Cape Town - Ari Kahn, the true inventor of the call-me-back service has come forward to stake his claim and shed light on the importance of Intellectual Property Rights.
In a feedback letter to Fin24, Kahn stated Vodacom was “second” in the market when it launched a “carbon copy product that infringed directly on the Kahn/MTN Patent”.
When Vodacom launched the Please Call Me service in March 2001, MTN had already “sent hundreds of millions of Callme messages over its public network”.
He added that Vodacom only profited because MTN chose not to enforce its Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) from the patent it was granted.
The “irrefutable facts” of MTN’s Callme were that it was conceived by Kahn on November 15, 2000. Thereafter he briefed patent attorneys on November 16, 2000. On January 22, 2001, MTN filed for a patent, which was granted.
Callme was launched on January 23, 2001 and went viral in three days, with up to 1.5m hits. In March 2001, Vodacom eventually launched their Please Call Me service.
Kahn argued that the case is not about how much Vodacom owes Makate, but rather the IPR of the product. Kahn, who is currently in Mt. Shasta CA USA (Northern California), told Fin24 on Wednesday: “This is a complex case only because the simple facts have been ignored, and the simple fact is Makate did not invent the service.”
“Ownership Rights to the Callme Service was granted to myself/MTN under the sovereignty of Intellectual Property Law that governs the ownership of ideas,” he said.
Kahn said, by definition, an inventor is someone who publicly discloses their creation first. This is whoever files with the Patent Office first.
This is why the disclosure of the “Buzz” idea, which was discarded in favour of the “Please Call Me” service, by Makate to Vodacom officials, Lazarus Muchenje and Philip Geissler, cannot be considered in the public domain and cannot constitute prior art.
Even if Makate had disclosed to Vodacom a perfected version of the Callme service, “Makate cannot claim he invented the service, unless he produces documentation that shows public disclosure of the service offering before the January 22nd 2001 priority date”. AriKahn's timeline of the call-me-back service
“All that matters in Intellectual Property Law is who was first,” said Kahn. Makate has no entitlement to compensation as the IPR and owners of the rights to the Callme invention belongs to Kahn/MTN, he added.
“One cannot sell property that belongs to someone else.” Through due diligence screening it would be revealed that Makate had not invented the service. AriKahn's timeline of the call-me-back service
Kahn also called out the expert witness on Intellectual Property Matters and Patent Litigation, Ivan Zatkovich.
According to Kahn, his testimony, on behalf of Makate was “borderline perjury”. Fin24 has a copy of the email Kahn sent Zatkovich, questioning his testimony.
Zatkovich told the court MTN’s product was based on a different system to Vodacom’s when in fact it was based on the patented and identical system. This misled the court in believing the Vodacom system was “novel”, said Kahn. An excerpt of the email
He also said that Makate’s call for compensation in January 2001, before Vodacom had even launched “Please Call Me” was questionable.
“Especially in light of the fact that the MTN service was proving a massive hit... What he did not bank on, was the true inventor re-emerging 10 years later”.
This case appears to the public as a “little guy being bullied by the 900pd gorilla”. The real issue is that someone is “claiming title to a service that did not belong to him”.
“Makate has absolutely no Intellectual Property Rights whatsoever to substantiate claim to inventorship,” he said.
Kahn was unimpressed that Vodacom has still not publicly acknowledge who the true inventor of the call-me-back service is. Vodacom possibly did not want to feel “vulnerable to further legal exposure,” he said.
This case shows the importance of disclosure and protection. Patent Law is meant to prevent "he said she said" situations, and to resolve questions about "who was first, who was second".
“Today, with billion dollar patent wars being fought in this very industry, it is evident that we live in the Knowledge Era,” where ideas can change the world.
Kahn quoted Makate acknowledging that he failed to seek protection: "Failing to get a patent was the biggest mistake of my life".