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Microsoft Sues Google For Hiring MS Exec

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the promises-promises dept.

The Courts 720

bonch writes "So it begins...Microsoft is suing Google for wooing away a top executive to work in a China research lab. Microsoft is accusing Kai-Fu Lee of breaking his contract by taking a job within a year of leaving Microsoft, and accused Google of 'intentionally assisting Lee.' Google describes the claims as 'completely without merit' and vows to defend against them."

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Microsoft press release is: (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108822)

"Nothing for you to see here. Please move along."

Re:Microsoft press release is: (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108901)

Oh, you got it wrong. This is so totally news. Just like when Microsoft hired 1/2 of Borland's developers in the mid-90s.

Re:Microsoft press release is: (1)

macshune (628296) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109054)

Yeah, it's news and it's one of the first battles in the nascent war between Microsoft and Google.

Who's gonna win? Any guesses? Why?

"intentially"? (3, Interesting)

XanC (644172) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108823)

I guess this means "intentionally," but it's hard to be sure...

Re:"intentially"? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108866)

You have an hilarious gift for humourously stating the obvious. Had you not posted, this zinger may have evaded me.

Re:"intentially"? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109008)

I'll never understand why crap like his post get modded up and humorous responses like this one get modded -1 offtopic.

Anne (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108825)

eh eh eeeeeh

SUE MY DIRTY BUTTHOLE PLEASEEEE (-1, Troll)

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Good. (1)

GET THE FACTS! (850779) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108839)

That's what they deserve!

The world should sue MS for that very same reason (4, Insightful)

Seiruu (808321) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108840)

For the greater good, sue them (back)! :p

Re:The world should sue MS for that very same reas (5, Insightful)

ak3ldama (554026) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109045)

since the parent started out as a Score: 0, i won't try to mod the parent up, he still won't get seen. but he shouldn't be modded troll!

MicroSoft has a bad history of hiring managers/senior programmers from other companies and having them do the exact same work they used to do, but under their new four colored flag. So indeed: For the greater good, sue them (back)! :p

Wait a minute... (5, Interesting)

Punboy (737239) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108841)

Since when can a company control whether or not you get to get another job? Could this mean that companies could FORBID you from ever getting another job? Or at least prevent you from getting another job for a longer period of time? I'm asking because some companies might use this as "incentive" to keep people from quitting, particularly game programmers who are overworked and frankly, underpaid.

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Interesting)

sgant (178166) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108870)

Called a contract. If you're stupid enough to sign a contract that says you couldn't get another job, then the burden is on you.

I'm sure it was a non-compete clause in the contract and that's what their disputing. Sure, it's chickenshit on Microsoft's part, but still it's probably a valid argument.

Re:Wait a minute... (2)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109002)

Typically such stupidity is induced by means of severence packages.

Re:Wait a minute... (5, Informative)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108871)

Non-compete clauses are quite common in many higher end tech jobs and have been upheld for the most part provided the terms of agreement are not unreasonable. A lifetime agreement not to work for the competition would quickly get thrown out, however a year or two long within a specific sector or industry would be just fine expect where prohibited by law... California IIRC expressly forbids non-compete clauses, however I could be wrong as it's been a while since I looked into it.

Re:Wait a minute... (5, Interesting)

Tongo (644233) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108883)

I had to sign one of these for my current job. It's called a non-competition agreement or something like that. Basically mine said that I could not work in a related field for 180 days within 80 miles. I'm sure different companies have different requirements.

Companies use them to protect IP or to prevent your from running of with their existing client base.

I've hear rumors that they aren't legally binding though. If all your trained to do is code, your old company can't prevent you from making a living.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

toddbu (748790) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108951)

My understanding is that they can, but only if they pay you for the time that you're on the bench, otherwise the contract is unenforceable. I'm not a lawyer though...

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109029)

I know they're not legal here.. it's called 'restraint of trade' - basically a company can't force you onto welfare just because their lawyers are bastards.

I had such a clause in the contract I was made to sign ('sign this or be sacked', basically) but I pointed out them that it wasn't legal and many people left that company to go elsewhere, as I did, without them attempting to enforce it.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108898)

Well, duh! Of course it can. Why else would they do it? Are you telling me you've never had to sign a draconian "employment agreement" as a prerequisite to being hired?

