Microsoft says PC 'recycle bin' yielded Google clue

Key document in case against Kai-Fu Lee and Google comes from Lee's computer, according to Microsoft.

Microsoft says it found a potentially important document in its case against its former executive Kai-Fu Lee and Google in the "recycle bin" of one of Lee?s computers.

According to papers filed with a Washington state court by the software giant, a document that describes terms of an apparent agreement between Google and Lee was "recovered from the 'Recycle Bin' of one of Dr. Lee's computers."

The document indicates Google foresaw possible litigation in hiring Lee to head its China operations. It could bolster the software titan's claim that Lee's new position violates a contract signed with Microsoft, and that Google has encouraged Lee to break that contract.

The tidbit about Lee and his recycle bin is the latest twist in a bitter and complex legal dispute between two of the tech world's biggest players.

Google declined to comment. (Google representatives have instituted a policy of not talking with CNET reporters until July 2006 in response to privacy issues raised by a previous story.)

Last month, Microsoft sued Lee and Google, charging Lee was breaking a one-year noncompete clause in his contract by accepting his new position. In court papers, Google has claimed that Lee is "not a search expert" and described him as peripheral to Microsoft's business in China.

Even so, a judge has ruled that until at least September, Lee cannot perform work at Google that competes with what he did at Microsoft.

The document Microsoft said it found in Lee's recycle bin states that should the software maker prevent Lee from working at both Microsoft and Google because of a noncompete clause, Google will place him on a paid leave of absence or give him a consulting job for up to a year.

Details about how Microsoft got the document were revealed in a court filing last month.

Lee is known as a pioneer in speech-recognition technology, and he headed the Natural Interactive Services Division at Microsoft. He also set up a Microsoft research center in China.

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