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Nedbank says no compensation for Gugulethu entrepreneurs

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Big four bank Nedbank has vowed to defend itself against two Gugulethu-based entrepreneurs who are accusing the financial institution of stealing their invention.

This after the entrepreneurs – Thandile Jwambi and Nicolas Kutumane – last week issued new summons against Nedbank at high court for allegedly stealing their invention that enables a user to block financial transaction cards and cheques.

“The plaintiffs applied inventive skill, insight and effort, expended valuable time and resources and produced a banking security solution not previously available in South Africa. At the time that the plaintiffs said the invention was made, it was not available to customers of banking institutions in South Africa,” a copy of the summons says.

Jwambi and Kutumane want Nedbank to be interdicted from using the technology and want an inquiry to be held to determine the amount of a reasonable royalty to be paid.

In a statement, Nedbank says: “Thandile Jwambi and Tatolo Kutumane (claimants) served a high court summons via their latest set of attorneys on Nedbank on 23 August 2019.

“Nedbank will defend the matter that is now based on a contractual and a delictual claim, in contrast to their prior patent infringement claim, instituted initially in the Court of the Commissioner of Patent (Patent Court).”

The bank notes that the fresh high court summons follows the withdrawal of the patent infringement summons issued in the patent court and the apparent abandonment of the claimants’ prior patent infringement claim.

The factual matrix in dispute in both matters, however, remains the same, the bank states.

“Nedbank Group reiterates its previous stance that the bank has not at any stage infringed any of the rights of the claimants relating to their alleged invention or underlying technology (RASSFI / INSTABLOCK).

“The bank at no time has entered into any commercial arrangement or created a reasonable expectation that any commercial arrangement would be established. Accordingly, Nedbank remains of the view that no compensation is due to the claimants by Nedbank.”

It adds that Nedbank is proceeding with its application for the revocation of the patent in the patent court, as the claimants persist that they are the creators of the alleged invention.

The revocation proceedings are based on the patented inventions not being novel (new) and / or the scope of the patent being overly broad, it notes.

“At the time that Mr Jwambi and Mr Kutumane presented the RASSFI / INSTABLOCK idea to the LaunchLab, many local and international technology providers and financial institutions, including Nedbank, had already considered, developed and/or implemented a card blocking mechanism for clients.

“At that time, neither the idea of blocking and unblocking cards by customers nor the mechanism proposed by the claimants for such blocking and unblocking was therefore new, regardless the claimants’ beliefs to the contrary.

“Nedbank’s products and services further both pre-date and differ technically and functionally from the inventions of the claimants. In the interest of transparency, Nedbank previously disclosed a list of 18 prior publications detailing the functionality of RASSFI to the claimants.”

LaunchLab is an independent initiative of Innovus Technology Transfer, the industry interaction and innovation company of Stellenbosch University.

Nedbank is a corporate sponsor, together with other organisations, of LaunchLab and some of its activities.

“Nedbank denies making any settlement offer at any time and particularly denies offering R1 million during any engagement with the claimants or their legal advisors, as Nedbank believes first, that the claimants have not disclosed any concept not in public domain and second, that Nedbank is not using any concept disclosed by the claimants to the bank.

“Nedbank, therefore, has had no reason to enter into any agreement with the claimants, and accordingly has not entered into any such arrangement with them.”

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