Microsoft wins round of Google employee suit

Microsoft has won the first round in its legal action against Google, with a restraining order that prevents a former Microsoft employee from engaging in competing work at the search company.

The ruling came from King County Superior Court in Seattle last month and represents an initial, if small, win for Microsoft. The software company is suing to prevent Dr Kai-Fu Lee from taking work with Google that would compete with Microsoft’s search engine strategy in China.

Lee was formerly a vice-president in charge of Microsoft’s Beijing research and development centre, and Microsoft claimed in a July lawsuit that Lee’s work with Google would directly compete with his Microsoft role.

Microsoft argues such work for a competitor is prohibited by the terms of Lee’s contract. Microsoft also says Lee could divulge trade secrets to Google.

Lee’s work with Microsoft included search, speech recognition and other interactive technologies, and he was also privy to Microsoft’s China strategy at a high level, according to the company.

Google hired Lee to be the president of its China operations. The search company is planning to open a Chinese research and development center later this year.

The restraining order granted that Microsoft had “established a clear legal or equitable right” and “a well-grounded fear of immediate invasion of that right.” Microsoft had also shown the acts complained of “will result in actual and substantial injury.”

The restraining order prohibits Lee from accepting employment from Google in specific areas, and prohibits Google from employing Lee in those areas.

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Related links:

Microsoft sues Google, ex-employee over hiring

Gates preparing Microsoft for firm’s next Holy War

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