The Bank of America Corporation, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, is a financial services and banking institution that operates in all 50 states across America. One the nation’s largest banks, Bank of America has come under some recent fire with federal prosecutors lately. In early November, a motion was filed in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan to fine the corporation $864 million for bad mortgage loans sold by Countryside, a subsidiary, to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the leadup to the 2008 financial crisis. However, many of these sales occurred before Bank of America acquired Countryside in 2008. With a new CEO in place as of 2010, the corporation has been trying to reduce financial losses incurred by its many acquisitions during the global financial crisis.
For the first time in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re taking a look at this major player in the financial markets to get a glimpse at what developments we may see in banking, both in this country and worldwide. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office regularly deals with Bank of America as a patent applicant. This week, we’re going through a bunch of patent applications and issued patents that describe some very intriguing new services for bank account holders, especially individuals.
Our featured patent application today discusses the operation of an automatic teller machine, or ATM, that includes a universal serial bus (USB) port. This USB port would enable the ATM to connect to external security devices, such as a fingerprint scanner, to provide authentication. We’ve pulled up two applications that deal with providing targeted shopping offers digitally, one that provides offers while browsing an online store and another that can provide discounts after the purchase has been made. Other patent applications describe a marketplace for exchanging gift cards, as well as a system for vehicle navigation to points of interest along a driving route.
The recent additions to Bank of America’s patent portfolio include a number of very interesting new systems designed to help those in economic need. Two issued patents discuss methods of preventing economic loss because of unforeseen circumstances, one that applies to any credit account and the other which can prevent foreclosure proceedings specifically. Mobile banking units for access to financial accounts during catastrophes are prevented in another patent. Another issued patent provides for a financial product referred to as “goal insurance,” designed to motivate policy holders to achieve defined goals.
Automatic Teller Machine (“ATM”) Including a User-Accessible USB Port
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130264384
Automatic teller machines are extremely convenient for bank account owners who want to quickly withdraw or deposit funds. However, these machines also make it convenient for thieves to steal financial data that can lead to dramatic losses for account holders and banks. Reports from the European ATM Security Team (EAST) show that ATM-related crimes increased in Europe by almost 150 percent between 2008 and 2009. In 2008 alone, more than 10,000 ATM skimming attacks were reported across the continent.
There are a few ways that thieves can compromise an ATM to gain access to critical financial data. Pinhole cameras small enough to escape notice can record video images of authorized users entering their personal identification number (PIN) on the keypad. A skimmer device, also hard to detect by unwitting users, can read magnetic strips on ATM cards to determine encrypted information from users engaged with an ATM machine.
This patent application, filed by Bank of America with the USPTO, would protect the design of an automatic teller machine that has a USB port. This USB port is capable of connecting a fingerprint scanner device to the ATM. The fingerprint data collected by this scanner can be used biometrically to positively identify the actual identity of a user, preventing unauthorized access of accounts through an ATM.
The system laid out in this patent application would be capable of working with many types of fingerprint scanning technologies, including ultrasonic sensors, optical imaging or capacitance sensors. It seems that fingerprint scans could be conducted directly on the keypad or touchscreen of an ATM, according to the attached images Fingerprint scan data obtained by these devices can be sent to a telecommunications server through a transmitter included as part of this system.
Claim 1 of this patent application states:
“An Automated Teller Machine (“ATM”) for authenticating an identity of a user, the ATM comprising: a fingerprint scanner being configured to capture at least a portion of user biometric information; a first depressible key and a second depressible key, the first depressible key including a first display and the second depressible key including a second display, each of the first display and the second display being configured to display at least one of a plurality of numerical digits; a first receiver configured to receive information from the first depressible key and the second depressible key, the information from the first depressible key relating to a first numerical digit displayed by the first display during a depression of the first depressible key, and the information from the second depressible key relating to a second numerical digit displayed by the second display during a depression of the second depressible key; a second receiver configured to receive information from the fingerprint scanner, the information including first biometric information associated with a first finger placed on the fingerprint scanner and second biometric information associated with a second finger placed on the fingerprint scanner; and a transmitter configured to transmit the information received by the first receiver and the second receiver to a remote server via a telecommunications network.”
Other Patent Applications
The Bank of America is constantly developing financial innovations for use in its main business, although there are some applications that show an interesting deviation from the financial institution’s core focus. A few of the patent applications we’re focusing on today at IPWatchdog include several designed to improve digital marketing for advertisers to promote online retail sales. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130297446, entitled Online Shopping Experience Modification, would protect an online shopping system that would target offers on certain products to users based on their past purchases or current store browsing activity. Targeted purchase offers are also discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20130297392, filed under the name Intelligent Offer Tool. This system determines an online shopper’s financial institution and applies rebates or discounts after the point of sale if those institutions have any applicable offers for their account holders.
Some of the inconveniences of owning or receiving gift cards are addressed with an innovative marketplace system outlined in U.S. Patent Application No. 20130254086, titled Gift Card Credit Exchange. This application would protect a computer platform hosting a program that provides gift card owners to sell remaining balances or unwanted gift cards to others. This platform and program could be accessible from mobile banking applications, ATMs or through a bank’s website.
Interestingly, Bank of America is also going after protections for improvements to on-board computer systems in vehicles to improve navigation. This is explained in U.S. Patent Application No. 20130282283, entitled Proximity-Based Dynamic Vehicle Navigation. The system described in this patent application involves pairing a portable electronic device with a vehicle computer to provide personalized route notifications. This system is also capable of providing an extra level of security authorization for transactions conducted by vehicle passengers.
Issued Patents of Note
As always, IPWatchdog has a great interest in profiling the patents that have been recently issued to the large corporations we cover in our Companies We Follow series. With Bank of America, we’re taking our first foray in this series into the world of financial innovations. In today’s stressed economic times, we’re seeing a number of issued patents describing systems that will greatly benefit account holders in times of severe need, along with a couple of other interesting new financial products.
Providing some sort of financial aid or assistance to those in extreme financial need is the focus of two patents issued recently to the Bank of America. One of these, U.S. Patent No. 8577796, entitled Financial Charge Rebate, is designed to reduce economic burdens on credit account holders. This system would be able to proactively determine that an account holder will be unlikely to make a series of minimum payments based on financial history and determine whether that account holder qualifies for any modifications to the payment plan. U.S. Patent No. 8577792, issued under the title Foreclosure Prevention and Protection, protects a system of covering an endebted party’s mortgage payments for a predetermined amount of time in the event of hospitalization, unemployment or other unforeseen economic hardships.
U.S. Patent No. 8548911, titled Devices and Methods for Disaster-Relief Support, protects a system of enabling account owners to access their finances even when a large catastrophe severely impairs a bank’s infrastructure. This access would be provided to account owners within a certain affected area through the use of mobile banking units which offer financial services.
We’ve also explored a couple of patents that protect more effective financial services for account holders. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8561891, issued under the title of Fast Cash at ATM, describes a system of enabling ATM users to make a cash withdrawal by pressing two or fewer buttons on the keypad. Finally, a new type of financial product has been protected through U.S. Patent No. 8577764, which is titled Goal Insurance. This product, which can be funded by an individual, an organization or the financial institution itself, is designed to motivate individuals or businesses to meet either personal or financial goals. This insurance product could include protections for a policy holder that prevents them from losing insurance money for not meeting a goal because of a predetermined but unforeseen circumstance, such as a prolonged injury.