Google upbeat over court ruling

'We're thrilled that Kai-Fu Lee can start work' says search giant

Tuesday's preliminary court ruling in the battle over Dr Kai-Fu Lee has been welcomed by Google.

"A Washington state judge ruled today that Dr. Kai-Fu Lee can immediately begin working for Google. We're thrilled, and he's excited to get right to work on several big things, including recruiting, building our Chinese R&D centre, and related government relations," wrote Nicole Wong, associate general counsel for Google, in a blog posting.

The clash began when Kai-Fu Lee resigned from Microsoft to join Google earlier this year. Microsoft took legal action in an attempt to force Dr Lee to observe a non-compete agreement he had signed, which Microsoft claimed would prevent him from starting the work he was hired to do at Google.

In a 13-page ruling released on Tuesday, Judge Steven Gonzalez restricted Lee to recruiting for Google in China and to talking to government officials about getting a licence to do business there but said Lee cannot work on technologies such as search or speech. Lee also cannot set budgets or salaries, or decide what research Google will do in China, according to the order.

Microsoft has said it is hoping to settle the lawsuit, if Google will accept Judge Gonzalez's ruling. Google hasn't yet publicly responded to this offer, but Wong has indicated that Google is fairly happy with Tuesday's ruling.

"There are some restrictions, but the ruling basically allows Dr Lee to do what we've wanted him to be able to do," said Wong.