M$ moves goalposts in Google battle

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A July 29 court filing by Microsoft technically means the case has moved to federal court. But Google can still ask a federal judge to let the case surrounding the ex-Microsoft executive proceed in state court, according to a legal expert.

Late last month, Microsoft filed to switch to federal court Google's request that a California judge invalidate Microsoft's noncompete agreement with Lee, who was hired by Google to head its China operations. In its filing with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Microsoft argued that the dispute qualifies as a federal case in part because the two companies are based in different states.

Microsoft may be seeking to reduce the possibility that pro-Google sentiment in Santa Clara County would influence the state court, said another attorney who's followed the case. Federal judges are not elected, and potential jurors for the federal court located in San Jose, Calif., would hail from a wider geography, he said. Google is based in Mountain View, Calif., a city in Santa Clara County.

With its California request, Google appeared to be trying to take advantage of a state rule that frowns on noncompete contract clauses.

Neither Microsoft nor Google immediately responded to requests for comment.

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