A second eBay patent application has surfaced on the US Patent and Trademark Office database – further highlighting the online marketplace's interest in digital currencies and digital currency processing systems.
Named 'System and Method for Managing Transactions in a Digital Marketplace', the application follows its "gift token" patent revealed on 19th December last year. Filed in December 2011, six months before its gift token filing, this document names bitcoin specifically.
The patent details eBay's plan to create a currency module configured to manage the exchange of digital currencies, one that might require eBay to maintain or access an exchange rate for conversion.
Reads one patent section:
"The currency module 308 allows a user to trade one form of currency for another form of currency. [...] The digital currency may be used to pay for real-world financial obligations (e.g., bills) as well as for virtual-world obligation."
The news supports the notion that eBay has been aware of, and thinking strategically about, digital currencies for some time.
eBay currently encourages the sale of virtual currencies on its Classified Ads platforms in the US and the UK, though it permits the sale of such items elsewhere on its site provided they are housed in physical items like hard drives or USB sticks.
Patent lists bitcoin as acceptable currency
The processing system would not be just for bitcoin alone, but rather a long example list of currencies that could be used on the proposed system.
This included US dollars, eBay bucks, now-defunct Facebook credits and bitcoins:
"A non-exhaustive and example list of currencies capable of being exchanged may include frequent flyer miles, loyalty and reward points (e.g., credit card reward points, hotel loyalty points, retail loyalty points), virtual currency, cash, Bitcoins, Facebook credits, eBay bucks, cash-equivalent currency (e.g., gift cards, travellers checks, cashier's checks), and any other form of currency."
Payment system 122, as detailed in the filing, would in turn allow bitcoin users to potentially "accumulate value in a commercial currency" on the site that would later be redeemed for goods and services on the eBay network.
eBay's bitcoin speculation continues
The patent filing marks the second time in recent weeks that eBay has hinted its broader plans may include digital currencies, and adds to the growing history between the company and the digital currency.
Though he may have been speaking more broadly about digital forms of payment, eBay CEO John Donahoe has indicated as recently as 19th February that PayPal could pursue a digital wallet that holds multiple forms of currency.
Donahoe has been one of the more outspoken executives when it comes to addressing bitcoin. Last November, the exec stated he believes digital currency will become a "very powerful thing" that could one day factor into PayPal's plans.