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

Ann Elk (668880) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108908)

Microsoft, like many other companies, require new employess to sign a "non compete" contract before they can be hired. These contracts generally prohibit ex-employees from working in related fields for a specific period of time.

Whether or not these contracts are enforceable is another issue entirely...

Re:Wait a minute... (2, Interesting)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108995)

even if they're not enforceable (I get the feeling you can probably work around it), MS can make it ugly, so much so that the breacher becomes a liability to employ.

I'm not sure who this guy is, but how much cash is Google willing to toss at fighting this case before they regret hiring dude?

Another thing... I can't imagine this is the first cross-pollination issue to occur between these two firms, and I doubt it'll be the last.

This will probably draw the line in the sand going forward.

Re:Wait a minute... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108912)

Yep.
Always check your contract. This could be considered a restraint of trade matter but can be binding in some jurisdictions. Particularly if it involves moving to work for a competitor where you could be deemed to have insider info of the prior employer's business and/or planning or IP.
This can especially be the case in game development circles.

Re:Wait a minute... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108924)

Could is speculative...1 year is reasonable within the same field, especially for specific field of research. Otherwise X company could just pay you whatever salary you were making before plus a little in order to buy whatever secrets you learned while at the other company. I know this is what NDAs are for but seriously, if you move from one company to another and end up working on the same stuff are you really not going to use a cutting edge idea that you knew from the first company?

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109038)

So... you're saying that someone being out of work for a year is reasonable? Because for most people, working outside of their field of specialization means not being employed.... I guess it depends on how narrowly you define the field, but still....

Its called a contract..... (1)

reality-bytes (119275) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108925)

You sign a contract with your employer which says you must do only x,y and z but you go off and do a b and c. (this can even include future employment)

Said employer can now sue you for breach of contract.

Moral: Always read the smallprint.

Submoral: Probably don't work for giant multinationals (like MS) if you're going to break any contracts.

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

BewireNomali (618969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108936)

the noncompete agreement stipulated that he could not take a position with a direct competitor for a year after leaving microsoft.

that's standard language, i think.

anyways, a company can do a lot of things, if they put it in writing and you agree to it by signing off on it.

i guess they can argue on the language, but microsoft and google directly compete as relates to search, so in that sense they are direct competitors. Too bad we can't see the rest of the document so our legal eagles could proffer their expertise.

Re:This puts MS employees in a real bind (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109012)


In the tech world, there isn't much that Microsoft *doesn't* compete with. So what does one do...flip burgers for a year?

Re:Wait a minute... (1)

flooey (695860) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108942)

Since when can a company control whether or not you get to get another job? Could this mean that companies could FORBID you from ever getting another job? Or at least prevent you from getting another job for a longer period of time? I'm asking because some companies might use this as "incentive" to keep people from quitting, particularly game programmers who are overworked and frankly, underpaid.

I'm of course not a lawyer, but it's been common practice for companies to require noncompetition agreements for employees for quite a while. Basically, it's saying "we agree to hire you if, in turn, you agree not to use the job solely to learn the industry and then take a job from a competitor once you've done so", and as such, the courts have ruled that a properly defined noncompete agreement is legal. However, a lot of them are struck down when they get to court for being too broad (exactly for the reason you mentioned, as its legal if used as a legitimate protection method, but illegal if it's used as a weapon to keep people from quitting, from my understanding).

Pshaw (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108844)

Your capitalistic "contracts" have no purpose in the glorious workers paradise of China.

And in other news, cows moo. (5, Funny)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108845)

Intentionally assisting him? As in, giving him a job?

Re:And in other news, cows moo. (5, Funny)

Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108953)

Intentionally assisting him? As in, giving him a job?

Who knows, maybe they provided the guy with a ladder to climb the electrified barb-wired fence surrounding the Microsoft compound, and passed packets full of poisoned bits of meat to neutralize the guard dogs, so that he could escape.

Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (3, Interesting)

DroopyStonx (683090) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108846)

So... all this because he got a job within a year of leaving MS?

What do they expect, him to just roam the streets homeless until times comes to get a job?

Riiiight...

Re:Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (2, Interesting)

Soporific (595477) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108863)

He probably has a non-compete clause in his contract which I think precludes him from working for a competitor, but I haven't RTFA. Either way as an MS exec I'd be willing to bet he's not short on cash.

