Microsoft Wins First Scrimmage Against Google in Employee Lawsuit

Late last week in Seattle, Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez issued a temporary restraining order preventing Google from asking its intended head of China operations, former Microsoft employee Kai-Fu Lee, from doing anything that could be seen as competing with Microsoft.

The judge also ruled that Lee is prevented from sharing any trade secrets with Google. The order is good through Sept 6., when a motion for an injunction is scheduled to be heard. Microsoft filed the lawsuit against Lee and Google on July 19.

The order may not prevent Lee from taking his post, as Google said it does not feel Kai-Fu Lee's new position is competitive with his Microsoft tenure. "While we don't believe a [temporary restraining order] is necessary, we're gratified that the judge recognized that all Google and Dr. Lee have to do is avoid having Dr. Lee do anything competitive with what he did at Microsoft. As we have said all along, we have no intention of having him do that," Nicole Wong, Google associate general counsel, commented in a released statement. "The judge also ordered Microsoft to be more specific in identifying the matters that Dr. Lee worked on at Microsoft that they claim are competitive with what he will do at Google. We will be looking for clarification when Microsoft complies with the judge's order."

As evident by the lawsuit, Microsoft sees the situation differently. "As a senior executive, Dr. Lee has direct knowledge of Microsoft's trade secrets concerning search technologies and China business strategies," it commented when it announced the lawsuit. "He has accepted a position focused on the same set of technologies and strategies for a director competitor in egregious violation of his explicit contractual obligations."

Lee was hired to run Microsoft's research and development labs in China in 1999, and was most recently head working for the company on speech recognition technology. He signed the non-compete agreement in 2000, reports state.

Trial has been set for January 9.

About the Author

Becky Nagel is the vice president of Web & Digital Strategy for 1105's Converge360 Group, where she oversees the front-end Web team and deals with all aspects of digital strategy. She also serves as executive editor of the group's media Web sites, and you'll even find her byline on, the group's newest site for enterprise developers working with AI. She recently gave a talk at a leading technical publishers conference about how changes in Web technology may impact publishers' bottom lines. Follow her on twitter @beckynagel.


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