Prof.: 'Square' Stole My Technology

A Twitter co-founder's hyped new company gets pounced

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Tech bloggers were bubbling over the first glimpse of Square, a new company from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Square hopes to revolutionize personal business transactions by offering a credit card-reading attachment for mobile phones. While Square may unnerve current market leaders such as Verifone, which sells a portable credit card reader seen at many restaurants, it has also incensed a professor. Bob Morley, Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and a "longtime family friend of Square Chairman Jim McKelvey" claims he invented the technology behind Square's card-reader device. Now we wants to be paid. As reported by Anthony Ha at VentureBeat's mobile-device blog:

The technology for scanning the card’s magnetic stripe and converting it into an audio signal? Morley says he built that, and filed a patent for it in June. (Patents usually aren’t published until 18 months after filing, but for what it’s worth Morley showed me an email receipt confirming that the patent had been filed.)

Morley planned to assign the patent to Square in exchange for ownership shares in the company, but Morley says the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement, and the negotiations broke off in October.

Morley hasn't been granted his desired patent yet, allowing Square to continue apace. But, as Ha points out, unless Square resumes negotiations with Morley, the professor is also free to license his technology to other companies "which might eventually be trouble for Square."

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