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    July 24, 2013

    Vodacom returns to court for Please Call Me case

    Vodacom has headed back into court yesterday as it continues to face a dispute from a former employee who claims he invented the network provider’s ever popular and much needed Please Call Me service for customers who have no airtime but want to make contact with family or friends.

    According to Times Live, the matter goes back to 2000 when during his employment at Vodacom Nkosana Makate realised that the sms system could be technically rigged to allow for customers to send a free sms.

    His lawyer, advocate Cedric Puckrin, told the court that he was inspired by his then girlfriend, now wife, who had no airtime to contact him.

    After he presented the idea to his superior it was soon accepted and adopted by the company.

    Needless to say the service has, over time, generated a significant amount of income and despite an email to all staff, congratulating and crediting Makate for developing the idea, Vodacom denies it owes Makate any compensation referring to his contract, that clearly states that “any invention while employed by Vodacom belongs to Vodacom”.

    Makate has taken Vodacom to court, seeking a portion of the revenue for his fundamental contribution to the service.

    Back in 2011, Tech Central reported that a former MTN employee, Ari Kahn, claimed that he came up with the service in 2000 as well and it was subsequently leaked to Vodacom somewhere between his briefing MTN‘s intellectual property counsel and the patent filing.

    Kahn however, was not seeking financial compensation only recognition.

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    • Jonathan Peel

      I think this is stupid (IMHO).

      I find it very difficult to believe that this was a unique idea. Other networks have this feature as well, I can’t remember who had it first, but I think they would have all had it eventually despite who thought it up.

      In my mind it is natural evolution of the cellphone system.

      I don’t know… Maybe it would make a good pick up line… in 2013, you could be in a bar, find a woman you want to talk to and say, “The ‘Please call me’… That was my idea ;-)”

      Come to think of it, wasn’t that how it was first advertised, with the dude crying on the train.