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Snapchat sued by a guy who claims he invented it

Did the creators of Snapchat jack the idea from someone else, then forget about it a few seconds later?


Jordan Valinsky

Internet Culture

Posted on Feb 27, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 11:24 pm CDT

Did the creators of Snapchat jack the idea from someone else, then forget about it a few seconds later?

A South Carolina man is alleging just that. Frank Reginald Brown IV, 23, filed a lawsuit in a California court against the founders of Snapchat, a photo-sharing app that zaps photos after a few seconds of viewing them. (Yes, people send nudes on it.) The company, based in Los Angeles, is valued between $60 and $70 million, reports The New York Times.

Brown said the creators, fellow Stanford students Bobby Murphy and Evan Spiegel, betrayed and shut him out of the company after they began working on it. According to the lawsuit, Spiegel told Brown that it was a “million-dollar idea,” and the men agreed to find a third person to code the app, who ended being Murphy.

During the app’s creation, in the summer of 2011, at Spiegel’s father’s home in Los Angeles, it was Brown who picked Snapchat’s ghosty logo but wanted to call it “Picaboo.” The app was released under that name in July 2011. 

Following the app’s release later that summer, the three took a break and traveled separately. The lawsuit said the three had a falling out a month later, in August 2011, where Murphy and Siegel changed the passwords to the servers and other associated accounts to block Brown. 

Spiegel and Murphy stopped talking to Brown, the lawsuit says, and re-released the app under the Snapchat branding in September 2011. They kept the ghost-emoji-like logo.

Brown is seeking “his rights restored” to any damages he deserves, said his lawyer, Luan Tran, to the Los Angeles Times.

“He wants his share of what he is entitled to,” Tran said. Snapchat could not be reached for comment.

Hey, Aaron Sorkin, are you interested in a sequel to The Social Network?

Update: Betabeat has the lawsuit here, and it is juicy.

Photo via Google Play

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*First Published: Feb 27, 2013, 12:35 pm CST