Microsoft and Google squared off in Washington State court Tuesday about whether Kai-Fu Lee’s work at Google would violate a non-compete contract.
According to Google’s opposition to Microsoft’s request for a preliminary injunction against Lee working for Google, Lee wouldn’t be in competition if he went to China to open a Google research lab there, because there’s not much to compete with on Microsoft’s end.
Microsoft sued Lee and Google for violating a non-compete agreement Lee signed when he went to work for Microsoft. Redmond already won a temporary restraining order against Lee’s going to work at Google; arguments in court are aimed at making the restraining order last through the trial.
Google already has said that it would limit Lee’s activities to opening a China research center and recruiting Chinese engineers to work there. Google said Microsoft’s definitions are too broad. For example, because Microsoft is recruiting in China, it argues that if Lee recruited in China, he’d be competing. Also, Lee recruited for Microsoft’s China lab five years ago as a contractor, not a Microsoft employee.
”It is a misnomer to suggest that there is a ‘China strategy’, as opposed to organizational proposals for how to deal with internal competition for resources and bickering within Microsoft’s poorly coordinated China organization,” Google’s motion said.
According to Google spokesman Steven Langdon, ”They tried to portray Kai-Fu as an influential China executive, when in fact he had neither the resources nor the responsibility to get anything done.”
Langdon said Lee’s ideas about China had fallen on deaf ears in Redmond. ”He tried and tried, but no one would listen to him, nor were they interested in his suggestions. The facts show that he was very far from being an influential China executive.”