CAPE TOWN - Gugulethu entrepreneurs Thandile Jwambi and Tatolo Kutumane, backed by the SA Litigation Funding Company, have issued a summons against Nedbank for infringement of a card-blocking software patent they developed in 2015.
The entrepreneurs are claiming R280million from Nedbank based on estimated royalties they would have received over 36months had Nedbank acquired the software legally, said the South African Litigation Funding Company (Salfco), which is assisting the two entrepreneurs.
The case was filed with the Court of the Commissioner of Patents in Pretoria yesterday.
Comment could not be obtained from Nedbank at the time this report was written.
Salfco chairperson Pierre de la Pierre said the software, under the brand name Instablock, was developed in 2015 by Jwambi and Kutumane. It allows bank customers to deactivate their bank cards if they suspect fraud, cloning or other illegal activity, or if a card gets lost.
The system has allegedly been made available on the Nedbank Money App for the last 36 months, the statement said. It allows customers to activate or deactivate cards across multiple platforms, such as smartphones, tablets and ATMs.
De la Pierre said the system was secured by a provisional patent in 2015 and in August 2017 a final patent was registered by patent attorneys Adams & Adams.
“This case differs from the Please Call Me case (against Vodacom) in that Kenneth Makate’s claim was based on an idea, whereas the Instablock inventors have a legal patent registered in terms of international accepted and applicable patent laws,” said De la Pierre.
“When Jwambi and Kutumane approached our company we looked at their evidence and decided to back them,” he said.
The entrepreneurs were also holding Nedbank responsible for loss of income that they could have earned from other banks. Other banks were reluctant to engage with them due to the dispute with Nedbank. This additional claim might run into billions of rands, De la Pierre said.
In September 2015, Jwambi and Kutumane were asked to give a presentation on their patented system to Nedbank executives at the MyBusiness Expo at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
A Nedbank employee confirmed Nedbank did not have such a system and requested more details of the system to be emailed to their digital department in Johannesburg.
The two entrepreneurs forwarded the documents of their invention to Nedbank, but insisted they would only enter an agreement on a royalty basis.
Months later the two entrepreneurs were winners in a pitching competition hosted by LaunchLab in Stellenbosch.
At this point the Instablock patent was finally registered by Adams & Adams.
A few months later, Jwambi happened to go to a Nedbank ATM and discovered the bank was using “the very same” card-blocking system it had earlier shown interest in acquiring.
Jwambi then saw the same system was being offered on Nedbank’s website.
During meetings between the two entrepreneurs and Nedbank officials late last year, Nedbank had stated they wished to settle the matter amicably.
“Nedbank has made no further effort to settle the matter, so it leaves us no option but to protect our rights and our patent in court,” Jwambi said in the statement.