VAS entrepreneur who accused Telecel of stealing his idea, loses case

L.S.M Kabweza Avatar

Telecel Zimbabwe Headquarters HarareRemember the court case of the VAS entrepreneur that accused Telecel of stealing his idea back in 2012? Well, it’s come to the fore again, but this time with a ruling. Yes, it has taken this long to get a ruling, so do keep that in mind and plan for it when you decide to sue a big company.

This week a judgement was passed and it’s in favour of Telecel Zimbabwe. Essentially, the ruling says that since what was said to have been stolen by Telecel is the “Method of Operation” of the Mega promotion, Telecel is in the clear because the law says:

The following matters and things shall not be eligible for copyright – ideas, procedures, systems, methods of operation.. … even if they are explained illustrated or embodied in a work…..

Here’s the full judgement in a pdf supplied us by someone at Telecel. We have contacted Peterson Tengende, the entrepreneur in the case, to establish what he feels about the judgement as well as to know if he’s closing this book or pursing the case further. We’ll update when we hear back.

If you read the judgement, please do comment below with your opinions on whether judgement has been just on Tengende.



  1. LoveJ

    i think the law is quite clear, you don’t patent “methods of operation.” so i don’t see anything wrong with court ruling. If people have ideas and they share them, they should be prepared to take the risk that comes with it. otherwise they should keep their ideas to themselves till they have capacity to implement them…

  2. Don

    “In the result the plaintiff’s claim is hereby dismissed with costs.”
    Does this mean that the guy who tried to sue Telecel is going to have to pay the legal costs that Telecel incurred whilst defending themselves ?

    1. Maxwell Christian

      YES that is what it means unfortunately, I hope Telecel out of corporate social responsibility and good corporate citizenry will not instruct their lawyers to go ahead with taxation bid (i.e. the process of quantiyfing the costs of defending Tengende’s lawsuit at the High Court.

      1. Tapiwa✔

        I hope Telecel claims the full amount from the plaintiff.

        I have nothing against Peterson and I wish him well, but I do not for a culture of frivolous IP litigation to take root in this country. You don’t want the next big start-up to fail in the court rooms because of Imaginary Property

  3. Open & Shut

    Do we have a paralegal system in Zim? This seems so straightforward that i think Peterson and his lawyer would have benefited greatly from a team of paralegals researching the law and precedents prior to going to court.

  4. TheKing

    Iwe ungati tucha tucha from Bocha woti you want to sue Telecel. Kupenga maskati machena

  5. Anonymous

    Since we all know the law so much and the outcomes are so “obvious”…why do we have lawyers wasting 7 years at law school and people hiring their services. I have a feeling this is not the end of the matter. if your ideas in a proposal are not protected….then what is ? Why even sign an NDA?

    1. Anonymous 2

      Please don’t take our understanding of the well written ruling as a slight against lawyers. It’s just that the judges decision, based to a great extent on the plaintiff’s own testimony, is spelt out so clearly in relation to the law that it makes it hard to believe they were aware of it before they went to court. As simple and clear as the ruling is, the fact that it took so long to come out hints at the complexities behind it.
      As for NDA’s I guess the moral of the story is to make them as iron clad as possible in the context in which it is to be signed with clearly defined consequences/penalties. That way when things go south it counts as a breach of a binding contract with legal legs to stand on, even if it wont directly protect something like common promotional mechanics.

      1. Telecel

        what then is worrying you Obert Mandimika , Peter Mudzamiri and Mamutse Munyaradzi if you “won”! You know the truth and justice will be done. I know which side sleeps easy here and it’s not Telecel

        1. Anonymous 2

          @Telecel, you seem to have mistaken me for someone else, but that’s ok. I work in advertising so I understand what it’s like to have a concept you are creatively and emotionally invested in get ripped off by client. But sometimes there is a dissonance between what is ‘right’ and what is ‘law’. The moral high ground may very well lie with Peterson and not Telecel but as in this instance, the law will take precedence. That gap is where binding agreements come into play.

          1. Anonymous

            Lol. Obert Mandimika, Mamutse Munyaradzi and Peter Mudzamiri . Anyone can see you short changed this guy …the law or not. Don’t gloat over unjust gains. you will be cursed

        2. ɐʍıdɐʇ

          Don’t be so conceited as to think anyone who thinks differently is affiliated with Telecel.

          Even if ideas were copyright-able: the idea for promotions is not new (globally). If you think borrowing ideas and claiming them as your own is your right, then I propose you ‘invent’ LTE, sign a few NDA’s with Econet & Telecel and watch the money roll in.

  6. Tinashe Roy

    Lesson learnt, don’t approach large companies with your ideas. Keep them to yourselves and find other ways of implementing them.

    1. Tapiwa✔

      There is nothing new in this world… Show me 1 original idea in the last 10 years. The problem is people who learn about systems that having been operating for years in more advanced economies and try to tell us that they have a new invention.

      It’s not about the idea, it’s about the execution. If you have an idea that you can implement at a lower cost than Telecel can: they’d be more than happy to pay you the (lower) cost.

      1. Anonymous

        Really now Tapiwa. you’re either naive or is the same person from Telecel who emailed this judgement to Techzim because you think “you won”!!!!