~S

Re:Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (1)

hilaryduff (894727) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108978)

why does google have a 'top executive' working in their research labs anyway?

Re:Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (2, Insightful)

Transcendent (204992) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108892)

It's called a severance package. Usually the higher ups get paid up the ass when they leave. This usually rides along some nice contract that the guy has to sign.

Do you know anything of the business world?

Re:Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (5, Funny)

thundercatslair (809424) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108938)

Yes, If I was making contracts I would put the dumbest shit in it. I would do my best to make sure they don't read it either.

No (1)

charon_1 (562573) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108969)

If you RTFA, he can't get a job with a "direct competitor" within a year.

Re:Um.. dude's gotta fuckin work. (1)

p0rnking (255997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109007)

It's not like M$ fired him and said that he couldn't work for a competitor.

Lawsuit on Google? (5, Interesting)

someonewhois (808065) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108847)

Shouldn't it be the employee that gets the lawsuit? They were the ones who broke the contract? Not Google? I mean, yes, I read the article, but wouldn't it make more sense to just sue the person, not try and make up random claims?

Sure, they want to attack Google in all ways they can, but seriously... this just seems stupid.

Re:Lawsuit on Google? (2, Insightful)

cyberbrown (764912) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108941)

You're right, in fact Microsoft isn't accusing Google of breaking the contract, but of intentionally assisting Lee.
Like helping him to break the law, or something like that.

follow the money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109032)

law 101: sue the party with the most money. if the odds are 50/50 (they either buy your bs or they don't) that you're going to win the case, you might as well shake down the biggest cash cow you can.

My Rights Online? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13108850)

Huh, what am I missing here? Whose rights are being affected here other than the exec's?

This appears to be a civil dispute over a job contract, nothing more. What's the story here? Because it's Microsoft, the great Satan, vs. Google, the company that can do no wrong?

This is one of the lamest stories that slashdot as ever posted.

Re:My Rights Online? (1)

Soporific (595477) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108933)

I think you hit the nail on the head. This quote from Google got me thinking:

"We have reviewed Microsoft's claims and they are completely without merit. Google is focused on building the best place in the world for great innovators to work. We're thrilled to have Dr. Lee on board at Google. We will defend vigorously against these meritless claims."

Somehow the verbiage sounds like it came from one of Michael Jacksons attorneys...

~S

Re:My Rights Online? (1)

Maow (620678) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109050)

Huh, what am I missing here?

Potentially a lot.

Whose rights are being affected here other than the exec's?

Try extrapolating -- what if you were seeking employment and your former employer tried to interfere?

Actually, more important is a legal challenge to the non-competition clause of the contract. I'd love to see one of those shot down in court.

Same with most EULAs -- legal contracts that I'd like to see challenged / over turned.

IANAL, but this could be interesting.

rb

Those kind of contracts (1)

Andrew Tanenbaum (896883) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108853)

shouldn't even be legal. "After we fire you, your only recourse is begging for money!"

Cunfused (1)

nukethewhalesagain (867676) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108854)

So they're suing the guy for leaving Microsoft and then taking another job? Were they going to pay the guy during this year that he was supposed to wait before finding another job?

Re:Cunfused (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108958)

"Were they going to pay the guy during this year that he was supposed to wait before finding another job?"

At that level, it's pretty common to get a large sack of cash as part of a severance package. We're not exactly talking about some factory worker whose children will starve, you know.

This makes M$ seem (4, Funny)

Jambon (880922) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108857)

like a jealous girlfriend. "Hey! You just left me! You can't go running of with other women so soon! Noooooooooooo!"

Re:This makes M$ seem (5, Interesting)

DaHat (247651) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108917)

If you want to talk about such actions... I suggest you look up Alienation of Affection. It's only still useable in a few states (South Dakota being one of them (where I live)) and has to be one of the coolest and yet most ridiculous concepts still on the books.

In short, it is based on the concept that a wife is property of her husband, and if another man should 'steal' the wife from the husband and cause her to wish to be with him, leading to the end of the existing marriage, the (former) husband has legal standing to sue the other man for taking his wife.

Brilliant eh?

In most states where this concept exists (or more often existed), it has been thrown out by judges hearing such cases in recent years, so it's existence is quite endangered.

