Intellectual property rights: What employees need to know

Following Kenneth Makate’s (‘Please Call Me inventor’) case against one of the SA’s biggest mobile network, Vodacom, CapeTalk’s Kieno Kammies looks at the terms of intellectual property within an organisation.

How can companies avoid being taken to court by its employees for what they’ve invented or an idea they came up with?

Kieno Kammies spoke to Bernard Hotz, Director, Head of Business Crimes and Investigation. According to Hotz, most companies have terms of contract of employment which states that whatever is invented within the duration of employment, belongs to the company.

Listen to the full conversation below:

However, Hotz says Makate’s case was different because he entered into a contract with Vodacom represented by Head of Product Development Mr Philip Geissler. The company agreed to remunerate him if his idea happened to be feasible.

Bear in mind that in law you don’t have to always have a written agreement; we have what’s called oral agreement

Bernard Hotz, Director, Head of Business Crimes and Investigation

This went a step further. There were certain emails exchanged between Mr Makate and his superior, not dealing with the precise terms of agreement, but that laid the foundation.

Bernard Hotz, Director, Head of Business Crimes and Investigation

My advice is, if you come up with that good idea, put it in writing, consult attorneys who are knowledgeable in that area and protect your rights

Bernard Hotz, Director, Head of Business Crimes and Investigation

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