A superior court judge in the state of Washington ruled late last week that former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee can't perform certain tasks for Google, which hired him last month to start a China-based research center. Judge Steven Gonzalez noted that Microsoft's fears about the Lee are understandable. As a key founder of Microsoft's Chinese research center in Beijing, Lee possesses intimate knowledge of the company's operations and could use that knowledge to harm Microsoft, the judge said.
Judge Gonzalez issued a temporary restraining order that prevents Lee from working on any Google product, service, or project that's in any way similar to the work Lee did for Microsoft. Google lawyers, who previously categorized Microsoft's legal challenge as "a scare tactic," asked the court to instruct Microsoft to present a list of specific tasks that Lee can perform. Microsoft presented that list to the court yesterday.
Microsoft sued Google after the search engine giant hired Lee, claiming that Lee was violating an agreement he signed that prevented him from working for a direct competitor for 1 year. Documents unearthed during recent hearings show that Google expected Microsoft's lawsuit in the wake of Lee's hiring and had planned to pay Lee for 12 months of leave if Microsoft won the case.
The merits of Microsoft's case against Google will be determined at a September preliminary injunction hearing. Judge Gonzalez also scheduled a trail date in January 2006.