Snapchat: Co-founders Sued For Betraying Early Partner

Frank Reginald Brown IV attended Stanford with Snapchat co-founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, but that's not all they have in common: Brown is filing a lawsuit against Murphy and Spiegel, claiming that Snapchat was his idea in the first place, and that they had stolen his idea after he was the one who approached Spiegel in the first place, when they were dorm-mates. Brown also contends that he designed the ghost logo that Snapchat is still using.

Brown and Spiegel looked for a coder, found one in Murphy, and kicked off the project, which they called Picaboo. Spiegel became CEO, Brown was CMO and Murphy took on the role of CTO.

In mid-August 2011, Brown alleges that after a "heated discussion," Spiegel and Murphy began to lock him out of the project, changing account passwords and refusing to pick up his calls. They changed its name to Snapchat and hit it big. The lawsuit's introduction read, "This is a case of partners betraying a fellow partner."

Murphy and Spiegel said in a statement to BetaBeat, "We are aware of the allegations, believe them to be utterly devoid of merit, and will vigorously defend ourselves against this frivolous suit. It would be inappropriate to comment further on this pending legal matter."

If this sounds familiar, that's because it has some striking resemblances to one of Facebook's high-profile legal disputes. The Winklevoss twins, Tyler and Cameron, claimed Mark Zuckerberg had stolen the idea of Facebook from them and the subsequent drawn-out legal battle finally ended when the twins settled for $65 million and some shares of stock. The lawsuit was filed in 2008, believed to be settled, then revived again when the Winklevosses demanded a retrial in hope of a larger payoff (they have since backed down).

Snapchat is an application that allows people to send their friends photos, which self-delete after a set amount of time. Predictably, a chunk of users have employed it for sexting.

The company recently received $13.5 million in funding from Benchmark and the application saw 60 million new snaps every day, with a total of 5 billion sent as of Feb. 8.

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