Your Mobile Is A Barcode Reader

American mobile marketing firms are looking to Asia and Europe for inspiration. They may have found it in QR codes, as mobile ticketing, payment, ID verification and other location-based uses are being invented for this technology.
But are the funny looking barcodes catching on in this country? The New York Times says no, not yet.

A company called Mobile Discovery, based in Reston, Va., is conducting the test at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in conjunction with the university’s engineering school, whose students are helping to manage it. Students and other people affiliated with the university can download software to their cellphones and then can get campus bus arrival times, order magazine subscriptions, enter a sweepstakes sponsored by QVC and get text alerts from USA Today, among other applications.
But interest in the pilot project, which started Feb. 1 and will run at least through May 15, has been tepid, according to students on campus, in part because of the cellphone fees associated with it.
Catherine Vermeersch, a fifth-year engineering student, for one, does not share that vision. “Students don’t perceive it as practical,” she said. “Why would anyone actually pay for advertising?”

There’s an easy answer to Vermeersch’s question. It’s not advertising people are paying for. Rather, it’s information they want or need.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. It should be noted that:
    Scanbuy’s indirect resolution process, which they use for their proprietary EZcode, is infringing on NeoMedia Technologies’ core patents.
    Scanbuy uses the indirect encoding method for their barcode resolution process.
    Indirect encoding (patented by NeoMedia) is the process of linking the target information to an index (364528 for example) and putting that unique identifier into a 1D UPC/EAN or 2D barcode. The code reader on the mobile phone reads the barcode and sends the code data over the Internet to a central resolution server that will tell the mobile phone what action is associated with the index, i.e. access a URL, download media, initiate a phone call, ect.
    NeoMedia Technologies has a suite of twelve issued patents covering the core concepts behind linking the physical world to the electronic world dating back to 1995.
    If Scanbuy’s CEO Jonathan Bulkeley believes infringing on another companies patents is an ethical business practice, then by all means, infringe away.
    However, I have a feeling that the US Judicial System will see Scanbuy’s unethical business practices differently.

  2. Michael Spivak says:

    You are right with respect to some of the patent rights which are being claimed by Neomedia.
    However last April a well funded foundation challenged Neomedia’s patent rights by requesting a re-examination of the original patent by the U.S. Patent office. I’ve read the brief and it’s really solid. It seems clear that some of the functionality which Neomedia claimed was original when Neomedia applied for the patent was, in fact, NOT original but had been used before. The examiner missed the earlier use and no-one brought it to his attention. Had the US Patent Office been aware of the earlier use, Neomedia would never have been granted the patent.
    You can read the brief yourself and come to your own opinion. I’m afraid I haven’t kept up with the case so I don’t know how far the request for re-examination has gone.
    I have copied below an excerpt from an article I had previously clipped which provides more detail as well as a link where youcan read the brief from EFF.
    EFF Challenges Bogus Patent Threatening Consumer Awareness Products
    April 24, 2007 – 12:46pm — MacRonin
    Illegitimate Patent Inhibits Innovation in Market for Mobile Information Access
    San Francisco – The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) took aim today at a bogus patent threatening innovative technologies that enhance consumer awareness, requesting a reexamination by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).
    NeoMedia Technologies, Inc., claims to own rights to all systems that provide information over computer networks using database-like lookup procedures that rely on scanned inputs, such as a barcode. NeoMedia has used these claims not only to threaten and sue innovators in the mobile information space, but also to intimidate projects focused on increasing awareness among consumers about the social and environmental impact of the products they buy. For example, the Consumer Information Lab at the College of Natural Resources at the University of California at Berkeley uses such technology to examine how health, environmental, and social information affects consumers’ shopping behavior and decision-making. Were NeoMedia to control the patent rights to this technology, such projects could be severely limited and potentially shut down.
    ‘NeoMedia should not be allowed to use this bogus patent to inhibit consumer awareness, education, or research into the impact of information on consumer choice,’ said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. ‘This is the opposite of ‘progress,’ something the patent laws are supposed to promote.’
    For the full NeoMedia patent reexamination request: