Ari Kahn, the official Please Call Me inventor, said claims that Nkosana Kenneth Makate invented a different system to the service which he and MTN patented is “absolutely and utterly false”.
The Chief Convenor of the Please Call Me Movement, Modise Setoaba, recently said in an SABC interview that Makate is the inventor of the Please Call Me service.
“The Please Call Me service is a USSD/SMS service, [whereas] the MTN service is an IVR service with SMS. It is a voice recorder service, so those are two different protocols,” Modise said.
However, Vodacom recently admitted that the Please Call Me was invented and subsequently patented by MTN before Makate came up with the idea.
Nkateko Nyoka, chief officer of legal and regulatory affairs at Vodacom, added that MTN launched its version, called Call Me, a month before Vodacom did.
Kahn substantiated Vodacom’s view, explaining that the “whole interactive voice response (IVR) story is pure fiction”.
He said the MTN Call Me service was invoked and signalled in the identical manner to Vodacom’s Please Call Me service.
“Both dialled a code followed by the phone number and this is precisely what the patent claims. There was no IVR,” Kahn said.
It is Makate’s proposal which was different
Kahn said it was, in fact, Makate’s proposal that was different from the Please Call Me service which Vodacom implemented.
“It did not even remotely resemble the Please Call Me messaging system which Vodacom launched,” said Kahn.
He explained that Makate proposed “Buzz” – a service to allow a user without airtime to dial a phone number and give a “missed call”.
“Not only was his proposal technically unsupported, it was not technically possible, since a call could only mature to ringing state if the user had credit,” he said.
“Consequently, his proposal did not progress beyond idea. Even skilled engineers at Vodacom could not reduce it to practice and inventions are required by law to be reduced to practice.”
“That is, they need to recite each and every step for a suitably skilled artisan to implement,” Kahn said.
Makate’s idea had no commercial value
While his idea was never implemented, it did propel Vodacom along a path that led them to the Please Call Me service.
However, said Kahn, the entire issue is that service was already claimed by MTN and launched before Vodacom.
“So regardless of what he proposed it had no commercial value because MTN had established Prior Art and the service was already publicly disclosed before Vodacom launched,” said Kahn.
“Had Makate not proposed anything, nothing would have changed. MTN would still have the patent and IP rights and launched first. And Vodacom would have simply followed by copying the service.”
The “Call Me” patent
Here is the Call Me patent, which was filed by MTN and Kahn on 22 January 2001.
Callme Patent by on Scribd