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A Washington state judge has cleared the way for Google Inc. to hire a former Microsoft executive to head its Chinese research and development center so long as the employee does not recruit from Microsoft.
"We are really pleased with the judge's order," Tom Burt, deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said Tuesday. "For $10 million, (Lee) can interview students and be a leasing agent," he said, referring to Lee's purported salary at Google. The order "reduces him to being, at least until the outcome of trial, the most highly compensated HR (human resources) manager ever."
Let the spin begin...
However, in his order, the judge enjoined Lee and his new employer from working on any product or service that relies on confidential information tied to search, natural language processing and speech recognition he obtained while working for Microsoft. Google lawyers had agreed to these specific restrictions ahead of the ruling, a Google spokesman said.
Spin, nothing... this is very clearly a victory for Microsoft. "Google Wins Case" is a joke. As others have said, what Google now has is an overpaid HR director.
As such information can likely be "reverse engineered" and presented differently I would say Mr. Lee can set about business pretty much as usual.
And any "infringement" claimed as serendipitous independent Chinese technological leadership :-) by other talented G employees.
Also: both companies can afford court forever (which takes care of the US arena) and the enormous non-US market could care less about US court findings.
Rather amusing to see MSFT getting what they've so often given.
Only Google really knows why they (REALLY) hired him. If they hired him to do what he was doing at MSN, MSFT won, but if they are paying him some $10 mil to hire the best Chinese students, Google won.
I admit, I'm not up to speed how competitive the hiring is in China, but from my chair here (somewhere in NE USA), it seems that in adition to the name and technology, that $10 mil would've gone a long way to pay those students some extra $$ to join Google without this guy. If you give a check for $100K to 100 top level students in China, just as a signing bonus, I bet they'd be thrilled. Let's face it, $$ talks, and if only innovation and company culture mattered, they'd join Google anyway. But I also know that $10 million is not much to Google, considering the circumstances.
as I said, only a few people really know who won. MSFT can't stop this guy from making a living, so we already knew he'd work at some capacity.
So Google was expecting this ahead of time and obviously have some plans that either sidestep the issue or don't involve the direct issue of him using his MS knowledge at Google at all.
It's a bit strong to say he's an overpaid HR person when Google seems to have known and agreed to those terms ahead of time.
Also lets not forget - unlike the USA - in Asia relationships often mean more than $$s. I'm sure Google is banking on that as well.
Reuters article [today.reuters.com]