Back in the early 80s a man by the name of Geoff Goodfellow had an idea: to relay electronic mail from Arpanet to his alphanumeric pager. He published his concept on an Arpanet mailing list in 1982 (he called his piece "Electronic Mail for People on the Move"), and went on to found RadioMail in the early 1990s -- a wireless email service (surprise, surprise). After working with such small clients and partners as Ericsson, Motorola, and RIM, Goodfellow left the biz in 1996 and moved to Europe. But he was contacted in early 2002 by James H. Wallace Jr., a lawyer of patent-holding firm NTP, who thoroughly researched Goodfellow's contributions to wireless communications as they were gearing up to take on Research In Motion. In fact, Wallace once introduced Goodfellow thusly: "Geoff's the inventor of wireless e-mail. My client patented some of its implementation workings." The New York Times seems to think Goodfellow's prior art should have been disclosed during the RIM / NTP dispute, but wasn't; that Goodfellow should have been available as a fact witness, but wasn't. So why has no one ever heard of the talented Mr. Goodfellow? Because NTP paid him close to $20,000 for "consulting" in 2002, which included several sessions with NTP's lawyers in noteless meetings, as well as a contract and NDA that essentially barred him from discussing the case while it proceeded. You'll have to read the Times profile for the full story, but whether or not NTP acted ethically (or illegally), or preyed on Goodfellow's disdain for patents or his free-market attitude isn't exactly making the bad taste in our mouths from the settlement taste any better.

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Geoff Goodfellow, early inventor of wireless email, profiled