Guy Claims Pinterest Is A Ripoff Of His Failed, Unrelated Site
from the but-more-stupid dept
By now, everyone should be familiar with the crazy story of the Winklevoss twins, who claimed Mark Zuckerberg “stole” their idea to create Facebook. Over time, other companies have seen similar claims of “copying,” usually after someone who was a total flop in the market gets jealous of someone who built a real company. The latest example is Pinterest, which has now been accused of “stealing” the idea through a path so convoluted it may take a map to work out the details.
Here’s the short version, as far as I can tell, and unless there are more details, it seems likely that this is going to get laughed out of court (hopefully with sanctions for filing an obviously bogus lawsuit). Basically, a guy (Theodore Schroeder) started a site you never heard of (called RendezVoo) in which people could “share their locations” (sounds like they should be suing FourSquare, not Pinterest). That site wasn’t getting much traction, but they planned a version two, where people could “share opinions, views, items and tastes on a variety of subjects” like, well, pretty much any other site on the internet. This site included “boards” that people could post stuff too and also had “infinite scrolling” when an alpha was released in August of 2006.
Months later, Schroeder met Ben Cohen, an investor in startups in NYC, who apparently told them he didn’t understand what they were trying to do with RendezVoo, but brainstormed up a totally unrelated and different concept, whereby startups could “launch” new products via a sort of wire service. Schroeder and his other partners (who continued to work day jobs) completely dumped their RendezVoo plans and worked out something new, called Skoopwire (originally Scoopwire, until they realized someone else had the domain). With this plan in hand, they signed up Cohen to be a partner, taking on the role of Chairman (and promising to put in a little bit of money). Over the course of a few months, not much appeared to happen, and after Cohen (quite reasonably) pointed out that it was silly for the other partners in the project to still be working day jobs rather than focusing on the project, it went dormant.
Months later, Cohen apparently met the founders of Pinterest and became their first investor. At the time, they were still figuring out what their product would be. This is where Schroeder and his lawyers take a massive logic leap in claiming that Cohen “stole” all of Schroeder’s ideas and gave them to Pinterest’s founders. This is based on… almost nothing of substance. The claims are basically that Pinterest has “infinite scrolling,” that it has “boards” and that they used a “pink and purple color scheme to attract female users.” Of course, none of that is even remotely “protectable.” Those are basic ideas that are found all over the place.
Hell, a quick Google search shows that “infinite scroll” first showed up well over a year earlier, and at nearly the same exact time as Schroeder launched the new version of RendezVoo with infinite scroll, Microsoft’s Live.com image search had the feature. In other words, “infinite scroll” — especially for images — was already popping up in a variety of places. It’s ridiculous to think that Cohen — who, again, insisted he didn’t understand RendezVoo and told the team to build an entirely different product — “stole” the idea and sat on it for a year and a half to give to some other entrepreneurs who somehow failed to see a ton of other sites using infinite scroll by that point. Similarly the idea of organizing a web page as a “board” was hardly new at this time, and let’s not even bother discussing the idea of making a site “pink and purple.”
Also, like pretty much every similar claim we’ve seen in the past, it involves someone completely overvaluing the idea and ignoring that it’s the execution, not the idea, that matters in innovation. Pinterest isn’t a success because of “boards” or “infinite scrolling” or “purple and pink” but because it built a great service that people like — something Schroeder didn’t do. Also, note that tons of Pinterest clones have popped up in the wake of Pinterest’s success, but you don’t see Pinterest suing, rather continuing to build out their product.
The whole thing seems like sour grapes from a failed entrepreneur because someone else succeeded with a totally different idea, and he saw a weak connection to use as the basis of a lawsuit.
Randomly, the AllThingsD article above notes one other oddity: Schroeder’s lawyers insist that he’s a “self-taught computer genius,” but there aren’t any records of him online. ATD’s Liz Gannes couldn’t find any trace of him on the web, which seems odd for someone who claims to be an internet entrepreneur and knowledgeable about what’s new in social networking.