I’ve covered the topic of social networking several times over the course of the past few months, but it’s such a popular topic lately that I can't seem to go one day without seeing a hot new story all over the media about it. Recently, it's all about popular Website Facebook. And this week’s hot news follows the standard path that most successful new start-ups end up walking down: the lawsuit. Three college students have filed a lawsuit against 23-year old Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, claiming that he stole their idea. When one reaches the top, rest assured that people will try to cash in on your fame. It’s a classic "kick 'em when he's up" scenario.
The lawsuit alleges that the three men in question concocted the idea for a site, and had originally called it ConnectU, with the idea that it would help connect Harvard students. Zuckerberg was brought on for the technical aspects: these guys were athletes, not tech geeks. The three allege that Zuckerberg eventually stopped working on the site while he went ahead with his own site that followed the same premise.
If Zuckerberg was the one who was able to take the idea and run, he deserves the credit. But in all fairness, if he stole someone else's idea, well, that's just wrong.
The students filed a suit against Zuckerberg and Facebook in 2004 that was quickly dismissed. As Facebook grew in popularity (it currently claims over 30 million active members!), the three men became more red-faced, and finally filed again in March 2007. A hearing today will determine whether this suit will proceed, or be dismissed yet again. Stay tuned!
As a sidenote, it's funny (but increasingly common) that a small, college project has evolved into a company that could soon file for an IPO, and might just be worth millions. It just goes to show that no matter how small an idea you think you have, and no matter how young or old the “inventor” is, protect your properties. What seems like nothing could very well be the "next big thing" in new business.
[Photo: Mark Zuckerberg].