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Microsoft Sues Google For Hiring MS Exec 720

Posted by timothy
from the promises-promises dept.
bonch writes "So it begins...Microsoft is suing Google for wooing away a top executive to work in a China research lab. Microsoft is accusing Kai-Fu Lee of breaking his contract by taking a job within a year of leaving Microsoft, and accused Google of 'intentionally assisting Lee.' Google describes the claims as 'completely without merit' and vows to defend against them."
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Microsoft Sues Google For Hiring MS Exec

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  • "intentially"? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by XanC (644172) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:39PM (#13108823)
    I guess this means "intentionally," but it's hard to be sure...
    • Re:"intentially"? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @09:55PM (#13109836) Journal
      I hate this aspect of American contract law. If two people are in a contract that I know about and I encourage one to break it, I am guilty of a tort. How the hell am I guilty of a tort; I wasn't a frickin party to the contract. Contracts are just agreements between two people, if I had no part in agreeing I shouldn't have any responsibility under it.
      • by Whyte (65556) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @11:44PM (#13110485)
        "I hate this aspect of American contract law. If two people are in a contract that I know about and I encourage one to break it, I am guilty of a tort. How the hell am I guilty of a tort; I wasn't a frickin party to the contract. Contracts are just agreements between two people, if I had no part in agreeing I shouldn't have any responsibility under it."

        If you didn't know about the contract then I would agree with you. But if you knew about the contract between the two parties and then intentionally helped one of the parties break that contract that is where you have the tort violation. Because you acted in bad faith to sever a legally recognized relationship.
      • Re:"intentially"? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sique (173459) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @03:16AM (#13111325) Homepage
        I have another issue with those 'non competing clauses'. Rightfully those clauses are invalid in European Law, because there is a high imbalance in power between the two parties. If I wrote in a contract with a company, that however the contract has ended the company is not allowed to hire someone else for the job I had at the company within a specified time, we were talking about something else...
        If the company is allowed to forbid me anything after all contractual obligations of the company against me have ended, then something is deeply wrong. Contracts are either active, and both parties have rights and obligations. Or contracts are expired, and none has. End of Story.
        • Re:"intentially"? (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Momoru (837801)
          Well in this case the company has a lot more to lose then the individual. This Microsoft exec could have gotten a tech job with any company that wasn't directly competing with Microsoft (just go for a "partner" company or something). Leaving from the MSN division to go to Google, he obviously must be carrying some trade secrets with him. Why else would Google want him? Because of the sucess of the MSN search engine? It's brilliant search techniques?

          Think of it the other way around, if you are Larry an
          • Re:"intentially"? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by clem (5683) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @12:30PM (#13114318) Homepage
            This Microsoft exec could have gotten a tech job with any company that wasn't directly competing with Microsoft

            What the hell does that leave? The toaster oven industry?
  • by Seiruu (808321) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:40PM (#13108840)
    For the greater good, sue them (back)! :p
    • since the parent started out as a Score: 0, i won't try to mod the parent up, he still won't get seen. but he shouldn't be modded troll!

      MicroSoft has a bad history of hiring managers/senior programmers from other companies and having them do the exact same work they used to do, but under their new four colored flag. So indeed: For the greater good, sue them (back)! :p

  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Punboy (737239) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:41PM (#13108841) Homepage
    Since when can a company control whether or not you get to get another job? Could this mean that companies could FORBID you from ever getting another job? Or at least prevent you from getting another job for a longer period of time? I'm asking because some companies might use this as "incentive" to keep people from quitting, particularly game programmers who are overworked and frankly, underpaid.
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:2, Interesting)

      by sgant (178166)
      Called a contract. If you're stupid enough to sign a contract that says you couldn't get another job, then the burden is on you.

      I'm sure it was a non-compete clause in the contract and that's what their disputing. Sure, it's chickenshit on Microsoft's part, but still it's probably a valid argument.
      • Typically such stupidity is induced by means of severence packages.
      • by AuMatar (183847) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:07PM (#13109133)
        Except that companies have the power to force you to sign them. If 2/3 of the companies in an industry force you to sign them, if you want to eat you'll sign one. And then you're fucked, since you can't leave they have no incentive to treat you well. Thats why such contracts are illegal in most states of the US, and enforcable only in narrow terms in the rest.
        • The microsoft NDA is tame compared to the one I had to sign from a texan firm that took over the company I work for in Illinois.

