Lawyers for the social networking site, based in Palo Alto,...

Lawyers for the social networking site, based in Palo Alto, Calif., argued in court Monday against a lawsuit by Paul Ceglia of Wellsville, who says a ’03 contract gives him half ownership. (Jan. 3, 2011) Credit: AP

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Attorneys for Facebook sought the dismissal in federal court Monday of what they called an "opportunistic and fraudulent" lawsuit by a New York man claiming half-ownership of the social networking site.

The attorneys asserted that Paul Ceglia, of Wellsville, had forged documents, fabricated emails and destroyed evidence, and said he had waited too long -- six years -- to file it and the statute of limitations had expired.

Ceglia's attorneys say their client deserves his day in court.

In his 2010 lawsuit Ceglia claimed that a 2003 contract he and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg signed entitled Ceglia to 50 percent of Facebook, which launched the following year.

Ceglia said the contract showed that when he hired Zuckerberg, then a Harvard University freshman, to help him develop a street-mapping database, he also gave Zuckerberg $1,000 in start-up money for his fledgling Facebook idea in exchange for half ownership of the company if it grew.

Zuckerberg countered that he hadn't even conceived of Facebook at the time. His lawyers accused Ceglia of doctoring the original "work-for-hire" contract to insert Facebook references and of making up a series of email exchanges between Ceglia and Zuckerberg to try to bolster the claim.

Facebook said its forensics experts found evidence that the ink on the contract was less than two years old and that the document had been "baked" in the sun to artificially age it.

The experts also said that Ceglia had reset the system clock on his computer to 2003 and 2004 to make it appear the emails he submitted had been created at that time, and that Ceglia had used and apparently destroyed external storage devices during the course of the lawsuit that he never turned over to Facebook.

"Verifiably genuine emails" between Zuckerberg and Ceglia from Zuckerberg's old Harvard account contained no mention of Facebook, according to the court filing by the Washington firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Llp. Instead, the emails contain pleas by Ceglia asking Zuckerberg for more time to pay him what he owed for his work, according to court documents.

Ceglia's lead attorney, Dean Boland, of Lakewood, Ohio, said the lawsuit can't be dismissed just because the findings of Facebook's experts contradict those of Ceglia's experts.

An upcoming initial public offering of stock could value Facebook at as much as $100 billion.

In 2008, Facebook agreed to pay Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss $65 million to settle their claims that Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them and a third person at Harvard.

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