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Ex-Microsoft-exec case hearing today

Microsoft and Google are expected to appear in King County Superior Court this morning to argue whether former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee should be prohibited from working in the position he was hired for by Google. Microsoft sued Google and Lee in July, saying the hiring violated terms of the employment contract Lee signed while he worked for Microsoft.

A judge has already temporarily blocked Lee from his Google job. Today’s hearing, which is expected to continue tomorrow, will cover whether Lee should be blocked until a trial begins in the case in January.


New keyboard, mouse debut

Microsoft is launching new keyboards and mice today that it says incorporates advanced ergonomics technology. One keyboard, the $65 Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, includes a palm and wrist rest and a 12-degree split separating the halves of the typing surface. The $25 Comfort Curve Keyboard 2000 employs a 6-degree curved layout. The company is also introducing the $30 Comfort Optical Mouse 3000.

Microsoft also announced five wireless mice designed to work with high-definition displays and a wired laser mouse developed specifically for computer gaming. The mice range in price from $35 to $65.

Nation / World


China Southern to ink Airbus deal

China Southern Airlines, the nation’s second-biggest airline by sales, said it will sign an order today for 10 Airbus A330-200 planes, valued at up to $1.6 billion at list prices.

The deal is part of $3.7 billion in contracts to be inked between British firms and China and India during British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s four-day tour of the two Asian countries.

The airlines of China have ordered 165 planes this year valued at $17 billion from Airbus and Boeing, making them the world’s largest buyers of aircraft. Two of three of the planes bought this year in China were Boeing models.

China Airlines

Taiwan carrier buying cargo stake

TAIPEI, Taiwan — China Airlines said yesterday it will join with two shipping companies to buy a combined 37 percent stake in mainland air-cargo carrier Yangtze River Express Airlines.

China Airlines will pay $39 million. The deal marks the latest effort of Taiwan’s largest airline to tap into mainland China’s rapidly growing cargo market.

The carrier failed to close a deal to buy a 25 percent stake in another Chinese cargo airline after four years of negotiations.

The plan still needs approval of the governments of Taiwan and China.

Compiled from Seattle Times staff, Bloomberg News, Reuters and

The Associated Press


Judge rules against file-sharing service

An Australian court ruled yesterday that Internet file-sharing operator Kazaa infringed the country’s copyright laws, and it ordered the company to install filters to prevent future violations.

After an 18-month trial, the Federal Court of Australia ruled that Kazaa violated Australian copyright law by authorizing users to infringe music companies’ copyright in recordings. The decision comes 10 weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that file-sharing operators could be held liable if they induce people to violate music copyrights.

“Two courts in different continents and hemispheres have given a huge boost to the efforts by music and technology companies to forge a legal online music business,” said John Kennedy, chairman and chief executive of the London-based International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in an e-mailed statement.

The federation represents music companies such as EMI Group and Warner Music Group as well as hundreds of independent record labels.

The case in Australia was brought by the Australian unit of Universal Music Group, part of Vivendi Universal, and other music-industry plaintiffs against Sharman Networks, which controls Kazaa, and other defendants.

“Despite the fact that the Kazaa Web site contains warnings against the sharing of copyright files, and an end-user license agreement under which users are made to agree not to infringe copyright, it has long been obvious that those measures are ineffective to prevent, or even substantially to curtail, copyright infringements by users,” the judge said in a summary of the decision.

The Kazaa Web site also criticized record companies for opposing peer-to-peer file-sharing, and the judge said this would encourage Kazaa’s mostly young audience to “think it cool to defy the record companies by ignoring copyright constraints.”


Firm’s board rejects cash takeover bid

NEW YORK — Chiron yesterday said its board rejected an all-cash takeover offer from Novartis AG, saying the offer is inadequate.

A Novartis spokesman in Basel, Switzerland, John Gilardi, said the pharmaceutical company had no immediate response.

On Thursday, Novartis offered to buy about 58 percent of Chiron shares it does not already own at $40 per share.

In a statement issued yesterday, Chiron acknowledged that over the 10 years since Novartis has been Chiron’s largest stockholder, the two companies have regularly discussed a number of strategic initiatives, including mergers, significant acquisitions and other transactions, including transactions initiated by Novartis.


Carmaker to slash payroll in Germany

BERLIN — German automaker Volkswagen AG said yesterday it plans to cut its work force in its home country, complaining that its factories have “several thousand” surplus employees, despite rising demand for its cars.

Volkswagen said it would extend early retirement programs, allow more staff members to work part-time and offer incentives to persuade others to leave to trim its employment costs.

The Wolfsburg, Germany, company, which has agreements with labor unions that rule out firing any workers in Germany until 2011, did not say how many of its 103,000 jobs in the country would go or when.

Compiled from Bloomberg and The Associated Press newswires.