This could be a good one. For the Internet business crowd, it’s the equivalent of the custody battle over Anna Nicole Smith’s baby, though without the playmates and strange judge. Today, after years of back and forth, and with a whole lot of money on the line, a Boston judge will oversee a hearing to dismiss a lawsuit filed by social-networking site ConnectU against the founders of the much larger, and potentially more valuable Facebook.
The squabble stretches back to the major players’ days at Harvard, when the group that started ConnectU came up with the idea for a group of linked social networks focused on a single college. At one point, they had Mark Zuckerberg, the eventual founder of Facebook, work for them, and they allege that he effectively stole their idea, launching his own version before theirs went live. Attempts to appeal to school administrators failed, Facebook expanded, and in September 2004, the ConnectU founders filed their lawsuit. Basically, ConnectU wants to shut Facebook down. And Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, really needs to get this little lawsuit out of the way if, as rumored, he plans to either take the company public or sell to the highest bidder—a deal that some have speculated could be worth more than $1 billion. Read more about the history of this high-stakes, Harvard-based fight here.—Gregory Mone