Microsoft Sues Google On Kai-Fu Lee Hiring
Google announced this week that they are planning to open up a research lab in China and have hired Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, former Corporate V.P. at Microsoft. Well, as you may know, there is one hot rivalry going on between Google and Microsoft at the moment and come to find out Google hired Kai-Fu Lee from Microsoft while Dr. Lee was possibly still under contract. Now Microsoft is suing Google and Kai-Fu Lee. The Seattle Times reports that Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt told them that Microsoft knew Lee was going to head an office for Google in China. However, Microsoft was taken back when they were not presented with a timeline for Lee’s departure and then read about it in a press release issued by Google on Tuesday.
Lee, who helped build the MSN Search Engine, is the highest ranking Microsoft employee to leave for “greener pastures” at Google. “Everybody I talked to [at Google] really has an incredible passion and excitement,” Lee told the Seattle Times, describing Google as “a very collegiate environment in which I think I can really amplify the ideas I have.”
Passion aside, the move to Google apparently breaks the contract Lee signed with Microsoft which included a non-compete where he cannot do any work that competes with Microsoft for one year. Seeing Lee’s new position at Google as a breach in contract, Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Lee and Google in King County Superior Court. “The job they hired him to do is absolutely in direct competition with the work he was doing at Microsoft,” Microsoft lawyer Tom Burt told the S.T. “Not only is it at a competitor, it’s directly competitive work.”
The Google China R&D center will open in the third quarter of 2005. The selection of Dr. Kai-Fu Lee to lead this important operation underscores Google’s commitment to building a successful Chinese product research and development center and to expanding its international business operations. “It has always been my goal to make advanced technologies accessible and useful to every user, as well as to be part of the vibrant growth and innovation in China today,” said Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. “Joining Google uniquely enables me to pursue both of my passions and I look forward to returning to China to begin this exciting endeavor.”