In an attempt to mitigate the damages a company incurs by the loss of a valuable employee-one who also holds a great deal of its trade secrets, companies such as Microsoft often include a non-compete clause in their employee contracts. In the case of Kai-Fu Lee, Mr. Lee was prohibited from working with the competitors of Microsoft for a period of one year after the termination of his employment. In July, 2005 Mr. Lee left the employ of Microsoft and went to work for its competitor, Google. As a direct result a law suit was initiated. This research paper examines all the relevant factors in the case of Kai-Fu Lee as well as its implications with regards to the hiring practices of many other companies.
The Kai-Fu Lee case represents the culmination of Microsoft’s efforts to put an end to what many consider to be a long-standing and unethical practice of Google. This practice involves the attraction and retention of the most qualified employees irrespective of their contractual obligations to its competitors or any other companies. This practice is one that represented an overall strategic plan on the part of Google. An integral part of its strategy was to establish offices in close proximity to Microsoft’s headquarters. In so doing, Google was in a position to offer the employees a better overall financial package while ensuring that there is minimal interruption in the personal lives of the employees. In fact, in November of 2004 Google hired Mark Lucovsky who was at the time one of Microsoft’s top engineers (Elgin, 2005).
Kai-Fu Lee as a Valuable Employee
In order to examine the case of Kai-Fu Lee and the suit incited by his engagement by Google it is prudent that we look into the background of Kai-Fu Lee and how and why he was recruited by Google. This coupled with Microsoft’s efforts aimed at preventing him from being employed by its competitors will serve to establish the rationale behind the entire case. First and foremost, Mr. Lee was a Chinese immigrant who migrated to the United States in 1973. He graduated from Columbia University in 1983 at the top of his class and went on to Carnie Mellon University where he earned a Ph.D. in computer science in 1988. While at Carnie Mellon he established himself as one of the up-and-coming leaders in the field by pioneering the development of an artificial intelligence based system for playing the famous board game Othello. His development won him the top award at the U.S. National tournament of computer players in 1989. During the course of his academic career he made many significant accomplishments which were responsible for launching his career as a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon and subsequently as a research and development executive for Apple Computer. While at Apple he was spearheaded the team of developers responsible for developing PlainTalk, Apple Newton and QuickTime. He then left Apple Computer for Silicone Graphics where he served as the president of their Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) division. After working for Silicone Graphics for only a bit over a year, he was recruited by Microsoft and founded the Microsoft Research Division in Beijing China in 1998 where he worked until 2000 when he returned to the United States and served as the Vice President of Interactive Services for Microsoft (Microsoft,