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MTC sued over prepaid services concept

A KEETMANSHOOP resident is suing Namibia’s largest mobile telecommunications company, MTC, claiming it has hijacked his idea that cellphone users should be able to buy prepaid phone service and data packages lasting longer than only seven days at any time.

In a lawsuit now filed at the Windhoek High Court, Willem Eiman is claiming that MTC has implemented his idea that cellphone users should be given an option to buy multiple-week prepaid phone service and data packages, in violation of his intellectual property rights and without compensating him.

Eiman is asking the court to order the appointment of a registered chartered accountant to investigate and calculate the revenue MTC has generated since 25 January 2021 on account of his idea about prepaid phone and data packages.

He is also asking the court to order that the company should pay him 15% of the income it has generated through the alleged use of his idea, and 15% of all future income generated from the alleged use of his concept.

In Eiman’s claim filed at the court, his lawyer, Jerhome Tjizo, says Eiman came up with a “pre-paid multi-period telecommunications concept” through research, hard work, industry and innovation in 2017.

In April 2017, Eiman addressed a letter to MTC, in which he proposed that the company should implement multiple of its Aweh phone service and data products and offered that the company could take over his intellectual property rights on his proposal at a rate to be agreed with himself.

According to Eiman, a letter in which he suggested that MTC should adapt its Aweh prepaid services to allow customers to purchase Aweh products running for more than seven days was published in The Namibian in January 2018 and received a favourable response from MTC spokesperson John Ekongo.

Tjizo alleges in Eiman’s claim that MTC launched a “multiple Aweh product solution” in May 2020 and that this was based on Eiman’s idea. He also says MTC did not give the necessary credit and acknowledgement to Eiman for his idea and that he is entitled to receive fair, just and reasonable compensation for the use of his concept.

In July 2020, a lawyer representing Eiman addressed a letter to MTC in which the company was informed that Eiman demanded to be paid N$3 million for MTC’s alleged use of the idea he had communicated to it in April 2017.

MTC responded to the letter from Eiman’s lawyer in September 2020. In its response, the company’s head of corporate legal services and corporate affairs, Patience Kanalelo, denied that MTC’s multiple Aweh product offering – with which a customer has the option of subscribing to multiple Aweh packages simultaneously – was a result of the proposal Eiman had made to the company.

Kanalelo also stated that MTC’s multiple Aweh offering was “a result of sketch work that commenced as early as May 2015”, nearly two years before Eiman first made his proposal to the company.

Tjizo further states in the claim against MTC that Eiman had his copyright for a literary work titled ‘Prepaid Multi-period Telecommunications Product’ registered by the Business and Intellectual Property Authority (Bipa) in January 2021.

In February 2021, a proposal from Eiman with the same title was directed to MTC.The company responded to Eiman’s proposal at the start of March 2021 by informing him that it was not in a position to conclude a business relationship with him.

The company also claimed Eiman’s copyright registration with Bipa was unlawful.

Tjizo is alleging that MTC is generating substantial revenue from Eiman’s idea and being enriched unjustifiably at his expense.

MTC has not yet given notice to the court whether it intends to oppose Eiman’s legal action.

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