Ahead of a highly anticipated initial public offering (IPO), Facebook is finalizing a settlement with the founders of ConnectU; Tyler Winklevoss, partner Divya Narendra and Cameron Winklevoss of ConnectU are pictured below.

Mark Zuckerberg was accused by the founders of ConnectU of stealing their idea in 2003, when all attended Harvard together. Facebook countersued for unfair business practices.Tyler-Divya-Cameron

The idea, of which Facebook is a direct descendent, turned out to be immensely profitable. ConnectU claims that Mark Zuckerberg was hired while a Harvard sophomore in 2003 to assist in creating a campus-wide dating site, Harvard Connection. Mr. Zuckerberg is claimed to have stalled on the project while secretly developing the idea for his own use. The result became Facebook.com.

Pre-trial discovery turned up embarrassing material, for instance, Mr. Zuckerberg’s online diary. The Facebook.com IPO would have had to be delayed until the suit was resolved. The entire affair casts a pall over the aura surrounding Mr. Zuckerberg as an entrepreneurial genius.

Motions to dismiss the cases are expected to be filed within the next several weeks.

This link leads to a site that contains many documents relating to the trial and they are all an interesting read: http://www.02138mag.com/magazine/article/1764.html. Some links contained at this site are: Poking Facebook – three page article about Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook; Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard Application in a pdf file; Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony #1 & #2 in pdf files; and others including Mark Zuckerberg’s online diary, also in a pdf file.

Also see the Facebook article in the New York Times.

Photo: Charles Krupa, Associated Press