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Patents IBM

IBM's But-I-Only-Got-The-Soup Patent 267

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the next-they-patent-blue dept.
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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IBM's But-I-Only-Got-The-Soup Patent

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  • by Colourspace (563895) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:05AM (#25898981)
    1. Eat food.. 2. Split bill.. 3. ??? 4. IBM Profits!!!
    • by Archimagus (978734) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:04AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by squizzar (1031726)

        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.

        • by somethingwicked (260651) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:20AM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by cayenne8 (626475)
            "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..."

            I don't think it is that big a deal...I've gotten used to no split checks in New Orleans, most restaurants I go to do not split checks.

            Simple...you add in the 20% tip to the total, split that evenly amongst the people there...pay and go.

            The only time you usually have a problem with this, is if you have a table full of chicks, who insist on whipping o

            • by tompaulco (629533)
              You sound like a sexist, but I can vouch that this does happen. There was one girl I used to go to breakfast with on Sundays and she would get out the calculator to figure out how much was hers and how much was mine. Then she would find out 20% of the total and divide that in half and add it to each of our totals. Since I usually spent less on breakfast than her, I ended up paying well over 20% on tip. I tried to get her to calculate 20% on each of our totals, but she insisted that that wouldn't add up righ
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by billcopc (196330)

              If the waiter isn't willing to produce individual checks, I wouldn't be willing to produce a 20% tip. How hard is it to hit "Print" in-between each item ?

              • by cayenne8 (626475)
                "If the waiter isn't willing to produce individual checks, I wouldn't be willing to produce a 20% tip. How hard is it to hit "Print" in-between each item ?"

                Well, to be fair...MOST of the restaurants in NOLA are not chain restaurants, many are old, small, family owned (and the BEST)...and often work on hand written checks, etc. So, there is no computer or print button.

                But even so...many places with computers just have it as tradition in the city that you don't have separate checks. Heck, there are still a

              • (OT) "check" (Score:3, Interesting)

                by g0at (135364)

                Why do Americans refer to bills/invoices as "checks"?

                -b

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by vux984 (928602)

              I mean geez...if you can't afford to go out to eat with the group, don't go. Sure sometimes you pay a little more...some times a little less..but, it adds up in the end.

              No it doesn't. Some of my friends pound back 9$ drinks through a meal, others drink water. Some order steak EVERY time, others order a chicken salad, or a club sandwich.

              And there is no reason someone who orders 25$ worth of food should have to split the bill evenly with the guy who had a $30 entree and another $50+ in booze. And when we go o

              • by cayenne8 (626475)
                Well, I'm speaking mostly for lunches...where no one is pounding back booze (gotta go back to work, etc)...and that is pretty much the only time you generally (at least with me) go out with a large group of people 6+...

                Anyway, we all eat about the same amount give or take....and I'm not gonna argue $5 here or there..that's pocket change. Most everyone I hang with eats and drinks about the same anyway. And if it is dinner with friends...ok, usually we can take turns with buying wine, etc. Then again....at n

          • by CaymanIslandCarpedie (868408) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @01:06PM (#25900931) Journal
            If IBM hasn't already patented the below, I sure plan to!

            private decimal IBMPatentValue()
            {
               Patent newPatent;

               foreach (Patent oldPatent in PatentOffice.Patents)
               {
                  newPatent = oldPatent.Clone();

                  //here is the inovative part!!!!!!
                  newPatent.Text += " with a computer.";

                  newPatent.Submit();
               }

               return decimal.MaxValue;
            }
          • by KWTm (808824) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @03:34PM (#25902275) Journal

            I thought of an idea some time ago to get rid of obvious patents, like the (not-so) Amazing One-Click. It would mean less work for the PTO (Patent/Trademark Office), too. The case of prior art might be considered a special case of "obvious" (or known) patents. See what you think:

            When someone submits a patent, claiming to have found (let's say) A Wondrous Way For Customers to Order What They Want By Clicking The Mouse Only Once, the PTO would publish the claim. Not the contents of the patent, simply the claim itself, the problem that the patent claims to solve. They would give the general public some set time, say 30 days, to come up with some way to solve this problem. "We have a patent application claiming to offer A Wondrous Way For Customers to Order What They Want By Clicking The Mouse Only Once. Can anyone come up with how this might be done? If someone gets a valid submission in within 30 days, then this patent will be considered obvious."

