Patently Absurd (continued)
John Markoff tells the story of Geoff Goodfellow (aptly named) who invented the idea of wireless email in 1982 but never patented it because, like many innovative thinkers, he disdains the idea of patents.
Ten years later a Chicago inventor named Thomas J. Campana Jr. did patent the idea of wireless email and his company NTP scored $612mm when they finally prevailed in a patent litigation with Blackberry.
Geoff Goodfellow tried to build a wireless email business and failed.
NTP partnered with AT&T to build a wireless email gateway and I have no idea what came of that.
Blackberry got it right and has a huge business to show for its work.
In my opinion execution is what matters, not who came up with the idea in the first place, as long as there wasn’t outright theft of the idea involved. And it’s pretty clear that by the time Blackberry came along the idea of wireless email was out there.
I think the idea of wireless email is obvious and was from the day that wireless devices like pagers showed up. Geoff Goodfellow says as much in this quote from the Markoff piece:
"You don’t patent the obvious," he said during a recent interview. "The
way you compete is to build something that is faster, better, cheaper.
You don’t lock your ideas up in a patent and rest on your laurels."