Financial services company New Payments Platform Australia (NPPA) has filed a lawsuit with the Federal Court against US blockchain-focused firm Ripple Labs over the “PayID” brand, according to a statement shared with Decrypt today.
The statement from NPPA said the lawsuit aims "to protect Australians from being misled by the launch in Australia of a cryptocurrency-based payment service using NPP Australia’s PayID service name and brand.”
NPP Australia — the operator of the New Payments Platform — appears to be suing Ripple Labs in an IP case pic.twitter.com/JLfWsySzI8
— Rohan Pearce (@rohan_p) August 24, 2020
NPPA maintains a remittance network in Australia that enables customers of different banks to make and receive real-time payments. It is mutually owned by 13 banks, including ANZ, Citi, HSBC, ING and the Reserve Bank of Australia.
“There is real concern that two services operating in the market with the same name will create confusion, opportunities for fraud and scams and be misleading for customers, who may assume the protections that apply to NPP Australia’s PayID service apply also to the services offered under the Open Payments Coalition banner,” NPPA added.
Who had the trademark first?
NPPA has had the trademark rights for "Pay ID" (with a space) since March 2017. The eponymous addressing service allows users to link easy-to-remember pieces of information, such as their phone number or email address, to their account and then provide their PayIDs to entities they wish to receive payments from.
According to IP Australia, NPPA filed for the "PayID" (no space) trademark in October 2017 but the application lapsed in April 2018 and the trademark was never registered.
Checking the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) shows that Ripple Labs filed for two "PayID" trademarks on June 17, 2020.
On June 18 2020, the Open Payments Coalition announced “an open-source solution to unite payments,” also dubbed PayID, created in partnership with over 40 global companies, including GoPay, Ripple, Blockchain.com, BitPay, Brave, Flutterwave, Mercy Corps and others.
“PayID brings together companies across all industries with an open solution for payments, marrying traditional finance, and the new world of fintech under one standard,” Ripple said at the time, adding that “PayID allows individuals to send and receive money across any payment network using an easy-to-read address versus one that’s awkward and unintuitive.”
Since then, NPPA has filed another application for the "PayID" trademark on July 24, 2020, which is still pending.
While Ripple presents itself as just one of many members of the coalition, this trademark is one of a few signs that it is a leading player. The Open Payments Coalition website states that, “The content on this website content was developed by Ripple, an early adopter of PayID, in collaboration with the Open Payments Coalition.” It also advertises the Xpring software development kit as the easiest way to use PayID, an SDK that was developed by Ripple.
Potential losses or scams
NPPA stated that Ripple and NPPA’s projects have identical names and even largely the same functionality.
“The aim of this action is to protect Australian consumers and businesses from potential losses or scams that could arise as a result of confusion created from a payments service using the same name — particularly one that does not offer the same level of protection as the NPP’s PayID, including the backing of the Australian banking sector and an extensive consumer protection framework,” said NPPA.
The Australian company also stressed that its PayID “is subject to a comprehensive governance and liability framework and robust privacy and security controls.”
Decrypt has reached out to Ripple for comment but received no reply at press time.
Update: This article has been updated with details from IP Australia and the USPTO—plus further details clarifying NPPA's "Pay ID" trademark.