Why do I mention this? Simple, the example you made as a joke believe it or not has some legal standing.

Re:This makes M$ seem (1)

slazzy (864185) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108921)

what is this girlfriend thing you speak of?

Re:This makes M$ seem (2, Funny)

Eberlin (570874) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108952)

and in this case, going out with a really hot looking girl that'll cook him dinner, treat him right, and um...runs a heck of a beowulf cluster.

Non compete agreements must be reasonable in scope (1)

terrymr (316118) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108864)

No court will enforce one that bars you from working anywhere in the world.

$64,000 question! (5, Funny)

Sanity (1431) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108872)

I wonder who Slashdot is going to back in this legal battle?!

MOD PARENT UP! (1)

Spy der Mann (805235) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108943)

I wonder who Slashdot is going to back in this legal battle?!

So far Google's a monopoly in the search market, but Microsoft is using monopolic practices to fight against this monopoly, so it's a hard question to answer.

But I'd say that since Google's not playing dirty, I'd go with Google. Maybe monopoly, but legit.
Oh yeah, almost forgot! Mod parent insightful.

Re:MOD PARENT UP! (2, Insightful)

ilyaaohell (866922) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108997)

Last I checked, the search engine business is still highly competitive.

Re:$64,000 question! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109053)

Yeah, I can just see the posts if the article were about a Google executive leaving for Microsoft: "OMG it was in the contract! He broke a contract!" "M$ has no creativity of their own, they have to steal google's people!" "It's okay when google tries to gain a foothold in a market, but when microsoft does they're being evil monopolistic drones of bill gates" "Ummm...go linux?"

I wonder... (1)

dsands1 (183088) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108876)

Is this evidence? [googlism.com]

Some Jobs Prevent Working for Competitors (3, Interesting)

UMhydrogen (761047) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108877)

Some jobs do in fact prevent you from working for the competitor. A lot of the time it's part of the non-disclosure agreement. If you work for a defense contractor, for example, Lockheed Martin, they will make you sign an agreement that you will not work for Boeing, Northrop, Raytheon, etc for a 3 year period. This prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B. This kind of practice is completely ethical. Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical and these type of rules prevent these thigns from happening.

In MS's case, I think this is obsurd!

Re:Some Jobs Prevent Working for Competitors (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108948)

Absurd why?

PS: The above sentence is not a statement of opinion. I shouldn't have to say this, but we're on /. after all...

Re:Some Jobs Prevent Working for Competitors (3, Insightful)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108964)

That's right. Because capitalism benefits when companies keep secrets.

Re:Some Jobs Prevent Working for Competitors (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109009)

his prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B. This kind of practice is completely ethical. Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical and these type of rules prevent these thigns from happening.

Killing them would be able to stop them from taking their knowledge over as well. Doesn't mean it's ethical. I don't believe "You can't work for company X (or industry X) after you're fired for Y time" is ethical at all. They've fired me, that's their problem. If they wanted me to not work for another company, then they shouldn't have fired me, or given me terms and conditions that would make me not want to leave. Unfortunately the person signed the contract, so it's their fault, but from the sounds of it quite a lot of jobs in America have non-compete agreements, so looking for a job in a particular sector without one sounds like it would be very, very difficult.

It is unethical to take over things that you're contractually signed against doing. But the company should devise a method to stop me that doesn't result in me being out of work.

In MS's case, I think this is obsurd!

Why? Perhaps he has inside knowledge on difficulties Microsoft was having with the Chinese government. Perhaps he's planning on telling google what secret projects were beneath him so Google can begin creating counter-projects. Perhaps he knows of how Microsoft is going to attempt to win over search engine users, so Google can work on a defence. There is plenty of knowledge this guy could have that Google would want to know.

Re:Some Jobs Prevent Working for Competitors (3, Insightful)

Linus Torvaalds (876626) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109048)

Some jobs do in fact prevent you from working for the competitor. A lot of the time it's part of the non-disclosure agreement.

I've heard in the past that these types of clauses are generally unenforceable. Any lawyers care to chime in?

This prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B.

Why is that a problem? Trade secrets, patents and copyright are already in place to protect against this type of thing.

This kind of practice is completely ethical.

