Facebook founder paid $100 million to settle theft claims


Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg paid $US65 million in a lawsuit settlement after it was suggested he stole the idea for the social networking site from a college roommate.

The details of the settlement were let slip by law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, which noted the lawsuit in an advertising brochure.

Zuckerberg was accused of stealing the ideas and the source code of rival social networking site ConnectU, founded by former Harvard students Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss.

The brothers say Zuckerberg agreed to help write code for the ConnectU site until 2003, but broke the deal and started Facebook in 2004 instead.

The lawsuit ended with a settlement of $US65 million dollars, which included the purchase of ConnectU by Facebook for an undisclosed amount.

But the final details of the lawsuit were leaked in a brochure by Quinn Emanuel, claiming that it “won $65 million settlement against Facebook”. The story was also leaked by The Recorder, a California legal publication.

Peter Calamari, a lawyer representing ConnectU, said the release was a mistake.

“Our PR people released something, and it didn’t get caught by the people who knew,” Calamari told the Los Angeles Times. “We had a policy against commenting or talking publicly about this case.”

While the law firm says it successfully won the case, it is now involved in a legal battle of its own with ConnectU – the firm is seeking $US13 million in fees, while the Winklevoss brothers accuse it of underestimating the site’s stock value.

Patrick Stafford is a freelance journalist and a former deputy editor of SmartCompany.

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