getting down from the soap box)

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (1)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899693)

I've worked with point-of-sale systems that allowed this at the register. Is it novel because it happens at the table? Gah! That's patentable?

I have also worked with POS Machines for years, and I have the same thoughts as you.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899871)

That's funny - I work at at a machine than runs Vista so it's a POS too!

\Posting Anon for fear of the trollpoints
\\Aw c'mon...
\\\It's a JOKE!!!

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900219)

I work with POS machines daily, too - but I don't think we're talking about the same thing...

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (1)

Shagg (99693) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899667)

So you're making fun of people joking about splitting the bill not being innovative. But splitting the bill "on a computer"... now that's patent worthy!

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899757)

I think this could be a slick idea. I haven't read the article in detail; however, I was reminded of the Microsoft Surface demo video:

http://www.microsoft.com/SURFACE/index.html
-Click "Possibilities"
- :58 second mark

VERY slick concept.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (1)

bwalling (195998) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899773)

Why is that patent worthy? It's not that people haven't thought of that before - it's rather obvious - it's just that generally restaurants haven't spent much money on such systems and there was no need to build something that the market wouldn't be interested in buying. Sorry, but this has no business getting a patent.

Re:For everything else, there's the patent office (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900011)

Virtually all restaurants in the UK let you do this with hand held wireles 'chip and pin' terminals.

It's a Process (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899293)

Doesn't sound like it'll pass the Bilski test

Re:It's a Process (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899379)

Doesn't sound like it'll pass the Bilski test

I can understand how you'd be confused by the use of words like "system", "terminal", "payment unit physically located at the table", "credit card reader", etc. and would assume that this is an abstract process not using a system, terminal, payment unit physically located anywhere, credit card reader, etc.

Oh, wait, no I can't.

Prior art (1)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899421)

I once wrote a wxgtk python (might have been PyQt) script for a Zaurus hand-held for an ex-girlfriend who was waiting tables, that did exactly what this patent claims.

All she had to do was create groups by selecting radio buttons beside the items on the bill with the stylus, and then clicking a button "new bill", and it would separate them and create a new bill for each group. The only thing is that she did have to go up to the register and put all this information in, but she was doing that before with paper.

I also have to mention that I am not a real programmer. This is mostly back in the days I was dabbling at it. This isn't rocket science.

You tip at McDonalds? (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899521)

I know, I got the joke...but I'm taking this opportunity to rail at recent restaurant prices. Mods, fire up that Off Topic label...

[rant]
Now, I'm doubly screwed since the lovely state of Virginia allows a fairly high meal tax (11%) for a state which also has an income tax, but I've been noticing an alarming trend in drink prices.

A large drink at a fast food joint has been creeping up, and unless you're on the dollar menu (what is now termed a "small", though the cup is 22oz) a large is north of $1.79. Go out to a chain restaurant (Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback, Red Robin etc. - or similar) and the drinks are now over $2. $2.29 the last time, if I remember, and the kids cup is $1.49. This was driven home last summer when I was in NC and it was cheaper for me to get a "happy hour" 12-14 oz premium tap beer for less than the iced tea.

Oh, and just for the record, the last time I wandered into a burger joint where tips are common (that would be Red Robin, though I prefer the local joint at nearly the same price) a burger and fries was just shy of $10. So I suppose for me it's:

Two burgers and fries: 20$ Two large drinks: 4.50$ Tax and tip: 6.50$ Getting paid for something most people can just do with simple mental math: PRICELESS.
[/rant]

Actually that's not a bad idea (1, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899019)

There really isn't a convenient way to split a check and allow the parties to all still pay with a credit card (at least not in any of the restaurants I've ever been too). We live in a credit card/debit card world now (even the Salvation Army now accepts them [npr.org] ) and that sort of thing is actually needed.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899097)

You must go to crappy restaurants.. I do it all the time with coworkers.

either that, or the waitstaff there are complete morons and cant figure out the credit card machine.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (1)

Tridus (79566) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899211)

Yeah, what the hell. We do this all the time at lunch. Splitting a bill is remarkably easy.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (3, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899439)

Yeah, what the hell. We do this all the time at lunch. Splitting a bill is remarkably easy.

