Tread Lightly, Memorial QR Code Patent Controlled By SCI, Funeral Homes Face Liability Issue
We have seen the use of QR codes explode over the last year, we even have discussed the technology on ConnectingDirectors.com many times. In fact we have even encouraged the use of QR codes for marketing your funeral home.
Just how much has the use of QR codes grown; In a recent report from CNET states that 14 million Americans used their smartphones to scan QR codes in the month of June 2011 alone.
I have had many discussions with funeral director in the last few months who have asked about the benefits of using QR codes to link to memorial websites. I think that the technology could be more useful to funeral homes in other ways, but that is up to the director.
Well, I now have to firmly say NO, DO NOT use QR codes to link to online memorials; unless you want to fight with Making Everlasting Memories (MeM) or should I say SCI.
Last week I was going through some of the LinkedIn groups I am a member of. One particular post on the FrontRunner group caught my eye. The title of the post was, “How Many Funeral Homes are Using QR Codes? Heads up on potential liability issue surrounding this new technology – this is why you are not seeing it from FrontRunner!”.
As I read through the post the following was posted:
Kevin Montroy (owner of FrontRunner) heard back from the lawyer on a patent that exists. The patent is for using a scanning service (i.e. QR Codes) to take someone from a “Concrete memorial” (which is not clearly defined in the patent) to an online deceased tribute page. So, our lawyer suggested that using a QR code on a printed piece such as a newspaper or a memorial folder and directing them to an online memorial tribute page, could infringe the patent that a company called Making Everlasting Memories (MeM) has.
Frontrunner actually talked with the person who runs MeM who said of the patent, “he claims that he has the patent on something being scanned offline directing that person to an online memorial tribute page, which technically could stand in court if MeM ever decided pursue anything against funeral homes using QR Codes.”
Frontunner, later found that MeM was a subsidiary of Service Corporation International (SCI)
After digging a little deeper I confirmed, as well, that Making Everlasting Memories (MeM) is actually owner by Service Corporation International. (See image below from Wikipedia)
This in itself is a blow to independent funeral homes looking to use QR codes as a new way to link to online memorials, but there is more.
I received an anonymous email Friday that said SCI is now sending out“intimidating” letters to other industry suppliers about the use of QR Codes. They are claiming they have patents that will prevent other industry suppliers from using QR Codes on any memorial products.
You can scroll down at the bottom of this link to see the patent numbers: http://www.pitchengine.com/makingeverlastingmemoriesmem/patentedmobiletechnologyusesqrcodestoconnectfamilieswithlifestoriesanytimeanywhere
The email also pointed out that Bass-Mollet (one of the largest suppliers to independent funeral homes across North America) has partnered with MEM. This was confirmed through an ad on Page 27 of the recent Funeral Business Advisor. (See below)
So if MeM is owned by SCI, the independent funeral homes largest competitor, and Bass-Mollett just partnered with them, how will this partnership affect the relationship between Bass-Mollett and the independent funeral homes they have supplied for many years? Also knowing that MeM is owned by SCI, will this make you more curious in working with them?
I think the memorial QR code patent is going to have a bigger effect on other industry suppliers then it will on funeral homes. There are many other ways that QR codes can be used by funeral homes that will be much more valuable then linking QR codes to memorial pages.
Be watching for a free PDF White paper we are putting together discussing the most valuable ways funeral homes and incorporate QR codes into their traditional and social media marketing strategies.