Facebook and StudiVZ end legal dispute

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Facebook and StudiVZ have reached a settlement in the alleged plagiarism case, with the German social network operator paying Zuckerberg and co an undisclosed sum as part of the deal. Both companies will be withdrawing their respective claims both in the United States and Germany and continue to operate their business as before (statement in German).

StudiVZ and Facebook have agreed not to disclose any more details about the settlement.

Facebook filed suit against StudiVZ in California in July last year, alleging that the German company had infringed on Facebook’s “look, feel, features and services” (which clearly was very much the case from the get-go). The International Herald Tribune later revealed that Facebook had been negotiating for months to try to buy StudiVZ, citing a former executive of the German company as its source. That never happened because parent company Georg von Holtzbrinck was reportedly not satisfied with what Facebook was willing to pay for StudiVZ, which it had acquired for the equivalent of $134 million in early 2007.

A second suit was subsequently filed in Germany in November 2008, but two months ago the County Court in Cologne actually ruled against Facebook, also claiming the U.S. company’s lawyers had been ‘sloppy’ with their preparations. Facebook immediately announced it would be appealing the court’s decision.

Now that both parties have finally reached a settlement after over a year of lawsuits and failed acquisition attempts, the case is now part of history. You could say Facebook won because the German company is paying an undisclosed sum to the U.S. social networking operator as part of the deal, but at the same time StudiVZ can freely continue to market its services to the German public with an almost identical copy of Facebook’s website (see screenshot below).

(Thanks to Tilman Drerup for the tip)


  • http://www.w3roi.com Dan Grossman

    What was Facebook’s charge here?

    Apple v Microsoft established long ago (1994) that merely the layout of interface elements is not copyrightable. A blog that puts its columns and widgets in the same place as TechCrunch is not violating any copyright held by TC.

    Something like using the TechCrunch logo would clearly violate copyright (and perhaps a trademark too), but studiVZ isn’t using the Facebook logo or anything else that’s protected.

    So… what was the case?

    • http://techcrunch.com Robin Wauters

      It wasn’t merely the design, but also the alleged copying of features and services. Part of the initial claim was that StudiVZ even took some of the original PHP code and CSS files from Facebook to cut some corners.

      • kayoone

        i dont think they got hold of any php code cause you cant just copy & paste that like css…
        but the first css files where indeed taken from facebook

      • http://www.w3roi.com Dan Grossman

        “Features and services” are not automagically owned by anyone. A patent might be able to cover something unique, but most of what Facebook does can’t be patented — there’s prior art, it’s been done before elsewhere. I don’t think Facebook even has any patents.

        So that can’t be what they sued for.

        Stealing software code would be copyright infringement, but it sounds like from the judge’s chastisement that Facebook had no evidence that actually happened, and was just guessing.

        It’s no wonder they lost their case, and I wonder why studiVZ settled this time.

      • http://www.dotcominfoway.com/mobile-application-development/i-phone joaquinadley

        They have ended their dispute and came to a conclusion that Both companies will be withdrawing their respective claims both in the United States and Germany and they have continued to operate their business as before.This is the important turn in this long problem.
        Anyway being a no 1social network in the globe,Facebook won and the German company is paying an undisclosed sum for the deal.

      • design

        layout appearance is an art, that is copyrighted by itself. it clearly old fb copy and color change, anybody can tell with eyes closed.

      • MyLocator ®

        lawyers need work too?

  • mg

    here (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bumi/285541845/) is a screenshot of error messages on StudiVZ reporting an undefined index in /usr/www/users/fakebook/index.php

    so what would u say? ;)

    • http://www.w3roi.com Dan Grossman

      That they named their Linux account “facebook” when they decided to clone the site. That’s not evidence they ever had access to FB code; it’s doubtful they did.

      • http://techcrunch.com Robin Wauters

        Actually, it’s named ‘fakebook’. Also make a distinction between the court case in the U.S. and Germany.

