Microsoft is suing one of its former executives
hired away by Internet rival Google to run a new research center
in China, the US software giant announced Tuesday.
Microsoft revealed the suit as online search
giant Google touted plans to tap into the booming Chinese market
by opening before October a research and development center to
be headed by former Microsoft executive Lee Kai-Fu.
Lee agreed to discuss his new position at Google
with AFP, but declined to answer questions about the lawsuit in
which Microsoft accuses Lee of breaching employee
confidentiality and non-competition agreements.
Lee worked as vice president of Microsoft's
Natural Interactive Services Division before taking a job
heading Google's proposed research center in China, Microsoft
said in a statement.
"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," the
"As a senior executive, Dr. Lee has direct
knowledge of Microsofts trade secrets concerning search
technologies and China business strategies."
Lee's position at Google is "focused on the same
set of technologies and strategies for a direct competitor in
egregious violation of his explicit contractual obligations,"
Google wants to better connect with computer
users in China's rapidly growing economy and to tap into the
talents of Chinese students, scientists and engineers, the
company's engineering president Alan Eustace told AFP.
"We've been looking at the China market for
quite some time," said Eustace, who also declined to discuss the
Microsoft suit. "We are very excited about the marketplace."
Google representatives met with government and
university officials about establishing a research center.
"Obviously, we have to be able to do business in
China and that involves working with local government to make
that possible," Eustace said. "We are certainly working with the
Google officials heralded the creation of the
center as a sign of strong commitment to cultivating Chinese
talent as well as its intent to form alliances with universities
"China is a hotbed of innovation and technology
right now," Eustace said. "I believe Google has a lot to gain by
taking advantage of that."
The Google center in China is part of a company
strategy to have research centers worldwide to learn how
offerings can be better tailored to different cultures, he said.
It remains to be determined where the center
will be located or how large it will be, said Lee. "We are going
to have a lot of freedom and flexibility regarding what will be
done," said Lee.
"It has always been my goal to make advanced
technologies accessible and useful to every user, as well as to
be part of the vibrant growth and innovation in China today."
Lee is a computer scientist known for pioneering
work in the areas of speech recognition and artificial
He took part in the founding of Microsoft
Research China in the late 1990s and has also done stints
working at computer pioneer Apple.
Some human rights and free-speech advocates have
criticized Google, Yahoo and other US firms for purportedly
accepting Beijing's efforts to censor Internet content.
Internet sites in China are strongly urged to
abide by a code of conduct and self-censor any information that
could be viewed by the government as politically sensitive,
pornographic or illegal.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders last
year said it "deplored" the conduct of Yahoo and Google for
"bowing directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands
Google is headquartered in Mountain View near
San Francisco. Its list of global engineering offices includes
facilities in Tokyo, Zurich, Bangalore, New York and