Have you heard of an Italian named Antonio Meucci? No? Well, in 1871, he filed a patent for something he called a "teletrofono" and got it. However in 1874 when he was supposed to renew the patent, he failed to send in the $10 fee. Then in 1876, two years later a young man named Alexander Graham Bell filed HIS telephone patent.
Meucci attempted to sue, of course, by retrieving the original sketches and plans he sent to a lab at Western Union, but these records, quite amazingly, disappeared. Where was Bell working at this time? Why, the very same Western Union lab where Meucci swore he sent his original sketches. Eventually, Meucci died penniless and faded away into obscurity.
Did Bell, given his convenient position at Western Union, destroy Meucci's records and claim the telephone as his own invention? It's difficult to say. But one thing's for sure, Meucci's work went unrecognized and un-rewarded.