City man loses 7-year battle with Equity Bank over M-Kesho ownership
A man claiming to have invented the concept of saving money on a mobile phone before the idea was allegedly stolen by Equity Bank has lost a seven-year court battle.
Mr Hoswell Mbugua Njuguna had sued the bank and telecoms giant Safaricom alleging that a mobile banking app, M-kesho, was developed using a concept similar to another he had shared with Equity Bank.
He filed the case in 2010 but it was dismissed by the High Court, forcing him to move to the appellate court.
Mr Njuguna said he was the author of original work entitled “Weka Usaidike” a concept that targeted low-income earners.
He said he was issued with a certificate of registration of a copyrighted work on November 19, 2009.
But before then, between August 2006 and August 2009, he forwarded a proposal, which contained confidential information regarding the concept, to Equity Bank. He claimed to have held several meetings with the bank’s representatives where the concept was discussed.
He accused Equity Bank of using the information to develop and market a product known as M-Kesho in partnership with Safaricom despite knowing that the concept was confidential. He accused the two companies of unjustly making profits.
Mr Eric Karobia, former project manager at Equity Bank, in defence said the lender introduced mobile solutions to handle exponential growth of its customer and deposit base.
The mobile application, he said, would enable its customers to perform banking operations using their mobile phones.
Mr Karobia said Equity Bank’s first SMS banking was made in 2005. It helped customers inquire about their balances, forex rate, request for mini statements, top up airtime, effect limited bill payments and access alerts on their accounts.
He said the mobile banking product was different from Mr Njuguna’s concept, which was very basic and limited to scratch cards that were to be sold by agents and that in any event, Mr Njuguna’s concept was merely a write-up.
In its defence, Safaricom denied any knowledge of the original concept or any of the matters pleaded by Mr Njuguna.
The telco said the product was developed in partnership with the bank as a normal progression for mobile communication and data service providers to provide platforms for mobile banking services beyond landlines, bank branches, and automated teller machines.