Three former Harvard classmates of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will face him in Massachusetts district court next week, claiming for a second time that the social networking site's original development team stole the idea and source code for Facebook after Zuckerberg worked for them in 2003.
The dispute began when Zuckerberg launched TheFacebook.com in February 2004, a month after promising to help finish the Web site for the Harvard Connection, now ConnectU, according to a complaint filed in April 2007 by the three plaintiffs in the case -- classmates Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra. As early as November 2003, the three ConnectU founders had discussed the possibility of working on the Harvard Connection Web site with Zuckerberg, the court filing stated.
This is the second time around for the lawsuit. A previous court action was dismissed due to a technicality on March 28, and ConnectU's founders immediately filed a refurbished complaint, according to Conde Nast's Portfolio.com. With Facebook currently valued at as much as $2 billion, the stakes of the lawsuit have risen dramatically in the past three years.
Misappropriation of source code and other trade secrets, whether by insiders or hackers, has become increasingly common. In 2003, playable portions of the game Half-Life 2 circulated around the Internet after a online thief breached the security around the developer's servers. In 2004, a 27-year-old Connecticut man was sentenced to two years in prison for trying to sell the source code to Microsoft's Windows 2000 operating system, even though he was not charged with originally stealing the code.
The three founders of ConnectU have brought ten claims against Facebook, including copyright infringement, misappropriation of trade secrets, and a number of violations of common law. The three former classmates are requesting that the court grant an injunction prohibiting Facebook's operations, requiring that the company destroy all materials derived from the allegedly infringed-upon code, and holding the firm and its officers liable for the civil claims.
A nod to Conde Nast's Portfolio.com.
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UPDATE: The story, including the headline, was updated with more information on the previous lawsuit filed by the three founders of ConnectU against Facebook and its founders.
Posted by: Robert Lemos