Lately, I’ve been trying to publish articles every week on IP Watchdog about Apple patents and published patent applications. I have long told students and others that if you work in an area where Apple innovates and you are looking for good, well-written patents to read and learn from, then read whatever Apple patents you can find. Of course, there is a cult following for everything Apple, so there may be at least a little pandering on my part. But patents are patents and to learn you have to read, so why not read interesting patents? At least that was always my philosophy when teaching law school classes.
This week, a particular Apple published patent application jumped out at me. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130018792, simply titled Parental Controls, seeks to give parents the option of allowing children to have debit cards while allowing parents to define limitations for use.
More and more, special debit accounts, like pre-paid store cards, are being used by consumers to either control spending or take advantage of certain deals. One type of financial account typically used as a subsidiary to a debit account is a pre-paid financial account for children, often tied to a debit card the child can use. These types of accounts have become increasingly common as today’s economy is much more reliant on debit and credit card transactions.
The Technical Field of the patent application explains: “The present invention relates generally to establishing financial transaction rules for controlling a subsidiary financial account and, more particularly, to various systems, methods, and electronic devices configured to provide for the establishment of such rules.” Thus, it seems that Apple is focusing on the computer systems and electronic devices necessary for the implementation of the innovation, which is more in line with the type of innovation you might expect from Apple.
As the Background explains:
Generally, credit, debit, and stored-value card accounts used by children (e.g., subsidiary account) are linked to or associated with a primary account held by the parent. That is, while the child may be authorized to initiate charges using a payment card, the parent may ultimately be responsible for paying for such charges. Accordingly, it may be desirable to exert some level of control over the types of purchases or transactions a child is permitted to make using a subsidiary account.
Apple’s system of parental controls on these accounts seeks to provide parents at least some control.
The innovation outlined in this patent application allows the account owner to set parameters on the child’s spending through the pre-paid account. For instance, the parent can control the maximum transaction amount, both at once and over a set period of time, specific merchants where funds can be spent, or the geographical area where spending can occur.
As is described in claim 1, this patent application seeks protection for:
“A method for establishing a multiple-tier transaction rule based at least partially upon geographic location using a handheld electronic device comprising: using the handheld electronic device to define the multiple-tier transaction rule by: defining a first geographic limit and selecting a first control action to be implemented if a transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account linked to a primary account belonging to the user of the handheld electronic device violates the first geographic limit; defining a second geographic limit and selecting a second control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the second geographic limit; defining a third geographic limit and selecting a third control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the third geographic limit; and defining a fourth geographic limit and selecting a fourth control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the fourth geographic limit, wherein the first, second, third, and fourth geographic limits are different from one another, and wherein the first, second, third, and fourth control actions are different from one another; and communicating the multiple-tier transaction rule to an external server controlled by a financial entity that manages the primary account and subsidiary account, wherein the communication of the multiple-tier transaction rule causes the external server to apply the multiple-tier transaction rule to the subsidiary account.”
Certainly an interesting innovation that many parents will likely want to explore.