(Reuters) – Mark Zuckerberg won the latest legal battle against former Harvard classmates who accuse him of stealing their idea for Facebook, a multimillion-dollar feud made famous on the silver screen.
Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss must accept a settlement with Facebook that had been valued at $65 million, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday. The twins argued that deal was unfair because Facebook hid information from them at the time.
But the Winklevosses were sophisticated negotiators aided by a team of lawyers, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in a unanimous opinion.
“The Winklevosses are not the first parties bested by a competitor who then seek to gain through litigation what they were unable to achieve in the marketplace,” Kozinski wrote.
Attorneys for the twins did not respond to a request for comment.
The 6-foot, 5-inch (1.96-meter) brothers are Olympic rowers who participated in the 2008 games in Beijing, and their saga with Zuckerberg was dramatized in the film “The Social Network.”
In the movie, actor Armie Hammer played both identical twins. Zuckerberg’s character snidely called them on-screen the “Winklevi.”
The twins, along with Divya Narendra, started a company called ConnectU while at Harvard. They say that Zuckerberg stole their idea. Facebook denies these claims.
The three had agreed to a settlement that had been valued at $65 million. But they argue that based on an internal valuation that Facebook did not disclose, they should have received more Facebook shares as part of the deal.
Facebook took in $1.2 billion of revenue in 2010’s first nine months, according to documents that Goldman Sachs provided to clients to entice investors in a special fund set up to invest in the giant social networking firm.
The company was valued at $50 billion as part of that transaction.
A lower court had granted Facebook’s request to enforce the settlement with the Winklevoss twins and Narendra. The 9th Circuit agreed on Monday.
“At some point, litigation must come to an end,” Kozinski wrote. “That point has now been reached.”
Facebook deputy general counsel Colin Stretch said the company appreciated the court’s careful consideration of the case, and was “pleased” it ruled in their favor.
The case in the 9th Circuit is The Facebook Inc v. ConnectU Inc. 08-16745.
(Reporting by Dan Levine, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)