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Microsoft, Google tangle in court

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Legal

Secret meetings, confidential messages and alleged exchanges with Bill Gates were brought out as ammunition yesterday in the legal battle over a former Microsoft executive's departure for search rival Google.

Although the case revolves around one executive, Kai-Fu Lee, it is providing a rare glimpse into what's fast becoming one of the industry's biggest rivalries. Filings by Microsoft and Google underscore how seriously the software giant takes its struggle against the search leader.

In a declaration filed with the court, Lee recalled a conversation in which, he said, Gates warned him that Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer would sue if Lee went to Google, becoming the highest-ranking Microsoft employee to do so.
"We need to do this to stop Google," Lee's declaration quoted Gates as telling him.

King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez heard arguments yesterday afternoon on Microsoft's request for a temporary restraining order that would block Lee from continuing in his new position at Google. Gonzalez said he would rule on the request this afternoon.

In legal filings and yesterday's court hearing, Microsoft cited internal documents and meetings in an effort to show that Lee has the type of inside knowledge and experience that makes his new position with Google a violation of his Microsoft employment contract.

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Judge grants M$ request in Google case

A judge has temporarily barred a former Microsoft executive hired by Google from performing any duties at the search giant similar to those he performed at Microsoft.

Washington state Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez on Thursday granted Microsoft's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent Kai-Fu Lee from violating his noncompete agreement.

Google announced on July 19 that it had hired Lee to lead a new research and development center in China and serve as president of its Chinese operations. Lee was previously a vice president at Microsoft and played a key role in its operations in China. He also led development of some of its search technologies, Microsoft's lawsuit claims.

The same day that Google announced its new hire, Microsoft sued Lee, claiming he was breaking a one-year noncompete agreement by joining Google. Microsoft also sued Google, accusing it of encouraging Lee to violate promises made to Microsoft. Two days later, Google asked a California court to declare Microsoft's noncompete provision invalid.

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