          I'm really relying on Illinois law to let me use Microsofts NDA over the one I was forced to sign - since If I leave the company - I won't be allowed to even do a personal website, and I'll have to report every job I have for the rest of my life to them.

          The alternative was to lose my job immediately with no severance.

          My one saving factor is that Illinois has a statute where they
      • by rainman_bc (735332) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:28PM (#13109294)
        Called a contract. If you're stupid enough to sign a contract that says you couldn't get another job, then the burden is on you.

        Not in California. Apparently they've made laws against those pesky "non compete" clauses.

        Microsoft going after Google is kind of funny - the employee had a contract with Microsoft. Google was under no such agreement. Good luck with this one Microsoft. Maybe going after the employee would have worked, but going after Google? What are they, SCO now?
        • by aussie_a (778472) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:57PM (#13109498) Journal
          the employee had a contract with Microsoft. Google was under no such agreement. Good luck with this one Microsoft. Maybe going after the employee would have worked, but going after Google?

          With Apple sueing fan sites for allegedly inducing people to break their contracts (NDA is a type of contract) and winning, they've paved the way for people to be sued* for allegedly inducing someone to break a contract. Which is the better company again? (Yeah, I expect to get modded down from the Apple fan-boys, but it's true, it's annoying when someone points out facts).

          * Although it's highly possible they weren't the first, they have still taken advantage of it though.
      • Its a mixed result for Microsoft in the end. Sure, they get there way with stupid arguments, but they burn in hell later on.
      • In Washington state, where MS HQ resides, judges look at the scope of the non-compete clause. If the clause states that you cannot work in your industry at all, anywhere, for a period of time, it's usually thrown out, since you have the right to make a living for yourself. But if the non-compete clause states a reasonable scope, it will generally be upheld. For instance, I worked for a Seattle-area consulting company that did work in Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Oregon. It's a small market, and compet
      • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by barthrh2 (713909)
        I think that these are more common in countries outside of North America. I have a friend in the financial industry in the UK and they have what is known as "gardening leave" -- when you get sacked you are still on the payroll for six months, but your job is to stay home and do nothing. This is, I believe, in addition to any severance.

        The idea is to keep you out of play so that you can't take clients with you, and/or ensure that any inside knowledge you have is stale by the time you can use it.

        A tradition
    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

      by DaHat (247651) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:43PM (#13108871) Homepage
      Non-compete clauses are quite common in many higher end tech jobs and have been upheld for the most part provided the terms of agreement are not unreasonable. A lifetime agreement not to work for the competition would quickly get thrown out, however a year or two long within a specific sector or industry would be just fine expect where prohibited by law... California IIRC expressly forbids non-compete clauses, however I could be wrong as it's been a while since I looked into it.
      • by ShaniaTwain (197446) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:05PM (#13109102) Homepage
        Just because its in their standard contract doesnt mean you have to sign for it. Don't give a company unreasonable control over your life after you no longer work for them.

        Most companies will agree to reasonable changes to your contract if you negotiate with them upon signing. Contracts can include ridiculous limitations to the way you live your life now and in the future, read them carefully and don't be afraid to ask for changes. they've had the contract written up to give them as much as possible, but as an employee its up to you to decide how much you want to give them.

        If they're completely inflexible do you really want to work for Hugenormous Pan-galactic Deathcorp Inc.?
      • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Informative)

        by yali (209015) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:17PM (#13109219)

        You are right - California forbids [findlaw.com] non-competition clauses:

        Section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code provides that "every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void."

        Google is based in California, but the contract was signed in Washington, so I'm not sure if that helps.

    • Re:Wait a minute... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tongo (644233) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:44PM (#13108883)
      I had to sign one of these for my current job. It's called a non-competition agreement or something like that. Basically mine said that I could not work in a related field for 180 days within 80 miles. I'm sure different companies have different requirements.

      Companies use them to protect IP or to prevent your from running of with their existing client base.

      I've hear rumors that they aren't legally binding though. If all your trained to do is code, your old company can't prevent you from making a living.
  • Pshaw (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Your capitalistic "contracts" have no purpose in the glorious workers paradise of China.
  • by Aeron65432 (805385) <agiamba@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:41PM (#13108845) Homepage
    Intentionally assisting him? As in, giving him a job?
    • by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:51PM (#13108953)
      Intentionally assisting him? As in, giving him a job?

