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Monday, September 05, 2005
Microsoft - Google Battle Heats Up

Microsoft's chief executive vowed last year to crush Google, while a Google executive urged colleagues to pursue the hiring of a Microsoft employee "like wolves," according to documents filed on Friday in an increasingly bitter legal battle.

The allegations, filed in a Washington State court, came in a showdown prompted by Google's hiring in July of a former Microsoft executive, Kai-Fu Lee, to oversee a research and development center that Google plans in China.

Mr. Lee, known for his work on computer recognition of language, started at Google the day after he resigned from Microsoft.

Google's filing included a sworn declaration by a former Microsoft engineer, Mark Lucovsky, who said he met last November with Microsoft's chief executive, Steven A. Ballmer, to discuss his decision to leave the company after six years.

After learning that Mr. Lucovsky was taking a job at Google, Mr. Ballmer picked up his chair and hurled it across his office, according to the declaration. Mr. Ballmer then berated Google's chief executive, Eric E. Schmidt, Mr. Lucovsky recalled, saying he was going to "bury that guy - I have done it before, and I will do it again." He also said Mr. Ballmer vowed to "kill Google."

Before joining Google, Mr. Schmidt was a top executive at Sun Microsystems and at Novell, companies that also battled Microsoft.

In a statement on Friday, Mr. Ballmer described Mr. Lucovsky's recollection as a "gross exaggeration."

Microsoft is suing to prevent Mr. Lee from leading Google's expansion in China, saying those duties would violate a noncompetition provision in his employment contract.

Google has depicted Microsoft's lawsuit as a form of intimidation meant to thwart a fast-growing rival.

In late July, Microsoft won a court order temporarily barring Mr. Lee from performing the duties Google hired him to do, and at a hearing on Tuesday it will seek an extension of that order until the case goes to trial in January.

In its brief on Friday, Microsoft charged that Mr. Lee sent confidential documents about the company's China strategy to Google a month before he was hired. Google has insisted that all the material that Mr. Lee relayed to the company was already public.

Microsoft also released an e-mail message from Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's director of business development, in an attempt to prove that Google wanted Mr. Lee for projects besides the new China center.

"I all but insist that we pull out all the stops and pursue him like wolves," Mr. Rosenberg wrote of Mr. Lee. "He is an all-star and will contribute in ways that go substantially beyond China."

The two sides will face each other in court again on Tuesday when Microsoft will ask a court to extend that order until the matter comes to trial in January.

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