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* cited by examiner
LOCKBOX IMAGING SYSTEM
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
The subject application is a Continuation Application of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/876,164, filed Oct. 22, 2007; which is a Continuation Application of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/422,450, filed Jun. 6,2006, which is now U.S. Pat. No. 7,317,823; which is a Continuation Application of U.S. appli- 10 cation Ser. No. 09/569,179, filed May 11,2000, which is now U.S. Pat. No. 7,068,832; which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/133,577 filed May 11, 1999, which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. 15
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to methods and systems for imaging documents and providing access to such images and 20 more particularly to methods and systems for imaging checks and other documents associated with lockbox processing operations.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 25
Lockbox processing is employed by entities that receive a large number of negotiable instruments, for example checks, and other documents associated with the negotiable instruments such as invoices. An example of an entity that makes 30 use of lockbox processing would be a telephone company that mails out hundreds of thousands if not millions of invoices and receives payment on the invoices from its customers via checks. Such entities typically outsource such lockbox processing to a financial institution which is able to directly 35 process the negotiable instruments (i.e., the checks). Typically, these business entities have one or more accounts with the financial institution into which the proceeds from the checks are deposited and thereafter available for use by the business entity. 40
It has been recognized both by the financial institution and the business entities that it is desirable to provide timely information regarding the checks (or receipts) received in a lockbox to the business entity. Such information consists of particular data related to the check, for example, the remitter 45 name, check number, bank number, routing number, payment amount, etc. This information is typically gathered and stored in a computer database for rapid retrieval buy or on behalf of the business entity.
Storage of the information in a computer database is typi- 50 cally accomplished by entering the desired data related to the checks and into an index file containing fields. The index files are then appropriately addressed and cross cataloged such that they may be retrieved on command and the information contained therein presented to the business entity. 55
In addition to the data associated with a check, it has been found desirable to also provide an actual image of the check for use by the business entity. Typically, the informational data associated with the check and the image of the check are cross referenced such that the data and the check image can be 60 simultaneously retrieved and reviewed. Such check imaging capability is well known in the art.
Some prior art systems have attempted to image the checks and the documents received in an envelope in a lockbox processing center. One such system placed the check and its 65 associated documents on a conveyer belt type arrangement for imaging. Such a system is not suitable for a high volume
lock box processing center since the checks must again be separately processed by the conventional financial processing systems. The redundancies therefore induced by this prior art system are not acceptable for any high volume processing center.
Although financial service providers have been able to provide customers with the ability to search the databases containing the index and image files of the financial instruments (i.e., the checks), it is not possible heretofore to provide data and images with respect to the other documents associated with the checks such as the invoice submitted with the check.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
In order to overcome the deficiencies of the prior art, the present invention provides a system and method for imaging and capturing information from the documents remitted with a check in a lockbox remitted envelope and associating the document images and data with the image and data of the check itself.
A lockbox remittance typically contains an envelope, a check and one or more documents associated with the check. A typical document associated with a check is an invoice that was provided by the business to the remitter, who then includes the invoice and check in the envelope for mailing. As the envelope is received by the lockbox processing center, it is opened and the check, the envelope and any documents included therewith are retained together as a group. Several groups of checks and associated documents are processed together as a batch.
An operator uses a computer workstation to generate a header sheet that includes the lockbox batch number, the lockbox owner (the business entity), the check number and optionally, the amount of the check. In a preferred embodiment, the header sheet includes a bar code containing all of the above information. Once the header sheet has been printed, the check and its associated documents can be separated. The header sheet is appended to the front of the document or stack of documents comprising the batch and each of the documents in the batch, including the header sheet, is imaged and the images are stored in a on an image file server. Either before or after the documents are scanned, identifying information from each of the documents (e.g., the invoice number on the document) is manually input into a database, thus creating a data record for each document. In parallel to the scanning of the documents, the checks are scanned and images are created for each of the checks. Additionally, identifying information from each of the checks (e.g., the check number, the amount, etc.) is manually input into a database, thus creating a data record for each check.
Once all of the data entry and scanning has been completed, an association process takes place in which the check data records, the check images, the document data records and the document images for each group are all associated and cross-referenced such that the system has now recreated an electronic version of the original group of physical papers. All of the associated data and images are contained in a memory, from which all of the information for a lockbox customer can be retrieved.
The present invention envisions several ways in which the lockbox customer may receive its information. In a first embodiment, all the check and document images and check and document data are burned onto a Compact Disk Read only Memory (CD-ROM) which is then sent to the customer. The customer has the appropriate software to enable it to search, sort, view and print any of the information as it