Google has asked a court to throw out a lawsuit brought by Microsoft aimed at preventing it from hiring a former Microsoft vice-president to head its new research centre in China.
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Microsoft claims that Kai-Fu Lee, who was originally hired in China and then brought to the US, has broken a confidentiality clause concerning trade secrets and a “non-compete” clause by moving to Google, which Microsoft deems to be a competitor.
Microsoft is also suing Google for hiring him in the first place.
Microsoft said Lee knew too much about Microsoft’s search technologies and its strategy for China to be allowed to move to Google.
In the past Microsoft has successfully used non-compete clauses to stop former employees from moving to rivals.
But Google has asked a California court to throw out Microsoft’s claim as an attempted restriction of trade.
While Californian courts in the past have overturned non-compete contracts, Microsoft brought its action in its home state of Washington, whose courts haven’t previously taken the same view.
With the launch of MSN Search, Microsoft is now competing more directly against Google than ever.