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Back in the good old days, headhunters never got sued. If a lawyer went nuts on you, there was always a good shrink available. Being a headhunter meant never having to say you were sorry. Corporate law has evolved substantially since then.

Today, Google is getting sued for headhunting one of the brightest techno-brains in China, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee . Actually, Dr. Lee was in Redmond Washington, working for Microsoft when the deal went down and Microsoft is pretty pissed about it all.

In a press release issued around noon on Tuesday, Google reported it had hired one of China ‘s most respected computer pioneers, Dr. Kai-Fu Lee. Problem is, until Monday afternoon anyway, Dr. Lee was the corporate VP of Microsoft’s Interactive Services Division. That got Gate’s goat, big time.

Hours before Google issued the press release, Microsoft issued suit in a Washington State court against Dr. Lee and his new employer, citing breach of contract. They are seeking an injunction to prevent Dr. Lee from taking his new position as head of Google’s China Division.

“Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow non-competition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive,” Microsoft said in its lawsuit, as quoted today in a ZDnet report . “Google is fully aware of Lee’s promises to Microsoft, but has chosen to ignore them, and has encouraged Lee to violate them.”

The suit seeks monetary damages for the loss of Dr. Lee’s services as well as injunctive measures to prevent Dr. Lee from violating a narrowly worded non-competition agreement or sharing information Microsoft claims as its intellectual property. The lawsuit states that Dr. Lee was for some time, “responsible for overall development of the MSN Internet search application.”

Calling Dr. Lee’s move a “particularly egregious” violation of a non-competition agreement that was part of his contract with Microsoft, Deputy General Counsel, Tom Burt said Dr. Lee “…has access to sensitive information, to trade secrets about our search technology and business plans and our China business strategies.”

Google is planning to open a massive Research and Development Centre in China by the end of October. With decades of investment in science and engineering, and many of the world’s top technical universities, China is seen by most in the industry to be the leading IT nation in the near future. It also has an economy developing at 9% or more per year, three times faster than most G8 economies.

The press release noted these factors stating, “China , with its thriving economy and excellent universities, is home to many outstanding computer scientists and engineers. By establishing an R&D center in China , Google is making a strong commitment to attracting and developing Chinese talent, as well as partnering with local universities and institutes. The selection of Dr. Kai-Fu Lee to lead this important operation underscores Google’s commitment to building a successful Chinese product research and development center and to expanding its international business operations.”

Google VP of Engineering, Alan Eustace said, “The opening of an R&D center in China will strengthen Google’s efforts in delivering the best search experience to our users and partners worldwide. Under the leadership of Dr. Lee, with his proven track record of innovation and his passion for technology and research, the Google China R&D center will enable us to develop more innovative products and technologies for millions of users in China and around the world.”

As for Dr. Lee himself, apparently he informed his boss at Microsoft on July 5 th that he wasn’t coming back from a sabbatical he had planned and that he was in discussions with Google about China. In yesterday’s press release, Google spokespersons quoted Dr. Lee saying, “It has always been my goal to make advanced technologies accessible and useful to every user, as well as to be part of the vibrant growth and innovation in China today. Joining Google uniquely enables me to pursue both of my passions and I look forward to returning to China to begin this exciting endeavor.”

This is bound to get more interesting as time develops.

Imagine the ability to create your own 45-second audio/video commercial in less than 15 minutes. A new service from SiSTeR.TV, Pic2Vid.Com allows you to do just that, allowing users to create, store, send and link to, a self-made online audio-video presentation without special hardware or software. According to SiSTer.TV’s Tomer Alpert, “Every small business that doesn’t have a $10,000 budget can look to Pic2Vid for answers.” Read more…

This week, Google leaked information about another very smart thing they’ve done. Google is about to introduce an online payment system to help facilitate e-commerce. While search engine observers speculated that Google was going head to head with Pay Pal, CEO Eric Schmitt was quick to dispel rumours that they were gunning for Pay Pal. In an interview with Reuters, Schmitt said that Google was not going to offer a “person-to-person stored-value payments system” like PayPal’s, where money is briefly stored in trust during the transfer. Read more…

Earlier today, Montreal based meta-search engine Mamma.Com announced the beta release of Mamma Health Services, the first of a line of “deep web” vertical search tools planned to be introduced over the next twelve months. Read more…

Why do our friends change so much when they grow up? Remember when we were kids and didn’t have to think about dealing with utility bills, mortgage instalments, taxes, rent, student loans, groceries and car payments? After passing through the awkward stage of adolescence, most of us find ourselves resigned to compromising our values in one way or another in order to get a bigger piece of whatever pie we are chasing. It happens so subtly that most of us don’t even notice that we have made such compromises or that they have changed our lives. It just happens that way. Through talent, dedication, luck, and the fortunate conflux of all three at the same time, some find great wealth, influence and power when they grow up. Google officially became an adult late last summer after surviving the techno coming of age ritual known as the IPO. Now that they are all grown up, Google appears to be willing to make compromises on their beloved core mission: to make money without being evil. Read more…

Google is undergoing some of the most sweeping changes in its short, seven year history. As of next week, Google will have finished sorting what might be its largest algorithm shift ever as the final points of the 3.5 part Bourbon Update were installed last Monday. This update has been staggered into three and a half sections in order to avoid a massive amount of dislocation in established rankings as was seen in previous major updates. While changes stemming from the Bourbon Update have not actually manifested into a full reordering of Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs), many individual webmasters have reported fairly significant losses or gains in ranking over the past few days. Read more…

Friday, June 3rd, 2005

Yang and Yun and Become.Com

Michael Yang and Yeogirl Yun are two of the most interesting entrepreneurial engineers in the business of search. Representing the business brains and intellectual brawn behind the vertical shopping search engine, both Yang and Yun have storied histories in the industry. Read more…

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Bouncing the Bulter?

Is the Butler finally being dismissed now that Ask has been purchased by InterActiveCorp? Rumour has it Barry Diller, IAC CEO is preparing to rename the Ask Jeeves search engine, paring its name down to a single word, ASK. This wouldn’t be the first time the jovial Butler has been dumped in Ask Jeeves’ history. Just after the dot-com crash of 2000 Jeeves was laid-off. He was brought back after former Ask CEO Skip Battle found him drinking by the Oakland docks, slumped over his last remaining friend, the sock puppet mascot.

The Butler is growing bigger again. This morning, Ask Jeeves announced the acquisition of the Excite European network from Italy’s Tiscali SpA., giving Ask open access to the rapidly expanding European search market.

“This deal is a next step in Ask Jeeves’ European expansion strategy,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Ask Jeeves, Inc. “Access to Excite’s pan-European operational infrastructure and market knowledge will accelerate our European growth initiative and provide an instant revenue stream from additional users and advertisers.” Read more…

Search Engine Marketing is a sensible vocation. Driven by many of the same basic tenets that inform the traditional marketing sector, the goal is to be sure one’s clients’ products are among the first people think of when looking for that certain something those clients create. In the olden days it was all about placement, positioning and repetition. Elaborate campaigns involving radio, television and print would be conceived and executed with the goal of establishing a foothold for new products in the households of the nation or solidifying the stability of a pre-existing brand. Those olden days may be, like so ’80’s, in relation to the crazed new world that search brings however, humans being humans, the ideas of an older generation often remain the ones that play best on the Internet today. Read more…