Telecoms giant Huawei pled not guilty recently to charges of stealing carefully guarded trade secrets from T-Mobile’s Bellevue hub. The trial is set for March 2, 2020, in U.S. District Court.
The charges against Huawei Device Co. and Huawei Device USA Inc. include attempted theft of trade secrets, seven counts of wire fraud and one count of obstructing justice. Huawei could not be reached for comment.
The criminal indictment follows a T-Mobile lawsuit against the company and a $4.8 settlement awarded by a jury to T-mobile in 2017. T-Mobile said the company violated nondisclosure agreements and secretly took photos of “Tappy” — their specialized robot used for testing smartphones — after they gained access to the room the robot was operating in.
“It used that stolen technology to develop and improve its own testing robot, which it uses for its own benefit,” the lawsuit paperwork states. “Huawei abused its relationship as a phone handset supplier for T-Mobile to obtain access to T-Mobile’s robot and, in violation of several confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements, copied the robot’s specifications and stole parts, software, and other trade secrets.”
T-Mobile held contacts with Huawei beginning in 2010. Their lawsuit was filed in 2014. And criminal charges brought against the company in 2019. Following the filing of charges, T-Mobile would not comment on the matter.
If convicted, the companies could face fines of as much as $5 million for trade secret theft, or three times the value of the stolen trade secret, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Wire fraud and obstruction charges could bring fines of as much as $500,000.
Nationally, the Chinese company has swam in hot waters. Last year the company was under U.S. criminal investigation over Iran-related export sanction violations. Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou was arrested last December in Canada, before being extradited to the U.S.