Court Stops ex-Microsoft Kai-Fu Lee from Starting Job at Google

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In an at least temporary victory for Redmond giant Microsoft, in a lawsuit which defending Mountain View giant Google is calling “a charade”, a Washington state trial court has ordered ex Microsoft employee Kai-Fu Lee to refrain from starting his new job at Google to the extent that it would violate a non-compete agreement which he signed with Microsoft while working there.

While Google and Lee, both defendants in the Microsoft lawsuit, have stated that Lee would not be working on any competing technologies, and Lee has asserted that Google not only did not induce him to break his employment with Microsoft, but that they didn’t even recruit him – he contacted them – Judge Steven Gonzalez ordered Lee to refrain from “working on search technologies, business strategies, planning or development related to the computer search market in China, as well as any other areas he worked in while employed at Microsoft.”

Microsoft is suing Lee for breach of his non-compete clause, and Google for inducing the breach.

In California, where Google is based, non-compete clauses are typically considered by Courts to not be worth the paper on which they are written. But this may not be the case with the Washington court, giving Microsoft a homestate advantage in more ways than one. Google has counter-sued Microsoft in California, so watch for a jurisdiction battle of titanic proportions (however, bet on Microsoft, as that is where the contract was made, and where the bulk of the facts related to the case reside).

As for the outcome of the case itself? Aunty predicts a settlement, but you never know with these two. Especially that one.

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