Sunday, July 31, 2005

Microsoft Sues Former Employee and Google

ZDNet reports (as do many others) that Microsoft is suing a former employee, Kai-Fu Lee, for violating the non-competition clause of his employee agreement when he joined rival Google. The suit filed in Washington state court also names Google. According to Microsoft:
Google is fully aware of Lee's promises to Microsoft, but has chosen to ignore them, and has encouraged Lee to violate them.
I can understand Microsoft believes it has the grounds to prevent Mr. Lee from going to a competitor. I understand, but I hope the court ultimately finds Mr. Lee has not violated the spirit of his agreement and lets him work for Google.

What I don't understand is how Microsoft can sue Google for encouraging Mr. Lee to violate his agreement. I think Microsoft has stepped over the line there. Hopefully, this is not a sign of more anti-competitive litigation to come.
 

3 comments:

Bob said...

Dave,

I think this case is a little different than the usual employee agreement. "Though workers leave tech companies for rivals all the time, it's not uncommon for a dispute to end up in court, particularly when an executive has a contract with a non-compete clause".

So Lee had a signed contract with Microsoft not just the usual employee agreement.

I'm no lawyer so I don't know how binding this type of contract is. Also, it's not clear whether a third party can be successfully sued for encouraging someone to violate a contract. The lawyers are going to be busy on this one.

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Dave Delay said...

Bob wrote:

>I think this case is a little different than the usual employee agreement...

Another unusual thing is the international dimension. I haven't followed the story as it has developed, but the original report said Mr. Lee worked in Microsoft's China lab and planned to remain in China to work for Google. I don't understand how a Washington state judge can issue a restraining order to prevent a foreign national from working for an out-of-state company. I guess it is because the original contract was effectively made in Washington state?