Facebook/ConnectU Settlement Shows Why Losers Litigate

from the it's-profitable dept

Last year, in the midst of various claims from multiple different people that Mark Zuckerberg somehow "stole" the idea for Facebook from other Harvard students, we noted that it really didn't matter. After all, the basic concepts behind Facebook were hardly new when Zuckerberg started it. There had been sites like SixDegrees, Ryze and Friendster long before Facebook came along. What mattered wasn't the idea, but the execution -- and for whatever reason, what Zuckerberg did with Facebook got traction while the others did not. That's called competition, and we generally think that leads to a healthy economy. Yet, the founders of ConnectU, the competing site that went nowhere, sued Zuckerberg and Facebook over this, and both sides were pushed by a judge to settle out of court -- and that appears to be exactly what's happening. The NY Times is reporting that Facebook has reached some sort of settlement with ConnectU's founders.

This sort of thing was inevitable, but it's still problematic. With Facebook generating so much publicity lately, and potentially gearing up for an IPO, it doesn't want these types of lawsuits hanging over it. So it's worth more to just settle and pay up, even if the claim itself is bogus. Yet, all this really does is encourage more similar lawsuits from companies that lost in the marketplace whining about competitors who did a better job executing. While some may say the ConnectU case is different because Zuckerberg worked with ConnectU for a few months, that hardly changes the basic facts of the case. This wasn't a new idea, and it's unlikely that ConnectU had done anything remarkably different than other competitors out there. In fact, it seems clear that it did not, since the site never went anywhere. Yet, because it's cheaper for Facebook to pay out and keep this quiet, ConnectU's founders get paid for failing in the marketplace. That's a bad precedent no matter how you look at it.

Filed Under: copying, litigation, mark zuckerberg, social networks
Companies: connectu, facebook


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  1. identicon
    james glenn, 17 Apr 2008 @ 12:05am

    it's because it became popular at harvard

    the application that zuckerberg had previously made, facemash or what ever it's called, had spread wildly throughout in the harvard community. then, after meeting with the connectu people, zuckerberg acquired their vision and move along with that, creating thefacebook. it became popular with other schools because it was popular at harvard. harvard has talismanic powers in terms of how anyones association with the school affects their public relations. a popular social utility tool that a student creates at that school was bound to get notice outside of the school. bam - millions of people became interested. The chances of facebook becoming successful if it had originated anywhere else other than harvard or it's ivy league equivalents is vastly diminished (yet i'm sure students at other schools have created extraordinary things). In that sense, connectu could have been popular by virtue of having mark's skills involved in creating it and the fact that it could have been successful because it was created at harvard. Mark was hired by the Winklevosses and Narenda - that much is true. but it appears nothing was in writing; that's what makes the connectu people's case weak. and facebook, ironically, is probably better because mark bailed on the connectu project. but perhaps the connectu people have some cause for complaint, even if they have a rather tenous capacity to support legal action.

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