22 July 2008

Here comes the "look and feel" debate.

The Financial Times has reported that Facebook has filed a lawsuit in the US against StudiVZ which is a popular social networking website in Germany.

Facebook alleges that StudiVZ has breached its copyright by copying "the look, feel, features and services" of Facebook. Facebook alleges that StudiVZ has copied a substantial number of the design features of Facebook including the "Wall" which is unique to Facebook. Finally, Facebook alleges that the difference between the two website is only "nominal" and consists only of the red colour scheme of StudiVZ instead of the blue colour scheme of Facebook.

StudiVZ strongly denies these allegations has issued a statement issued over the weekend stating that Facebook is "arrogantly laying claim to an international monopoly" and denied having received any legal complaint from Facebook so far.

Having quickly road tested StudiVZ, I have to agree that it does seem to be a similar website to Facebook and that its design is quite similar to Facebook`s design. Does this similarity amount to copying the look and feel of Facebook is however a far more complex question than that. Some cynics argue that this lawsuit is fresh on the heels of Facebook`s unsuccessful attempts to break the German market.
In my view, this is far too simplistic an approach. Surely Facebook faces competition in various jurisdictions with the emergence of new social networking sites. And surely, it will be the most costly marketing tool, if it sues each site which is more popular than itself. In my view, there is a lot of merit in the lawsuit of Facebook and it will be interesting to see how this case evolves.

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