      Who knows, maybe they provided the guy with a ladder to climb the electrified barb-wired fence surrounding the Microsoft compound, and passed packets full of poisoned bits of meat to neutralize the guard dogs, so that he could escape.
    • by Dachannien (617929) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:42PM (#13109404)
      The legal ramifications are that it may amount to interference with a contract. In fact, poaching another company's employees when those employees have signed contracts preventing them from switching to the competition is a very frequently cited example of contract interference.

      One of the requirements for success in a lawsuit for this is that the defendant intentionally induced the third party to violate their contract, which is why "intentionally assisting him" has more to it than the obvious meaning.

  • by DroopyStonx (683090) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:41PM (#13108846)
    So... all this because he got a job within a year of leaving MS?

    What do they expect, him to just roam the streets homeless until times comes to get a job?

    Riiiight...
    • He probably has a non-compete clause in his contract which I think precludes him from working for a competitor, but I haven't RTFA. Either way as an MS exec I'd be willing to bet he's not short on cash.

      ~S
    • by thundercatslair (809424) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:50PM (#13108938)
      Yes, If I was making contracts I would put the dumbest shit in it. I would do my best to make sure they don't read it either.
      • by John Seminal (698722) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:17PM (#13109220) Journal
        Yes, If I was making contracts I would put the dumbest shit in it. I would do my best to make sure they don't read it either.

        You must have been the HR person who kept pushing paper after paper in front of me to sign. You said "This is just a formality, just sign there, and there, and initial there. Good. Very good, you will be perfect here".

        I did not think anything of it, until I got my first check and had a "fines" category. Seems that I did not park in the "employee" section, across the street, behind the dunkin doghnuts, just a short 1/2 mile walk to work. The stores parking lot was reserved for customers only.

        Then there was the fine because someone saw me eating lunch at McDonalds. They said those kinds of neglectful eating choices raises the insurance premiums on everyone. I scratced my head wondering what they were talking about, I did not have any health insurance. Hmmm... Could I have raised their rates just because I smelled like a Big Mac?

        Okay, the second one was Bullshit, but it did happen in michigan. One company has a no-smoking policy. Ever. Smoke at home, and get fired. Then there was the guy who worked for Budwieser, who was spotted drinking a Coors beer after work one day. He was fired too. It is amazing the shit that can get into a work contract.

        Here is something that really did happen to me. I saved the best for last. I was working in factory one summer. It was a stupid job assembling shit. There was a quota per day, 200 parts assembled. with no more than 2 rejects. I think my third or fourth day, once I was out of training and figured out what they wanted done, I assembled 800 parts with 3 that were rejected. Understand, this job was mindless, a repetative hell. A 12 year old could have done it (and probably is in China).

        And I got in trouble. Why? The Union contract stated the low end quota, of 200 parts. They did not want anyone doing more. So the Union rep pulled me to the side, and said "if you keep up that shit, I'll send you home". The first 90 days are a probation, and not only can the employer fire you for any reason, the Union can reject you too by not accepting you into the union, and since it is a closed shop, that means the company can not hire that person. It is fucked up, ain't it?

        There is all kinds of dumb shit that can get in a contract. What we need is something simple. Pay a livable wage. Provide a pension for retirement, and health care. Treat workers with respect.

        • The Union contract stated the low end quota, of 200 parts. They did not want anyone doing more.

          One of the strongest forces pushing american manufacturing jobs out of the country is Union BS.

          When Unions protect workers frm unreasonable working conditions, or an unsafe environment, they're doing what we need unions to do. When they're trying to make sure their members have to be paid whether they actually work to capacity or not, they're just stealing from the rest of us.
        • Hmmm, I'm curious about the legality of the "fines". You can get into a lot of trouble for taking money out of someone's pay check. A *LOT*. I know we couldn't garnish the last check of a person who used a company credit card to buy personal items. She got sacked for it. We didn't reverse the charges to avoid a bunch of problems with the banks. However, the HR person couldn't just take it out of their last check. That's illegal. We ended up selling the debt to a collection agency for pennies on the
    • Umm he's an exec (Score:4, Informative)

      by ad0gg (594412) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:23PM (#13109254)
      All execs that i know of have no competes. Pepsi can't simply go farm execs out of coke. We are talking about regular employees, we are talking about executives.
    • Usually, in high profile cases, the headhunters will work out the details well ahead of time with you to skirt the non-compete. Typically they will "verbally" promise you the job and then you quit the first company for the "time-out" period. At this level of pay, you pretty much have the finances to skip a year of working if you plan for it.. go on vacation [you gotta compensate for 80hour weeks!!] do something fun, research something cool. And the new company gets a recharged, happy new employee!!