            People who would be motivated to work hard to look for a solution within the allotted time would include, besides the Slashdot crowd, firms who have a vested interest NOT to pay licensing fees every time they want to use the invention. They would have some idea what sort of patent apps might be coming down the pipeline. PTO doesn't have to figure out whether a patent is obvious (which is good seeing as how they're doing a pretty lousy job of it). As for prior art, if the public can come up with a way to solve the desired problem using prior art, then that's another sign that the patent is obvious! Of course, these submissions tbhemselves of "that patent is so obvious even I could come up with something in 30 days" would be published and be available to the public.

            Some patents, including algorithmic software patents, are worth patenting. The MP3 algorithm, for example, was the result of hard work and research. If the PTO had given the public a chance to come up with "A Way to Compress Sound Files With Unnoticeable Loss", people might not have been able to produce a solution in 30 days, showing that the MP3 patent is not so obvious. Someone might have come up with a different solution (Vorbis, FLAC, etc.), and that would be okay but the MP3 patent would be granted. (Of course, then large firms might have used Vorbis instead of paying the MP3 fees.)

            What do you think?

            (I posted this comment before [slashdot.org], but too late to generate any discussion. I'm reposting it to see whether you think this would be a valid test of whether a patent is "obvious".)

  • 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.
    • by Hacksaw (3678) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:22AM (#25899143) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • by MobyDisk (75490) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:02AM (#25899569) Homepage

        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)

        • 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.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          NO, you are thinking of an idea, not a patents.

          The patent is on the method. Previous systems did not do it this way. It's not a patents on what it's doing, it's the mechanism.

          I don't know why I bother, since /. is full of people who don't even know what it is the rail against.

        • by Fallingcow (213461) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @04:15PM (#25902701) Homepage

          About 7 or 8 years ago, I worked with a guy who talked--a bit more than idly--about opening a restaurant. One of the features/gimmicks was to be the ability to order from a computer screen at the table. We spent some time discussing how this would work, and how the customer would interact with it.

          Of course we came up with the same idea as what's in this patent (pay at the table, split the bill how you like), because it's fucking obvious. We didn't think anything of it, because it hardly seemed like an "invention" of any sort: using a custom thin client POS system to order and pay? What, so exactly like the one (or ones) that waiters use?

          How does simply using more of some things that already exist--without even modifying them in any meaningful way--constitute a patentable "invention"? If something like this is the very first thing someone not even in the industry thinks of, it's pretty dumb that it can be patented, IMO. In fact, I'm shocked there wasn't a ton of prior art for this, as I'm sure hundreds of people, if not thousands, had already independently thought of this solution.

      • by Shagg (99693)

        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!

      • by bwalling (195998)
        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.
      • by geekmux (1040042)

        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.

        In other words, it's a device for building a better idiot. Based on national math averages, no shock there.

        I'm sorry, but we can argue the validity of the code and/or hardware that could/will be wrapped around this all day, but the concept of patenting something that was taught to me by my math teacher in the 3rd grade is utter bullshit, and a complete embarrassment to all those who, by general populus definition, were granted REAL patents.

        Protect your idea in other ways instead of throwing it into the mon

    • 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 wit

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I also have to mention that I am not a real programmer.

        No need to be redundant - you already said you used Python.

    • 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 o

  • 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.
    • by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:18AM (#25899097) Homepage

      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.

      • by Tridus (79566)

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

        • by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus,slashdot&gmail,com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:50AM (#25899439) Homepage Journal

          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!"

          • by Retric (704075)
            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.
            • 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.

