Western Union has filed a patent application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office titled ‘Recurring Transfer Notifications and Secure Transfers‘ that heavily mentions cryptocurrency integration.
The patent application describes an electronic system that processes secure payments, which is essentially what cryptocurrency already accomplishes. It describes how this electronic system can be used for recurring transfers. The patent specifically mentions cryptocurrency many times, including, “As noted above, in certain embodiments, electronic transfer network 100 may be a cryptocurrency network or other network using encryption protocols and techniques for performing transfers of cryptocurrency and/or other alternative digital currencies. Illustrative and non-limiting examples of such cryptocurrency networks may include a bitcoin peer-to-peer (P2P) payment network, a Litecoin network, a Peercoin network, and various other private digital cryptocurrency networks.”
The fact that the electronic system Western Union discusses in the patent is so similar to cryptocurrency may result in the patent not being granted. Every patent goes through patent prosecution, and if the examiner finds a patent is similar to existing technology, then the application is rejected. Even if this did happen, it doesn’t change the fact that Western Union is investigating cryptocurrency and might use it one day.
Western Union is one of the most reputable and widely-used money transfer services in the world. The service is available in over 200 countries and in 2016 it completed USD 80 billion of transactions for 150 million customers, generating profits of USD 5.4 billion. It can obviously benefit from integrating cryptocurrency, since cryptocurrency can be used to send payments across international borders instantly and securely.
Cryptocurrency can cut out intermediaries when processing international transactions, saving money and time. This has been successfully demonstrated by the We.trade platform which was set up by several European banks and uses blockchain technology to send cross-border payments between companies.
Western Union entered a partnership with Ripple to test the integration of XRP into its payments, but CEO Hikmet Ersek was unimpressed by the Ripple trials, saying, “We are always criticized that Western Union is not cost-efficient, blah blah blah, but we did not see that part of the efficiency yet during our tests. The practical matter is it’s still too expensive.”
Although it appears Western Union has an aversion towards it, Ripple is just one of many different cryptocurrencies and blockchain platforms that can process payments, and it would be relatively simple for Western Union to find a cryptocurrency with low fees that fits their needs.
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