Back in 2014, T-Mobile filed a civil suit against Huawei, accusing the Chinese manufacturing firm with stealing the robotic technology it uses to tests phones. The carrier sought $500 million in damages; three years later, T-Mobile was awarded $4.8 million by a jury. Now, a new report published this afternoon by The Wall Street Journal, reveals that Federal prosecutors are planning to start a criminal investigation of Huawei because of its alleged theft of T-Mobile's tech secrets.
According to the report, at the time that this alleged technology theft occurred, T-Mobile ordered Huawei handsets to sell to its customers. The carrier used a robot called "Tappy" to perform Quality Control (QC) tests on the handsets that it carried. T-Mobile claimed in its filing related to the civil suit, that Huawei employees started asking T-Mobile about "Tappy," with some of the questions related to proprietary technology used to create the robot. T-Mobile security cameras even captured a Huawei employee disassembling part of "Tappy," and placing it into his laptop bag. The employee later admitted that he stole the part in order to improve Huawei's own testing robot. Another time, a Huawei employee, smuggled into the testing lab by two other men working for the company, snapped photographs of "Tappy."
Huawei claims that it didn't steal trade secrets because the robot was the subject of several YouTube videos (click on the video at the top of this article), and the specs and designs of it were found in patents that were published for anyone to see. T-Mobile broke off its dealing with Huawei due to the incident, and the carrier wrote in its civil complaint that "Huawei has used the robot technology it misappropriated from T-Mobile to unjustly gain a commercial advantage worth hundreds of millions of dollars."
The news comes the day after Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said that his company does not use its devices to spy on behalf of the Chinese government. The U.S. government has accused the company of being a national security threat, and has warned allies not to use Huawei's networking equipment to build out their 5G networks. Last year, when AT&T and Verizon planned on offering the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, it is believed that U.S. authorities told both carriers to back out of their deals.