NEW YORK (AFP) - Facebook on Monday sued lawyers who represented a man claiming he was entitled to a stake in the huge social network, saying they should have known he was a scam artist.
The lawsuit by Facebook and founder Mark Zuckerberg seeks damages from members of big law firms DLA Piper and Milberg LLP, as well as other lawyers participating in the case, saying they "conspired to file a fraudulent lawsuit" on behalf of Paul Ceglia.
Ceglia filed his complaint in 2010, claiming that he signed a contract with Zuckerberg in April 2003 to design the website called "The Face Book" or "The Page Book". Ceglia's suit claiming he was entitled to a 50 per cent stake was later dismissed, after Facebook lawyers successfully argued that the case was based on a "doctored contract and fabricated evidence," and Ceglia was charged with fraud.
The new lawsuit contends that Ceglia's lawyers "knew or should have known that the lawsuit was a fraud, (because) it was brought by a convicted felon with a history of fraudulent scams" and relied on "an implausible story and obviously forged documents".
The latest complaint said Ceglia knew Zuckerberg because in 2003 he had asked the Harvard student to do website design for a company called Street Fax, well before the Facebook idea was born.
According to the complaint, Ceglia paid only a portion of the agreed amount.
Zuckerberg and Facebook are seeking unspecified damages, including legal fees, from the lawyers and firms for harm to their business and "frivolous" litigation.
DLA Piper, a global law firm which according to the Facebook suit placed a "central" role in the case, said it would fight the allegations.
"We will defend this meritless litigation aggressively and we will prevail," said Peter Pantaleo, DLA Piper general counsel, in a statement. "This is an entirely baseless lawsuit that has been filed as a tactic to intimidate lawyers from bringing litigation against Facebook."