Story of a man that lost $612.5 Million


GoodfellowThe New York Times has found out the first person to invent wireless push-email, even before the NTP patents were submitted and approved. Geoff Goodfellow is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, who in 1982 had the bright idea of using pagers to send wireless email way before RIM came out with their Interactive Pagers which were 2-way pagers or their Blackberry brand which introduced wireless push-email in 1999. In the early 1990’s Mr. Goodfellow finally got some financial backing and launched “RadioMail” but it ultimately failed.

What Mr. Goodfellow’s biggest mistake was that he never patented the idea, which is something unheard of in Silicon Valley. And the big mistake by RIM, is not finding this guy before NTP did. In 2002, when, while running a bar in Prague, Goodfellow was contacted by Wallace, who flew to Prague to talk to him about his work. NTP ultimately took steps to, in Goodfellow’s words, “neutralize him as a complication to its patent case,” including bringing him on board as a consultant. Goodfellow received $4,000 a day in hush money and also signed a NDA agreement which is the reason why no one really knows him until now.

A chief question asked by the NYT article: should NTP have disclosed its findings vis-a-vis Goodfellow? Stanford law professor Mark Lemley thinks so: “The basic key is the attorneys have the obligation to disclose everything they know about his prior artwork and make him available as a fact witness.” Wallace, however, says that Goodfellow couldn’t come up with much documentation on his initial invention, called “RadioMail.”

So how does Goodfellow feel about missing out on the $612 million payday? Turns out, he doesn’t seem too distraught. “The way you compete is to build something that is faster, better, cheaper,” he told the Times. “You don’t lock your ideas up in a patent and rest on your laurels.”