Gugulethu entrepreneurs and computer experts Thandile Jwambi and Nicolas Kutumane have issued a fresh summons against Nedbank, this time in the 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 documented noted on Friday.
The pair want Nedbank interdicted from using the technology and want an inquiry to be held to determine the amount of a reasonable royalty to be paid.
A Nedbank spokesperson said: “Nedbank Group reiterates its previous stance that the bank has not at any stage infringed on the rights of the claimants relating to their alleged invention or technology. And the bank at no time entered into any commercial arrangement or created a reasonable expectation that any commercial arrangement would necessarily be reached. Nedbank remains of the view no compensation is due to the claimants,” the spokesperson said.
Edward de la Pierre of the SA Litigation Funding Company said Jwambi and Kutumane would continue to fight the existing case in the Court of the Commissioner of Patents, where Nedbank was trying to convince the court to revoke their patent that was registered by patent attorneys Adams & Adams in 2015.
In their new summons to the Commercial High Court, the entrepreneurs refer to their patent as an invention that they accuse Nedbank of having used for two years without permission after the entrepreneurs, on two separate events sponsored by Nedbank, had presented and introduced their “invention” to Nedbank officials.
On both occasions, the Nedbank officials were keen to secure more details on the workings of the invention, and on both occasions the Nedbank officials confirmed that Nedbank did not have this kind of technology, the pair claimed.
According to the summons, the first event was My Business Expo 2015 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre for aspiring entrepreneurs, where Nedbank board members adjudicated the various business proposals and ideas presented.
In October 2015, in a further bid to establish their own businesses based on their invention, Jwambi and Kutumane entered the LaunchLab competition, which is an initiative of Stellenbosch University, but was sponsored by Nedbank.
“The plaintiffs were selected as overall winner of the competition.
“Mr Hassim communicated to the plaintiffs that he was an executive of the defendant, that he was mandated to seek new talent and creative ideas useful to the defendant, that the defendant did not have the kind of functionality or technology embodied in the invention, and that he was interested in presenting the system to the relevant persons at the head office of the defendant in Johannesburg,” they said in court papers.
During these communications, Jwambi and Kutumane had emphasised to Hassim that they would only allow Nedbank to use the invention if a suitable royalty was paid, and they rejected an alleged suggestion by Hassim that they work for Nedbank.
The pair said they had made full disclosure, complete with diagrams, to Hassim at the time, about how their invention worked.
“During the latter part of 2016/early 2017, the plaintiffs discovered that the defendant had made the invention, or a product substantially similar to the invention, available to their clients.”