T-Mobile has filed a lawsuit against Huawei in Seattle US District Court, alleging that the Chinese manufacturer stole key parts of its device testing robot “Tappy” in order to improve its own devices at the expense of T-Mobile. The suit does not specify a specific amount for damages, only that T-Mobile has spent tens of millions to eliminate Huawei’s devices from its lineup and replacing them with devices from other manufacturers as a result of the discovery. For its part, Huawei has released its own statement regarding the suit:
“There is some truth to the complaint in terms of two Huawei employees acting inappropriately in their zeal to better understand the customer’s quality testing requirements. As a result, those employees were terminated for violating our business conduct guidelines. As for the rest of the complaint, Huawei respects T-Mobile’s right to file suit and we will cooperate fully with any investigation or court proceeding to protect our rights and interests.”
The suit goes onto detail the chronology of events that led up to the litigation between 2012 and 2013 in which a Huawei engineer allegedly slipped one of the robot’s simulated fingertips into his laptop bag after illegally gaining access to a T-Mobile testing lab. Huawei had previously been trying to resolve testing discrepancies between its equipment and T-Mobile’s results, which likely drove the employees to commit the acts according to a separate statement. The company ultimately admitted that its employees misappropriated parts and information about T-Mobile’s robot according to the suit.
However, Huawei is denying the broader claims of intentional espionage being alleged and also claims that T-Mobile knew about its own testing robot. T-Mobile also claims that Huawei benefited directly from the stolen technology by hundreds of millions of dollars, through the improvement of its testing technology having a positive impact on its device development and in the development of an improved testing robot.
As Huawei has been followed by constant allegations regarding intellectual property theft and its relative lack of success in the US compared to its local and international competitors, this latest case will not serve to help its reputation, especially as the US government previously recommended that no US carrier do direct business with the manufacturer, owing to its Chinese government ties.