Seemingly almost every industry is disrupted these days by the Internet and other technological changes. Over-the-top distribution of streaming media allows the consumer to bypass legacy cable or satellite gatekeepers. Voice over IP services allow telephone customers to bypass legacy landline telephone companies, saving lots of money.
Yet every time we get paid by foreign patent or trademark counsel, we get charged by our own bank to receive the bank wire, even if the sender pays all of the bank fees at their end that they are able to pay at their end. I recently asked for a detail billing from our bank and found that our bank was also charging us an additional fee for many of our incoming bank wires to “repair” some of the wires because of real or imagined flaws in the bank wire instructions received from the foreign banks.
Frustrations like these had often reminded me that I keep hearing about various ways other than bank wires that people can send money to each other. Venmo. Zelle. Paypal. Wechat. But most of these systems are no good for international transfers, and most of these systems are unavailable to businesses.
Are there smart ways to save money paying foreign patent and trademark counsel? Is it possible to bypass banks, avoiding the bank wire transfer fees that normally get charged to both the senders and the recipients of wire transfers?
Recently Jarosław Markieta, a very smart patent practitioner in Poland, mentioned to me a system that I had not heard of before, namely Western Union Edge. The web site that supposedly explains this Edge service is maddeningly content-free. The web site does not answer even a single question that a potential customer might ask. But if you click around enough on the Internet you can eventually work out more or less how the service is supposed to work.
The idea of Edge is that you set up an account in the Edge system. (This is a nontrivial matter involving dozens of pages of forms, photo IDs, certificates of good standing from your Secretary of State, and a lot of patience.) Then you get lucky and find that some foreign patent or trademark firm that sends you money, or to which you send money, also happens to have an account in the Edge system. ( Jarosław Markieta’s firm is such a firm.) You can then send and receive money through the Edge system to and from that foreign patent or trademark firm. The transfers are free of charge other than a bit of money that Western Union makes on the currency exchange rate.
The idea is that you maintain a balance of one or more currencies in the Edge system and you use that balance (or those balances) for the transfers to and from the foreign patent and trademark firms. I guess every now and then you might choose to transfer some of that Edge balance to or from your regular bank account.
If it all works, the sender and receiver are freed from the legacy approach of having to pay bank wire fees of fifteen or twenty or thirty dollars or Euros or Zlotys at each end, in addition to the currency exchange rate fees that would have been incurred.
This Edge system only delivers on its promise, then, if both the sender and receiver belong to the Edge system. And as best I can determine, you can only really use this fee-free transfer function of Edge if you are located in one of the following countries:
- Czech Republic
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Anyway I have invited some of the firms that we work with to consider joining this Edge system. Maybe it will turn out that we can use it to save money on bank wire transfer fees.
Are you a member of this Western Union Edge system? Have you saved money on bank wire fees by using this system? Do you recommend it?
Maybe you are in a country that is not one of the thirteen countries listed above, and maybe you are nonetheless able to use Edge to make inexpensive international transfers. If so, could you please post a comment below?