In a legal battle that began almost a year ago, the latest development in the Facebook vs. StudiVZ case has gone in favor of the German social networking site. On Tuesday, the court in Cologne (in western Germany) wrote:
“Although there are overlaps and similarities between the two sites that are impossible to overlook, no dishonest copying could be established by the judge.”
However, the judgment “is not legally binding” and Facebook can appeal, according to the AFP.
In July 2008, Facebook sued German social networking site StudiVZ for copyright infringement. Facebook alleged that the German company developed a pure knock-off that merely replaced its blue color scheme with a red one, confusing social networking users in Germany.
Before Facebook filed suit, the two companies were apparently in discussions about a potential buyout of StudiVZ by Facebook, but that option didn’t materialize – with StudiVZ’s owner, the Holtzbrinck Grouppe, asking for a price above what Facebook was willing to accept. In November 2008, Facebook reopened its case against StudiVZ for copying its design and stealing its code, but the German court wasn’t convinced for a few reasons, saying StudiVZ launched in 2005 when Facebook was popular mainly in North America, and StudiVZ already had over 10 million users by the time Facebook translated its site into German in March 2008.
To date, Facebook has 2.9 million users in Germany compared to the reported 14.3 million subscribers StudiVZ has across three of its social networking sites: StudiVZ for university students, schuelerVZ for high school students, and meinVZ for the greater population.
The good news for Facebook is that many Germans are making the transition to Facebook anyways. We’ve heard from German users that StudiVZ is stagnating under its new corporate leadership, and as a result many Germans are moving to Facebook anyway.