University Web Developers

University Web Developers

Came across an interesting story on the BBC today:

"Patent trolls take out generalised patents, often on widely available technology, and then demand money from companies who use or offer it. Shops and restaurants have been targeted for displaying QR codes and online store-locators...."


After which I tried to find out what the QR Code issue was. Which led me to this blog post:

According to that, “if your QR code sends people to a URL shortener, Neomedia claims you’re infringing their patents.”

(Namely, US Patent 6,199,048 and US Patent 8,131,597)


Does anyone happen to know whether there are equivalent or similar patents covering the UK, or is this purely an American issue? And are there any other patent issues around QR codes, or are only URL shortened URLs a problem?

(I don't think we use QR codes a lot on our campus, but this story baffled me...)

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With the usual caveats about not constituting legal advice, etc., I feel confident about using QR codes here in Canada without any particular concern over legal issues. With regards to this specific lawsuit you could always link to the full URL, and then present the shortened URL in text on the same print piece or signage. That would avoid the QR-to-short-URL issue.

I keep hoping QR will begin to be built into camera apps by default and then begin to take off, because I consider it a nifty 'gateway drug' to full augmented reality. However, so far, no traction on that...

I do notice that QR is now being used in WeChat to add new users to group conversations, so that might spread it a bit more widely. However I think the uptake on QR has always been greater in Asia than in North America, so it may remain a technology that never does quite reach critical mass here.

What do you think, do any of you have situations where QR works well for you on campus?

To be honest, I have yet to see a QR Code which has enhanced my life, as a user. It's easier to find bad examples of QR codes than good ones. (A railway station in Bristol replaced all the timetables on platforms with QR Codes, so you could only find out what trains were running if you had a smartphone and mobile broadband and the patience to leaf through a PDF on a phone. A department in the University printed QR codes in a brochure. The QR codes were the links to the PDF of the very brochure itself.)


I could imagine QR codes having some degree of usefulness, if you can use them to "check in" to something on Facebook or some other geosocial network, or to "review / read reviews of" restaurants on Tripadvisor. I could imagine QR codes being handy for booking attendance at something in advance ("Here next week: Careers talk" > QR Code to book on eventbrite / add to your own calendar). I could imagine that it might one day be good for libraries: scan a QR code on a physical copy to loan out a digital copy of something (ebook, ejournal, movie) and then access the digital copy at home but leave the physical copy in the library.

But in truth, I haven't seen any of those uses of QR codes so far. Instead, what I tend to see is information that used to be available disappearing, replaced with a QR code, or people hoping for user curiosity, placing QR codes with little or no context somewhere as guerilla advertising tool (only no one ever scans them, as who knows where they might lead...)

Quite simply, so far I haven't seen a use of a QR code that was genuinely rewarding for the users.

Very good points, and in general I agree.

Here at Brescia we identified a 'test use case' for QR: When students pile off the bus from main campus, they all have smartphone in hand, so we created a simple  'Daily Brescia' web page for announcements such as events and class cancellations. ( which is accessible by URL and QR. Uptake has been low, but I suspect it may pick up a bit when we start adding the daily lunch specials... food motivates! :)

The future Higher Ed uses that I can see for QR, and for locational augmented reality (AR) in general, are mostly in extending signage and location information with timely overlays of additional data or functionality. I see it as a fundamentally informational technology, rather than as one suited to the kind of marketing applications that are common so far.

Having said that, I think QR is a transitional technology on the road to AR that has probably not caught enough momentum to survive. I doubt that it will be a part of the digital media mix 5 years from now, unless new applications like the WeChat example give it new life.



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