US pursuing criminal charges against Huawei for alleged theft of trade secrets: WSJ

Key Points
  • The trade secrets case involves a robotics product meant to test smartphone technology owned by T-Mobile, according to The Wall Street Journal.
  • An indictment is expected soon.
  • The trade secrets case against Huawei comes at a time of heavy tensions between the U.S. and China and the arrest of Huawei's CFO last month in Canada.
Ren Zhengfei, founder and chief executive officer of Huawei Technologies, left, speaks during an interview at the company's headquarters in Shenzhen, China, in January.
Qilai Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. Justice Department will pursue a criminal case against Chinese tech giant Huawei for alleged trade secrets theft, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The charges revolve around theft of trade secrets related to a robotic device called "Tappy" made by T-Mobile, which was used in testing smartphones, according to the report.

The Wall Street Journal reports an indictment is expected soon.

Huawei declined to comment on the report.

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The criminal case reportedly stemmed from a civil case filed in Seattle District Court in 2014, in which T-Mobile said Huawei stole its proprietary technology after 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 claimed in the 2014 complaint that Huawei employees stole the robotic trade secrets at the direction of Huawei's corporate research and development team based in China. Huawei fought the claims, saying the robot was and the two sides sparred until a federal jury awarded T-Mobile $4.8 million in the case in 2017.

The case comes on the heels of controversy over the Dec. 1 arrest of the company's CFO, Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. Meng is the daughter of the company's CEO Ren Zhengfei. On Tuesday, Ren praised President Trump and his efforts at forging a new trade deal with China, while emphasizing the negative effect "the detention of certain individuals" could have on U.S.-China relations.

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