Google Pinches Another Microsoft Exec

Former Microsoft vice president and speech-technology expert Kai-Fu Lee has joined Google to head its China R&D center. Microsoft is suing Lee and Google over the move.

Google continues to hire away top Microsoft talent. But this time, Microsoft is fighting back.

On Tuesday, Google announced plans to open a product research-and-development center in China, and said it was appointing former Microsoft vice president Kai-Fu Lee to head the operation.

On Wednesday, Microsoft announced it was filing a lawsuit against Lee and Google, claiming breach of both employee confidentiality and non-competition agreements.

"We are asking the court to require Dr. Lee and Google to honor the confidentiality and non-competition agreements he signed when he began working for Microsoft," Microsoft said in a statement.

"Creating intellectual property is the essence of what we do at Microsoft, and we have a responsibility to our employees and our shareholders to protect our intellectual property," the Microsoft statement said.

"As a senior executive, Dr. Lee has direct knowledge of Microsofts trade secrets concerning search technologies and China business strategies. He has accepted a position focused on the same set of technologies and strategies for a direct competitor in egregious violation of his explicit contractual obligations."

Lee, a seven-year Microsoft veteran, served most recently as corporate vice president in charge of Microsofts natural interactive services division. That unit focused on simplifying user interfaces, especially via speech and natural-language technologies. Lee also was the founder of Microsoft Research Asia, and held positions with Silicon Graphics and Apple Computer prior to joining Microsoft.

One of the projects upon which Lee worked during his time at Microsoft was known as the NUI (natural user interface) platform. At one point, the NUI platform—designed to provide users with "rich interaction" (speech, handwriting, natural language and even machine learning)—was set to be incorporated into Longhorn.

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