Google Slaps Countersuit On Microsoft

    July 22, 2005

The war of the big corporations is on. Google levied its own lawyers against Microsoft in a countersuit charging the Redmond software giant with unfair trade practices after Microsoft filed a suit earlier in the week against Google And Kai Fu Lee for violating his no-compete contract he had signed when he became an executive at Microsoft.

Dr. Kai Fu Lee ran the search division at Microsoft called MSN. It encompassed a lot of research and development and many of the products MSN now has came as a result of Lee’s efforts as a vice president at Microsoft. He was also given the task of developing the business model for the China. Google hired him away and said he would be in complete control of Chinese development for Google’s search efforts in the burgeoning market.

The problem comes from Lee signing a no-compete contract at Microsoft, which says among other things, that he has to wait at least one year after his termination from Microsoft to work at another company doing the same work. They argue that since Microsoft is in the business of intellectual property, they have a right to protect that intellectual property and Microsoft’s various plans and information surrounding that. They contend that the nature of Lee’s job at Google, by its very title and definition, would force him to utilize information gleaned at Microsoft. Microsoft filed its suit in Seattle, Washington, near Redmond.

Google on the other hand filed a countersuit in California, which established quite some time ago that they don’t recognize no-compete contracts. Google said in their suit that Microsoft’s behavior is “clearly an illegal restraint of trade” and citing attempts to intimidate both Google and Mr. Lee.

Google claims the case should happen in California because all most of their 4200 work staff are there and Mr. Lee is a registered voter in California, pays taxes and plans on buying a house in Silicon Valley. Critics might argue this a tactic to help show residency and that Lee still signed the contract back in Washington.

Lee started with Microsoft back in 1998 to build the R&D division in China and eventually became party of the Seattle slew, becoming a vice president in charge of developing speech recognition as several other technologies built into MSN search engine line.

Google is establishing Google China R&D with Lee as president of the operation, saying, “under the leadership of Dr. Lee, which his proven track record of innovation and his passion for technology and research, the Google China R&D center will enable us to develop more innovative products and technologies for millions of users in China and around the world.” He’s doing for Google what he did for Microsoft.

The location of the lawsuit means a lot in this battle but one thing’s for sure, Microsoft does have a legitimate case because common sense dictates that despite all of Dr. Lee brilliance, and he surely is brilliant, he will go into Google utilizing his knowledge and experience gotten while working at various executive capacities at Microsoft and assuming that the case stays in Washington, the battle will probably go against Google.

In the end, a settlement will probably be reached though for some undisclosed some of money after the grandstanding is over and Professor Lee will probably get an extended vacation to sit on the beaches in Malibu and then head back to China for Google’s R&D.

John Stith is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.