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ConnectU Takes Facebook Founders To Court

Facebook tomorrow will be in court to address copyright infringement accusations from ConnectU, another social network founded by Harvard students in 2004.

According to a copy of ConnectU's complaint obtained by internetnews.com, Facebook founders, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, will answer to claims of copyright infringement, breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, unfair business practices, intentional interference with prospective business advantage, breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, and fraud.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment.

Those claims stem from what ConnectU founders Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, Divya Narenda describe in the complaint as a business arrangement wherein Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, then a Harvard student, would develop a "Harvard Connection Code" for a Harvard alumni and student social network.

But instead of working to complete the code, the ConnectU founders say Zuckerberg stole it, registered the domain theFacebook.com and soon after announced his own social network for Harvard students.

Zuckerberg, the plaintiffs allege, was entrusted with descriptions of the ConnectU business model, content concepts, and the type of information that would be collect from users. For stealing this information as well as the "Harvard Connection Code," the plaintiffs seek punitive damages from Facebook and the suspension of its operations.

If nothing else, the case is yet another measure of how popular and perhaps profitable important Facebook.com has become. Its success is worth suing over.

Google passed the same milestone in January 2002 when search marketing firm Overture Services took it to court over copyright infringement. Google eventually settled with Overture, by then a Yahoo property, in 2004.

In 2000 Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the Blackberry, faced a similar copyright suit from NTP. That suit finally ended in 2006 with RIM paying $612.5 million.

Tomorrow's session, a motion hearing, will be held in courtroom one of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The honorable Douglas P. Woodlock will preside.