      MS m

  • Lawsuit on Google? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by someonewhois (808065) * on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:41PM (#13108847) Homepage
    Shouldn't it be the employee that gets the lawsuit? They were the ones who broke the contract? Not Google? I mean, yes, I read the article, but wouldn't it make more sense to just sue the person, not try and make up random claims?

    Sure, they want to attack Google in all ways they can, but seriously... this just seems stupid.
    • You might be correct, as it was the individual who broke the non-compete contract. (Which, by the way, is probably somewhat hypocritical to ask an employee to sign when you aren't giving them a contract for employment. If you want to play the 'no obligation here' game, why shouldn't the employee play also?)

      However, there is one UNBREAKABLE rule that every lawyer follows in tort cases: Never sue a poor person. period.

      Now, who do you suppose has more money, the ex-employee, or Google?
  • by Jambon (880922) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:42PM (#13108857) Journal
    like a jealous girlfriend. "Hey! You just left me! You can't go running of with other women so soon! Noooooooooooo!"
    • by DaHat (247651) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:47PM (#13108917) Homepage
      If you want to talk about such actions... I suggest you look up Alienation of Affection. It's only still useable in a few states (South Dakota being one of them (where I live)) and has to be one of the coolest and yet most ridiculous concepts still on the books.

      In short, it is based on the concept that a wife is property of her husband, and if another man should 'steal' the wife from the husband and cause her to wish to be with him, leading to the end of the existing marriage, the (former) husband has legal standing to sue the other man for taking his wife.

      Brilliant eh?

      In most states where this concept exists (or more often existed), it has been thrown out by judges hearing such cases in recent years, so it's existence is quite endangered.

      Why do I mention this? Simple, the example you made as a joke believe it or not has some legal standing.
      • it is based on the concept that a wife is property of her husband

        No it isn't. It's equally valid for husbands who leave their wives. It's based on the concept of marriage as a contract, in the same way as the "tortious interference" claims we see here.
  • No court will enforce one that bars you from working anywhere in the world.
  • by Sanity (1431) * on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:43PM (#13108872) Homepage Journal
    I wonder who Slashdot is going to back in this legal battle?!
  • by UMhydrogen (761047) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:44PM (#13108877) Homepage
    Some jobs do in fact prevent you from working for the competitor. A lot of the time it's part of the non-disclosure agreement. If you work for a defense contractor, for example, Lockheed Martin, they will make you sign an agreement that you will not work for Boeing, Northrop, Raytheon, etc for a 3 year period. This prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B. This kind of practice is completely ethical. Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical and these type of rules prevent these thigns from happening.

    In MS's case, I think this is obsurd!

    • by Henry V .009 (518000) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:52PM (#13108964) Journal
      That's right. Because capitalism benefits when companies keep secrets.
      • " That's right. Because capitalism benefits when companies keep secrets."

        Yes. Your sarcasm aside, investors aren't going to spend money developing IP if your competitor gets all that knowledge for free (as in beer). That is the basis for the patent system. You agree to discose your secrets, but your competitors can't use them without paying you royalties for a period of time. It keeps people from reverse engineering products to take advantage of another company's IP.
    • his prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B. This kind of practice is completely ethical. Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical and these type of rules prevent these thigns from happening.

      Killing them would be able to stop them from taking their knowledge over as well. Doesn't mean it's ethical. I don't believe "You can't work for company X (or industry X) after you're fired for Y time" is ethical at a
    • by Linus Torvaalds (876626) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:00PM (#13109048)

      Some jobs do in fact prevent you from working for the competitor. A lot of the time it's part of the non-disclosure agreement.

      I've heard in the past that these types of clauses are generally unenforceable. Any lawyers care to chime in?

      This prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B.

      Why is that a problem? Trade secrets, patents and copyright are already in place to protect against this type of thing.

      This kind of practice is completely ethical.

      You think so? Where are you supposed to work for the next three years then? At McDonalds? These types of agreements essentially remove the possibility of you doing anything you are remotely qualified for even after your employment ends. What are you supposed to do for a living?

      If a company really thinks that an employee has such valuable knowledge that copyrights, patents and trade secrets aren't enough, then they should write a really long notice period into their contracts and continue to pay the employee for doing what they are told.

      Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical

      This is nonsense. It's called "experience". What, you forget everything you learned at a job when you leave the place? I wouldn't want to employ you.

