Hard to determine ’Please Call Me’ compensation - advocate
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Pretoria - While the issue of what is reasonable compensation for a brilliant idea is the essence of Please Call Me inventor Nkosana Makate's case, it's like asking what is the length of a piece of string – there is no obvious answer.
This is the argument of advocate Wim Trengove SC, acting on behalf of Vodacom.
The cellphone giant is adamant that the R47 million offered to Makate is “over generous”.
The counsel acting for Vodacom argued on the third day of the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, proceedings that Judge Wendy Hughes could only overturn this amount if she could find that Vodacom chief executive Shameel Joosub acted unreasonably when he decided that this was fair compensation.
In determining the amount, Joosub made several generous assumptions in Makate’s favour, the court was told.
When Joosub came to R47m, he did so honestly and to the best of his ability. He kept an open mind and listened to submissions from both Vodacom and the Makate before he came to this amount, Trengove said.
It was argued that while Makate said the calculations were wrong and that he was due much more, he never gave a precise amount of what he thought he should get.
The Makate camp earlier argued that looking at the various models, he was entitled to at least R10 billion, without interest. It was said that, among other things, Vodacom should look at the percentage of customers who used the Please Call Me application and calculate what revenue Vodacom had generated from this over at least the last 18 years.
Trengove argued that the question was not whether the R47m was right or wrong, but rather whether it was a patently inequitable result following the proceedings before the CEO.
Trengove said the key was to look around the world to see what employers paid employees for brilliant ideas thought out from home.
He questioned why the Makate camp did not investigate this aspect. He said what he could gather was that employers either gave their employees a trip to Mauritius or a million or so, but never R47m.
Counsel for Makate this week argued that the Please Call Me invention was patentable. Trengove yesterday asked why this route was then never explored by Makate.
“He was never a service provider. He provided a brilliant idea and that is all, just an idea.” Trengove said Makate never invested the capital to expand the idea, nor did he provide a product. He argued that Vodacom had to adapt the idea to make it usable.
Vodacom concluded its submissions yesterday afternoon by asking the court to turn down the review application.
Advocate Puckrin indicated that he would reply to all these arguments today after which it was expected that Judge Hughes would reserve her judgment.
Makate is asking that the court determine the amount of compensation due to him. But, his counsel said, in the event that the judge decided to refer the matter back to the CEO to determine, she should issue clear guidelines on the process which should be followed.