            • by lansirill (244071) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:32PM (#25900549)

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

              So, what you're saying is that there are a lot of POS POS systems out there?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ThosLives (686517)

            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"

            • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

                by ThosLives (686517)

                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 somet

                • 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?

                  Sure... but I'd bet you within 5 years, we see these at a decent number of restaurants. If so, there's your proof of nonobviousness.

                  • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                    by ThosLives (686517)

                    Sure... but I'd bet you within 5 years, we see these at a decent number of restaurants. If so, there's your proof of nonobviousness.

                    I'm not sure I'd equate "changes in what is and is not profitable" with "proof of obviousness" though. It's like saying that if in 5 years we all use electric cars instead of ones that burn hydrocarbon fuel it is because electric cars are not obvious. I just don't see it in this example.

                    Your 5-year scenario results because once enough restaurants adopt such a device, not having

                    • I'm not sure I'd equate "changes in what is and is not profitable" with "proof of obviousness" though. It's like saying that if in 5 years we all use electric cars instead of ones that burn hydrocarbon fuel it is because electric cars are not obvious. I just don't see it in this example.

                      I would argue that if in 5 years we're all using electric cars, then there's most likely been a patentable advance in electric car technology, bringing down costs and increasing efficiency. Commercial success is a good indicator of nonobviousness, though it's not a rock-solid one - could be due to major advertising or other factors, of course.

                      Your 5-year scenario results because once enough restaurants adopt such a device, not having it will lose you business. Kind of like credit cards at fast-food places: they got along forever without this, but now you couldn't survive as a fast-food place without accepting credit cards. Does this mean the credit-card accepting POS at fast-food places is patent-worthy (based on the combination of credit-card reader and traditional POS)?

                      I'd be willing to bet that the credit-card accepting POS is patented.
                      Keep in mind, they're machine patents, not process patents. "Driving an electric car" - not paten

                    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                      by ThosLives (686517)

                      I would argue that if in 5 years we're all using electric cars, then there's most likely been a patentable advance in electric car technology, bringing down costs and increasing efficiency.

                      And I wouldn't have a problem with that type of patent at all. I agree that sometimes commercial success is an indicator of non-obviousness. Most of the time commercial success a better indicator of changing values though.

                      I'd be willing to bet that the credit-card accepting POS is patented.

                      Probably, but note I put "on the

          • by geekoid (135745)

            Your new to San Francisco, aren't you?

          • 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!"

            I take issue with this statement. I have a card issued to my cat. The cat's name is obviously not a person's name but I rarely get a comment, and never have been refused use of the card. It is signed with an illegible scrawl.

            My girlfriend uses my credit card. She refuses to do business with banks but apparently is OK with me doing so. Anyway, she has never had a pr

      • 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.

        In my experience, it's not that they are idiots, it's that they are very busy and splitting up a check means an extra 30 seconds or so (depending on the size of the group) waiting for credit card receipts to print out. That's a pain in the ass for them, so they often prefer to just pretend they can't do it.

      • I waited tables on and off for three or four years. The problem with splitting the check is usually not an issue of the waiter's mental acumen.

        If the customers say up front that they'd like seperate checks, this is not a problem. If they wait until they're ready to pay before saying they want it split, but it's a small party and each person had reasonably simple orders, this is also not a problem.

        The problem arises when it's a party of eleven, people are ordering more appetizers and drinks the entir
      • by dzfoo (772245)

        Actually, in my experience it is crappy restaurants that allow this, not the really good ones. For the record, it is my opinion that all chain restaurants are crappy.

                -dZ.

    • by aliquis (678370) <dospam@gmail.com> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:24AM (#25899161) Homepage

      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.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yes, it should. The method they use unique. You don't patent an idea.

        • by aliquis (678370)

          Ok, so if everyone else did 2 males 1 girl threesomes I could had patented the method off threesome involving 2 girls and 1 male? Damn, too bad I missed my chance.

