Verdict Expected in Google Microsoft Court Battle
Lawyers for Google and Microsoft have made their closing arguments and a court verdict is expected today in the Kai-Fu Lee case. Lee basically left his position at Microsoft to go to Google to head up their Google China division. The case is quite important to both companies as they have become direct competitors and Google has been heavily recruiting Microsoft engineers. Kai-Fu Lee had signed a non-compete with Microsoft where if he left the company he could not work for a competitor for at least one year. Lee went to work for Google the day after he left Microsoft.
At Microsoft, Lee established their research and development center in Beijing, which is basically what he will be doing for Google (in turn, recruting Microsoft engineers in China who he already has a relationship with). Lee, who also 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.
Rueters reports : “Google is asking King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez to let former Microsoft vice president Kai-Fu Lee start recruiting software engineers in China and establish an office for the Web search leader in that country without delay.“
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. If Lee has to wait out the one year from his non-compete contract, Microsoft will be dealing a direct blow to Google China.
Microsoft attorney Karl Quackenbush asked for a preliminary injunction, saying that Lee should not be allowed to work at Google while he is still bound by a non-compete contract that he signed with Microsoft. The contract is binding until July 2006, but Microsoft filed a motion for a preliminary injunction ahead of the trial scheduled for January 2006.“