In a victory for Microsoft, a US District Court judge in California has upheld a tentative ruling - first issued two weeks ago - to halt the Kai-Fu Lee case filed by Google. This gives the go-ahead for Microsoft's original case to be resolved before Google's can resume.

Microsoft filed a lawsuit on 19 July in a Washington state Superior Court. It concerned Google's hiring of Lee to spearhead research and development efforts in China, claiming the appointment violated a non-competition clause Lee signed with Microsoft.

In a ruling issued late on Thursday in a US District Court in San Jose, California, Judge Ronald Whyte ordered that the California case be put on hold until the Washington case concludes, a decision some believe gives Microsoft an edge. However, if Google loses the case in Washington state, the Mountain View, California, company still has a chance to win in its home state.

Google filed its California countersuit asking the court there to let California law apply and nullify the non-compete agreement. California laws are more lenient than Washington state laws in terms of how binding such agreements are.

Microsoft's case against Google and Lee is expected to resume in a Seattle courtroom early next year.