Splitting a bill evenly is remarkably easy. Getting separate checks ahead of time is remarkably easy, though a bit of a hassle for the waitstaff. Splitting a bill unevenly is a bit more of a hassle - "Mr. Waiter, please take these cards: Joe will pay $14.51, of which $2.37 is tip; Frank will pay $12.97, of which $2.06 is tip; George will pay $13.61, but refuses to tip because he's a jerk; Ed will pay..."

This invention, aside from any issues with obviousness, allows them all to pay at the table by swiping their cards and putting how much they individually want to pay. Takes any chance for confusion out of the waiter's hands.

Downside: also takes any chance for avoiding fraud out of the waiter's hands. "Hey, this credit card says 'Mary Smith' and you're all men!"

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (1)

Retric (704075) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899519)

Many systems let you split the table and recreate separate checks. AKA burger and fry's to sub table 1, pasta and beer to sub table 2 after they already created the first check. Most systems let you deduct arbitrary payments from the table, 20 in cash and the rest on the CC. I don't see what other options are needed.

PS: There is also a lot of really bad software out there that can't do such things.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899675)

Many systems let you split the table and recreate separate checks. AKA burger and fry's to sub table 1, pasta and beer to sub table 2 after they already created the first check. Most systems let you deduct arbitrary payments from the table, 20 in cash and the rest on the CC. I don't see what other options are needed. PS: There is also a lot of really bad software out there that can't do such things.

Sure, but many restaurants don't let their waitstaff void a single check and recreate separate checks because it's an easy route for fraud. Additionally, the fact that you can get meal/tip calculators for every brand of phone out there implies that at least a significant portion of the population would like a system that recalculated arbitrary payments for them.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (2, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899583)

This invention...

That's the problem; this isn't an invention at all. It's an agglomeration (or conglomeration, or perhaps both) of existing technologies to obtain the expected result of combining those technologies. Inventions are things that either involve new technology or combine technology to achieve results that are not obvious from the constituent parts. Anything else is just an engineering exercise. Consider: when Ford, GM, Toyota, or whomever create a new car model, they don't say they "invented" a new car even though they have a different combination of engine, interior, amenities, etc. than they had before. (Yes, they may have inventions inside that car, say a new type of emissions control or something, but that's a different thing entirely.)

That said, at least this patent is a machine - the claims explicitly refer to circuits and other hardware.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899729)

That's the problem; this isn't an invention at all. It's an agglomeration (or conglomeration, or perhaps both) of existing technologies to obtain the expected result of combining those technologies. Inventions are things that either involve new technology or combine technology to achieve results that are not obvious from the constituent parts.

Yes, yes, we've all read the MPEP and you're quoting the theory perfectly.
I think the bigger issue is the ol' hindsight problem. Sure, it's obvious to us reading the patent. And it certainly solves a long-felt-but-unsatisfied need... otherwise there wouldn't be a million different payment/tip calculators you can get for your phone. But why didn't a POS product like this exist before?

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (2, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900023)

But why didn't a POS product like this exist before?

The simple answer: customer's wont pay for it because it doesn't save them money. Establishments weren't paying for it because they wouldn't see enough increase in revenue or decrease in cost to pay for it.

Products and services - be they inventions or just good engineering/marketing/whatever - are only developed, as far as I can tell, for two or three reasons: A) someone is interested in making new things because they like creating stuff, B) there is something that someone thinks is too difficult so creates something to make it simpler for themselves, C) (closely related to B) someone sees something that could be done better and thinks others would be interested in a different solution.

So, basically, while people invented the "million" payment/tip calculators because they were tired of thinking, nobody is yet tired enough of splitting checks manually to automate the process. Heck, I'd pay good money for devices that would perform certain everyday household tasks and nobody's put one together yet... so what does that mean?

Prior art? (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899741)

I think Denny's may be able to claim prior art here. Denny's has a system that splits the check by seat. Each seat gets a separate section in the bill. One bill is issued for the whole table, but the server can break out any portion of the bill by saying, say, seats 2 and 3 are now a separate bill. The system spits out a new check just for seats 2 and 3, marking those seats on the master bill as paid.

