Western Union Co. announced Friday that it had won a $16.5 million jury verdict against its chief rival, MoneyGram International Inc., for infringing a patent on money transfers initiated by telephone.

Lynda Michielutti, a spokeswoman for MoneyGram, of Minneapolis, said the company was disappointed with the verdict, returned Thursday after a trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas.

"We maintain the case was without merit," Michielutti said. "We are evaluating the decision to determine next steps and reviewing our legal options, including appeal."

The verdict was equal to 1.3% of MoneyGram's 2008 revenue of $1.3 billion.

Western Union, of Englewood, Colo., sued MoneyGram in May 2007 over a system of initiating money transfers through a call center and completing transactions at an agent location. It contended MoneyGram was essentially replicating Its patented Money Transfer by Phone service.

Tom Fitzgerald, a Western Union spokesman, said it acted to defend its rights under the law.

"Western Union strongly believed MoneyGram was making use of our intellectual property, and we're pleased the jury agreed with us," Fitzgerald said.

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