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Is a PR/Legal Mess in Store for Facebook fbFund?
Earlier this week Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch of a new fund for Facebook application developers called fbFund. He said they will give grants to exciting ideas which could provide great opportunities to Facebook application developers. I generally think of a grant as something that doesn’t need to be repaid (as a loan would), but from what I understand they will be looking for some equity should the idea move forward but no initial equity as with a typical VC deal. I sure hope the giddy developer’s do the research and seek counsel before deciding if it’s a good idea. As I said, I have not yet done the research to provide any analysis.
What I found interesting is that Mark basically said you could "email in your ideas". Who uses email to apply for something? How would Facebook keep track of who is first, route the ideas, organize them, etc. I thought to myself. It seems I wasn’t alone in this thinking. Ashkan Karbasfrooshan from Mojo Supreme has put together an excellent analysis of the use of email in this case.
He contacted Facebook and received a reply that included the following (my emphasis):
During this process, however, it has become clear that we will receive proposals which contain similar or even identical ideas. As a result, and in order to protect other developers and us from claims that we or anyone else copied material without the creator’s permission, unless we agree otherwise in writing, we can’t promise that any materials or information you submit here will be kept confidential, or specifically that we or others might not develop similar or identical products or services. Accordingly, we ask that you not submit any materials or information you consider to be confidential or proprietary to this e-mail address.
This said, if you would like us to delete any materials you have just sent us, please send us an e-mail within 48 hours instructing us to do so with an email subject “DELETE”, and we will delete those materials without review by anyone here. If we do not receive instructions to delete your materials within 48 hours, we will rely on that fact as indicating that you wish us to review your materials, with the understanding that we accept no obligations (whether of confidentiality, payment or otherwise) with respect to any materials, information or
ideas included in your submission.
Ashkan wonders if this type of behavior will open Facebook to more litigation down the road. I wonder what type of PR mess this could create and whether there will be a developer backlash should an idea go live from Facebook direct and an app developer claims it was his or her idea. So basically Facebook will now have thousands of ideas submitted to them. What will they do with these ideas? What protections do app developers have in this process?