Page last updated at 09:38 GMT, Monday, 21 July 2008 10:38 UK

Facebook challenges German rival

Facebook logo reflected in a human eye
Facebook is unveiling a new less-cluttered look

The German company that is the subject of an intellectual property lawsuit from social networking firm Facebook has said the case is without merit.

Facebook's complaint, filed in a California federal court, accuses Studivz of copying the look, feel, features and services of Facebook.

It is also seeking compensation, to be determined at a trial.

Studivz said it had not been served with any court papers and that the Facebook claims were without merit.

German-speaking

Studivz is a social networking platform for students based in Berlin, Germany.

The name is an abbreviation of the German expression Studentenverzeichnis or Studienverzeichnis, which means students' directory.

In April 2008 it reportedly had about 10 million members, mostly in Germany, Switzerland and Austria.

In its complaint Facebook states: "As with any counterfeit product, Studivz's uncontrolled quality standards for service, features and privacy negatively impact the genuine article."

But Studivz argues Facebook is suing it only because Facebook has failed to transplant its success in the US and other countries to the German market.

'Numerous networks'

"Their strategy appears to be: 'If you can't beat them, sue them,'" said Marcus Riecke, chief executive of Studivz, which is owned by Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, a German publishing company.

Studivz has filed for a judgment at the District Court in Stuttgart, Germany, to have the court declare that the claims made by Facebook are without merit.

Marcus Riecke, CEO of Studivz, said: "There are numerous social networks. Facebook was not the first and certainly isn't the only one."

The dispute comes as Facebook launches a new look to reduce clutter and make information easier to find, with rival MySpace also set to upgrade its site.

Recent figures show that Facebook's had nearly 125 million unique users visiting the site in May.

The numbers put it ahead of its main rival MySpace which had 115 million visitors.




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