Facebook case likely to be thrown out of court

The US judge presiding over the Facebook lawsuit has said he is likely to dismiss the idea that the site's founder stole the idea for the fast-growing social networking website.

However, the judge has delayed a ruling and has given a group of former Harvard students two weeks to produce evidence that Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, stole their ideas to create his site.

The three-year-old legal battle revolves around accusations, strongly denied by Facebook, that Zuckerberg stole ideas when he was hired by the Harvard students to write code for a site called Harvard Connection.

The judge said in court yesterday the former Harvard students may be using the lawsuit as a tactic to extract a settlement from Facebook, and pressed their lawyer to produce evidence of a commercial arrangement with Zuckerberg.

"Dorm room chitchat does not make a contract, so I want to see it," Douglas Woodlock, Boston district court judge, said.

He added that his impression was that "the purpose of this litigation is not to resolve a dispute but to provide leverage for the purposes of settlement".

A Facebook spokeswoman said: "We are pleased with the outcome of the hearing today. We continue to disagree with the allegations that Mark Zuckerberg stole any ideas or code to build Facebook."

The students have since gone onto launch their own rival to Facebook, called ConnectU.

The courtroom battle comes amid mounting speculation that Facebook is heading for an initial public offering.

The speculation was fuelled by Facebook's appointment of Gideon Yu, the former YouTube chief financial officer, as its chief financial officer yesterday.

Yu became CFO of video-sharing site YouTube shortly before it was acquired by Google last year for $1.65bn.

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