          So what if it's unique if it's an obvious idea?

          Though I'd prefer it if we removed all patents, let knowledge, results and research be free and collective.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ColdWetDog (752185)

        but she usually returns a few moments later with a fist full of pens and a smile.

        Either you're better looking then I think you are, or you should check your credit card bill very carefully.

  • Not a problem here (Score:5, Interesting)

    by clickety6 (141178) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:14AM (#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 ;-)

    • by tzhuge (1031302)
      Actually, I've never had a problem with this in North America. It might be way more difficult than it should be at times, but I have never had wait staff refuse to do this. On the other hand, while on a short trip in Europe, I had one waiter tell me it's "impossible" to split the bill, and I had a second waiter roll his eyes at me because I dared to make additional orders. I think the difference is that in North America, the gratuity is up to the customer (except in rare cases), whereas in some European co
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by RyoShin (610051)

      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.

      As a previous waiter in the U.S., and a patron of many establishments outside of the U.S., I've never had a problem with splitting checks. Whenever it looked like it wasn't a family unit, my policy was to ask when taking the order if checks would be split. I've had that happen maybe half the time at other venues (in some si

  • by Mistshadow2k4 (748958) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:15AM (#25899063) Journal
    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 (Score:4, Informative)

    by russotto (537200) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:16AM (#25899075) Journal

    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: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pmontra (738736)

      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.

      • 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..

    • Yeah... I actually thought of this back in the mid 90's, when going out to lunch with fellow I.T. co-workers. At that time, everyone said "Wow... why DON'T restaurants have that already, anyway??"

      To this day, it seems they still don't.

      Long ago, I decided the problem was one of the expense of the hardware, vs. one of people "coming up with the idea".

      Almost all restaurants use Point of Sale systems provided to them under contract by one of only a handful of providers out there (IBM being one of them). My b

  • FTL travel (Score:5, Funny)

    by Psmylie (169236) * on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:17AM (#25899083) Homepage
    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.
  • For a second there I thought they were trying to patent soup...talk about prior art...
  • '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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Theaetetus (590071)

      '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.

      • Nope, didn't RTFA at all! Got that quote from the header. :)

        Yeah, I didn't realize before that the patent was on a device, would have been nice if the dunderhead who posted the article made that clear. Require me to read the article? The nerve of some people!! :)

  • Because it is so difficult to tell the waitperson, "Separate checks please" before you order. What's next, a patent on belching words?
  • by McWilde (643703) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:20AM (#25899111) Homepage
    Sure, you people can laugh at it now, but someday this patent will make interstellar travel possible.
    • 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

  • 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.

  • 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

  • by geekmux (1040042) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:35AM (#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.

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

  • Prior art? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ThierryD (217773) <[moc.apacam] [ta] [tluaengiadt]> on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:43AM (#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!

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

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

  • by zappepcs (820751) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:47AM (#25899391) Journal

    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.

    • by 2short (466733)
      "It was always the payment end of things that made using robots impossible."

      No it wasn't; that's ridiculous. I eat at several (cheap) restaurants that have you pay up front at the end - the wait staff doesn't do payment there at all, yet are still plenty busy. On the flip side, payment has to be the easiest part of a waitstaff job to automate.

      Good luck getting a robot to understand you want the pickles on the side, and swiss cheese, not cheddar; or to wipe down a table without breaking the salt shaker, or
  • Now there is a way to pay for those patented McDonalds sandwiches.
  • by Trevelyan (535381) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @10:55AM (#25899511)
    Is there a list somewhere of all the humorous patents that IBM have applied for?

    e.g. this one [google.com]
  • 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 lo

  • 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, howe

  • prior art (Score:3, Insightful)

    by 2gravey (959785) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @11:54AM (#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".
    • by GiMP (10923)

      Let the embarrassment of not having cash at the time begin! Really, I so rarely deal with cash anymore that I've been caught more than once going to a restaurant with friends, and realizing that I was the only one that didn't think to bring cash along. However, that *is* happening more rarely because all my friends have begun ditching cash as well, it is becoming rare that any of us have cash to pay the restaurant check.

