Orange County – Always looking to make life more convenient in the digital lives of its users, Google this week filed a new patent application to attempt to solve the pesky problem of splitting group checks. Filed by a group of six East Coast Google employees, the filing specifically seeks protection over a method of “tracking and managing group expenditures.”
The new patent, filed by the company whose mission statement is to ”to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”, attempts to do just that by helping to sort and simplify group transactions, letting each person in a group know exactly how much they owe. In an effort to eliminate the all-too familiar problem of spending twenty minutes figuring out who owes what, the patent describes how each person in a group would have access to the technology via their mobile phone or computer. After establishing this “plurality of users,” according to the patent, users could split up balances of a check according to how much of the bill they account for.
In surprisingly non-technical language, the wording of the patent sets out real life scenarios in which friends or coworkers might need to split costs. For example, one part of the filing reads if “Users A, B and C have drinks at a bar and User B pays a bill of $45 for the drinks, User B adds the payment transaction as an expenditure of the group and allocates $15 of the transaction to User A, $20 to User B, $10 to User C.” It further explains that if these users happened to be friends with a sort of “running tab” among them, the technology would keep track of how much each owes the other for all of the expenses they have incurred together over time. The description even mentions ways that users in a group could be excluded from certain transactions, if for example they chose not to order anything or if on a group vacation and they opted out of a meal or outing.
Critics have already voiced concern that the patent application will be stopped short as a result of similar tools already on the market. Popular mobile apps such as BillPin and buddyCount already allow users to pool together group transactions and split them up according to who spent what. Word is that other mobile payment companies such as PayPal may also have already developed similar technologies which would block the patent as prior art.