Whilst banks may be racing to ensure their innovations are protected by patents, filing for a patent doesn't always make sense.
This was the experience of Visa, who decided against patenting its Quick Chip technology, which would have enabled cardholders to simply dip their cards (rather than waiting for several seconds for "authorization"). The reason? It would have slowed down adoption.
Deciding whether to seek patent protection on any given invention involves calculating costs and benefits, Mr. McCarthy said. If Visa won a patent on Quick Chip, the company may have gained revenue by licensing it to other credit-card processors, but possibly slowed adoption, he said.