No settlement in MTN Banking case

Published Aug 5, 2011


Asha Speckman

STANDARD Bank was reportedly rebuffed this week in its attempts at an out-of-court settlement with software developer 3MFuture Africa, which has taken the bank and cellphone company MTN to court over patent theft.

Details of the offer allegedly discussed on Tuesday afternoon were sketchy, but it was established that Standard Bank tried its hand after the North Gauteng High Court had failed to reconvene after lunch.

Sources close to the case, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the approach and rebuttal, but would not be drawn to comment further.

Legal counsel for Standard Bank and 3MFuture Africa declined to comment.

“From our position the case continues. It’s not appropriate to comment,” Standard Bank spokesman Erik Larsen said.

3MFuture Africa has brought a civil case claiming patent theft against Standard Bank, MTN and MTN Banking, a joint venture between the bank and cellular company.

The defendants are alleged to have infringed the patent rights to 3MFuture Africa’s technology invention which allows secure and fraud-proof credit card payments to remote merchants via the internet or telephone. The technology allows consumers to switch on the card before paying and the card is automatically switched off after the transaction.

Floyd Makhanya, a legal analyst, said a settlement would not have been an admission of guilt.

“Only the court can declare someone guilty or not guilty. They (Standard Bank) may have felt the need to compensate the aggrieved party. They don’t want a long drawn legal battle. It’s expensive,” he said.

Makhanya said that a civil case did not hang on the guiltiness of a certain party, but largely about whose case was stronger than the other.

Standard Bank and MTN claim that the patent is not new, is invalid and should be revoked. Makhanya said: “You can take an existing patent and adapt it and prove the adaptation thereof and it becomes a new thing.”

The matter continues today, the fifth day out of 10 scheduled for its conclusion.

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