Gov’t, Makerere Sued for Shs 6Bn over Copyright Violation

HIGH COURT | KAMPALA: Six former Kyambogo University students have dragged Makerere University and the Government of Uganda to court for hijacking their tech product without paying them as its inventors.

In their suit filed before High court Commercial Division, the students and now shareholders of Zeenode Limited, contend that between 2006 and 2010 while studying at Kyambogo, they invented an electronic university management computer software system known as E-Kampus.

The product, they say was taken on by government and adopted by government universities, but they have not been paid for their work.

“The plaintiff brings this suit against the first defendant to recover Shs 6,264,890,000 as unpaid balance on frame work contract agreement for breach of the same contract,” the group alleges.

E-Kampus was meant to ease the online pre-admission and admission of students, online student registration, aspects of students’ affairs including queries and swift feedback, alumni data management and transcripts and graduation among other IT services.

According to the papers before court, in 2017, a team of technocrats from the ministry of ICT and National Guidance including its permanent secretary, Mr Vincent Bagire, assessed the students’ IT innovation before recommending it to be used in all public universities and self-accounting tertiary institutions.

“Subsequently, the public universities and self-accounting tertiary institutions, held a meeting under the vice chancellors’ forum under the chairmanship of then vice chancellor of the second defendant (Makerere University), Prof. John Ddumba Ssentamu and jointly resolved that all the public universities adopt the system,” reads in part the court documents

“On July 4th, 2017, the permanent secretary/ secretary to treasury ministry of Finance, wrote to all heads of public universities and self-accounting tertiary institutions, informing them that the policy of government was for all of the said institutions to adopt the system.” the court documents further state.

The students contend that in August 2018, the students entered a contract with government to design, supply and develop an IT system dubbed, Academic Information Management System (AIMS) in all public universities and self-accounting tertiary institutions and it was agreed that the students own all the intellectual rights.

“At the time of the end of the project report, AIMS had enabled the collection of shs486 billion from students in revenue. At the end of the initial term of the contract, the plaintiff (students) invoiced the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance for Shs 6.2 billion being outstanding invoices arising out of the contract,” court documents say.

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The students say that in June 2020, government denied that there were any outstanding sums of money owed to the students.

The plaintiffs also contend that instead government asked that they sign a new contract in which they were supposed to carry out maintenance of the system they had created which they say is illegal.

They therefore allege that Government’s move to maintenance and support their without purchasing it is unconstitutional as it amounts to compulsory acquisition of the property without prior adequate compensation.

Further, the contract demanded that the students were to provide the source code to their innovation to the ICT ministry for safe custody under an Escrow arrangement.

At the end of the project report, the students’ system had enabled the implementing public universities, collect revenue of over Shs486b from students who were using this innovation.

Among other orders they seek from court is that the Government of Uganda is bound to purchase their code to AIMs on a willing buyer /seller basis.

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“Permanent injunction restraining the 2nd Defendant (Makerere University) acting through its directors / officers or agents or otherwise howsoever from passing of its products as plaintiff’s on being associated with the plaintiff.”

They also asked for a permanent injunction restraining defendants from bleaching the contract they entered into with the Government.

On top of that they have asked court to order the defendants to pay them costs for the suit as well as damages.

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