According to the Facebook engineers who developed it, Find Friends Nearby started as a simple hack that would enable Facebook users to find new friends nearby based on their location. It’s now available as part of Facebook’s mobile application, but Friendthem, a similar mobile application whose name has been trademarked for two years, isn’t buying Facebook’s sudden interest in an ambient mobile application. According to Friendthem CEO Charles Sankowich, Facebook stole the concept outright.
Sankowich claims his company Friendthem, which like Friendshake also uses a GPS signal, approach Facebook back in February about working together. The relationship never materialized, but the similarity between Friendthem and Find Friends Nearby has Sankovich ready to pursue legal action. He sent us the following statment:
I was amazed on Sunday to read that Facebook is blatantly stealing our idea with what they are calling, “Find Friends Nearby.”Facebook engineer Ryan Patterson claims the feature was born at a hackathon as “Friendshake,” but we believe they simply stole trademarked materials of Friendthem.com.
More than two years ago we trademarked “Friendthem” and have had tremendous success and exposure with this concept.
Even their language is similar to what has been on our website for year’s now– ‘Friendthem is a location-based mobile app designed to help you make connections with people near you. Use the Friendthem app to follow up on missed connections for work and personal.’
We are consulting attorneys and assuming this is true and expect to commence a lawsuit very shortly. One would think that Facebook would have learned to play fair after being through the mud previously with legal difficulties, but now they are doing it again.
We may not be billionaires but we are damn tough New York entrepreneurs, and we believe in this idea and will keep working to connect people.
If the courts believe that Friendthem had a known brand presence as an ambient social networking app, like Band-Aid has with bandages, Sankowich does have a case. But like Highlight, Sonar, and the now Facebook-acquired Glancee, Friendthem incorporates Facebook’s Open Graph. More importantly, Highlight, Sonar, and Glancee have taken the spotlight in terms of ambient social-networking apps, and Friendthem hasn’t created quite as much hype.
While Friendthem is “consulting with their attorneys,” we can’t help but think of this as a clever PR stunt by a desperate startup looking to bask in another 15 minutes of fame. But Sankowich begs to differ, and according to the CEO, there is sufficient evidence to make a case against Facebook.
“We won’t litigate this matter publicly but we have ample information, including a dinner with a senior executive, multiple traded emails, and Facebook’s discussion of a “hack-a-thon” that we have a strong legal case. There’s more information which we will share shortly,” Sankowich told Digital Trends.