Class Acts

Law Prof: Harvard Had a Stronger Claim to Facebook Than the Winklevi and Paul Ceglia Combined

Harvard could have sued for a slice of the social network.
harvard Law Prof: Harvard Had a Stronger Claim to Facebook Than the Winklevi and Paul Ceglia Combined

All your startups are belong to you. (Photo: Harvard.edu)

Mark Zuckerberg-adjacent opportunists are getting more creative in their efforts to cash in on Facebook—another one of Zuck’s old classmates just lost a suit against the producers of The Social Network for “defamation by omission.” But there may be one entity with a real case for a claim: Harvard University.

“Harvard University could have asserted a stronger claim to the company than the Winklevoss twins and Paul Ceglia combined,” Stanford Law fellow Brian Love wrote in the Boston Globe earlier this month.

Zuck started Facebook while an undergrad at Harvard, where he presumably used some university resources. That fact opens Facebook’s founders up to a claim by Harvard. After all, Stanford finagled itself a slice of Google and the University of Illinois asserted rights over Netscape.

But rather than try to squeeze money from one of its richest and most famous non-alumni, the university opted for the high road. Mr. Love lauds the move:

Fortunately, Harvard’s minor role in Facebook’s history has attracted a different reaction: a star-studded Hollywood blockbuster, a reinvigorated reputation as a dream school for entrepreneurial teens, and warm feelings among millionaire alumni who may become large donors. By contrast, few know that modern web browsing was born at the University of Illinois, and Netscape’s embittered founders vowed never to give another dime to their alma mater-turned-adversary.

Here’s hoping officials at the collegiate home of the next Facebook know which university made the better deal.

“Harvard University: because we won’t sue you” has a nice ring to it.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com