Court Order: ‘Please Call Me’ inventor to be paid Sh1.5bn

Court Order: 'Please Call Me' inventor to be paid Sh1.5bn

A court in South Africa has ordered Vodacom to pay the ‘Please Call Me’ inventor five per cent of the total voice revenue generated by the product in the past 20 years.

The ruling delivered by Gauteng High Court found that the telecommunication giant which owns a 35 per cent stake in Safaricom Plc shortchanged the product inventor Nkosana Makate.

The Please Call Me function allows Vodacom-linked network callers in 32 countries including Kenya to notify the message recipients to call them back.

Although the firm, which has since deployed and shared Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code across its platforms offered Makate R47 million (Sh345 million), the court termed the offer as far too conservative.

“Vodacom CEO was disingenuous to project that PCM, as a third-party service provider, should only be allocated a duration of five years,” the judge said.

Media reports said that although Judge Wendy Hughes said Vodacom was better placed than the court to calculate the true worth of the invention, she gave certain guidelines of what must be taken into account when the amount due is recalculated.

The judge said that by projection PCM as a brilliant concept would have had the longevity which it has today thus, 18 years proposed by Makate (over which time Vodacom has benefitted from PCM) is reasonable and probable.

She ordered that Makate be paid five percent of the total voice revenue generated from the PCM product – starting from March 2001 to March 2021 – and not only for five years, as earlier calculated by Vodacom.

If the R47 million is for five years, it means the inventor is likely to get at least R188 million close to (Sh1.4 billion) for 20 years.

The court’s deal is, however, much lower compared to what the 44-year old inventor has been demanding.

The country’s press reported that Makate is demanding R10 billion (Sh75 billion) which he equates to 15 percent of the total revenue generated via the USSD code since 2001.In 2016, Constitutional Court ordered Vodacom to negotiate in good faith and that reasonable compensation had to be paid to the inventor, a former employee at the firm.

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