A US judge has ordered a New York man who claims partial ownership of Facebook to return to the United States to conduct a search for evidence in the case.
Paul Ceglia of Wellsville, New York, filed suit against Facebook in June of last year claiming that he signed a contract with co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in April 2003 to design a website called “The Face Book” or “The Page Book”.
Mr Ceglia submitted a copy of a contract with Mr Zuckerberg to the court hearing the case in Buffalo, New York, but lawyers for Mr Zuckerberg and Facebook have denounced it as a fraud.
They said the document is a doctored version of another contract concerning work Mr Zuckerberg did for Mr Ceglia in 2003 on a website called StreetFax, which provided a photo database of traffic intersections for insurance adjusters.
US Magistrate Judge Leslie Foschio today ordered Mr Ceglia, who is reportedly in Ireland, to return home by December 2 to conduct a search of computers and USB devices purportedly containing evidence backing his claim.
Facebook lawyers have repeatedly denounced the suit by Mr Ceglia as a “brazen and outrageous fraud” and described him as a “hustler”.
New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo accused Mr Ceglia in 2009 of taking more than $US200,000 from customers of his wood fuel pellet company and then failing to deliver any products or refunds.
Facebook’s origins have been the subject of two recent books and a hit Hollywood movie, The Social Network.
A pair of Harvard University classmates, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, have been involved in a long-running dispute with Mr Zuckerberg over Facebook, claiming he stole their idea for the social network.
Facebook, which launched in 2004, has become the world’s most popular social network with more than 750 million members. Mr Zuckerberg’s net worth was recently estimated at $US6.9 billion by Forbes magazine.