Re:Prior art? (1)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899781)

I think Denny's may be able to claim prior art here. Denny's has a system that splits the check by seat. Each seat gets a separate section in the bill. One bill is issued for the whole table, but the server can break out any portion of the bill by saying, say, seats 2 and 3 are now a separate bill. The system spits out a new check just for seats 2 and 3, marking those seats on the master bill as paid.

Yeah, but if seat 3 is the guest of seat 1 and 2 and they both want to pay half plus their own, you can't. Or if they got two bottles of wine for the table (obviously not at Denny's), but seat 2 only had one glass, etc.

Plus, keep in mind, this isn't for the process of splitting the bill, it's for a portable "select how much you want to pay and swipe your card" unit.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (4, Funny)

aliquis (678370) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899161)

But the question is: Should it be patentable?

We live in a world filled of porn now, there threesomes have become much more acceptable. Just think about how it would had been if you had to pay a license fee each and every time you joined up in a threesome. Yeah, that's right, for a grand total amount of $0. Totally unacceptable.

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900211)

It's a device. I don't see why a device cannot be patented. Care to explain why you don't think this device should be patented?

Re:Actually that's not a bad idea (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899213)

There really isn't a convenient way to split a check and allow the parties to all still pay with a credit card (at least not in any of the restaurants I've ever been too).

Really? Because we usually just give the waitress a pile of credit cards and ask her to split it. I don't know what kind of quantum alchemy takes place at the register, but she usually returns a few moments later with a fist full of pens and a smile.

ask slashdot: stupid (useful) fart tricks (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899029)

Tooty writes If there's one thing that makes a man a man (and even more so for us geeks and nerds!), it's an abundant supply of ass gas. Considering our diet, it's no surprise we spend a considerable portion of the day (and night) letting it rip. So what cool tricks do you have up your sleeve (or, ass, as it were)? Personally, I like to pull the covers up over my head and bask in the stink. Kathleen acts disgusted, but I think she enjoys it too.

Not a problem here (4, Interesting)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899049)

In Germany the waiting staff are more than happy to split the bill with you so that each person pays for what they ate and drank separately. I suspect that this is because, unlike in the US, tips aren't expected and aren't at a more-or-less fixed percentage and instead patrons who want to tip usually round up the bill amount.

So if the waiting staff take the time to go through 10 separate payments for each person, they probably get a larger total tip than the tip on one big payment.

And the person who only had a glass of water and a starter is happy he didn't pay for the steak-guzzling alcoholic ;-)

Re:Not a problem here (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899099)

How exactly do you guzzle a steak anyway?

Re:Not a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899173)

There is something to ponder during all those cold winter nights ahead.

Re:Not a problem here (-1, Flamebait)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899299)

ask your mom. I hear she does a lot of gagging on liquid meat.

Re:Not a problem here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899637)

I'm the steak-guzzling alcoholic, you insensitive clod!

Re:Not a problem here (1)

BodhiCat (925309) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899655)

And since the German waiters/waitresses didn't go to school under the "No Child Left Behind" progam they can actually do long division.

--

Das ist nicht eine Unterschrift.

Re:Not a problem here (1)

Loganscomputer (1176841) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899927)

I live in the states and I have never had a problem splitting the bill. The article has nothing to do with having the wait staff split the bill. It is for a system that allows customers to do it at the table.

I call shenanigans and general all around ignorance on your answer, RTFA.

Re:Not a problem here (1)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900191)

One of the points I was making was that the wait staff here wouldn't necessarily want this device. Sitting with each customer to work out his individual bill often nets them a bigger total tip.

If it's done by credit card without the wait staff's presence, it's likely to reduce the total tip for them.

3 people with bills of 37 Euro might round up to 40 Euro, giving a 9 Euro tip. Whereas on a bill of 111 Euro, the round up might only be to 115 Euro. Tipping is different here. It's not a gratuity and isn't needed to bring staff wages to a minimum wage standard as in the US.

Ha! Fork it over, buddy! (2, Funny)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899063)

You'll just have to pay for the pizza. See, IBM holds a patent on splitting the check. Honestly, they do. Don't worry, I'll pay next time. Promise!

Bad summary (3, Informative)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899075)

It's not a business method patent on splitting the bill. It's a device patent for a portable terminal which allows people to split the bill using a credit card.

