AltCoin Alert: Western Union Obtains Alternative Currency Exchange System Patent from USPTO

Alternative value exchange systems and methods  

ALTCoin Alert: Western Union Obtains Alternative Currency Exchange System Patent from USPTO

Alternative value exchange systems and methods

By Brian Cohen


No Joke Patent 8,688,563 Granted on April Fools Day 2014..was Filed in October 2009

“…Methods and systems for exchanging alternative currencies…”

Western Union has been on my radar since I published “Western Union Says Bitcoin Not Ready for Primetime” for the fine folks over at Bitcoin Magazine last October.

Other Patent Applications I have reported on as they were announced was “IBM Building “e-Currency Platform including “Bitcoin” for Let’s Talk Bitcoin and “eBay Files Patent Application for Bitcoin Currency Exchanger” for eCommerceBytes.

To be clear there is no specific mention of everyone’s favorite cryptocurrency “Bitcoin” within this patent. But based on when it was originally filed, that was to be expected because Bitcoin was obscure.

This is an extract from the Background information in the Western Union patent. It gives some context:

There are many different types of alternative currencies (herein also “alternative forms of value” or simply “alternative value”), each currency representing what the community holds valuable (e.g. time, labor/skill, goods/services, etc.). Alternative currencies currently in use include: “LindenDollars”—Second Life;’s “Quest Gold”; World of Warcraft’s (WoW) virtual “Gold”; Ithaca Hours (Ithaca, N.Y.); Carbon credits; regional currencies in Germany; “Dotz” (Brazil); Tradebank “Credits” (Construction-centric barter network); “Lassobucks” (Time/Skillset currency); Maha Vitaran—Indian power utility barters with other utilities for power; “Bartercard”—Loaded with goods & services (not cash), used in exchange for other goods & services. Many others are planned or currently in development.
The proliferation of alternative currencies has produced the need for those using such alternative currencies to exchange their holdings among different alternative currencies and/or to convert their holdings into a form of money.

Here are some additional abstracts from the body of the patent which explains how the system works

… “buyers” or “sellers” of the currency can post their buy or sell “prices” and the quantity they are willing to buy or sell at the stated price…
…the operator of the system of the present invention may act as a market maker by actively buying and selling alternative currencies…
…alternative currency platform may serve as a “Meta-Community,” a community composed of many smaller communities. The common element shared by each of these communities is that they all use alternative currencies…
…users may be able to receive an alternative currency wallet for use in holding and transferring alternative currencies. The alternative currency wallet may be used similar to a prepaid card account or m-wallet, but for alternative currencies. An owner of the alternative currencies wallet may take the wallet to a retail store, or the like and use the alternative currency to purchase goods and services at the retail store location. As such, the alternative currency may be able to be utilized “outside” of the alternative currency community…

While i’m sure that many folks will hoot and holler that this patent is overly broad etc. …the fact remains that this has made it past the application stage and has been granted patent status by USPTO.

Will Western Union try to pursue its intellectual property rights under this patent? That remains to be seen. Its possible this was filed for “defensive” rather than “offensive” reasons.


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