Google confirmed its long-anticipated plan to launch a contactless m-payment service, stating that it is “field testing Google Wallet now and plans to release it soon.” Sprint has signed up as the first supporting operator, initially offering the service on the Samsung-made, NFC-enabled, Android-powered Nexus S 4G smartphone. The service will enable customers to store credit card details, offers, loyalty cards and gift cards on their handset, so that when they tap against compatible payment points, payments can be made, offers redeemed, and loyalty points earned. The search giant also said that “someday, even things like boarding passes, tickets, ID and keys could be stored in Google Wallet.” Initially, the service will support Citi MasterCard and Google Prepaid Cards for transactions, with purchases available via any merchant supporting MasterCard’s PayPass.

The launch comes as it was reported that Google is facing legal action from PayPal, with claims that it misappropriated trade secrets related to mobile payments. According to court documents, PayPal is alleging that Osama Bedier, its executive responsible for its Mobile, Platform and New Ventures activities, disclosed trade secrets “within Google and to major retailers” after he joined Google in a similar role. It also said that while a PayPal executive and negotiating a deal to make PayPal a payment option for Android Market purchases, Bedier was in talks with Google about a new job – conduct which “amounted to a breach of his responsibilities as a PayPal executive.” PayPal detailed some of the information it is concerned about: “By hiring Bedier, with his trade secret knowledge of PayPal’s plans and understanding of Google’s weaknesses as viewed by the industry leader, Google bought the most comprehensive and sophisticated critique of its own problems available. Google put Bedier in charge of its mobile payment business, virtually ensuring that Bedier would misappropriate PayPal’s trade secrets concerning planning and competitive assessments in mobile payment.”