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Microsoft gets edge in Google hiring case

Antony Savvas

Microsoft has been given the potential edge in its legal fight against Google over the hiring of a leading research and development head.

A Californian court has ruled that the case must first be heard in Microsoft’s home state of Washington where the company sued Google over its hiring of Kai-Fu Lee to head a new China R&D operation.

Microsoft claims Lee broke non-compete clauses in his contract by joining Google, but Google says these clauses are unfair and countersued Microsoft in California where non-compete clauses have so far not been upheld in a court.

Microsoft has in the past used such clauses in Washington courts to stop employees joining rivals.

Lee is an expert in interactive voice technologies and both companies are planning new voice services via their respective web portals. The Lee case is now expected to start in January 2006 in a Washington court.

Interactive voice company Nuance is also suing Yahoo over the hiring of 13 of its engineers to work in a similar field at Yahoo, alleging anti-competitive behaviour in “gutting” its R&D operation.


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