Google has received a setback in its employment dispute with Microsoft over its hiring of former Microsoft research and development executive Kai-Fu Lee.
A federal judge has ruled that the employment case brought by Microsoft can be heard in the state of Washington, where the law favours Microsoft’s claim that Kai-Fu Lee is covered by an “anti-compete” clause in his contract.
Google had counter-sued and had wanted the case heard in its home state of California, where anti-compete clauses have so far not been upheld in court.
In Microsoft’s home state of Washington the company has, however, previously successfully argued in court that its non-compete contract clauses can be used to stop former employees from joining competitors.
Google hired Kai-Fu Lee to open its new China research and development centre. Lee was privy to Microsoft’s China strategy and is an expert in interactive voice technologies, an area both companies are now looking to develop.
The case is expected to be heard early in 2006.