Huawei Technologies warned against the politicization of innovation and intellectual property in a new white paper, and said it has not engaged in any malicious breach of IP rights since its inception in the late 1980s.
No court has ever concluded that the world’s largest telecoms gear maker has engaged in IP theft and the company has never had to pay damages in this area, said Song Liuping, Huawei’s chief legal officer, in a statement on Thursday.
“If politicians use IP as a political tool, they will destroy confidence in the patent protection system,” Song said in a press conference at the Shenzhen-based company’s headquarters on Thursday. “If some governments selectively strip companies of their IP, it will break the foundation of global innovation.”
The US government put Huawei on a trade blacklist last month citing national security concerns, cutting off the Shenzhen-based company’s access to American hi-tech suppliers, including semiconductor firms Qualcomm and Intel as well as software providers Google and Microsoft.
Huawei relies heavily on Google and Microsoft operating systems for its smartphone and PC products.
Following the US ban, in mid-June, US Senator Marco Rubio also filed legislation that aimed to prevent Huawei from seeking damages in US patent courts, after the Chinese company demanded that US telecom operator Verizon Communications pay US$1 billion to license the rights to patented technology.
Under the amendment, companies on certain US government watch lists, which would include Huawei, would not be allowed to seek relief under US law with respect to US patents, including bringing legal action over patent infringement, Reuters said in a report on June 18.
Song said this could create a very dangerous situation.
"We believe that the protection of intellectual property is the foundation of innovation in the United States and subject to protection under the US Constitution," said Song. "If such a law is passed, it will have a devastating impact on global innovation"
The tensions over IP and US pressure on Huawei come amid a wider trade and tech war between the US and China, with the US slapping billions of dollars of tariffs on China, alleging that it engages in unfair trade practices.
A May 25 report by The Wall Street Journal, in which the US newspaper reviewed 10 cases in US federal courts and listed a dozen interviews with US officials, former Huawei employees, competitors, and collaborators, said that Huawei’s rise had been on “the back of copying and theft.”
At Thursday’s briefing, Song said that IP is private property and protected by the law, and disputes should be resolved through legal proceedings. He added that innovation and IP protection have been at the heart of Huawei’s success over the past 30 years.
Song also rebuffed a Bloomberg news report on Thursday that said Huawei employees have collaborated on research projects with Chinese armed forces personnel. “Huawei is a company engaged in civil communication systems and ICT solutions, and does not provide specific products and research for the military,” said Song.
Huawei has been granted 87,805 patents, of which 11,152 are US patents as of the end of 2018, and it has received more than US$1.4 billion in licensing revenue since 2015, according to a white paper released by the Chinese company on Thursday. The white paper, titled “Respecting and Protecting Intellectual Property: The Foundation of Innovation,” tries to elaborate on the company’s practices in, and contributions to, innovation and the protection of IP rights.
Huawei has also paid more than US$6 billion in royalties to legally implement the IP of other companies, with nearly 80% of that paid to American companies, according to the document.
While the US Justice Department in January announced charges against Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou, alleging financial fraud and breaches of sanctions by conducting business activities in Iran, it also accused the Chinese company of stealing robotic technology from telecom carrier T-Mobile US. Huawei has pleaded not guilty in both cases.
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