I still don't think it's patent-worthy -- the idea for the gadget has no doubt been thought of by numerous groups of geeks, and the patent really doesn't disclose anything beyond the idea and basic method of operation. But at least it's not totally silly.

Re:Bad summary (2, Interesting)

pmontra (738736) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899137)

Definitely a bad summary, this is the abstract of the patent:

Patrons at a restaurant or bar can pay at their table using credit cards, without involving the restaurant or bar cashier and/or wait staff. Patrons are assisted using this system in dividing the bill by displaying the amount due (including tax) and allowing each patron to enter the amount they wish to pay. When the initial bill is presented, a balance due will be displayed and the indication will be provided that the bill has yet to be paid in full. As each transaction is entered, a running total will be displayed indicating the remaining balance due. When the running total reaches zero, the bill is paid in full, and an indication will be provided, such as by illuminating a green indicator light or by displaying a balance due of $0.00.

If you can patent a cash register you should also be able to patent this device.

Re:Bad summary (1)

turtledawn (149719) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899459)

That actually makes it sound even stupider- this will require _more_ work on the part of the patrons, trying to remember how much each item they paid for costs and whether or not it's a taxed item, then doing the math to figure out the actual cost of their portion of the meal. You'd think they'd at least offer what waitstaff does now, and display the tab by item so you could tick off the items you wanted to pay for..

Re:Bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899821)

If you can patent a cash register you should also be able to patent this device.

No one has a patent on the cash register. They have a patent on the device, including all the mechanical parts. This is a algorithm patent, not a device patent.

Re:Bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899931)

I can pay for something using multiple methods (cash, one or more credit cards, one or more gift cards) and different amounts at most box stores. The cashier just puts in the amounts of each until the balance is $0.00. Does that count as prior art?

I have even done the same thing with my spouse paying part of something for the house and myself paying part, and I usually pay a larger portion, since I receive a higher salary.

They usually do not like to do it, but it can be done.

Where's the obviousness, other than the fact it's being used in a restaurant?

Re:Bad summary (1)

captainpanic (1173915) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899495)

This device is the same as having a pocket calculator (or a functioning brain) and a waiter who doesn't make too much trouble of making separate bills. It doesn't add much for the customer yet. I think that if a number of restaurants will get this system, you'll see other restaurants offering the same service with more old fashioned devices.

Re:Bad summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899605)

>>But at least it's not totally silly.

And what about the fact that we have come to the point of laziness and ineptitude that there is enough demand for
1) someone to create this device
2) go for a patent for it

Someday (and in many ways we have already come to this point), all this demand for 'convenience' is going to bite us.

PLUS! ... the billing device is now exposed at the table. It's portable, right? Which means its probably wireless. And the concern I'm talking about is not my CC # etc. getting hijacked, but the system itself. This device would most likely just provide more surface to attack.

Maybe not 'totally' silly, but I'd say 95% there at least.

Prior art? Anything that can itemize and add/subtract.

Re:Bad summary (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899803)

It's clearly an improvement over an existing device, and requires at least some design. It's not so obvious that all systems support it.

Okay. It's pretty obvious once the problem is described, but there are worse offenders.

FTL travel (4, Funny)

Psmylie (169236) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899083)

It may sound silly, but this is a first step for IBM to patent and control the world's first Bistromathic drive, as first theorized by Douglas Adams.

Whew... (1)

MaxwellEdison (1368785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899085)

For a second there I thought they were trying to patent soup...talk about prior art...

Re:Whew... (2, Funny)

ORBAT (1050226) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899375)

Don't be silly, they can't patent soup.
Microsoft patented it in 1997.

WTF?? (1)

TheNecromancer (179644) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899089)

'Though U.S. Pat. No. 5,933,812 to Meyer, et al. discussed previously provides for an entire table of patrons to pay the total bill using a credit card, including the gratuity

Since when has paying a restaurant bill with a credit card for a group been patented? Does this mean that I'm paying royalties every time I treat my friends when we go out to eat??

Separate checks, please!!

Re:WTF?? (2, Insightful)

Theaetetus (590071) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899509)

'Though U.S. Pat. No. 5,933,812 to Meyer, et al. discussed previously provides for an entire table of patrons to pay the total bill using a credit card, including the gratuity

Since when has paying a restaurant bill with a credit card for a group been patented? Does this mean that I'm paying royalties every time I treat my friends when we go out to eat??

