Amazon scraps its Local Register service

Used to be that to accept credit cards, a business had no choice but to open a “merchant account” through a bank.  The merchant account had a monthly service fee of at least $30 and required purchase of a card reader costing $500 or more.

A couple of years ago, startup Square offered a new way that a business could process credit card payments.  An inexpensive card swipe reader would plug into the user’s smart phone.  With no monthly service fee and no signup fee, Square became very popular among small businesses.  Close on its heels, Paypal launched its own very similar service.  Then a year ago, Amazon decided to take over the market with its Amazon Local Register service.  Amazon promised a smaller commission (a mere 1.75% compared with 2.5 to 2.7% for Square and Paypal) and backed the system with its well-known brand name and market clout.

Then October of 2015 kept getting closer and closer, and this was important because in October of 2015, there was going to be a “liability shift” in which a merchant would have to absorb the losses from credit card fraud if the store failed to use the “chip” in a credit card.  Square sent out new card readers to its users, card readers that could read a chip as well as swipe a magnetic stripe.  And Paypal rolled out a super-sophisticated card reader that would read a chip, swipe a card, or even accept a contactless payment such as Android Pay or Apple Pay (and that cost $150).  Industry watchers watched Amazon to see what it would do for its users of Local Register.  Would Amazon mail out small and inexpensive chip card readers to its users as Square had done?  Would it invite its users to purchase super-sophisticated $150 readers as Paypal had done?  Or would it move to the head of the pack by rewarding its loyal customers with free-of-charge super-sophisticated card readers?

I was astonished to learn today that Amazon has given up.  It will not do anything to make it possible for its users to read chip cards.  Amazon stopped signing up new Local Register accounts today, and users with existing accounts will only be able to use them until February 1, 2016.  Amazon is abandoning the merchant credit card processing business.

What should existing users of Amazon Local Register do about this? Continue reading “Amazon scraps its Local Register service”

Why it costs money to record a trademark assignment at USPTO?

Used to be you had to pay a $40 fee to record an assignment at the USPTO.  Adding a second property to the recordation cost $40 if you were recording a patent assignment but cost $25 if you were recording a trademark assignment.

I never understood why that second or third property cost one price for trademarks and a different price for patents.

Almost two years ago the USPTO cut the fee for recording a patent assignment to zero.  This was welcome news.  When that price cut happened, I recall wondering why this fee did not drop to zero for trademark assignments.

Today I got my chance.  I am the vice-chair of AIPLA’s Patent Cooperation Treaty Issues committee, so I was present at a meeting of committee chairs, vice-chairs, and board members.  Mary Boney Denison, the Commissioner for Trademarks, was a special guest.  When she finished her prepared remarks, she asked if anybody had any questions.  So I raised my hand and asked why it is that we have to pay money to record a trademark assignment when we don’t need to pay money to record a patent assignment. Continue reading “Why it costs money to record a trademark assignment at USPTO?”

The software in your car

Readers may recall that some months ago I blogged that I had replaced the (incandescent) brake lights in my Subaru car with LEDs.  Readers will also recall that Volkswagen is in the news for having included software in the engine computer of some diesel cars that would detect when an emissions test was going on, and at such times would adjust the engine to greatly reduce the emissions.  All of this reminds me of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) which generally forbids reverse engineering of software in consumer electronic products.  So how do my LED brake lights fit into this story? Continue reading “The software in your car”