Microsoft has been granted the right to have its case against Google heard before Google's countersuit against Redmond hots the courts.

A US District Court judge last week upheld a tentative ruling issued two weeks ago to stay the Kai-Fu Lee case filed by Google, giving a go-ahead for Microsoft's case in Washington to resolve before Google's case resumes.

In a ruling issued late Thursday, 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 in the case. However, if Google loses the case in Washington state, the company still has a chance to win its case.

Microsoft filed a lawsuit on July 19 in a Washington state Superior Court over Google's hiring of Lee to spearhead new research and development efforts in China, claiming the hiring violated a noncompetition clause Lee signed with Microsoft.

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

Microsoft's case against Google and Lee is expected to resume in a Seattle courtroom on January 9, 2006.