      In MS's case, I think this is obsurd!

      Absurd.

      • This is nonsense. It's called "experience". What, you forget everything you learned at a job when you leave the place? I wouldn't want to employ you.

        Experience is different to "inside knowledge".

        For example:
        I may have 3 years experience and knowledge of CRM systems and I can take that with me to another company - that's fine.
        On the other hand, going to another company and sharing inside info like future corporate stratgies, plans, customer data, etc is unethical and not what I'd call experience.
    • You might want to have a bit more background before you make such broad statements.

      In a LOT of jurisdictions these are completely unenforceable.

      >>If you work for a defense contractor, for
      >>example, Lockheed Martin, they will make you
      >>sign an agreement that you will not work for
      >>Boeing, Northrop, Raytheon, etc for a 3 year
      >>period.

      Then your original employer must be willing to pay your salary for that three year period. If you are that specialized of a person, an employment
    • This prevents you from being able to take your knowledge of a product that you were working on at company A to company B. This kind of practice is completely ethical. Taking your knowledge from 1 company to another is very unethical and these type of rules prevent these thigns from happening.

      What's so funny is what is consider unethical. Its NOT unethical to take your knowledge and skills that you've gained from work and life from one company and give them to another. It's typical and standard practice.

  • Borland Playbook (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bstadil (7110) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:44PM (#13108881) Homepage
    Poetic justice, maybe they should talk to Borland [theserverside.net]how this feels.
    • by John Seminal (698722) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:55PM (#13108994) Journal
      Poetic justice, maybe they should talk to Borland how this feels.

      There is a difference. Microsoft has more lawyers. Wasn't M$ sued by the government, M$ lost, and was ordered to split into 2 seperate companies? What happened? Appeal, appeal, appeal. And wait for a new administration, and new attorney general.

      Microsoft is not following the law, they are not even obeying the law. They are using the judiciary to rewrite the laws with selective interpretation.

      Think about how involved M$ is with government. How much money do they donate each year to canidates they want? Then when it comes time to appoint judges, there is M$ again. Sooner or later, M$ will end up in a court with a judge they hand selected. It is the same method the Mafia used, get their thugs in positions of government.

      If Microsoft was held accountable for every contract they broke, they would cease to exists.

      • Re:Borland Playbook (Score:3, Informative)

        by Suppafly (179830)
        Wasn't M$ sued by the government, M$ lost, and was ordered to split into 2 seperate companies?

        That's hardly an acurate summary of events, even for slashdot.
  • Business as usual (Score:4, Informative)

    by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:44PM (#13108886) Homepage
    Suing over employee "poaching" is pretty common business practice in some countries. If he had a one-year non-compete clause in the contract, and if it is valid, then it seems reasonable.

    The question is of course what the legal standing is of such a clause in China. In many countries such an employment clause is normally non-enforceable, since you always have a right to do your trade. There you would rather have some monetary incentive, like paid salary during theyear and a bonus payout at the end, which, all considered, probably is a better idea all around (people are much more likely to actually comply with something they see as a positive).
  • by EraseEraseMe (167638) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:45PM (#13108890)
    Maybe he should have read his contract, especially considering:

    "At Microsoft, Lee oversaw development of the company's MSN Internet search technology, including a desktop search service released earlier this year."

    Sign a non-compete clause on your contract, run a department, leave that company to work for the competitors identical department, and then sit back and say "Aw shucks, I didn't realize this would be a problem."? No, sorry, no support from me on this issue.

    Sounds more like Google went head-hunting and didn't cross their T's and dot their i's.

    And don't proclaim the whole 'undue hardship of finding a job in that field' angle, because it's rather obvious exactly why he got this job.

    I think Microsoft will probably let this one go; however, it does reflect poorly on Lee (and Google).
  • Explain to me... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by AngryDill (740460) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:45PM (#13108899)
    ...why Google would be liable for a violation of an agreement made between Microsoft and Mr. Lee?

    It's a good think Microsoft has never stooped to hiring a key person away from a competitor! ;)

    -a.d.-
  • by toby (759) * on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:46PM (#13108906) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft and Google, along with Yahoo Inc. (YHOO), are locked in a fierce battle to dominate search,

    Um, this "fierce battle" is entirely in the writer's imagination. Google dominates. M$ has said they plan to catch up one day. If the search tech on their own web site is any indication, they never will.

    Nice abuse of rhetoric though.

