MoneyGram Wins Reversal of Western Union Verdict

MoneyGram International Inc. won reversal of a $16.5 million patent verdict it lost last year to Western Union Co. over a way to transfer money by telephone.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington today ruled that the Western Union patents covered inventions that would have been obvious, and were thus invalid, according to the court’s website.

Western Union’s patented system lets a customer call a financial institution and store the transfer details. The customer completes the transaction at a retail location using the saved information, with no forms required. The appeals court said the process was similar to inventions that had been around as early as 1997 through a company later bought by Englewood, Colorado-based Western Union.

“We fail to see how it would have been difficult for a person of ordinary skill in the art to integrate an electronic transaction device that was available from Western Union itself into a well-known money transfer system that was also owned by Western Union at the time of the invention,” a three-judge panel of the Federal Circuit ruled.

“We are disappointed with the court’s decision and are reviewing our options,” Tom Fitzgerald, a spokesman for Western Union, said.

MoneyGram, based in Minneapolis, jumped 15 cents, or 6.1 percent, to $2.61 at 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading, the biggest one-day jump since Sept. 27. Western Union fell 2 cents to $18.34.

The case is Western Union Co. v. MoneyGram Payment Systems Inc., 2010-1080 and 2010-1210, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The lower case is Western Union Co. v. MoneyGram International Inc., 07cv372, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (Austin).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Allan Holmes at aholmes25@bloomberg.net.

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