It is a relief for the leading Telco company Safaricom after the court ruled in its favor that the famous Okoa Jahazi Idea is solely unique to Safaricom.
According to the court ruling, the complainants, Christopher Omare and Michael Otachi t/a Omare & partners, who had sued the telco for infringing their idea with its Okoa Jahazi, the claims were too general for the mere taking to constitute an infringement.
“…although copyright law is intended to protect the rights of the author which in turn encourages creativity, it is important to note that if the Plaintiff’s work is sufficiently general the mere taking of that idea will not constitute infringement,” the court said.
Initially, the plaintiffs had an idea of a mobile telephone program that would enable a subscriber to the mobile network to obtain emergency airtime credit in local currency. It was called Emergency Credit Service (ECS). It aimed to offer emergency credit to customers when they are not in a position to purchase any.
However, they claimed the idea was stolen after they submitted a proposal to Safaricom in November 2006 where the Telco launched it in March 2009 as Okoa Jahazi. This led the plaintiffs to sue the telco, accusing them of stealing their idea.
But in its defense, Daniel Ndaba, a lawyer representing the mobile provider, told the court that Safaricom had in its possession this knowledge and concept, prior to receiving the proposals of Omare and Otachi.
Ndaba told the court that Safaricom had learnt all about it from Vodafone operators, including the one in Spain. He stated further that the concept already in use in India, Egypt and Spain at the time the plaintiffs submitted their proposal to Safaricom.
In her ruling, dated 11th March, 2020, Judge Mary Kasango said the plaintiffs did not contest filed documents such as emails to prove that Safaricom had prior knowledge of the concept before receiving proposals from the plaintiffs. She further ruled that the plainttiff’s work was so general and that even merely taking up this plain idea did not infringe on their copyright.
The Court further ruled that the said proposals by the plaintiffs were just general statements with no specific details on how the concept could be worked out.
Further, it noted that the said proposals were not original with the plaintiffs citing similar ideas in countries such as Lesotho.
“The plaintiff’s case is dismissed for their failure to, produce cogent evidence to support the claim,” said Judge Kasango in her ruling on the matter.
This is not the first time companies have clashed over the same idea or having the same interest. This is because the market is so huge and there’s very rarely ever a “unique” idea. The case at hand proves that having an idea is not proof of ownership.