News reports indicate that telecommunications service provider Vodacom Group is paying out “reasonable compensation” to a former employee of the South African mobile-network operator for his idea to develop a popular call-back service after a former chief executive officer first took credit for the product.

The settlement comes almost a decade after Mr. Kenneth Makate started court proceedings against Vodacom for credit and financial compensation for the service that allows customers with a zero balance on their mobile phones to contact someone free of charge with the SMS message ‘Please call me’.

“In the spirit of the confidentiality agreement, the parties signed as part of the negotiating process, Vodacom will not disclose the amount set by the CEO.”Makate, 42, took the idea to Vodacom’s product-development team while he was working in the finance division in the early 2000s. Alan Knott-Craig, who was the CEO at that time, had to determine reasonable compensation for the idea, which did not happen then.

As the above report is based on a news reporting, our team is unable to read through and tease out the legal issues and questions raised therein. Most importantly is the idea – expression dichotomy in Copyright Law. Under the law, an idea is worthless expression of the idea is the important element to determine ownership and origin.

Unfortunately, as is the norm in IP matters, several claims are settled out of court therefore not giving the public access to the details therein but unfortunately also not building African jurisprudence on intellectual property.

Read more here.