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Did a new court development spark Facebook-ConnectU settlement?

Facebook is reportedly trying to settle the longstanding lawsuit--maybe because a judge in an appeals court ruled that former rival ConnectU's case won't be dismissed at its request.

Earlier on Monday, reports surfaced that Facebook may be close to a settlement on its longstanding legal dispute with former rival ConnectU, after several years of dismissals, appeals, and general unpleasantry. But a recent court ruling suggests that the timing may not be entirely random: a judge in a U.S. court of appeals ruled that ConnectU was allowed to reinstate its case, reversing Facebook's request for dismissal.

Documents filed last Thursday from ConnectU vs. Zuckerberg et al., which has been handled in a Massachusetts district court, reveal that a senior circuit judge in the court of appeals opted to allow ConnectU to reinstate its case.

"We hold that the jurisdictional claim in the amended complaint warrants full consideration and constitutes a viable hook on which federal jurisdiction can be hung," the court document read. "Because this holding is at odds with the conclusions reached by the court below, we reverse the order of dismissal and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

ConnectU founders Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra had originally filed suit against Facebook's founders in September 2004, claiming that CEO Mark Zuckerberg had nabbed their code and business plan while employed as a programmer for ConnectU when all four were students at Harvard. Also named in the suit were four early Facebook employees as well as the Facebook corporation itself.

In July, the Massachusetts court had requested that ConnectU present more concrete evidence to support its case, indicating that the would-be social-networking site didn't have enough of an argument against Facebook. Facebook, meanwhile, argued that ConnectU's claims were moot and requested that the case be dismissed.

But in the documents filed Thursday, the appeals court decision ruled clearly in favor of ConnectU. "Although the defendants have advanced other arguments, those arguments are either unavailing, or inadequately developed, or both," the ruling read. "We reject them out of hand and, for the reasons elucidated above, we reverse the order of dismissal."