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Facebook nemesis sues Google (and wins)

Milks Mountain View for $761

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

After claiming he invented Facebook, Aaron Greenspan now says he has successfully sued Google. At a Northern California court earlier this week, Mark Zuckerberg's ex-Harvard classmate won $761 from the world's largest ad broker.

Greenspan made headlines back in the fall of 2007 and the spring of 2008 after claiming that he created Facebook at Harvard - not Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and not the founders of ConnectU, who recently won a $60 million settlement in suing Zuckerberg and company for allegedly copying their idea.

One of those Greenspan headlines appeared on The Register. And after reading this headline, Greenspan declined to speak with us about his Google suit. But he details the kerfuffle in a recent piece on The Huffington Post.

Famously, Greenspan has written a tome entitled Authoritas: One student's Harvard admissions and the founding of the Facebook era, in which he claims to set the Zuckerberg record straight. He hoped to advertise the book via Google search ads. But Google wouldn't let him post ads against searches that included the word Facebook. Facebook, Google told him, is a trademark registered to Facebook.

So Greenspan filed a petition with the US Patent and Trademark Office, claiming prior use and accusing Zuckerberg and Facebook of fraud. He suspects that Facebook lobbied Google to keep him from serving ads on Facebook keywords.

The petition is still pending.

In the meantime, Greenspan signed up for the other side of Google's advertising equation, AdSense, which allowed him to post ads on his own site. At least for a while. In early December, the Mountain View Chocolate Factory summarily canceled his AdSense account, claiming his membership in the program "posed a significant risk to our AdWords advertisers."

Such language is often used when Google suspects AdSensers of click fraud. And apparently, Greenspan was serving ads from a so-called parked domain - a site that includes nothing but ads. Though this is par for the course on Google's scam-enabling AdSense for Domains operation, it's verboten on the ad broker's primary AdSense network.

But in typical fashion, Google did not give a reason for the termination. With its terms of service, Google reserves the right to axe AdSense members for "any reason." And this happens often, particularly when click fraud is suspected.

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