        It is standard for judges to ask losing party in a suit to pay costs. The judge thinks the case had no merit , but Mega Promo was certainly implemented after not before Telecel had sight of this man’s document explaining in detail the how of it.

        1. Tapiwa✔

          I’m not affiliated with Telecel, I’m just a fan of logical reasoning.

          If you think the judge is wrong, you have to believe both of the following:
          1) This hasn’t been done anywhere on earth since the invention of mobile phones (i.e. there is no prior art and this is an original invention)
          2) That ideas (not actual bodies of work) should be copyrighted, and the law is wrong OR the judge misinterpreted the law, and you know better than the magistrate.

          If you believe (1), then I recommend you widen your horizons a bit. If you don’t believe (1), then there is no original idea for copyright law to protect in this instance.

          If you believe (2), then I suggest you copyright the idea of using a website to disseminate news and sue TechZim.

        2. L.S.M Kabweza

          I’m pretty sure Tapiwa is not a Telecel employee.

          1. Anonymous

            who emailed judgement to you . you have not been covering this case all along

          2. Google it

            Editor , who from Telecel emailed you document . You’re pretty sure Tapiwa is not from Telecel. Why is it important for you to conceal the identity of person from Telecel who emailed this to you ? This is a doctored document because Mega Promo had winners long before 24 November2012 when when this “judgement” claims Telecel stole idea

          3. Anonymous

            the editor has lost his voice ….but he knows for sure Tapiwa has no connection with Telecel ….Mamutse MUNYARADZI….

          4. L.S.M Kabweza

            No voice lost. just wasn’t monitoring this thread. it’s one in many articles.
            We don’t disclose sources in the article or the comments, unless it’s an official communication from the company. That’s standard and doesn’t change even when an anonymous commentator demands it.

            I know it’s not Tapiwa because I “know” who Tapiwa is.

        3. tinm@n

          Disagreeing doesnt mean you are Telecel.

          That type of reasoning is reserved for politically fanatic idiots. Disagree with ZANU, you are MDC… and the other way round.

          I agree with Tapiwa 100%. Whatever idea you have no matter how novel and exciting it may sound to you, it is worth nothing without the right implementation. And it probably isnt new. How its done is where the game is.

          If its as generic as a VAS business model, WTF do you expect?! They will do it! It’s not new. Unless you had something buit upon VAS that was game-changing

          I also happen to agree with Tinashe Roy. But only add that as long as the other party can execute the idea without you, you’re just donating to the other party. I would rather attempt implementing it. If there is a dependency on someone else’s infrastructure, I would rather abandon it… not share it or hang onto it.

          If it’s common, they’ll know it.

  7. Tapiwa Tiudze

    Tapiwa. you seem to have clever answers. How do you explain page 2 in judgement which says they met in November 2012 and had minutes , but same judgement on same paragraph days Telecel Dropped a BOMBER in June 2012 telling Tengende they had been instructed to work with someone else. How did Telecel get to inform someone they had not met? A simple typo by the judge ? or a judge who misses essential details?

    Rule of law means take disputes to court ….don’t use baseball bats to resolve issues . we need more not less such cases in courts

    1. Tapiwa✓

      You might be surprised to learn that I didn’t bother to read the judgement: I’m not as vested in this particular case as you and your sock puppet accounts compatriots believe.

      I agree with you Telecel probably implemented the system after the meeting with Tengende, but that is moot because under law, ideas cannot be copyrighted. My question to you is: do you think this is the first time Telecel heard about such a system?

      Leaving the question of law aside : are you going to tell me, with a straight face, that Tengende is the first person on this blue earth to come up with the idea of promotions in the year 2012 – a full 39 years since the invention of mobile phones in 1973. Or do you think inventions/implementations outside the border of Zimbabwe do not matter. Keep in mind Telecel has been owned by multinational corporations with presences across the globe.

  8. Anonymous

    who emailed judgement to you from Telecel ? Tapiwa ? The legal guru !!!!!

  9. TheKing

    We can’t live in a society where people are rewarded for ideas

    1. LoveJ

      Spot on. people must be rewarded for implementing… otherwise too many ideas asi chabuda hapana. ideas are all over and an idea, just like potential, remains what it is, potential energy or lying energy. Until its converted to something else, it remains lying energy.

  10. Descartes

    The judgement is sound.just sign NDA’S, prohibitive covenants and be clever enough to quantify your interest.or should i say hire a lawyer….

  11. Mutongi Gava

    Why is Telecel posting anonymously here as Tapiwa et al to argue a case they won? They must just issue a press statement . something is amiss here !

    1. tinm@n

      That, my friend,is a figment of a deluded brain.

      You’re more likely the “brilliant” guy who lost the case than Tapiwa is of telecel.

      Sorry it hurts, but move on. Its a painful lesson but its a beneficial reminder to all of us concerning how safe those “ideas” are.

      If you’re a true idea factory or entrepreneur… you will always come up with the next “best thing”

      1. Anonymous

        True that.

  12. Simple

    The judgement simply says if you present your proposal to a company the company is free to use whatever is in that proposal for its own gain and they are not obliged to compensate you. A proposal can never be anything else other than written ideas. NDA means Non Disclosure Agreement …it does not oblige anyone to pay you.

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