    • It's a battle (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Infonaut (96956)
      Japan fought the United States right up to the day the surrender documents were signed, even though it was obvious the United States would win. Did that make the battle any less ferocious?

      That's actually beside the point, because the outcome of the battle for the search market is by no means a foregone conclusion. Microsoft is pouring a lot of time, energy, and money into search technology. Google obviously still dominates, but not by nearly the margin they did even one year ago. Yahoo has improved its in

  • by John Seminal (698722) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:47PM (#13108914) Journal
    "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."

    Wait... if I want to work for you, I have to promise not to work for them sometime in the future? Okay... And I have to name my firstborn child Billy?

    Tom Burt, a lawyer for Microsoft, said Lee announced Monday that he was leaving for the Google job and had given no indication that he planned to honor an agreement not to work for a direct competitor for one year.

    "To the contrary, they're saying, 'In your face,'" Burt told The Associated Press.

    Your honor... yada yada yada... IN YOUR FACE!!! HA! Now there is a new legal argument. I wonder if this groudbreaking lawsuit will be referred to from now on as the "facial"?

    Google shot back with a statement saying: "We have reviewed Microsoft's claims and they are completely without merit. Google is focused on building the best place in the world for great innovators to work. We're thrilled to have Dr. Lee on board at Google. We will defend vigorously against these meritless claims."

    Okay, it is starting to sink in. Mr Lee has an agreement with Microsoft saying he will not work for a competitor. A competitor hires him. But does the competitor have any contract with Microsoft? Who should get sued?

    In its lawsuit, Microsoft said it was seeking a court order forcing Lee and Google to abide by terms of confidentiality and noncompetition agreements that Lee signed at Microsoft.

    Oh fuck. Now you did it. Luccciieeee!!!

    Okay, time for some Seminals finest analysis. Fuck you Microsoft. You are a dirty bastard who has lived past its expiration date. Die, die, die, you miserable corporation. Sink back into the depths of hell from which you came.

    Translation...

    Microsoft has no right to mandate what kind of work someone does. Microsoft did not train this person, Microsoft did not make this person a better person. Mr Lee is the one who made microsoft better. He shared his mind and ideas with them. If Microsoft patented them, which I am sure they did, then there is no conflict of interest. This guy can go and and think new thoughts for Google.

  • by saderax (718814) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:48PM (#13108928)

    At my job (a small company of 11 people), I was recently informed that we would be renegotiating contracts. I was then handed a 16 page document and told if I did not sign it, I would be fired.

    Nestled deep among the fine print of this document I discovered the following gems:

    • I cannot use a computer for two years after I leave.
    • The contract never expires.
    • Anything I do on my computer, at my own home, on my time, belongs to the company.
    • If I get another job on a computer, I have to notify them, and the company has a right to send my new employer a copy of the contract.
    My boss says I'm reading it wrong, its all legal speak, and its just a friendly contract. He also claims every business will make me sign the same thing. Is this legal? I've received a lot advice. Some say to quit, some say its unenforcable, and I should sign it, etc.

    So far I have not signed it (so I can leave and compete all I want...), but cannot find a job to leave this company for. Should I sign it? Is anyone hiring a web programmer in the Tampa, FL area?

    • by yerM)M (720808) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:57PM (#13109013) Homepage
      Here is what I did:

      Scratch out (draw lines through) the items you don't like and initial them and sign the bottom pages (all of them). Make a notorized copy and hand the contract back. There is a good chance it will be counter-signed without anyone looking over the contract.

      Remember, this is a CONTRACT, you are free to make changes that you see fit.

      • by NilObject (522433) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:07PM (#13109129) Homepage
        I second this. I had an internship for a jerk where I expressly crossed out the "don't go work for someone else in the same field" part because THAT'S THE POINT OF THE FREAKING INTERNSHIP. Then I jumped ship to a well-paying summer job. They called me to threaten to sue and I told them to re-read the contract.

        They dropped the threat, thankfully.
      • this is exactly what i did for the one salaried position i ever held. i was a contract worker and the company had been trying to get me to switch to salaried for about 8 months. my immediate boss kept asking me what it would take. amongst other things, i said there's no way i'm going salaried and then working overtime without pay (they didn't like me working overtime being paid on an hourly basis on contract - and of course i noticed my salaried co-workers worked plenty of overtime - chumps!).

        anyway, my
    • by zippthorne (748122) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:04PM (#13109094) Journal
      Before you sign anything, Talk to a lawyer. Make sure they deal with contract disputes regularly. It's true that lawyers charge outrageous fees for their services, but in this case it's worth it since "the contract never expires" and "everything you do belongs to them" FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE? How much would you pay a doctor to cure a bacterial infection? or a mechanic to fix your transmission? If it's as big a part of your life as a contract, you should be be willing to consult a specialist to make sure it's set up well.

