As information technology plays a larger role in the everyday business of value exchange, the question of ownership of that technology, through the traditional legal means of patent rights, will likely come to the fore in banking and related industries. At the same time, the increasing importance of contracting for information and the role of technology in the contracting mechanisms themselves are giving rise to a new regulatory environment for these industries. Legal advisors to banks and other financial institutions will need to understand how property rights in technology will impact their clients. They must also keep pace with a different and changing contractual and regulatory environment and learn to deal with contracts that are entered into by machines and signatures consisting of bits.
The purpose of this paper is to lay out a structure in which these emerging legal issues can be understood. It reviews the continuum of electronic payment systems in today’s marketplace and discusses the issue of ownership of the technology underlying those systems, focusing on the newly important role of patent rights as applied to various emerging electronic payment systems.