Separate checks, please!!

What gets me is you directly quoted the article, implying that you read it, and even plucked out a quote from the 7th paragraph of the detailed description, but never realized that the Meyer patent (and this one) isn't on a process, but a portable payment unit, kind of like the ones at most cash registers in convenience stores.

Very important patent (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899105)

Because it is so difficult to tell the waitperson, "Separate checks please" before you order. What's next, a patent on belching words?

Re:Very important patent (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899187)

If the restaurant is using a POS system (as implied), most systems will allow you to split a check after everything has been rung in.

There's no need to let your server know beforehand in most cases.

Re:Very important patent (1)

Jeoh (1393645) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899397)

They should really come up with a better acronym than POS.

Re:Very important patent (1)

jmyers (208878) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899471)

You obviously never worked on a POS system. The acronym was very suitable for the ones I worked on.

Bistromathics (5, Funny)

McWilde (643703) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899111)

Sure, you people can laugh at it now, but someday this patent will make interstellar travel possible.

Re:Bistromathics (1)

Milvuss (1417689) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899251)

But Douglas Adams will rise from the grave to claim prior art...

Re:Bistromathics (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899783)

It's true. We'll have aggregate colonial ships, each with a limited fuel supply which is not enough to get us to the destination... but using this method we'll be able to 'split the bill' successfully so that all together we will be able to get there ;-p

So what's the invention? (0, Redundant)

johannesg (664142) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899115)

They are effectively stating that "it is a common procedure in restaurants to split the bill, but no one claimed it yet. We are hereby putting down a flag."

So what is the actual invention? Where is the method or apparatus for splitting a bill? Is anything described in the patent that allows us to do this in a novel way? Or is it just a codification of a practice that is as old as the country of the Netherlands? (I'm Dutch, I can make the joke... ;-) ).

It goes without saying that, if it is just a codification of something that is hundreds, and potentially thousands of years old, it should not be meriting special protection...

Re:So what's the invention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899245)

Actually the patent is on the device to split the bill between all ustomers and present only one bill to the restaurant.

Not that I read the article or anything.

Re:So what's the invention? (2, Informative)

srmalloy (263556) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899555)

More accurately, it is on a device that allows the restaurant to present one bill to the table, then have the individual patrons at the table enter payments by credit card against the bill total, rather than the restaurant breaking the bill up into individual bills for each patron, then (presumably) handling each bill by hand, which ties up server/cashier time. If I could go to a restaurant and then present a bill to the restaurant when I'm finished eating, I'd eat out a lot more often.

Re:So what's the invention? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899273)

Never have I felt so strongly the "Read The Fucking Article" needed to be spelled out.

Re:So what's the invention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899275)

WTF!! RTFM FGS!

Re:So what's the invention? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899277)

Oh, come on. Read the patent. It's for an apparatus for splitting the bill. It should be quite clear what the actual invention is, provided you don't rely on a Slashdot summary to properly summarize a patent.

Re:So what's the invention? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900007)

So what is the actual invention? Where is the method or apparatus for splitting a bill? Is anything described in the patent that allows us to do this in a novel way?

It's like the square root of a million: We'll never know.

Unless, of course, we RTFP.

There's more going on here (1)

Radtastic (671622) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899135)

Geesh that article has a lot of fluff.

As an industry professional that works on the data-end of about 20 POS systems, I can emphatically state that many systems provide several methods for splitting a check, including splitting the overall cost, assigning individual items, and splitting individual items (so for example on a table of 5, 40% of the wine can go on one check and the other 60% on the other).

Another factor is restaurant policy. Giving the server the ability to split checks is one of many avenues where fraud occurs. Often the restaurant will not let servers use the POS for this, or limit how checks are split, even though the capabilities exist.

Regarding the patent, if this holds up, there's going to be a shitstorm among the Point of Sale industry.

I think my company has prior art. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899141)

We've done this for quite a while, as long as you consider a mid-tower workstation to be 'portable'.

Re:I think my company has prior art. (2, Informative)

banzaikai (697426) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899393)

Prior Art: Adams, Douglas M., "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", segment dealing with "...splitting the check in a bistro...", forerunner to invention of "Drive, Improbability" type, space-time propulsion.

banzai
Man, I really miss that guy...

