Microsoft was successful in obtaining a temporary injunction preventing Dr. Kai-Fu Lee from taking over as the head of Google’s new research center in China. The ruling, issued by Kings County Superior Court Judge Steven Gonzalez forbids Lee from working on Google projects or research relating to search technologies, natural language processing or speech technologies, and business strategies that would be “competitive” with fields he studied while at Microsoft. Part of Gonzalez’s ruling also prohibits Dr. Lee from disclosing trade secrets or proprietary information learned while he was employed at Microsoft. It also forbade Google from “attempting to induce” Microsoft employees to work for Google.

Google is seeking to contest the temporary restraining order as a full trial is not scheduled until January 9, 2006. The order itself is set to expire on Sept. 6. Google spokespersons are downplaying the ruling calling it “…a temporary measure to maintain the status-quo.”

“We’re gratified that the judge recognized that all Google and Dr. Lee have to do is avoid having Dr. Lee do anything competitive with what he did at Microsoft,” said Nicole Wong, Google’s associate general counsel. “As we have said all along, we have no intention of having him do that.” Earlier this week, Google claimed Microsoft was using the lawsuit to threaten employees and stifle competition. In a statement sworn on Wednesday, Dr. Lee testified that Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates told him that Microsoft would sue, adding that Microsoft needed to take such action “…to stop Google”.

This case is getting more interesting as the days progress.