Microsoft has failed in its attempt to stop a former senior technical head from setting up a new research centre for Google in China this year.
The hiring of Kai-Fu Lee by Google will be the subject of a Microsoft lawsuit that will reach court next January, but Microsoft had sought to stop him taking up his Google post before then.
Microsoft claims Lee, who left this summer, is barred from joining Google as a result of “non-compete” and “non-disclosure” clauses in his contract – something Lee and Google dispute.
A US court has ruled that Lee will be able to take up his new post provided he does not recruit from Microsoft staff or use any confidential information he gained from Microsoft.
Before joining Google, Lee was corporate vice-president of Microsoft's Natural Interactive Services Division. He had also previously been involved in Microsoft's China operations.
Lee had worked on Microsoft’s development of computer search technologies and voice recognition and natural speech software technologies. The US court has stipulated he is not allowed to use this knowledge in his new job.
Google and Microsoft are in competition in the internet search market, particularly since Microsoft launched its MSN Search service.