Vodacom, South Africa’s largest mobile network operator by subscriber base, will appeal a Supreme Court of Appeal ruling mandating it to pay Kenneth Makate, a former employee, R20 billion (~$1 billion) for inventing the popular Please Call Me service. The judgment amount is 10% of Vodacom’s market capitalisation.
The Supreme Court of Appeal ruling ordered Vodacom to pay Kenneth Makate between 5% and 7.5% of the total revenue generated by the Please Call Me service over 18 years plus interest.
“Vodacom is surprised and disappointed with the judgment and will bring an application for leave to appeal before the Constitutional Court of South Africa, within the prescribed period,” the company said in a statement to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange this morning.
Vodacom claimed only R47 million (~$2.5 million) was due to Makate for inventing the Please Call Me service. The service allows users to send a text message for free, requesting recipients to call them.
Makate pitched the idea for the service to Vodacom in 2000 while he was still an employee and was promised compensation. The service was launched in 2001.
In 2007, a few years after leaving Vodacom, Makate submitted a letter to Vodacom requesting compensation. Legal tussles eventually saw the case brought to the Constitutional Court, which ordered the two parties to negotiate a settlement in good faith. Makate rejected Vodacom’s initial offer of R47 million.
With Vodacom intending to appeal the Supreme Court of Appeal’s judgment, the case, already one of the longest-running court cases in South Africa‘s legal history, will drag on. Vodacom did not specify a specific date for its appeal.