Seriously, WTH? (1)

Leafheart (1120885) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899167)

There are many things I do not understand, and I will put this one among those. I don't know about US but here in Brazil at least, it is common practice when you go to the restaurant to pay only for what you pay. Most places can make different tabs for each costumer on the table, even if not, it is normal to pay part of the value on separate credit cards.

You know, because it is very hard to do simple math, specially because it is not common for any cellphone to have a calculator.

/dripping sarcasm

Re:Seriously, WTH? (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899635)

They're just preparing for an age where no one knows math anymore, but where there will still a lot of lawyers around.

I can't wait... (0, Redundant)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899203)

...until my patent gets approved for filing pointless patents. Holy shit, am I gonna be rich.

RTFP (1)

poot_rootbeer (188613) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899219)

Discussing patents on Slashdot is like trying to diagnose mental illness using WebMD. Only with more mental illness.

RTFP, people. And the relevant patent law, while you're at it. The patent examiners did, so it's the least you could do.

POS System (1)

kenp2002 (545495) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899285)

The reason for this was part of an effort to develop a Point of Sale (POS) card swipe system for resturants. Many resturants have cash registers that have trouble splitting up a bill in a non-per-seat method.

Case in point:

5 people order a $10 meal each.

$50 dollars.

To split the bill the waitress at the register sets up 5 seats so each person pays their $10.

Tip comes alone and seat one tosses in $2 and seat 4 tosses in $3.

Now Seats 1,2,3 are a family and 4 and 5 are guests.

4 decides to pay for 1/2 seats 1,2,3 on 1 credit card and his own on a second credit card. Seat 5 pays his own on a debit card. The other half of 1,2,3 are begin paid by seat 1.

On many POS systems you cannot pay 1/2 of a group of seat's bill on a card then pay the other half with another card. In this case many times the resturant would have to process seats 1,2,3 each separately with the CC transaction. And at .5% per transaction lets say (some places pay as high as 1.5% I've heard) this is a horrible hit to profits. This is common also with gift cards. Older POS systems can't take a check for 1/2 and a credit card for the other. aka. The Split Payment Problem. If a computer system can be put in place to help break up the transactions automagically it might cut down on the number of transactions needed.

This patent as far as I can see appears to be targeted towards POS systems (cash registers, etc.) not people splitting a bill. I'm not a patent fan in full disclousure, but this isn't the maddness people would like it to be.

Relax people. Stupid Patent? Perhaps. End of the World? Nope.

"Ending an 8+ year battle..." (3, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899289)

Economy is in the toilet, unemployment setting records, hundreds of billions in bailouts, and we've got IBM over here fighting for 8+ years over this?.

Holy....Shit.

IBM deserves more than this patent, but I don't feel like going to jail.

Re:"Ending an 8+ year battle..." (1)

Main Gauche (881147) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900051)

Never dealt with the government before? An "8+ year battle" involves something like 20 days of fighting interspersed among 2900+ days of waiting.

Re:"Ending an 8+ year battle..." (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900077)

No, we've got IBM spreading its business out over a variety of markets to help it weather a bad economy, retaining 380,000 employees with rather few layoffs all while providing among the best employee benefits that all for a lot of health care choice at a relatively low to no (depending on the choice) employee premium contribution (including credits for not smoking, participating in a self-monitored exercise program, etc.). This is how the company should be judged, not on a particular group pushing through a patent.

Furthermore, at IBM, the decision to file for a patent is made by a small review board located on site and not by "command central." Once a decision to file has been made, the responsibility to drive and defend the application also goes to an attorney typically located in a local IP department and sometimes to an outside contractor. Also, not by some central master planner.

People need to learn a little more about how the real world operates. In most cases, there is no evil genius pulling levers from behind a curtain.

Just more proof the patent system has collapsed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25899303)

I've been saying for a long time: The patent system has collapsed. The wheel was patented about 20 years ago, it's all been downhill from there.

BTW, the patent of the wheel was actually a protest against patent reforms which effectively broke the entire system.

