KAA WINS GROUND BREAKING DECISION :PERCY LUBEGA VS MTN UGANDA LIMITED, HCCS NO. 116 OF 2011

The Plaintiff, Percy Lubega sued MTN Uganda Limited (Defendant) to recover 10% royalty fees for use of his business concept by the Defendant up to date at a commercial interest rate of 22% from the date of execution of the Non-disclosure agreement with the Defendant, general damages and costs of the suit for breach of a confidentiality agreement.
The Plaintiff’s case was that he was the owner of a business concept that would enable mobile banking. The Plaintiff stated that he had approached the Defendant (MTN Uganda Limited) with the aim of selling the business concept for a fee. That the parties entered in a non –disclosure agreement on 2nd October, 2007in which both parties agreed to protect the said business concept from third parties.
It was further the case for the Plaintiff that the Defendant used this information for their benefit without compensating the Plaintiff for his time and efforts in developing the business concept, the Defendant having launched mobile money services that were said to be somewhat similar to the concept that belonged to the Plaintiff.
We, in our defence of MTN Uganda Limited denied liability and argued that the information disclosed by the Plaintiff to the Defendant was not confidential but were general concepts that were business knowledge within the public domain and had even been used else where
We further argued that the MTN mobile money services offered by the Defendant was very different from the Plaintiff’s concept and there was no breach of confidentiality agreement since a similar product was already in existence and use by safaricom through M-Pesa mobile money

There were three issues for courts determination namely;

1. Whether the Plaintiff disclosed any confidential information or a trade secret to the Defendant.
2. If so, whether the Defendant utilized the confidential information to the detriment of the Plaintiff.
3. What reliefs or remedies are available to the Plaintiff.

1. In respect of the issue whether the Plaintiff disclosed any confidential information or trade secret to the Defendant, the Court agreed with our argument that the concept was already in the public domain and was common knowledge in the international domain in the telecom and banking sector and held that business concepts were not novel as they were internationally considered generally known public information and there was no trade secret to protect.

2. The Court further stated that the fact that it was a new idea in Uganda was not enough for it to be treated as confidential and protected and for that very reason could not confer property rights having been excluded by section 4 (1) of the Trade Secrets protection Act of 2009.

3. On the second issue of whether the Defendant utilized the confidential information to the detriment of the Plaintiff, the Court held that based on Article 4.2 of the agreement, the agreement had already come to an end the moment the concept was found to be already in the public domain and found the agreement not binding on either party.

4. The Court dismissed the Suit

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