Former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee used insider information to get himself at job at rival Google in violation of a noncompete agreement, a Microsoft lawyer alleged today.

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Former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee used insider information to get himself at job at rival Google in violation of a noncompete agreement, a Microsoft lawyer alleged today.

Lawyer Jeff Johnson said that in approaching Google about a job, Lee sent an e-mail stating, “I am currently the corporate vice president at Microsoft working on areas very related to Google.”
“He was saying, ‘Look what I did at Microsoft and look what I can do for you,”‘ Johnson said in opening statements today at a hearing before King County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez.

Lee, who worked at Microsoft since 2000, joined Google in July to lead the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet search engine company’s expansion into China.

Attorneys for Google said in court today that much of what Lee knew about the Chinese market came from his previous work experience at Apple Computer and other companies, and that Microsoft was exaggerating the extent of Lee’s work for Microsoft on China.

Microsoft has sued Google and Lee, who is known for his work on computer recognition of language, a key problem in search technology. The Redmond software titan contends that Lee’s duties would violate the terms of a noncompete agreement he signed as part of his Microsoft employment contract.

Google denies the allegations and has countersued Microsoft.

At today’s hearing, Microsoft lawyers sought to restrict what work Lee can do for Google until the larger case goes to trial.

Johnson alleged that Lee — while still on Microsoft’s payroll — went so far as to send Google a paper he had written for Microsoft about the Chinese market, and that he also made recommendations to Google about other people the company might want to hire.

John Keker, a lawyer for Google, argued that recruiting is not a violation of the noncompete clause because the clause specifies only that Lee could not take part in activities that are competitive with products, services or projects he worked on at Microsoft.

Lee was expected to take the stand later today.

The case has illuminated the behind-the-scenes bitterness between the two rivals. Court documents released Friday said that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, in an obscenity-laced tirade, vowed to “kill” Google and said Google chased a prized Microsoft executive “like wolves.” Ballmer has said the comments are a “gross exaggeration.”