Welcome Real-Time said it has been awarded a U.S. patent for its e-Coupon technology, which relies on smart cards to process discount offers automatically at supermarket checkout counters. Coupon rewards can be loaded on cards via the Internet, at kiosks, or at in-store devices placed next to a product being promoted.

The French company, formerly High Co Technologies, has focused on customer-loyalty applications as a likely step toward the spread of chip cards into mainstream financial services.

The U.S. patent, an extension of one previously obtained in France, "provides further confirmation of our technological leadership in the market for loyalty software for smart cards," said Welcome Real-Time president and chief executive officer Aneace Haddad. Welcome Real-Time said it expects U.S. approval soon for other French patents.

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