THE HOYOS FILE: David vs legal Goliath
I am being put out into the streets of Barbados like a common criminal just for trying for these five years to recoup $20.6 million that is rightfully mine. – David Weekes, inventor, in an email to Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite.
In October 2006, a black folder was left behind at the Hilton Hotel after a conference.
Hotel staffers looked inside it and made a few calls in an effort to contact the people who had forgotten it. They worked for the Barbados Government.
When no one showed up, the Hilton called up David Weekes, whose name and title as chief executive officer of a local software company called IBIS Latin America Corp. was found on correspondence inside the folder.
Mr Weekes collected the black folder and found in it what he believed to be evidence that the confidentiality surrounding certain trade secrets he had divulged to CARICOM representatives during many months of meetings had been compromised. Another company got the contract he was expecting.
As I learned from speaking with him at the time, Mr Weekes had successfully patented a software-hardware system called the Global Origin and Destination Information System (GODIS) with the United States Patent Office. In the wording of the patent, filed in December 2004, GODIS is a “system and method to facilitate the management of cross-border traveller information prior to, during and post boarding air, sea and land vessels of transportation”.
He had been meeting with CARICOM in hopes of selling them his system for use in the security effort relating to the Cricket World Cup, which was held in 2007 in the region.
But after a meeting on January 11, 2007, the CARICOM Secretariat wrote Mr Weekes’ attorneys saying that it had completed a review of the matter, but “we are nowhere nearer to substantiating the claims that higher sensitive and confidential materials belonging to GODIS and presented to officials of the CARICOM Secretariat were passed without their knowledge and consent to a third party”.
Mr Weekes had, it turns out, borrowed money in order to get his security solution patented and ready for market, and the loan was backed by the Central Bank of Barbados.
Mr Weekes went to court, asking it to stop the CARICOM Secretariat from “making use of his trade secrets”. He also sought permission to file an injunction against the United States company 3M in Trinidad, where its regional headquarters are located.
Now, according to an email from Mr Weekes to the Barbados Attorney General and other Government officials, and copied to the media, it appears the inventor is about to lose his home as a result of the events briefly described above.
In the email, he claims that while there has not been a judgment in the civil suit he brought against CARICOM, a local law firm has “been able to put my company in court and get a civil judgment, against me, in a personal capacity – not my company – for default on a Central Bank-backed guarantee”.
This writer takes no position on any of the matters alluded to above, and I agree that I have mainly reflected Mr Weekes’ side of the story.
I can also report that I have no idea why Mr Weekes is continually asking for certain legal “ratification” documents regarding CARICOM from the Attorney General – by his own admission, for the tenth time.
I have met Mr Weekes only a few times in person. The last was a couple of years ago at some function at George Washington House, and it seemed that the whole matter had taken its toll on him, and he told me he hadn’t been well.
So I am writing about this today solely because it seems horrific to me that a Barbadian who believes he acted in good faith by sharing what he felt were trade secrets of a software-hardware system for which he owned a United States patent, only to find himself bypassed, and then by some strange twist of fate to receive documents not meant for him, which he believes showed that his confidences had been broken, could now be turfed out of his home into the bargain.
Is this the message we want to send to our talented inventors?
As far as I know, Mr Weekes has a family who would also be affected by his losing his home.
So I don’t know who is right or wrong up to this point, but I do know that we as Barbadians will all be wrong if we just stand by without protest and let Mr Weekes and his family lose their home in such circumstances.
The article is my protest.
If that house auction proceeds next month, we will all certainly be guilty of failing a fellow human being on something that is completely avoidable.