October 5, 2005 9:53 AM PDT

Yahoo speech engineers can work, court says

A California court declined a temporary restraining order to bar a dozen Yahoo engineers from working on interactive speech technology that their former employer says it owns.

In its lawsuit filed against Yahoo last week, Menlo Park, Calif.-based Nuance Communications had requested the temporary restraining order and accused Yahoo of unfair competition and stealing trade secrets. Yahoo, the suit claims, "gutted" Nuance's research and development unit, and hired away 13 of its engineers.

The order, issued Monday in Santa Clara County, said the court was unable to properly assess whether any wrongdoing had occurred and therefore declined to grant Nuance's request for a temporary restraining order against Yahoo and the engineers. A hearing was scheduled for Nov. 14.

"We are pleased with the result today--that the court did not grant the request for a temporary restraining order," Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo said in a statement. "We continue to believe the allegations in the lawsuit are without merit, and we plan to continue a vigorous defense."

Representatives of Nuance, which makes the technology behind many airlines' interactive, automated-voice flight information systems, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Yahoo is not the only search engine accused of poaching employees from other tech firms. Its main rival, Google, was sued by Microsoft over the hiring of former Microsoft executive Kai-Fu Lee, arguing that his setting up Google's China development center would violate a noncompete agreement he signed with Microsoft.

Microsoft offered to settle the case with Google after a judge restricted the work activities Lee could do until the case is resolved.

 

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