      Slashdot is a bunch geeks who are good with technology, but that doesn't make any of us legal experts in any way shape or form. I am sure that you can hammer out a mutually acceptable agreement if you get some legal muscle working on it.
    • >Should I sign it?

      What do you call someone who gets legal advice from Slashdot?

      "Inmate".

      Point out the relevant clauses to the other 10 people. They're not going to fire you all unless the company is already in terminal condition. And get your legal advice from a lawyer, specifically a labor lawyer.
    • Unless they are prepared to offer you two years severance pay as compensation for not being allowed to work in your field for two years, it would be foolish on your part to sign that contract. Don't do it. If you're any good, you shouldn't have trouble finding a new job.
    • by ad0gg (594412) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:15PM (#13109195)
      You need to get out florida. California law defines that things you do on your own time is yours no matter what contract you sign. Non competes are only valid for execs but not normal people
    • by frenchs (42465) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:19PM (#13109230) Homepage
      If I were you, my first approach would be to have them modify the contract. You do have the right to ask them to remove language from the contract that you find objectionable.

      If that doesn't fly, I would run as fast away from that company as I could if I were you. My feeling is that if my employer distruts me enough to put such harsh restrictions on my employment, is that somewhere where I truly want to work?

      And as the other poster said, these are definitely not common terms. Common terms would be things like direct non-compete clauses (such as with Mr. Lee), nondisclosure agreements, and ownership of code/inventions/IP created while at work.

      I work for a major university, which does a lot of research, and one of the first pieces of paper they put in front of me was the document that said everything I create while at work was the property of the University. Honestly, I would have been suprised if they hadn't asked me to sign such a document.

      I know it's a little touchy-feely, but understand that you are the real commodity in this situation. Ask any HR manager, good employees are hard to find, and hiring a new employee is an expensive process. So if you are a proven quantity, they have more to lose than you do.
    • by BewireNomali (618969) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:30PM (#13109307)
      I work in the film industry, and I just signed a development deal with a production unit for a studio.

      This is the fourth such contract I've been offered.

      The first had outrageous terms like:

      a. loss of intellectual property rights, including ancillary sources of revenue, including revenue streams not yet invented. (I fully intended on pre-selling ancillary rights and continue to do so)

      b. they tried to cover up my development budget by terming it an advance against my share of profits from future films I developed. (5% of developed movies get made, and 8% of those turn enough of a profit to ensure flowthrough revenue to the writer/director. this would ensure that i'd be indebted to the studio for a long time. think of this the next time your favorite director decides to headline a Harlequin romance)

      c. contract has an initial term of 5 years, but is automatically renewed (I don't need to sign a renewal) up until they decide they're done with me.

      There were some other shady terms. It was the shadiest contract ever. The producer in question assured me that the contract was standard. I consulted an attorney who ripped it to shreds.

      GET AN ATTORNEY. GET AN ATTORNEY. It'll take a decent lawyer a couple of hours to go through that contract and translate for you, and you won't get fscked. A lot of these contracts are intimidation tactics.

      The development deal I actually just signed is with the same guys, for way better terms. GET AN ATTORNEY.
    • IANAL, but I've seen quite a few non-competes over the past 20 years and studied the issue a bit...

      These terms are not normal. Also, they may not be enforceable (varies by state). For instance, California is considered a "right to work" state, meaning that a non-compete may not be construed in such a way that the employee is prevented from practicing his/her profession. Sometimes the really whacko non-competes are done just for the intimidation factor.

      Another thing to consider is that they cannot chang
    • by natmsincome.com (528791) <adinobro@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:39PM (#13109379) Homepage
      I had a similar expeince recently.

      Someone else has already stated it but I'll say it again:
      * Contracts are 2 ways. You are allowed to change them. Cross out what you don't like and sign and date the changes. At the end you both sign the new contract.
      * It's generally easier to add a clause then take one away.
      * If it is just a friendly contract the boss won't have a problem with your changes.
      * Turn the contract around instead of the boss asking you why you won't sign it ask him to justify the points you have a problem with.
      * You can also write up a counter contract and ammend the original contract to refer to the additional contract. Eg you have a contract with the boss that says there will always be free coffee, you will always get more than 20 hous of work per week, etc. If this contract is broken it also frees you of the former contract.

