Snapchat settles ownership dispute, says app idea came from ousted partner

Snapchat cofounders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy have reached a settlement with former Stanford University colleague Frank Reginald Brown

Snapchat cofounders Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy have reached a settlement with former Stanford University colleague Frank Reginald "Reggie" Brown over an ownership dispute, admitting that Brown had originally come up with the idea for the app for sending disappearing picture messages.

The settlement resolves a dispute over Brown's claim of an ownership interest in Snapchat on mutually agreeable terms, and resolves Brown's suit filed in the Superior Court of Los Angeles, as well as all other disputes between the parties, according to a statement by Snapchat. The terms of the settlement are, however, confidential.

In a filing in 2013 in the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of Los Angeles, Brown claimed that while at Stanford, he came up with the idea in 2011 of a mobile device application allowing users to send pictures to others that then quickly disappear from the recipient's mobile device. He is said to have shared the idea of the application with Spiegel for setting up a joint venture or partnership to commercialize it. Murphy joined as the coder of the application, according to the filing.

Brown was, however, improperly excluded from all participation and profit in the joint venture or partnership, just one month after the app, first called Picaboo, was publicly launched in July 2011, according to the filing. In September 2011, the name of the application had been changed to Snapchat.

Brown originally came up with the idea of creating an application for sending disappearing picture messages while he was a student at Stanford, according to the statement Tuesday from Snapchat. It goes on to state that Brown "collaborated with Spiegel and Murphy on the development of Snapchat during its early and most formative days."

The Snapchat statement quoted Spiegel, who is the CEO of Snapchat, as stating that "we acknowledge Reggie's contribution to the creation of Snapchat and appreciate his work in getting the application off the ground." Murphy is the CTO of Snapchat.

In a similar dispute at Facebook, Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, known as the Winklevoss twins, claimed that they, and not CEO Mark Zuckerberg, came up with the idea for Facebook. They decided to drop in 2011 their long-drawn legal battle with Facebook and Zuckerberg, and accept an earlier US$65 million settlement.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
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