  • Vincent Howard

    Mark Z. must get familiar with this “undisclosed details” process.
    Remember his former fellows from ConnectU?

  • http://www.freakyidea.com anuj

    Its all about gaining publicity . Anything which is similar to facebook would sure attrach lot of attention and with STudiVZ facebook for sure will get lot of users. In the coming month StudiVZ will get conected with Facebook …………after that everyone can guess

  • http://www.ojointernet.com/noticias/facebook-y-studivz-ponen-fin-a-su-batalla-legal/ Facebook y StudiVZ ponen fin a su batalla legal

    […] y StudiVZ han llegado a un acuerdo en el caso de supuesto plagio: la compañía alemana tendrá que pagarle a Facebook una cantidad que no ha sido revelada. Además, ambas empresas […]

  • http://www.keralahoneymoonpackage.com/ Pravesh Pushp

    what was the dispute among them?

  • http://www.spirofrog.de/blog/2009/09/facebook-und-studivz-sind-sich-einig-klage-oder-kauf/ facebook und StudiVZ sind sich einig! Klage oder Kauf? | Spirofrog Blog

    […] Wir gehen immer noch davon aus, dass Facebook irgendwann die VZ Gruppe doch noch kaufen wird, und das könnte bald passieren, vor allem da die VZ Gruppe in Deutschland wichtige Zugänge zur Politik und den Medien bieten kann, und das wäre für facebook ein Mega Deal! Mit Sicherheit wird Techcrunch darüber als einer der Ersten darüber berichten. […]

  • http://www.spirofrog.de Jobs

    German law is very difficult :-) I am sure the owner Holtzbrinck offered some money to continue their business.

  • http://financegeek.com/the-90s-are-back/ Finance Geek » The 90s Are Back

    […] Facebook and its German copycat settle their legal dispute [TechCrunch] […]

  • Roberto

    Well – I bet some money now that StudiVZ will be bought by Faccebook soon. And I would bet some more that It will be a shares only deal.

    The owners of StudiVZ are quite unhappy about their investment and for Facebook it would be the right move. Since Facebook´s evaluation is so incredible above the roof right now it would cost themsome (stock) paper only and not a lot of money …

  • asdij

    BTW: There are no software patents in Europe. (Thank god for that.)

  • http://www.girlsandgames.de Girlie

    Facebook is already growing like hell in Germany. Organic growth just makes more sense to themnow

  • http://renaissancechambara.jp/2009/09/11/links-of-the-day-284/ renaissance chambara alias Ged Carroll - Links of the day

    […] Facebook and StudiVZ end legal dispute […]

  • http://grundlagen-computer.de/internet/rechtsstreit-facebook-und-studivz-beendet Rechtsstreit Facebook und StudiVZ beendet - Grundlagen Computer

    […] Es gibt sogar Gerüchte, dass versucht wurde StudiVZ aufzukaufen. Andere Blogger fragen sich, warum StudiVZ überhaupt eine Zahlung geleistet hat, wen das deutsche Social Network doch vorher bereits am Landgericht Köln gegen Facebook gewonnen hatte. […]

  • http://www.inxerta.com/facebook-y-studivz-ponen-fin-a-su-batalla-legal/ Facebook y StudiVZ ponen fin a su batalla legal - Inxerta.com

    […] y StudiVZ han llegado a un acuerdo en el caso de supuesto plagio: la compañía alemana tendrá que pagarle a Facebook una cantidad que no ha sido revelada. […]

  • http://www.socialnetworkingwatch.com/2009/09/facebook-and-studivz-have-reached-a-settlement.html Social Networking Watch

    Facebook And StudiVZ Have Reached A Settlement…

    TECH CRUNCH — Sep 10 — Facebook and StudiVZ have reached a settlement in the alleged plagiarism case. Both companies have withdrawn their claims and will continue with business as usual. StudiVZ has agreed to pay Facebook an undisclosed amount……

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  • http://www.spielnet.de spiel

    This is one among many wars that happen just everyday between the big companies where they just try to eat each other.

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