Google fails in latest legal bid against Microsoft
By Steve Malone
Posted on 31 Oct 2005 at 10:44
Google has failed in its attempt to have the case brought by Microsoft over its ex-employee Kai-Fu Lee to be heard in California. Google attempted to have the case heard in California rather than Washington because the kind of contract signed by Lee is considered unlawful in Google's home state but not in Microsoft's.
Sitting in San Jose, District Judge Ronald Whyte granted Microsoft's request to delay Google's California suit until the case in Seattle is settled.
Last month a court in Washington banned Lee from starting work at Google on technical research until after the full trial that is due to begin in January. Originally, a Washington judge barred Lee from working for Google although a later ruling narrowed the terms to prevent him only from working on certain projects.
The increasingly bitter legal battle began when Microsoft sued Lee alleging breach of contract. Only days previously Google announced that Dr Lee was to join them by heading up the search engine's newly opened research centre in China. Microsoft saw red, not only because Dr Lee had extensive knowledge of Redmond's business strategy in the People's Republic but was also working on projects that would have allowed him to use the experience gained as a Microsoft employee.
In suing Dr Lee, Microsoft invoked a non-competitor clause in his contract and asked for an injunction preventing him from working for Google. However, in the home of Silicon Valley, non-competitor clauses are considered invalid.
Microsoft, unsurprisingly, declared itself 'pleased' by the judge's decision. Google's lawyers, on the other hand, have put a brave face on the verdict saying they were disappointed but looked forward to having the case heard in Washington.
The case matters not only because Microsoft and Google are engaged in a war for the future of search on the Internet but because that battle is going to be fought primarily with the intellectual property developed by their research teams. As a result all three search giants: Microsoft, Google and Yahoo have been signing up the best brains from around the world to work on their version of a search future - which sometimes includes a little poaching from each other.
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