      Generally once you're able to get the boss in your shoes and ask him if he'd agree to similar terms he will be reasonable. Also I've generally found it's easier to add conditions that make something toothless than crossing it out.

      Eg.

      * I cannot use a (work supplied) computer for two years after I leave.
      * The contract never expires. (For the duration of my employment)
      * Anything I do on my computer, at my own home, on my time, belongs to the company. (As long as it is linked to a project at work)
      * If I get another job on a computer, I have to notify them (for the first year), and the company has a right to send my new employer a copy of the contract (after notifying you beforehand in writing, failure to notify you beforehand will result in the termination of this contract).

      As you can see this doesn't cross anything out but makes them almost meaningless.
    • A 2-pronged answer:

      Take a red pen, and cross-out the parts that you disagree with (and in theory want to negotiate).

      And/Or

      Where you sign it also write: Under duress of Termination.

      Or, more importantly; Talk to a REAL lawyer.
    • They signed a previous contract, right? Well then, they're bound by the terms whether they like them or not. You don't have to renegotiate squat if you don't want to. Of course, if your current contract is at-will (like almost all programming contracts these days), you're hosed anyway. If you don't sign, they could just find some unrelated reason to let you go, and since you agreed that was OK when you signed, you're just out of luck.

      Don't believe your boss, he doesn't know what he's talking about. If the

  • by jolyonr (560227) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:52PM (#13108970) Homepage
    Does anyone being sued ever state anything other than the case is "Completely without Merit"?

    "A spokesman said 'Actually, there is some merit in their case, but we're going to have a go fighting it anyway'" - hm. No not likely!

    No doubt someone will come up with a real example now i've mentioned it.

    Jolyon
  • Noncompete clauses (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KerberosKing (801657) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:55PM (#13108989)

    As an IT contractor, I have repeatedly refused to sign a contract with a non-compete clause. They are simply too board. I will not agree to let a company put me on the bench unemployed for a year just because I took a job working for them. I have to earn a living, and I am not changing careers just because I left one employer for another.

    The US courts tend to dislike these clauses as they restrain free-trade and block free enterprise. Since both parties in this complaint have the reputation and resources to call attention to this issue, I look forward to seeing more caselaw defending the rights of employees and courts scrutinizing noncompete agreements very closely and hopefully refusing to enforce them.

  • /dev/empire (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @07:57PM (#13109000) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is at war with Google over developers. Microsoft's entire global domination strategy has been best described (by an insanely bellowing simian MS executive) "DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS" (rinse, repeat). Google's APIs, and their huge popularity, have stolen all of MS' thunder. Where the developers go, the apps go. And apps create demand. That demand is the market that software companies like MS serves. Because Google sells... er, advertizing, and maybe more later, they're more flexible. While undermining the MS lead in attracting developers to Windows threatens the entire MS empire. That's why MS went after Netscape so hard: Netscape's promise of a cross-platform Internet application system was an end-run around MS, and their developer/customer lockins. Now Google gets to take a turn, without the vulnerability to monopoly competition, in browser and server markets, that let Netscape succumb. An interesting sidelight in this battle-spiral will be the dance of Linux developers, who are more free to hitch wagons to Google's Web services, without the burden of a monopoly to defend. Let the good times roll!
  • Highlander (Score:3, Insightful)

    by milimetric (840694) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:04PM (#13109093) Journal
    ... There can be only ONE.

    Seriously Google, take them ALL take all their fucking people. EVERY ONE OF THEM. Microsoft is so hipocritical. They stole people from all over the IT industry. Everything they have is stolen bought or copied technology.

    *MS*DOS belonged to ...
    Windows paid settlement for basing their UI on ...
    NT was developed by ...
    ActiveDirectory is adapted from ...
    Visio was developed by ...
    C# is based on ...

    Microsoft should be sued by God on account that they've persuaded his talent to join the dark side.
  • by StaticLimit (26017) on Tuesday July 19, 2005 @08:47PM (#13109443) Homepage
    If Microsoft pursues this case and loses in court it will set a precedent. Non-compete agreements (like the one I have signed) will be unenforceable in Washington state.

    So I'll be keeping an eye on this just for reference. I like my job and don't intend to go fishing for people to hire me away. But it would be good to see the agreement tested.

    - StaticLimit

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