By: Tristan Jenkinson
Yesterday (14 May 2020), the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) published that Visa has filed for a patent to create a new digital cryptocurrency. The application is understood to have been originally filed in November last year, but has only just been published by USPTO.
The patent does not necessarily mean that Visa will follow through and set such a system up, but does suggest that they have spent some serious resources looking into it.
The news that Visa may be moving into the cryptocurrency market themselves may be a concern for Coinbase who in February last year, partnered with Visa to release the Coinbase Card – a cryptocurrency debit card.
Cryptocurrency debit cards have been around for some time (since April 2014), but prior to the Coinbase-Visa partnership, there had always been a middleman between the cryptocurrency card providers and the Visa and Mastercard networks. The partnership allowed Coinbase to eliminate the middlemen and authorise them to issue Visa debit cards. You can read more about the Coinbase Card here or here.
VisaCoin was an alleged cryptocurrency which announced an ICO in late 2017. Visacoin was entirely separate and not related to Visa. Significant concerns were raised as to the legitimacy of the cryptocurrency, as well as the fact that the naming could cause difficulties.
Details of what happened to Visacoin are not easy to find. It appears that the coin was renamed to VCXCoin (though concerns over the coin continued). The visacoin.eu domain which was used by VisaCoin now redirects to the visa.co.uk site. This could open the door for Visa to use the name for their new cryptocurrency, or could simply be the result of a historic dispute over the use of the name Visacoin.
Visa’s apparent move into cryptocurrency would be ahead of most banking institutions, who have been expected by many to move into the cryptocurrency market. JPMorgan launched a digital coin in February last year (see for example here) and the Bank of England have, together with a number of other central banks, been considering developing their own “Central Bank Digital Currency” (see the Guardian’s report here).