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MTN Banking’s trial delayed to November

Economy

Asha Speckman

Standard Bank, MTN Group and their joint venture, MTN Banking, will have to wait until November to continue their presentation of evidence and response to allegations against them of patent theft after their trial in the North Gauteng High Court was rescheduled at the weekend.

Proceedings ended with Wolfram Reiners, the director of 3MFuture Africa, the company that brought the civil case against the bank and the cellphone company, still refusing to divulge the sources of his funding for the trial.

An order granted in favour of Standard Bank and MTN forcing Reiners to provide documents showing any cession of 3MFuture Africa’s patent rights failed on Thursday when Reiners submitted an affidavit to the court stating it had not ceded any of its patent rights.

The court on Friday also heard technical evidence from Dirk Bruynse, an expert witness and employee with MTN Mobile Money, about the discrepancies and similarities between a credit card protection invention that Standard Bank and MTN commercialised and 3MFuture Africa’s patented invention.

Standard Bank and MTN are disputing 3MFuture Africa’s allegation that they had based their technology on the smaller company’s invention, whose novelty was the function of activating and deactivating the card before and after a transaction, preventing the card’s use by fraudsters.

Reiners had previously testified that Standard Bank had during early 2000 shown extensive interest in his invention but without reason failed to engage him further. By that stage, he claims the bank had intimate knowledge of the technology.

The defendants filed an application for information on Reiners’ funders after it emerged during the first week of the trial that a businessman who was paying for 3MFuture Africa’s court case had also provided security for Standard Bank and the other defendants, and had confirmed this in an affidavit signed in Singapore in July.

It is thought, however, that the giants are attempting to drag out the matter. More than half of the two weeks of the trial have been spent on arguing interlocutory matters.

Reiners has, however, refused to comment on his legal costs.

After being quizzed at length on Friday morning by Standard Bank’s counsel, Reiners said that his father had loaned him money, while others had invested time to assist with preparation for the case.

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