Google fired back at Microsoft on Thursday in court over the hiring of former Microsoft exec Kai-Fu Lee, asking a California judge to invalidate a non-compete clause in Lee’s contract as “overreaching and unlawful.” Lee was to head Google’s new R&D center in China.
Previously he had been a vice president of Microsoft’s Interactive Services division. Microsoft claims that by accepting the position, Lee will be breaking confidentiality and non-competition agreements he signed when accepting his position at Microsoft.
Apparently, Microsoft fears that Lee has knowledge of Microsoft’s intentions in China that could assist Google in its plans to expand into the country.
Google is attempting to get the clause struck from Lee’s contract as it is illegal in California to add non-compete clauses into employee agreements. However it is unclear whether or not the state would have any authority as Microsoft is based in Washington. Lee also worked out of the Redmond campus.
“Microsoft is focused on litigation and intimidation,” Nicole Wong, associate general counsel for Google said. She also called Microsoft’s actions “clearly an illegal restraint of trade.”
However Microsoft remained confident that they would prevail, saying they expected the court to dismiss Google’s suit. The company pointed to the fact that Lee never had California residency while he worked for the Redmond-based software maker.
News source: Betanews