Methods and apparatus for conducting electronic commerce using electronic tokens are described. The electronic tokens are issued and maintained by a vendor, who also provides products and services that can be purchased or rented using the electronic tokens. The electronic tokens may be purchased from the vendor either on-line, using a credit card, or off-line, using a check, money order, purchase order, or other payment means. Because the vendor is the issuer of the electronic tokens, there is no need for transactions to be handled by a third party, such as a bank or other organization. This reduces the overhead involved in conducting electronic commerce, and provides the vendor with a greater amount of control. Additionally, the vendor maintains total control over the price of the electronic tokens at any time. For vendors who offer software products for sale or rental, use of electronic tokens makes a variety of rental arrangements practical. Additionally, a user registers and...
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1. A method of conducting electronic commerce, the method comprising:
- opening a user account with a first member vendor;
- issuing electronic tokens of a first type to a user, and adding the electronic tokens to a user account maintained by the first member vendor:
- exchanging the electronic tokens in the user account for electronic tokens of a second type, the electronic tokens of the second type being issued by a second member vendor;
- purchasing or renting products or services through the second member vendor using the electronic tokens of the second type, wherein prices for the products or services are listed in units of electronic tokens of the second type; and
- transferring compensation from the first member vendor to the second member vendor in an amount equal to the value of the electronic tokens of the second type.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein issuing electronic tokens of the first type further comprises permitting the user to purchase the electronic tokens of the first type from the first member vendor.
3. The method of claim 2, wherein permitting the user to purchase the electronic tokens of the first type from the first member vendor further comprises permitting the user to conduct an online transaction using a credit card or other electronic payment system to purchase the electronic tokens.
4. The method of claim 2, wherein permitting the user to purchase the electronic tokens of the first type comprises permitting the user to conduct an off-line transaction to purchase the electronic tokens.
5. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- exchanging a subset of electronic tokens in the user account for a group of electronic tokens of a third type, the electronic tokens of the third type being issued by a third member vendor; and
- purchasing or renting products or services through the third member vendor using the electronic tokens of the third type, wherein prices for the products or services are listed in units of electronic tokens of the third type.
6. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- notifying a mall service provider that electronic tokens have been issued to the user.
7. The method of claim 6 wherein the user account is maintained at the mall service provider.
8. The method of claim 1 wherein a service charge is deducted each time electronic tokens issued by the first member vendor are exchanged for tokens issued by the second member vendor.
9. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- notifying a mall service provider each time a user registers with a member vendor.
10. The method of claim 1 wherein purchasing or renting services or products further comprises:
- competitively bidding on one or more of the products or services.
11. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- recording a royalty transaction for each electronic transaction conducted using the electronic tokens.
12. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- recording a toll charge when the second member vendor requests information relating to the customer from the first member vendor.
13. The method of claim 1 further comprising:
- recording a toll charge when the first member vendor reimburses the second member vendor for electronic tokens.