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Microsoft uses former exec as lawsuit springboard 'to stop' Google

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Microsoft is using its court case against Google to fire a warning shot across the corporate bows and staunch further staff defections to the search giant.

Microsoft's top two executives apparently told Dr Kai-Fu Lee, hired last week by Google and promptly prosecuted by Microsoft, the case was nothing personal "just" business.

In a sign of just how anxious Microsoft is about the threat posed by Google in internet, corporate and desktop search, Bill Gates reportedly told Lee that chief executive Steve Ballmer has been looking for a reason to go after to Google. Lee's defection, to head-up Google's Chinese R&D facility, was clearly it.

"Steve is definitely going to sue you and Google over this," Gates said according to court filings reported in the The Seattle Times. "He has been looking for something just like this, someone at a VP level to go to Google. We need to do this to stop Google."

According to The Times, Ballmer informed Lee: "We like you. Your contributions to Microsoft have been immense. It's not you we are after, it's Google."

It is not clear whether Gates meant Google had to be stopped commercially or stopped from hiring Microsoft employees. However, Microsoft has lost staff to Google in the recent past, with Google last year recruiting 16-year Microsoft veteran and distinguished engineer Mark Lucovsky - who joined from Digital Equipment Corp (DEC).

Clearly, the loss of a VP, particularly one so close to Microsoft's battle against a new competitor, was one hire too much for Microsoft.

Microsoft is currently seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent Lee from working at Google until the lawsuit is settled.®

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