Huawei files patent complaint against T-Mobile

Huawei filed a complaint alleging T-Mobile is using its patented technology despite refusing to sign a licensing deal.

The Chinese vendor said it initiated discussions with T-Mobile two years ago about licensing 14 of its patents for 4G networking under fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. The carrier initially agreed to the discussions but eventually refused to sign a deal, accusing Huawei of not meeting its FRAND obligations, according to the complaint.

T-Mobile refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement, Huawei claims, prompting the infringement complaints.

The complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Texas, doesn't seek a financial judgment but rather requests a declaratory judgment that could pave the way for a licensing deal. The complaint was initially reported by The Puget Sound Business Journal.

T-Mobile sued Huawei in 2014 for corporate espionage, claiming that the vendor's employees illegally photographed and tried to steal parts of a robot it developed in its labs, called "Tappy," to test cell phones. A T-Mobile spokeswoman said that lawsuit is ongoing.

Interestingly, Huawei is ramping up its operations near T-Mobile's Seattle headquarters and plans to grow its presence in the area from a few employees to 100 staffers by next year, the Journal reported.

Huawei's handset business is growing thanks to sales to tier-two and tier-three carriers, but the company is effectively banned from selling its network equipment to major U.S. operators after some American legislators raised concerns about national security. But the company has moved aggressively to expand its patent portfolio in the U.S. and other markets.

"For the past two years, Huawei and its affiliates have filed the most international (PCT) patent applications of any company in the world," Huawei claimed in its complaint. "In 2015, Huawei and its affiliates obtained 1,268 patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, the 23rd most of any company. The same year, Huawei obtained 503 issued patents from the European Patent Office, the 9th most of any company. In total, Huawei and its affiliates hold over 12,000 issued patents and pending applications in the United States."

So while Huawei's ambitions as a provider of network gear remain stymied in the U.S., the company clearly has amassed an arsenal of patents in an effort to tap the market. The complaint against T-Mobile is evidence that the company isn't shy about leveraging those weapons.

For more:
- see this Huawei complaint
- read this Puget Sound Business Journal report

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