After listening to arguments from Microsoft and Google lawyers for the past 2 days, Judge Steven Gonzalez of the Superior Court of the State of Washington will issue a ruling Tuesday that will decide whether a former Microsoft researcher can begin working immediately for Google. Kai-Fu Lee, the now-infamous ex-Microsoftie, left the software giant earlier this year to help start Google's China-based research labs. But Microsoft sued Google to prevent the defection, arguing that Lee's employment contract forbid him from joining a direct Microsoft competitor for 1 year after he left the company.
In July, Microsoft won a temporary motion that prevented Lee from starting at Google. This week's hearings were scheduled to determine whether that motion would remain in place until the case can go to trial in January 2006.
Microsoft's argument is simple: Lee has intimate knowledge of Microsoft's China strategies, which precludes him from performing similar work for Google--clearly a direct Microsoft competitor. "We presented significant evidence \[at the hearings\] detailing the knowledge that Dr. Lee has of our China strategy, and more importantly, we presented significant evidence that he shared that knowledge with Google," a Microsoft spokesperson said.
Google argued that Lee's role at Microsoft wasn't the same as the one they intend for him. "He didn't run China. Other people did," a Google lawyer told Judge Gonzalez. "Microsoft has exaggerated who Dr. Lee is. They have exaggerated what he has done. They have exaggerated what he plans to do at Google."
We'll know next week. Court observers note that it's difficult to guess which way the judge will rule, as he rarely spoke in court during the hearings.