ConnectU Needs a Better Facebook Story

In its copyright infringement suit against Facebook, social network
ConnectU has two weeks to come back with a better case.

That was the gist of Judge Woodlock’s comments yesterday after
hearing Facebook’s motion to dismiss the suit in the United States
District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

In a statement e-mailed to internetnews.com, Facebook
spokeswoman Brandee Barker said, “We are pleased with the outcome of
the hearing today. We continue to disagree with the allegations that
Mark Zuckerberg stole any ideas or code to build Facebook.”

John Hornick, counsel for ConnectU, also characterized Judge
Woodlock’s comments as a positive development.

“The case goes on. The court gave ConnectU an opportunity to amend
the complaint and add more facts,” Hornick said on a conference call
held for the press.

ConnectU is suing Facebook and its founders, including CEO Mark
Zuckerberg, for 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.

Those claims stem from what ConnectU founders Cameron Winklevoss,
Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narenda in a copy of the complaint describe
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 collected from users. For stealing this
information as well as the “Harvard Connection Code,” the plaintiffs
seek punitive damages from Facebook and the possible suspension of
its operations.

Ian C. Ballon, an intellectual property attorney in the Silicon
Valley office of Greenberg Traurig LLP, told internetnews.com
Judge Woodlock’s comments suggest ConnectU needs to gather more facts
to make their case. That might be a challenge, Ballon said, “It is
easy to allege a contract or a trade secret, but much harder to prove
it.

Ballon is generally skeptical about ConnectU’s case.

“It is often the case that when a new business model is successful
others come forward claiming that they had created it,” Ballon said.

ConnectU has two weeks to amend its complaint before Judge Woodlock
once again considers Facebook’s motion to dismiss.

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