Paul Lowe – A victim of the justice system
Software developer Paul Lowe, who had been a victim of the justice system for 20 years, is very disappointed that he had to leave Jamaica, his homeland, to seek a living in Canada.
“I used to say as a youngster that I am not leaving Jamaica, I am going to make my living here,” said Lowe.
However, Lowe told The Sunday Gleaner last week that despite his pledge, he had to flee his country years later because of financial hardships and emotional distress.
Lowe, who was described as the forerunner in the bill-payment software business, had his hopes dashed to pieces in 2000 when bill-payment company Paymaster Jamaica Ltd sued Lowe and GraceKennedy Remittance Services (GKRS) Ltd for breach of copyright of a software.
Paymaster claimed it had exclusive right to a software that Lowe first sold to it. Lowe subsequently sold a bill-payment software to GKRS.
After the suit was filed in 2000, the Supreme Court granted an order barring Lowe from using the software.
Lowe and GKRS were eventually successful in the case Paymaster brought against them. The court also ruled that Lowe was the owner of the software. The case was also heard by the United Kingdom Privy Council, Jamaica’s final appellate court.
Supreme Court Judge Lisa Palmer Hamilton assessed damages last month because Lowe suffered financial losses, and Paymaster was ordered to pay Lowe $282 million in damages, but with interest it will amount to approximately $600 million.
Commenting on the award, Lowe said he had mixed feelings. He said he was glad for the award but noted that it could not compensate for all that he had lost.
He explained that with the injunction against him, he could not do any business because he could not copy his software or make anything like it.
“My troubles started when the injunction was granted. I started looking for work but no company would hire me because the case was highly publicised. People used to make unkind remarks about me even in my presence because of the case and it seems I was blacklisted,” Lowe shared.
“My daughter was in medical school at the time and I was paying her tuition. I could not afford to pay it any more so my daughter had to get student loan. I had to use all my savings to survive and I fell in arrears with the mortgage on my house in Stony Hill, St Andrew, so I had to sell it for little and nothing.”
There was no software in the horse racing industry in Jamaica, so Lowe said he made one for Caymanas Track Ltd but he found the horse racing market very small and there was no progress in that area, so in 2013 Lowe and his wife migrated to Canada.
He spoke of the hardships he faced there trying to get a suitable job.
“It was not easy to find work in Canada and I was actually bouncing around looking for work, so it took me some time to settle,” he said.
He has not worked in the software field since he left Jamaica but he now has a job at a racetrack where he manages the tellers. He said at times he uses his software knowledge to get the job done and for things to run smoothly.
Lowe, the father of five, said it was heartbreaking for him and his wife to leave Jamaica.
He explained that by the time the court cleared him 10 years after the suit was filed, his bill-payment software was useless, because by then other software developers had taken over the market and “10 years in software is like two lifetimes”.
WANTED TO BE DIFFERENT
Lowe believes in being unique and disclosed that when he graduated from university, most software developers were doing accounting and payroll applications but he wanted to be different, so when he saw that the market needed a bill-payment software, he developed one from as far back as the early 1980s.
In explaining how the idea came about, Lowe said the National Cash Register (NCR) sold the NCR 2950, a highly specialised collection machine, to the Jamaica Telephone Company (now FLOW) where he was working. The telecommunications company sent him to the head office of the NCR in Dayton, Ohio in the United States, for training and that was where he learnt about the payment system and how the machine worked.
When he returned to Jamaica, Douglas Halsall, the then CEO of NCR, encouraged him to go on his own, so he left the company in 1983 and started his own business, which was called Ultraquest. He was then asked by NCR to develop a collection software for the NCR 2950 machine, which was first used at the Tax Collectorate on Constant Spring Road, St Andrew, and later at Jamaican airports.
“I believe in honesty and integrity and I would never do anything to deceive or mislead anyone,” Lowe stated.
Lowe said he has tremendous sympathy for litigants who have to spend years fighting to get justice and he was grateful to his lawyer Vincent Chen, who gave him encouragement and fought courageously to clear his name.
“If the case had been disposed of speedily, say within two years, I am sure I would have been able to move forward with my business, as I also had overseas requests for my bill-payment software,” he noted.
The long delay in getting cases tried in the Supreme Court has been of great concern to both lawyers and litigants.
Last month, Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck bemoaned the fact that cases that were ready for trial were now being set for dates in 2025 and 2026.
Now Lowe will have to wait a while longer, as attorney-at-law Maurice Manning, who is representing Paymaster, confirmed last week that Paymaster is appealing the award.