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Subject: [IP] more on In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent

  • From: David Farber <>
  • To:
  • Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006 07:44:24 -0400

Begin forwarded message:

From: Bob Frankston <>
Date: April 15, 2006 11:26:03 PM EDT
Cc: &quot;'John Markoff'&quot; <>, &quot;'Dan Bricklin'&quot; <>
Subject: RE: [IP] In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent

Nice to know Geoff is back in the US.

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We should also remember Bob and Hoyle Doyle (http:// who shipped the IXO which was a small brick with a keyboard and a 16 character display. What made it especially interesting was that it could receive alpha messages over the paging network -- in fact, the wireless paging protocol was called the IXO protocol for a long time. I used the IXO as an email terminal but it was more computer than pager.

More to the point if you think of the number of ideas that were &#x201C;invented&#x201D; in the first few decades imagine the damage that would have happened had there been a rush to patent everything. I put the words &#x201C;invented&#x201D; in quotes since I think of the process as more one of discovery and most were seen as just steps as part of larger steps.

What if a patent on token rings prevented any other work on networks, or SNOBOL preempted string processing in programming languages? Or if patenting wireless messages prevented the use of 802.11 for networks? Even if the patents were eventually overturned the only winners would be lawyers.

******* [ on the other hand, if I had filed a patent on our token ring, I would have prevented IBM from taking our work and stalling 6 years before they acknowledged the source of their ring. djf]

This is one reason I&#x2019;m very wary of &#x201C;invention factories&#x201D; that attempt to preemptively patent ideas. Today&#x2019;s software tools give many people the opportunity to discover new ideas and build on them. There is a vast yet subtle difference between protecting unusual inventions and preemptively locking up vast swaths of opportunity.

If Dan and I had patented VisiCalc what would we have prevented? That said if we had today&#x2019;s patent system we would have done so. Yet I think I live in a world that is better because of what others have been able to contribute without impediment. But if you know of a good patent lawyer I&#x2019;ve got lots of ideas that &#x2026;

-----Original Message-----
From: David Farber []
Sent: Saturday, April 15, 2006 18:50
Subject: [IP] In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent

I kno him well and ued his stuff early djf

Begin forwarded message:

From: Jonathan B Spira <>

Date: April 15, 2006 7:03:45 PM EDT


Subject: In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent


IP readers will learn from this tale.

Regards/Mit freundlichen Gr&#xFC;&#xDF;en/Sz&#xED;v&#xE9;lyes &#xFC;dv&#xF6;zlet/Cordialement/

Cordiali saluti/Saludos/V&#xE4;nliga h&#xE4;lsningar

/s/ Jonathan

Jonathan B. Spira

CEO and Chief Analyst

Basex, Inc.


( +1 (212) 725-2600 x113


April 16, 2006

In Silicon Valley, a Man Without a Patent



GEOFF GOODFELLOW is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who came up with an

idea that resulted in a $612.5 million payday. But he will never see

a penny of it. He remains little known even in Silicon Valley and,

perhaps most surprising, he doesn't really mind.

And herein lies one of the stranger tales about innovation and money

in the world of technology.

A high-school dropout, Mr. Goodfellow had his light-bulb moment in

1982, when he came up with the idea of sending electronic mail

messages wirelessly to a portable device &#x2014; like a BlackBerry. Only

back then, there was no BlackBerry; his vision centered on pagers. He

eventually did get financial backing to start a wireless e-mail

service in the early 1990's, but it failed.

So, in 1998, he moved to Prague and bought a bar. While he was there,

the BlackBerry did come along. Tending bar, he believed that everyone

had forgotten that he had initially come up with the idea of wireless




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