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A federal judge ruled at a Wednesday hearing that three Harvard alums have two weeks to amend their complaints alleging that the founder of Facebook.com—the popular social-networking Web site—stole the idea for the site from them.
The lawsuit accuses Facebook's creator and Harvard dropout, Mark E. Zuckerberg, of fraud, copyright infringement, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
Cameron S.H. Winklevoss ’04, Tyler O.H. Winklevoss ’04, and Divya K. Narendra ’04, of the rival networking site ConnectU, claim Zuckerberg promised in 2003 to help them develop their site, but then abandoned the project to start Facebook.
“In November 2003, we found Mark Zuckerberg, who was then a Harvard sophomore at the time, and asked him to join our team, complete the coding, help launch the Web site and help it grow,” Cameron Winklevoss said. “If the site was successful, the four of us would share in its success.”
He said that the ConnectU team told Zuckerberg in confidentiality “everything about our idea.”
ConnectU first sued Facebook in 2004 for breach of contract and copyright violations, but the case was dismissed on a legal technicality. Cameron Winklevoss said they sent a cease and desist letter to Zuckerberg six days after Facebook launched, emphasizing that they challenged the site before it became successful.
“We were shocked to see our idea being presented as thefacebook.com,” he said in a press conference following Wednesday’s hearing.
After the first grievance was dismissed, they immediately filed the second, Cameron Winklevoss said.
Facebook spokeswoman Brandee D. Barker said in a statement Wednesday that the company was “pleased with the outcome of the hearing.”
“We continue to disagree with the allegations that Mark Zuckerberg stole any ideas or code to build Facebook,” the statement reads.
No trial date has been set, and there are no active settlement talks, according to ConnectU's lawyer, John F. Hornick.
A lawsuit filed by Facebook against ConnectU claiming that hackers hired by ConnectU stole e-mail addresses and then attempted to lure workers away from Facebook is also ongoing in California.
—Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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