What just happened? Huawei’s battle with the US government is reportedly about to take a new turn, with federal prosecutors preparing a criminal indictment against the Chinese tech giant for stealing trade secrets from American partners.
The Wall Street Journal writes that the investigation arose from a 2014 civil case in which T-Mobile sued Huawei for gaining access to one of the carrier’s labs and taking unauthorized pictures of a smartphone testing robot called “Tappy,” which is designed to simulate the touch of a human finger. It’s also alleged that Huawei stole designs and parts of the machine.
T-Mobile had been seeking $500 million in damages but was awarded just $4.8 million when it won the case in May 2017. Huawei said at the time that it “continues to believe in the merits of its defense to the allegations made by T-Mobile.”
Chinese firms have long been accused of engaging in intellectual property theft—something the Justice Department said it was clamping down on last November by working alongside the FBI.
The new case could see more problems for Huawei, which overtook Apple last year to become the world’s second-largest smartphone vendor behind Samsung. The company saw its CFO, Meng Wanzhou, arrested in Canada at the behest of the US last month for allegedly violating sanctions against Iran. Another executive was arrested in Poland recently on espionage charges and has since been fired for bringing the company into “disrepute.”
This week, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei—father of Meng Wanzhou—denied allegations that his company spied on behalf of China’s government. He also called Donald Trump “a great president.”