You think so? Where are you supposed to work for the next three years then? At McDonalds? These types of agreements essentially remove the possibility of you doing anything you are remotely qualified for even after your employment ends. What are you supposed to do for a living?

If a company really thinks that an employee has such valuable knowledge that copyrights, patents and trade secrets aren't enough, then they should write a really long notice period into their contracts and continue to pay the employee for doing what they are told.

Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical

This is nonsense. It's called "experience". What, you forget everything you learned at a job when you leave the place? I wouldn't want to employ you.

In MS's case, I think this is obsurd!

Absurd.

Borland Playbook (4, Insightful)

bstadil (7110) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108881)

Poetic justice, maybe they should talk to Borland [theserverside.net] how this feels.

Re:Borland Playbook (3, Insightful)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108994)

Poetic justice, maybe they should talk to Borland how this feels.

There is a difference. Microsoft has more lawyers. Wasn't M$ sued by the government, M$ lost, and was ordered to split into 2 seperate companies? What happened? Appeal, appeal, appeal. And wait for a new administration, and new attorney general.

Microsoft is not following the law, they are not even obeying the law. They are using the judiciary to rewrite the laws with selective interpretation.

Think about how involved M$ is with government. How much money do they donate each year to canidates they want? Then when it comes time to appoint judges, there is M$ again. Sooner or later, M$ will end up in a court with a judge they hand selected. It is the same method the Mafia used, get their thugs in positions of government.

If Microsoft was held accountable for every contract they broke, they would cease to exists.

Business as usual (3, Informative)

JanneM (7445) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108886)

Suing over employee "poaching" is pretty common business practice in some countries. If he had a one-year non-compete clause in the contract, and if it is valid, then it seems reasonable.

The question is of course what the legal standing is of such a clause in China. In many countries such an employment clause is normally non-enforceable, since you always have a right to do your trade. There you would rather have some monetary incentive, like paid salary during theyear and a bonus payout at the end, which, all considered, probably is a better idea all around (people are much more likely to actually comply with something they see as a positive).

Re:Business as usual (2, Interesting)

Volvogga (867092) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109017)

Suing over employee "poaching" is pretty common business practice in some countries.

When you say this, are you refering to the suing of the second company to hire the employee, or the suing of the employee in question. I understand that he may have broken some kind of contract, which in some way, that I find very strange, must remain valid after he quits, but how can another company that had nothing to do with the origonal contract be held responsible for a breach by a newly hired employee? I would think that it would be the responsibility of the employee to refuse employment offers.

One question I wonder about, if Google wanted this guy so bad before another company picked him up, could they put this guy on a salery and have him sit at home untill his 'Microsoft year' is up?

Re:Business as usual (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109026)

It also varies between state. CA is an "at will" state. Non-compete means nothing here; it's a "gentleman's" contact, nothing more. A company can dismiss you with no warning and you can quit with no warning.

Silicon Valley was built on "at will". Otherwise there would never had been a Sun, Cisco, or Juniper, etc.

The valley is based on poaching. As it should be. A vital resource should be able to command as much money as the traffic will bear. MS got dozens, if not hundreds of patents and millions if not billions of dollars out of the guy. I'm pretty sure his cut was less than that. TS. Guy doesn't want to work for MS does want to work for Google.

Cry me a river...

China also is "at will".

Not Our Fault... (0, Troll)

NoTheory (580275) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108887)

Yes, it's all googles fault MSN Search is so bad isn't it. And suing Google will fix their search problems won't it!

Re:Not Our Fault... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109015)

"And suing Google will fix their search problems won't it!"

I know you were being facetious and meant that it would fix the "problems" MSN Search has, however, I think you should have been less facetious. Google used to be great for finding anything I needed to know quickly. As of late, it has turned into a huge festering pile of shit. I used to be able to find what I was looking for within the first page, second at worst. Now, I have to click back to the 8th page, 12th, or keep trying my luck at using +/-/-site/etc and quotes just to find anything even remotely relevant to what I'm looking for.

You know, Gmail is nice and all, but I'd rather have a good solid search engine rather than one that gives me more spam than my inbox.

So... (1, Redundant)

DarkJC (810888) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108889)

Microsoft expected him to stay unemployed for a year after leaving work? Sounds more and more like they're trying to aim their weapons of mass destruction at Google, using lawsuits and the like to cripple their competition.

