Motorola Solutions Chief Executive Officer Greg Brown on Tuesday reminded the world of the alleged trade secret theft Huawei committed against the company about a decade ago, proclaiming "Huawei definitely stole trade secrets" in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox. Motorola filed a lawsuit against the Shenzhen-based firm over the matter in 2010, though the episode ultimately concluded with an out-of-court settlement. The plaintiff claimed some of its Chinese employees were paid by Huawei to steal company secrets, directly damaging one of the first multinational corporations that set foot in China. As the case was settled out of court, Huawei never had to admit to any wrongdoing, though Mr. Brown believes the fact it didn't want to enter the courtroom at all is telling enough, having said as much during his Tuesday interview.
A long history of trade secret theft accusations
Motorola is neither the first nor the last Western company to accuse Huawei of trade secret theft; Cisco Systems did as much long before it and also resolved the matter with a settlement, albeit one wherein Huawei essentially admitted to copying its patented wireless router code in 2004. T-Mobile clashed with the Chinese electronics juggernaut several years back, filing a lawsuit alleging some of its engineers visited its Bellevue labs on official business, only to sketch and steal components of its mobile user experience testing robot "Tappy." The wireless carrier even won its case in court last year but without managing to prove the incident was ordered by Huawei's management, hence not winning anywhere close to the about half a billion dollars it was originally seeking.
Two months back, Dell- and Microsoft-backed startup CNEX Labs also accused Huawei of trade secret theft, alleging the Shenzhen-based firm stole its semiconductor designs and even attempted to abuse the U.S. judicial system in order to obtain them in an unlawful manner and under false pretenses during a bad-faith trial. All of those issues come on top of numerous problems Huawei had with the U.S. government itself. After seeing its agreed device distribution partnership with AT&T collapse in early 2018, the tech giant also ended up being sanction by this year's spending bill wherein Congress decided to ban federal agencies from purchasing and licensing any and all equipment or software solutions produced or merely associated with the Chinese firm, with the same provision also applying to ZTE.
The spotlight is once again on Huawei
With Huawei's Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou currently facing extradition to the U.S. over suspected involvement in an illegal banking scheme intended to violate trade sanctions imposed on Iran, the world's spotlight is once again directed at China's largest privately held company. The timing of the latest scandals is also inopportune given how Huawei is currently trying to win 5G buildout contracts around the world, yet the emerging issues with regulators and U.S. lobbying efforts against the firm in the West that are painting it as a security threat due to its close ties to Beijing are making many countries growingly distrustful of the telecom juggernaut, casting doubt on its prospects in the 5G world of the future.