Ex Microsoft Executive Sued Over Google Job

Microsoft Corp. sued one of its former executives and Google Inc. on Tuesday, the same day the Internet search engine company announced it had hired Kai-Fu Lee to head up its first research-and-development center in China.

In a complaint filed in King County Superior Court, the Redmond-based software maker argued that by taking a job with a direct competitor, Lee broke a contract he signed when he joined Microsoft in 2000. Microsoft also accused Google of "intentionally assisting Lee."

"Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow noncompetition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive," Microsoft said in its lawsuit. "Google is fully aware of Lee's promises to Microsoft, but has chosen to ignore them, and has encouraged Lee to violate them."

Microsoft and Google, along with Yahoo Inc., are locked in a fierce battle to dominate search, both online and through desktop search programs. Google also has begun offering new services, including e-mail, that compete with Microsoft offerings.