Walmart seeks to patent a way for using cryptocurrency

Olga Kharif Bloomberg

Walmart Inc. appears be pondering whether to test waters in the world of cryptocurrencies, following the steps of Facebook Inc.

The retailing giant applied to patent a way to use a digital coin tied to a traditional fiat currency, which could allow for cheaper and faster transactions as well as loyalty features, according to a filing published Aug. 1 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Even if approved, Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart doesn’t appear close to launching a coin similar to Facebook’s proposed Libra. Kory Lundberg, a spokesman for Walmart, wrote in an email that “we don’t have any plans for this patent at this time.”

Walmart is searching for a new chief revenue officer for its U.S. e-commerce business.

In the application, filed on Jan. 29 by Walmart Apollo LLC, the company said it wants to patent a method for creating a coin that runs and records transactions on a blockchain, a digital ledger akin to the one powering Bitcoin. It wants to overlay the transaction information with customer purchase history and savings.

Walmart has been at the forefront of adopting blockchain technology, and is already using blockchain for tracking produce along its supply chain. Other companies are looking at issuing digital coins instead of loyalty points, or at using tokens to facilitate transactions that are faster and cheaper than current payment systems.

Merchants have long sought out ways of reducing fees charged by payment networks like Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. Facebook’s unveiling earlier this year of plans to create a digital coin for use for purchases of goods and services by users of its social network was met by a backlash from regulators and consumers over concerns about privacy and possible negative effects on the U.S. financial system.