Bogus patent alert... (1)

Kindaian (577374) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899349)

I fail to see where the "invention" is... But alas, IANAL... nor a Patent Troll... ;)

Prior art? (3, Interesting)

ThierryD (217773) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899351)

Well, the patent seems to have been filed in 2000. The "Resto" application I wrote for the Newton was doing pretty much the same thing in 1997...

I wonder if I could sue IBM...

Millions here I come!

Re:Prior art? (1)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899649)

You should file for prior art.. 8+ years fighting over this patent and they still don't get it lol.. Seriously go do it.

This is interesting.... (3, Interesting)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899391)

My knowledge of the credit card payment industry is not complete, but as I recall, the rate that a business pays for CC services is based on average transaction value and number of transactions per day/week/month/quarter. This would have a more than insignificant impact on that rate.

It does however have some far reaching possible effects: If the patrons are paying at the table (no wait staff involved), the value of wait staff is reduced and the likelihood that they could be replaced by robotic wait staff is increased. Already wait staff are paid some of the lowest wages on the planet. If their value decreases, it could be interesting times for restaurant patrons.

I'm not saying that robots could replace waitresses at Hooters, but there are places where robots could be used. It was always the payment end of things that made using robots impossible.

Finally! (1)

chinton (151403) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899401)

Now there is a way to pay for those patented McDonalds sandwiches.

IBM humorus patent list? (2)

Trevelyan (535381) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899511)

Is there a list somewhere of all the humorous patents that IBM have applied for?

e.g. this one [google.com]

Great the just gave IBM a micropayments patent.... (1)

foniksonik (573572) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899733)

Does anyone realize that this is how Micropayments work?

Now there may be other patents which cover it, IANAPL, but it looks just like what happens when Apple clears out an iTunes Store payment block.

So micropayments is like this.... you let a bunch of people buy things for very low prices (too low to process via Credit Card without the processing fee canceling out the purchase or costing you money).

OTOH this could force Apple for instance to go to a Credit purchasing system like other companies that sell lots of low priced items... where you have to buy a block of credits.

You accumulate those payments until they equal a block large enough to process... then you SPLIT the TAB and pay for it with multiple credit cards via one charge.

Credit card companies allow you to do this. Now IBM has patented a method of carrying it out in an automated fashion.

Now IBM doesn't typically sue companies on this type of thing but they could use it to pressure companies into sharing similar patents via a licensing swap.

cell phone (1)

Howpostsgetratedsuck (612917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899829)

If they put a phone number and bill number at the bottom of the check, each patron could call the number, enter the bill number, and pay his portion of the check by amount and credit card # (CC# possibly encoded in the phones memory, passwd for security, etc..). I'm sure application software can make it work on even the smallest cell phone lcd. Oh dam! Public disclosure. Now I lost my patent!

Re:cell phone (1)

Howpostsgetratedsuck (612917) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899843)

Second innovation. Possible subclaim or an entirely new patent! Have it charged to the phone bill. Dam! Now I lost two patents.

sounds convenient (1)

ldierk (1270930) | more than 5 years ago | (#25899979)

Is it patent worthy? I don't know. But I sure like to such a device in restaurants. It really gets messy when you are at a table with >10 friends. It's really a hassle to hand 10 credit cards to the waiter. It never happens that everyone ( or even most of the people ) have cash. Picking your items on a touch screen, enter a tip percentage, swipe your card - sounds really convenient to me.

Going Dutch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25900037)

The patent should be applied for in Holland, they have the experience.

Ernst

Tag: whocares (1)

Sun.Jedi (1280674) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900095)

The cost of royalties for these devices will be included in the price of the device from the vendor. I highly doubt there is a large enough percentage that will be passed onto consumers. This is about as worrisome as a cloudy day on the reality scale.

On the stupidity scale, stating "separate checks" before you start your relationship with a vendor who bought one of these devices should negate the need for trickle down costs, because the patent was not followed. We'll probably never know the difference, however. There is a small chance the royalties/payment will not even change the POS landscape, aside from not allowing NCR (and other POS device manufacturers) to duplicate the process in their POS devices.

Vendors have a choice to say "screw you", and simply not purchase the process. A calculator seems to fill niche more than adequately.

prior art (3, Insightful)

2gravey (959785) | more than 5 years ago | (#25900113)

There's already a method of paying at the table and it does include splitting the bill between as many patrons as you like. They call it "cash".
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