T-Mobile sues Huawei for stealing phone-testing robot technology

File photo of a Huawei logo seen above the company's pavilion during the CommunicAsia trade show in Singapore

In a Seattle federal court on September 2nd, T-Mobile filed a lawsuit claiming that Huawei sent employees in to its Bellevue lab to photograph its phone-testing robot and to smuggle components back to its own HQ in order to improve its own robot technology. Software, specifications and a host of other secrets were allegedly taken after Huawei realized how efficient and reliable “Tappy” (the robot) was at its duties.

The lawsuit claims Huawei is now “using T-Mobile’s stolen robot technology to test non-T-Mobile handsets and improve return rates for handsets developed and sold to other carriers.”

“Tappy” the robot was designed to test phones by touching phones in the same way a human would, except “more frequently and in a shorter space of time”. This testing has enabled T-Mo to improve its diagnostic data and reduced the cost of testing devices as well as helping T-Mobile to get more reliable handsets from suppliers.

Huawei has responded to the claims acknowledging the actions of two company employees, but rejects some of the broader claims made in 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.”

T-Mobile hasn’t made any specific requests for damages, but because of the spying has been forced to spend millions of dollars switching to other handsets. Not only that, but Huawei has benefited from using T-Mo’s tech to test and improve its own phones. Benefits which T-Mo values at “hundreds of millions of dollars”.

This isn’t the first time Huawei has been the subject of  IP theft lawsuits, and it probably won’t be the last.

Via: Seattle Times

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  • donnybee

    Being that we’re dealing with a Chinese company, I don’t think many of us are too surprised.

    • Paul Garrison

      Probably true, I don’t see how any corporation trust these Chinese Companies.

  • Clippers FANactic

    That’s too funny!

  • Adrayven

    Now thats bold.. walk in and just take.. out and out theft.. sad thing is they were likely thought to be there for other reasons.. Will be interesting to see what comes of this.

  • VG

    Maybe Tappy was also the T-Mobile “employee” who tests and approves OS upgrades for branded phones? I’m still waiting for WP 8.1 on my Lumia 925, and AT&T just released it for all their remaining Lumias.

    Yes, I know I could install WP 8.1 Developers, but I also want the official Cyan firmware updates.

    • Sam Samuel

      If you install the WP 8.1 Developers, you won’t get the new Cyan firmware updates?? Is that true?

      • conservative_motorcyclist

        Not true. They fixed the problem a while ago

        • Mike Palomba

          Can someone tell me where to get the developer preview and how to flash it? I have a T-Mobile lumia 521 just laying around and I want to try it.

    • Chris

      I just flashed my 925 with European software. Smartest thing I ever did.

      • Chris

        I mean firmware.

  • ceo2be

    Chinese companies stealing other’s tech secret? You don’t say!

  • sushimane

    This should be easy money for T-Mobile if huawei recognize that their employee did this and fired them that still doesn’t help them. T-Mobile would want that money from huawei for their wrongful doing of stealing T-Mobile tappy machine design and software.

    • Goat

      Maybe a clause to prevent them from using what they’ve stolen?

      • maximus1901

        Enforceable by which Chinese kangaroo court?

  • Once an engineer from Huawei was interviewed for a job position at a previous employer and he described his assignment as spying on Qualcomm across the street from his office in San Diego. Evidently, wary of ending up with a spy in the company, he wasn’t hired.

  • steveb944

    Wow so glad I never supported Huawei.

  • mrwirez

    S-C-R-E-W The Chinese… The Criminal State

    • mingkee

      It’s a country.

  • Bklynman

    I don’t think Tmobile will be selling any more of their phones or tablets any time soon.
    Not that they were in high demand anyway!!!

  • That’s Actually… Pretty shady… I’m very disappointed in Huawei. Especially when they already have so much to prove to the US Public who are still very hesitant about them.

  • Greg Victor

    A Chinese company accused of industrial espionage……Who’d have thunk it… lol

    • nycplayboy78

      I am shocked I tell you just shocked…That there is gambling going on in this casino…Oh Mr. Inspector here is your cut…DAMMIT!!!!!

  • The Jason

    Every culture does something well. The Asian cultures, especially the Chinese copy really, really well :-P The Japanese did the same essentially, from the late 19th century started looking over with admiration to the West and emulating key industries and technologies. But the Japanese are of course much smarter and tech savvy so their spin on modern Western ended up predictably high tech and ordered. The Chinese are more straight cheap copiers but can mass produce slightly inferior versions of copied things in massive quantity.

    • yanivc

      Of course they can mass produce cheap products…. they pay their employees $4.00 U.S. a year!!

  • sternhead

    If this hadn’t been caught on cam, the usual Chinese back talk would be coming out of Plummer’s mouth: “groundless”. “without merit”, “absurd”, “outrageous”, etc
    The more cameras the better when members of the Han tribe are in town and skulking about.

  • Trouble Maker

    Can anyone say Sprint?

  • yanivc

    I dont understand… were surprised China is stealing info? ummm rrrriiiight.

  • Mike Palomba

    Tmobile should stop selling huawei phones on metropcs and anywhere else they are associated with them

  • mingkee

    I am wondering why T-Mobile uses Huawei (華為) equipment while US Government is aware of its security?

  • Trouble Maker

    Softbank works with Huawei and now owns Sprint. I guess Sprint should be held accountable for trying to still from T-mobile?

  • Bklynman

    I bet the only reason they got fired,was because they got caught. Real punishment would be making them use the awful,phone,that finally kill off My Touch line of phones!