Facebook, Think settle trademark dispute

Social-networking giant settles yet another spat tied to its origins on Harvard's campus earlier this decade.

Facebook and Think Computer have settled a dispute over whether the former actually owns the term "facebook."

Under the settlement announced late Friday, Think has agreed to abandon its efforts to get the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark issued to Facebook in 2006.

The story behind the dispute between Think and Facebook is a long, convoluted one . But according to the joint statement, Think founder Aaron Greenspan attended Harvard with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg earlier this decade. In 2003, Think released HouseSystem, a Web-based student portal that included a section called "The Universal Face Book" or "The Face Book." At launch, the statement said, HouseSystem didn't include member profiles because of security concerns. Think added profiles after Zuckerberg launched Facebook in 2004, the statement said.

"Aaron and I studied together at Harvard and I've always admired his entrepreneurial spirit and love of building things," Zuckerberg said in the statement. "I appreciate his hard work and innovation that led to building houseSYSTEM, including the Universal Face Book feature. At school, I was even a member of houseSYSTEM. We are pleased that we've been able to amicably resolve our differences."

Greenspan likewise offered courtesies in the statement. "I am glad that my contributions have been recognized by Facebook. Mark has built a tremendous company at Facebook, and I wish them continued success in the future," he said.

Greenspan, who wrote a self-published book called "Authoritas: One Student's Harvard Admissions and the Founding of the Facebook Era," had contended that the terms "facebook" and "face book" were generic terms that couldn't be trademarked. He wasn't seeking the trademarks himself but wanted them invalidated because of problems advertising his book with Google AdWords. Greenspan has also claimed ownership for the idea behind Facebook.

The amount of the settlement was not released. But last summer, one-time Harvard rival ConnectU settled a dispute with Facebook over whether Zuckerberg stole ConnectU's code and business plans for a social network. That lawsuit, which was particularly messy, apparently was settled for $65 million in cash and Facebook stock.

Facebook originally was started as a social-networking site solely for Harvard students. It is now one of the most popular social-networking sites in the world.

News of the latest settlement comes on the heels of the announcement that a Facebook tell-all book will hit store shelves in July.

In related news about Facebook's corporate side, The Wall Street Journal cites unnamed sources who say Russian investment group Digital Sky Technologies wants to invest $200 million in the company "at a $10 billion valuation for the company's preferred stock."

 

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