Does Mark Zuckerberg really own Facebook? That's the question raised in a lawsuit filed in a New York court by Paul D. Ceglia, who claims to have bankrolled the original Facebook site for $1000.
In the complaint filed at the Supreme Court of Allegany County in New York, Ceglia paid Zuckerberg $1000 in 2003 to build a website called TheFacebook. In return for the money, the complaint alleges, Zuckerberg agreed to give Ceglia a 50 percent interest in TheFacebook, plus one percent of the company for every day past January 1, 2004 that the website remained unfinished. The site was finished on February 4, 2004. "According to the terms of the contract, as of February 4th 2004, [Ceglia] had acquired an additional 34 percent interest in the business for a total of eighty four percent (84%)," the complaint contends.
Zuckerberg subsequently created another website, Facebook, and a new company, Facebook, Inc., which is now the largest social network on the Internet with some 500 million members. Ceglia argues that the present Facebook is just a continuum of the original TheFacebook site and as such, he is entitled to his 84 percent of the company, as well as 84 percent of "any and all monies realized by the Defendants from April 28th 2003 to the present time, along with the costs, disbursements, and attorney fees for this action."
Although Facebook dismissed the lawsuit as "frivolous," Judge Thomas Brown, who is hearing the case in the New York court, has issued a temporary restraining order restricting any transfer of assets by Facebook. However, a legal expert quoted in the Wall Street Journal opined that the lawsuit may get derailed by the statute of limitations on such cases in New York state.