South Africans have been following a David-Goliath battle at the North Gauteng High Court for the past three weeks. This battle surrounds a claim by a former employee of Vodacom, Nkosana Makate (left), that he invented “please call me” service with agreement that Vodacom would pay him a portion of the revenue generated from the service. Makate took Vodacom to court when Vodacom allegedly reneged on a revenue-sharing deal for his “please call me” idea. The case is expected to to be finalized either in September or October this year, and if ruled in the favour of Makate, then he could be award R700 million as compensation.
Nkosana Makate explains that the idea for “please call me” came about as a result of a love affair he had in 2000. His girlfriend (now wife) who was a student at the University of Fort Hare lacked airtime most of the time. Lack of airtime for a long distance relationship and a couple of communication barriers was a major problem between them and this made him think. That is how idea of Please Call Me struck him.
However, his former boss Knott-Craig, in his memoir, offered a different version. Knott-Craig claims to have invented the idea while observing from a balcony how two security guards were trying to communicate with each other through missed calls, that’s was the gap Knott-Craig saw for the inception of the service.
Ari Kahn, a former consultant with MTN, says that he failed a patent in 2001 to claim that he is the inventor of “please call me” service, and at that time MTN nor Vodacom had not launched the service by the time the patent was awarded. Vodacom now owns the rights of “please call me”.
As it stands, the matter is now before the court and South Africans (who seem to be supporting Nkosana Makate) are awaiting with bated breath how the ruling will go.