Nov 1, 2022Legal
Are Visa, PayPal, And Western Union About To Launch Their Own Digital Asset Wallet? Trademark Applications Break The News!


The third week of October has been rather active in trademark prosecution, at least for Visa, Paypal, and Western Union companies. In addition, American Express and the New York Stock Exchange have filed several trademark applications related to crypto and digital assets this year. However, the coincidence that three financial service giants filed similar trademarks in the same week surprised many financial experts, especially due to the concerns of crypto skeptics.

Paypal already has agreements with major crypto exchanges which accept it as a form of payment to purchase cryptocurrencies and send them into whatever wallet the users choose. However, the trademark filed on October 18, 2022, indicates that the company is exploring different opportunities related to crypto and digital assets, possibly even building its own wallet. As a result, attorney Karen A. Webb of Fenwick & West LLP was chosen by Paypal for her trademark expertise.

Just two days after Paypal, Elizabeth H. Cohen from ArentFox Schiff filed a trademark application representing Western Union on October 20, 2022. It was very similar to the one filed by Paypal and covered almost every aspect of digital currency, NFT, and crypto-wallets. Western Union’s former CEO Odilon Almeida was a bit skeptical of crypto back in 2018, stating that cryptocurrencies had so far failed to achieve broad acceptance because they have yet to master three things: governance, compliance, and volatility. However, he added that cryptocurrency might become one more option for a way for assets to be exchanged between people and countries. If that happens, they will be ready to launch. So, it looks like the moment has come for the company, and they are in a good position to benefit from the crypto transfers.

Lastly, Denise Yee of Visa filed an application on October 22, 2022, mentioning the exchange of digital currency, virtual currency, cryptocurrency, digital and blockchain assets, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the goods and services section. A spokesperson gave the following statement for CoinDesk: “At Visa, we are continually exploring technologies that might lead to new payment innovations and greater financial inclusion.” The spokesperson added, "Each year we seek patents for hundreds of new ideas. While not all patents will result in new products or features, Visa respects intellectual property and we are actively working to protect our ecosystem, our innovations, and the Visa brand.”

But what do these trademark filings ultimately mean? On one side, trademarks can be considered defensive legal tools. Once you have built a big brand, you will try to block the potential competitors from using your trademark for other goods and services that you haven't specified initially in your trademark. This seems to be true for NFT-related trademark applications, for example, which have been flooding the USPTO recently. Not all companies that file those applications intend to build their own metaverse, but they block the competition from making a profit using their brand. On the other hand, trademark applications are a very good indicator showing where companies invest their resources and want to develop further. This appears to be true for the cryptocurrency-related trademark applications where many major players in financial services are in an excellent position due to their previously built infrastructure to profit from the market by developing their own crypto exchanges and wallets.

What are your opinions on these applications? Defensive measures or do they hint at what will come in the future from these companies?

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