Facebook has just issued a Friday night press release announcing the settling of a trademark dispute with Think Computer Corporation, whose founder Aaron Greenspan created the houseSYSTEM student web portal while he and Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg were classmates at Harvard. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but if the rumored “$65 million” settlement with the founders of ConnectU is any indication, it’s possible Greenspan’s settlement could also be valued in the millions.
In the statement, Zuckerberg said:
“Aaron and I studied together at Harvard and I’ve always admired his entrepreneurial spirit and love of building things. I appreciate his hard work and innovation that led to building houseSYSTEM, including the Universal Face Book feature. At school, I was even a member of houseSYSTEM. We are pleased that we’ve been able to amicably resolve our differences.”
“I am glad that my contributions have been recognized by Facebook. Mark has built a tremendous company at Facebook, and I wish them continued success in the future,” Greenspan said in the release.
Here’s what happened: Greenspan’s houseSYSTEM, a web-based portal for students at Harvard that he built in 2003 (before Facebook was founded), included a feature called “The Face Book.” However, in 2005, Facebook was awarded a trademark for the term “Facebook” by the USPTO. Facebook was then awarded a second trademark in 2006. Greenspan had since filed petitions to have the USPTO revoke both of Facebook’s trademarks, saying he had used the term first. (See this 2007 NY Times story for more.) However, now all of that is going away: as part of the settlement, Greenspan canceled all of his legal actions against the company.
This isn’t the first time Facebook has settled legal matters originating from Mark Zuckerberg’s time at Harvard. Last year, the company settled claims from the founders of a company called ConnectU, whose founders Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra claimed Zuckerberg basically stole the idea for Facebook from them while they were undergraduates at Harvard. Drama has since ensued on the ConnectU side as the Winklevosses fired their lawyers and sought to have the settlement canceled, but the courts have upheld it since.