A lawsuit filed against Facebook is raising the question of whether Mark Zuckerberg is the owner of the phenomenally popular social networking site.
Paul D Ceglia filed the lawsuit in New York Superior Court on June 30. The web site designer alleges that he signed a contract with Zuckerberg, the site's founder and CEO, in 2003 that entitles him to 84% ownership of the company.
According to court documents, Ceglia claims he had a written agreement with Zuckerberg to design and build the site that eventually turned into the wildly successful Facebook. He also alleges that he was paid US$1,000 for the work and for a 50 percent stake in the site, along with an extra 1 percent for every day until the website was completed.
That, according to Ceglia's suit, adds up to an 84% ownership of the social network, which has more than 500 million users.
Facebook, however, says that's not the case.
"We believe this suit is completely frivolous and we will fight it vigorously," says Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman.
After Ceglia filed the suit, a New York Supreme Court judge issued a restraining order prohibiting Facebook and Zuckerberg from transferring any assets. Facebook filed a motion to have the case dismissed.
The case has been moved to US federal court, and Facebook has moved to have the restraining order removed, according to Noyes.
"These kinds of suits come with the territory whenever any business becomes wildly successful," says Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group. "These suits are usually dismissed or settled as nuisance suits. But because the judge issued an order, it may mean that there could be something there."
This isn't Ceglia's first court dealing. Late last year, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo obtained a temporary restraining order against a western New York wood-pellet fuel company, Allegany Pellets. Ceglia and his wife, Lasia, own the company, which allegedly took more than $200,000 from consumers and then failed to deliver products or refunds.