Maybe try reading your contract next time, Lee (5, Insightful)

EraseEraseMe (167638) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108890)

Maybe he should have read his contract, especially considering:

"At Microsoft, Lee oversaw development of the company's MSN Internet search technology, including a desktop search service released earlier this year."

Sign a non-compete clause on your contract, run a department, leave that company to work for the competitors identical department, and then sit back and say "Aw shucks, I didn't realize this would be a problem."? No, sorry, no support from me on this issue.

Sounds more like Google went head-hunting and didn't cross their T's and dot their i's.

And don't proclaim the whole 'undue hardship of finding a job in that field' angle, because it's rather obvious exactly why he got this job.

I think Microsoft will probably let this one go; however, it does reflect poorly on Lee (and Google).

Re:Maybe try reading your contract next time, Lee (1)

PigIronBob (885337) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109036)

Anders Hejlsberg: Father of Turbo Pascal Borland, MS Delphi, C# MS, Google Pot, Kettle

An interesting thing about the story... (1)

Aeron65432 (805385) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108893)

Microsoft accused Lee of breaking his 2000 employment contract, in part by taking a job with a direct competitor within a year of leaving the company.

Sounds like a load of crap to me. First of all, M$ is pretending to be a direct competitor to Google. In reality, they're not really. I've heard of some weird people using Yahoo for search, but MSN?

Secondly, why would Microsoft prevent an employee from taking a job at a rival as opposed to, oh say, signing a Trade Secrets Confidentiality agreement? Wouldn't that have made more sense?

Maybe it would have. I don't know what's going through Ballmer's head.

Re:An interesting thing about the story... (1)

EraseEraseMe (167638) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108922)

"At Microsoft, Lee oversaw development of the company's MSN Internet search technology, including a desktop search service released earlier this year."

Sounds like he was working in direct competition with Google to me.

...just add "on the computer" to it? (1)

d34thm0nk3y (653414) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108896)

FTA:

"Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow noncompetition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive,"

Nice, so Google builds Operating Systems and Office Suites now? Joking (and MSN search) aside this really all comes down to the exact wording of this guy's non-compete. I don't know how they could possibly touch Google for this though...

Re:...just add "on the computer" to it? (2, Insightful)

Ziggy7273 (887433) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109060)

direct Microsoft competitor Microsoft spreads itself so thin, everyone is practically a competitor.

Explain to me... (3, Insightful)

AngryDill (740460) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108899)

...why Google would be liable for a violation of an agreement made between Microsoft and Mr. Lee?

It's a good think Microsoft has never stooped to hiring a key person away from a competitor! ;)

-a.d.-

hmm! nice lie couched as fact (4, Insightful)

toby (759) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108906)

Microsoft and Google, along with Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), are locked in a fierce battle to dominate search,

Um, this "fierce battle" is entirely in the writer's imagination. Google dominates. M$ has said they plan to catch up one day. If the search tech on their own web site is any indication, they never will.

Nice abuse of rhetoric though.

oh dear God, here we go... (3, Interesting)

John Seminal (698722) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108914)

"Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow noncompetition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive," Microsoft said in its lawsuit. "Google is fully aware of Lee's promises to Microsoft, but has chosen to ignore them, and has encouraged Lee to violate them."

Wait... if I want to work for you, I have to promise not to work for them sometime in the future? Okay... And I have to name my firstborn child Billy?

Tom Burt, a lawyer for Microsoft, said Lee announced Monday that he was leaving for the Google job and had given no indication that he planned to honor an agreement not to work for a direct competitor for one year.

"To the contrary, they're saying, 'In your face,'" Burt told The Associated Press.

Your honor... yada yada yada... IN YOUR FACE!!! HA! Now there is a new legal argument. I wonder if this groudbreaking lawsuit will be referred to from now on as the "facial"?

Google shot back with a statement saying: "We have reviewed Microsoft's claims and they are completely without merit. Google is focused on building the best place in the world for great innovators to work. We're thrilled to have Dr. Lee on board at Google. We will defend vigorously against these meritless claims."

Okay, it is starting to sink in. Mr Lee has an agreement with Microsoft saying he will not work for a competitor. A competitor hires him. But does the competitor have any contract with Microsoft? Who should get sued?