    • by dzfoo (772245)

      Interesting signature, but I think you're forgetting something:

      blood=100C

            -dZ.

  • by golodh (893453) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:23PM (#25900459)
    IBM's new patent U.S. Pat. No. 5,933,812 constitutes a valuable and timely intellectual contribution with immediate application to the real-world economy. It is a shining example of US ingenuity and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers which basically holds that "anything under the sun" can (in principle) be patented.

    A guaranteed way of evenly splitting a Restaurant Bill (note: the patent may have even wider applicability !) will help ensure that restaurant patrons will not, in these economically troubled times, be driven to ramp down their much-needed demand for the professional hospitality industry due to irrational and unjustified fears over how to divide the bill. Its importance cannot be overestimated and forms the basis for the continued economic viability of a branch of industry with a rich history which America can rightly be proud of.

    In principle IBM would be within its rights to take the view that restaurants are responsible for unlicensed use of this invention on their premises and to demand a license fee for this invention from each and every restaurant on US soil. As an added benefit, after obtaining a license, restaurants would be empowered to apportion the fees payable for the use of IBM's Invention for apportioning restaurant bills by their clientele, to their clientele using IBM's patented invention.

    In addition IBM would be in a position to institute RIAA-like proceedings against any restaurant that fails to promptly obtain a proper license for IBM's ground-breaking technology. Failure to properly license this technology would raise the gravest questions about the good-faith intentions of these establishments. I am certain we can all agree that unlicensed use of this intellectual property is Theft, and should be met with a zero-tolerance policy.

    However, I urge IBM not to do this. On the contrary, I firmly believe that it is IBM's patriotic duty to make this patent available for general use for all restaurant bills that are generated by patrons who meet to discuss Open Source issues on the premises and who are prepared to publish their Restaurant Bills in the public domain under the GPL license.

    I trust that IBM, given its commitment to the use of Open Source world-wide, will assume its responsibility in this matter and allow individual restaurants to refrain from charging license fees for the use of this Invention if they are satisfied that the issues discussed on their premises consist for at least 75% of the time of Open Source topics. Restaurants are in a position to verify this through the simple expedient of having their waiters listen in to conversations where those waiters currently do not record such proceedings. Following precedents set in the telecommunications industry, it is clear that it is only fair and reasonable to require Restaurants to keep logs of topics discussed and the time allotted to each topic.

    Restaurants who are in compliance with this monitoring scheme should then be allowed to pro-actively deduct the fees payable from the annual licensing plan.

    In order to ensure fair dealing, Restaurants would of course agree to accommodate un-announced spot-checks on the topic of conversation of patrons of their establishments, either in person by designated IBM personnel, or remotely through audio-pickups to be installed at every table.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by 2short (466733)
      You know, if you took a tenth of the time you spent constructing your parody, and read the fucking article... you wouldn't look so foolish.

      It's not a patent on splitting checks.
  • its a patent electronic device that allows all diners to pay for their bills separately with only one check for the waiter to deal with.

    Its a damn good idea and would speed up customers getting seated at resturants.

  • by Iluvatar (89773) on Wednesday November 26, 2008 @12:39PM (#25900631) Homepage

    No no, this is really a cost-cutting measure!

    From now on, IBMers can legally get their guests to pay for their food ("royalty fee", capice?). Better watch out if an IBMer invites you to dinner!

  • Somebody's light.

    [Back]
    [Ignore and Stiff Waiter]
    [Cancel]

    rj

  • [Once, when we were at a Chinese restaurant, Bill Gosper wanted to know whether someone would like to share with him a two-person-sized bowl of soup. His inquiry was: "Split-p soup?" -- GLS]

    http://www.catb.org/~esr/jargon/html/p-convention.html [catb.org]

"Just Say No." - Nancy Reagan "No." - Ronald Reagan

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