Ayanda Mdluli and Asha Speckman

The technology for which Standard Bank and MTN have been hauled before court on suspicion of infringing the patent rights of technology company 3M FutureAfrica “was not user-friendly”, information technology (IT) expert Ivan Zatkovich told the North Gauteng High Court patent division in Pretoria.

Zatkovich, when asked if the technology was a commercial success, said he had no knowledge of the technology’s success but that he was sent back and forth between MTN and Standard Bank before it worked.

3M FutureAfrica’s invention allows credit cards to be used securely and provides protection against fraud when credit card payments are made via the internet or telephone. The card can be activated for a transaction and automatically deactivated when the card is not in use.

It is understood that legal counsel for Standard Bank and MTN, and legal counsel for 3M Future Africa, led by Cedric Puckrin, questioned Zatkovich, on Monday regarding the possibility of infringement.

3M Future Africa director and IT specialist

Wolfram Reiners said last year he would consider a claim of up to R1 billion for damages. He claimed Standard Bank and MTN had used technology that he and two others developed for their joint venture with MTN Banking in 2006, and in the same year the companies registered patents.

During cross examination last Thursday, Reiners said that between 2001 and 2002, he held more than 20 meetings with Standard Bank, at its request, following an initial meeting to interest the bank in his invention. A provisional specification for the patent was filed in March 2001. The patent is presently registered in the name of 3M Future Africa.

He said Standard Bank wanted exclusivity if it was to pursue the invention. In 2002 Standard Bank sent Reiners an official request for information to provide the bank with “full operational details and specifications” and a proposal on how the system would be implemented.

Reiners said he did not hear from the bank again and after 2006 it was clear that Standard Bank did not want a relationship with 3M Future Africa. His company had later tried to commercialise the patent with Absa, but was unsuccessful.

During Peter Ginsburg’s questioning of Reiners, it emerged that a third party had bought the patent and was paying for the court case.

Ginsburg is counsel for MTN and MTN Banking.

The third party was identified as Mike Shone.

“Now the question is why would he do all this? He is representing the plaintiff and putting up millions of rands,” Ginsburg asked.

Reiners was excused from the stand and asked to produce agreements between his company and its investors.