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South African inventor wins Vodacom ‘Please Call Me’ battle

Nkosana Makate

A South African inventor has won a court battle against Vodacom that entitles him to significantly more than the $3m compensation offered to him by the telecommunications giant.

Nkosana Makate, who invented Vodacom’s “Please Call Me” texting service, described the judgement as “a big relief”.

“The court ruling in my favour is a vindication. It’s been a long time coming. I know they might appeal but this judgement for me is a huge relief and encouragement,” he told the BBC.

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It is not yet known how much he will get from the income generated by his invention that allows Vodacom users to send a free message to someone else on the network requesting to be phoned back.

But High Court Judge Wendy Hughes gave Vodacom a month to come up with a higher offer.

She said Mr Makate was entitled to 5% of the voice revenue generated by the popular messaging service over 10 years, not five as in the initial offer – among other stipulations in her long judgement.

It has been a protracted legal battle for Mr Makate and he has been through a number of the country’s courts.

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At first, Vodacom denied that its ex-employee was the inventor of the service, then said he was not due any financial benefits from it.

Eventually a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling found in Mr Makate’s favour.

The company offered a settlement, but he rejected it – a move that seems to have paid off.

Mr Makate has previously told local media that the invention has generated about $4.5bn for Vodacom and he wants a 15% cut of that.

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Vodacom has said it will appeal against the ruling.

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