Facebook sues German 'clone'

On Friday, Facebook filed suit in California court against studiVZ, a German social net with a look undeniably close to Facebook's. Facebook accuses studiVZ of copying its interface.

On Friday, Facebook filed suit in California court against studiVZ, a German social net with a look undeniably close to Facebook's. Facebook accuses studiVZ of copying its interface.

"We believe that our success thus far has been directly related to the unique look and feel of both the site and user interface, and are very disappointed that StudiVZ has unfairly used our creativity, innovation and effort by building a 'clone' site to compete directly against us," said deputy general counsel Mark Howitson. "Ultimately, we are supporters of innovation, not imitation."

While Facebook's interface is hardly the epitome of creativity, it is in its boringness, a distinctive look associated with Facebook. But studiVZ says the lawsuit is not about intellectual property but about stifling competition. Marcus Riecke, CEO of studiVZ, said in a press statement:

Now that Facebook, despite trying hard, has not been successful in the German market, the company seeks to obstruct studiVZ through court action. Their strategy appears to be: If you can't beat them, sue them. There are numerous social networks. Facebook was not the first and certainly isn't the only one. By attempting to harm studiVZ through a meritless California lawsuit, Facebook is arrogantly laying claim to an international monopoly over social networking sites that the facts show it does not deserve. Their strategy appears to be: If you can't beat them, sue them."

According to e-Consultancy notes that studiVZ was launched in 2005, met with Facebook in 2006 and that Facebook considered buying them. The firm was sold instead to Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, a firm with deep pockets. "According to one of the Financial Times' sources, Facebook has "struggled to gain traction among German users. What's the solution? Sue the German clone - StudiVZ - that 'owns' the German market."

At the end of the day, the "success" of Facebook clones like StudiVZ serves as a reminder that Facebook is, at best, a "narrow moat" company. Its lawsuit against StudiVZ reveals that it finally recognizes that.

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