In its lawsuit, Microsoft said it was seeking a court order forcing Lee and Google to abide by terms of confidentiality and noncompetition agreements that Lee signed at Microsoft.

Oh fuck. Now you did it. Luccciieeee!!!

Okay, time for some Seminals finest analysis. Fuck you Microsoft. You are a dirty bastard who has lived past its expiration date. Die, die, die, you miserable corporation. Sink back into the depths of hell from which you came.

Translation...

Microsoft has no right to mandate what kind of work someone does. Microsoft did not train this person, Microsoft did not make this person a better person. Mr Lee is the one who made microsoft better. He shared his mind and ideas with them. If Microsoft patented them, which I am sure they did, then there is no conflict of interest. This guy can go and and think new thoughts for Google.

From TFA (1)

rbarreira (836272) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108919)

It also wants a judge to order Lee to return any documents, files or reports he obtained from Microsoft and to forbid him from destroying any documents related to Microsoft and Google's move to hire him.

"Here are the files I obtained from Microsoft. I made a copy of them to my usb-disk first, but I shouldn't be saying this, right?"

Slightly O/T 'non-competition'... (5, Interesting)

saderax (718814) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108928)

At my job (a small company of 11 people), I was recently informed that we would be renegotiating contracts. I was then handed a 16 page document and told if I did not sign it, I would be fired.

Nestled deep among the fine print of this document I discovered the following gems:

  • I cannot use a computer for two years after I leave.
  • The contract never expires.
  • Anything I do on my computer, at my own home, on my time, belongs to the company.
  • If I get another job on a computer, I have to notify them, and the company has a right to send my new employer a copy of the contract.
My boss says I'm reading it wrong, its all legal speak, and its just a friendly contract. He also claims every business will make me sign the same thing. Is this legal? I've received a lot advice. Some say to quit, some say its unenforcable, and I should sign it, etc.

So far I have not signed it (so I can leave and compete all I want...), but cannot find a job to leave this company for. Should I sign it? Is anyone hiring a web programmer in the Tampa, FL area?

Re:Slightly O/T 'non-competition'... (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108980)

Of course I'm not a lawyer, but I can tell you that these are NOT common terms.

There are a lot of common terms, but the ones you've represented here are not.

The only one I think is even remotely enforceable is the "if you get another job" clause, however it can't be for an infinite time period. 2 years is probably all that's enforceable (and again, i'm not a lawyer, so this is just my personal opinion).

Take it to a real lawyer. They should only charge you $100 or so to review it.

Re:Slightly O/T 'non-competition'... (1)

Neil Blender (555885) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109011)

I had a similar experience. I work in bioinformatics and at one small company I was considering joining presented me with a non-compete that essentially barred me from working in any life-science or computer related field for two years. It was ridiculous. It covered areas of science that neither I nor they had any expertise in whatsoever. I think small companies sometimes get their lawyer to write these things and it becomes a collaboration between two people (employer and lawyer) who don't really know anything about non-competes. They end up with something outrageously restrictive.

Re:Slightly O/T 'non-competition'... (5, Interesting)

yerM)M (720808) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109013)

Here is what I did:

Scratch out (draw lines through) the items you don't like and initial them and sign the bottom pages (all of them). Make a notorized copy and hand the contract back. There is a good chance it will be counter-signed without anyone looking over the contract.

Remember, this is a CONTRACT, you are free to make changes that you see fit.

Good demonstration (1)

gonaddespammed.com (550312) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108930)

Microsoft and their "youworkforus,we'llfuckyouifyouleave,weownyou" tactics. Go freedom.

Can the suit even work? (1)

HCIdivision17 (899510) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108944)

The job is definately over-seas. Anyone with some mecroeconomic experience know if this even qualifies as an American court case? Perhaps it's because Google is based in the US, but he's also left (or fled :/) the country as well.

Sorry, my fault... (1)

KefabiMe (730997) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108946)

I saw this on news.google.com and just submitted a story to /. about it! But by the time I submitted it, the story was already on the front page!

Ah well, this just means you'll see this story again in a short while. Blame me! Blame me for the dupe!!! It's not Taco I swear!

Non-compete Clauses (1)

jtshaw (398319) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108954)

A lot of companies ask you to sign a non-compete clause when you take a job. They basically say "If you leave hear you won't take a job for xyz amount of time with a competitor". Problem is, non-compete clauses very rarely hold up in court because most of them are so vague they are considered useless.

