Nedbank and the card blocking patent by Kutumane and Jwabi

What did Kutumane and Jwabi actually patent?

With effect from 31 July 2015, Kutumane and Jwabi patented a “Method of and system for activating or deactivating a financial transaction card” (ZA2016/05259). The patented method focussed on the following steps:

  1. receiving a request from a user to activate / deactivate a card;
  2. prompting the user to insert: his full name in a text field; a portion of his ID number; and PIN associated with the card;
  3. prompting the user to select the account linked to the card (to be activated / deactivated);
  4. comparing the information with information stored on a database; and
  5. if the information provided matches the stored information, approving the request to activate / deactivate the account / card.

From a patent perspective, this distils down to:

  1. receiving a request to perform an act / effect a transaction;
  2. receiving information from the user;
  3. comparing the received information against information on a database to verify the identity of the user; and
  4. if the information provided matches the stored information, performing the act / effecting the transaction.

It is not relevant what type of information is provided; the specific act / transaction the user intends to perform is equally irrelevant.

In essence, this patent merely covers a method for verifying the identity of a person. So, what on earth is new about this?

Software patents

To understand more about software patents, see Iptica. Also see how
Facebook, Uber, Guitar Hero, etc. used patents for deterrence … and not for protection:

South African patents

Kutumane and Jwabi’s South African patent is granted, but the South African Patent Office does not examine patent applications. You can literally file a patent for a stock-standard car tyre and get a registered patent. This patent was never filed in examining countries, and it is highly unlikely that the patent firm conducted an international patent search before filing the patent – one should, but most don’t. The fact that this method may have been “new in South Africa” is also not relevant, as patent novelty is determined on a worldwide basis.

We conducted a cursory search and found these relevant earlier patents, which we hope the patent attorney considered before drafting the patent:

  • US2003/200184″ “Mobile account authentication service
  • WO2008/121088 “Method for securely carrying out expense transactions by using payment cards and a system for carrying out said method”
  • EP1708473 “A computer accounting system with a lock using in a bank and the corresponding method used for secure payment by phone”
  • WO2009/108066 “Method and arrangement for secure transactions”
  • WO01/35352 “Switchable payment system”
  • WO00/33497 “Electronic payment system employing limited-use account number”
  • US2002/139844 “Method for enabling credit cards and device therefor”
  • US5907142 “Fraud resistant personally activated transaction card”
  • GB2406827 “A secure two part smart card transaction system”
  • US5351296 “Financial transmission system”
  • US2002/147913 “Tamper-proof mobile commerce system”

These inventors’ idea is good. But, that’s not a criteria for patenting. On the face of it, these inventors paid a lot of money for a patent that (from the information on the CIPC register) appears to be invalid. We will try to obtain a full copy of this patent, which we will publish and comment further on.

Tip for Kutumane and Jwabi: this patent falls due for renewal on 29 July 2019. The renewal has yet to be paid. If not paid, the patent will lapse. The renewal costs only about R650, and can be paid online.

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