Friday, July 29, 2005

Judge Grants Microsoft Injunction In Washington State Court

At yesterday's hearing, Washington state Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez granted a temporary restraining order preventing Kai-Fu Lee from working at Google on any product, service or project similar to those he worked on at Microsoft, including Internet and desktop search technology. (click here for article)

Google requested that Microsoft provide it with a more specific list of items that Dr. Lee is precluded from working on. Microsoft agreed to provide the list by Monday. However, Microsoft has to be careful to not make the list too broad, because Google will likely run into the Santa Clara, California court and waive the list before the court claiming that it violates California law and effectively prevents Dr. Lee from earning a living.

Another note, I have not seen Google make the argument that Microsoft's non-compete agreement is too broad because it is not limited to a geographic area. Google could make the argument that Microsoft is not really trying to prevent Dr. Lee from disclosing trade secrets (which are covered by law), but rather prevent Dr. Lee from using his acquired experience. Dr. Lee's experience and skills are probably so unique that he cannot work at any other job except for a company that is in direct competition with Microsoft. Therefore, Google could argue that Microsoft's non-compete agreement is void because it prevents Dr. Lee from working anywhere in the world for one year.

Furthermore, in California, if a court finds that the non-compete agreement to be overbroad, the court will strike the entire agreement as opposed to refining the agreement to bring it into compliance with California law.

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