YRO (1)

NitsujTPU (19263) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108960)

Uhmm. I thought that YRO stood for Your Rights Online. Perhaps there should be another category?

Non-disclosure (1)

MicroPat (895649) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108966)

Finally some saucy Slashdot news! Hopefully Microsoft had him sign non-disclosure agreements on the bits and pieces of their search "trade secrets." This should be quite a lovely little battle.

Completely without Merit (2, Insightful)

jolyonr (560227) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108970)

Does anyone being sued ever state anything other than the case is "Completely without Merit"?

"A spokesman said 'Actually, there is some merit in their case, but we're going to have a go fighting it anyway'" - hm. No not likely!

No doubt someone will come up with a real example now i've mentioned it.

Jolyon

It Begins (1)

abscondment (672321) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108971)

Isn't it fitting that MS attempts to move its impending showdown with Google from the technology field and into the court house?

When we can't beat em', litigate!

I wonder if MS' monopoly status will affect this.. (1)

emarkp (67813) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108979)

Now that they've been designated a monopoly, doesn't that mean they don't have any competitors? Or is it that MS is a competitor of everyone?

superman vs... (2, Funny)

Daedalus-Ubergeek (600951) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108981)

Is it just me or does the concept of two megacorporations battling it out remind you of when you used to argue with your friends over "Who would win a fight? Superman or Batman?"

(Of course many of us true geeks know the answer to that one)

Noncompete clauses (3, Interesting)

KerberosKing (801657) | more than 9 years ago | (#13108989)

As an IT contractor, I have repeatedly refused to sign a contract with a non-compete clause. They are simply too board. I will not agree to let a company put me on the bench unemployed for a year just because I took a job working for them. I have to earn a living, and I am not changing careers just because I left one employer for another.

The US courts tend to dislike these clauses as they restrain free-trade and block free enterprise. Since both parties in this complaint have the reputation and resources to call attention to this issue, I look forward to seeing more caselaw defending the rights of employees and courts scrutinizing noncompete agreements very closely and hopefully refusing to enforce them.

/dev/empire (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109000)

Microsoft is at war with Google over developers. Microsoft's entire global domination strategy has been best described (by an insanely bellowing simian MS executive) "DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS" (rinse, repeat). Google's APIs, and their huge popularity, have stolen all of MS' thunder. Where the developers go, the apps go. And apps create demand. That demand is the market that software companies like MS serves. Because Google sells... er, advertizing, and maybe more later, they're more flexible. While undermining the MS lead in attracting developers to Windows threatens the entire MS empire. That's why MS went after Netscape so hard: Netscape's promise of a cross-platform Internet application system was an end-run around MS, and their developer/customer lockins. Now Google gets to take a turn, without the vulnerability to monopoly competition, in browser and server markets, that let Netscape succumb. An interesting sidelight in this battle-spiral will be the dance of Linux developers, who are more free to hitch wagons to Google's Web services, without the burden of a monopoly to defend. Let the good times roll!

This seems like an unfair clause... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13109028)

Microsoft has expanded into so many areas of business that the only job this poor guy could have taken after leaving Microsoft would be male prostitute. Oh wait... [superfastcomputer.com]

Americans are a bunch of commies (1)

Marcion (876801) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109034)

From the Article:

"Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow noncompetition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive," Microsoft said in its lawsuit.

In civilised countries you cannot sign away your statutory rights. However in America you are "free" to make yourselves a load of slaves in the interest of your fascist industrial complex. (fascist in the sense of there being no separation between business and government).

Crazy, time for you yanks to stand up for a free labour market with any noncompetition being illegal as anti-competitive; rather than the communist-style system you have now.

Microsoft as a near monopoly needs no protection from the state, indeed we all need protection from it.

Knew this was coming... $$ battle. (1)

super_ogg (620337) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109049)

This is no surprise. Microsoft will try to bleed some of google's money away with lawyers' fees rather than the sued amount.

And if MS wins, it'll open up other oppurtunities for other 'cry baby' companies.
ogg

The Hunter (1)

shatfield (199969) | more than 9 years ago | (#13109051)

I guess this means that the hunter doesn't like to become the hunted. Somehow, I don't feel sorry for them.
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