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Fri, Jul 29, 2005 - Page 12 News List

Google: Microsoft suit `a charade'

DEFECTION Google is urging a court reject a suit filed by Microsoft seeking to stop a VP from taking a job with the Web search firm, saying the giant is trying scare its workers


In a simmering legal tussle, Google Inc is asking a judge to reject Microsoft's bid to keep a prized research engineer from taking a job at the Internet search company, saying the software titan filed its lawsuit to frighten other workers from defecting.

Microsoft Corp sued Kai-Fu Lee (李開復), one of its former executives, and Google last week, claiming that by taking the Google job, Lee was violating an agreement he signed in 2000 barring him from working for a direct competitor in an area that overlapped with his role at Microsoft.

"This lawsuit is a charade," Google said in court documents filed before a Wednesday hearing in Seattle.

"Indeed, Microsoft executives admitted to Lee that their real intent was to scare other Microsoft employees into remaining at the company," the statement said.

Google counter-sued last week, seeking to override Microsoft's noncompete provision so it can retain Lee.

"In truth, Kai-Fu Lee's work for Microsoft had only the most tangential connection to search and no connection whatsoever to Google's work in this space," the Mountain View, California-based company said in court documents.

Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez heard arguments in the case in Seattle on Wednesday, and said he is expected to issue a ruling yesterday.

Google's filings include details about a conversation Lee had with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates, suggesting that the software company is becoming increasingly concerned about Google siphoning away talent -- and perhaps intellectual property.

In a July 15 meeting, Lee said, Gates told him, "Kai-Fu, [CEO] Steve [Ballmer] is definitely going to sue you and Google over this. He has been looking for something like this, someone at a VP level to go to Google. We need to do this to stop Google."

Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake declined to comment on Gates' statement directly.

"Our concern here is the fact that Dr. Lee has knowledge of highly sensitive information both of our search business and our strategy in China," she said.

Microsoft noted that Lee attended a confidential, executive-only briefing in March, dubbed the "Google Challenge."

"In short, Dr. Lee was recently handed Microsoft's entire Google competition `playbook,'" Microsoft said.

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