US patent curbs 'can hurt global tech'

A Huawei logo seen at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia 2019 in Shanghai on June 11, 2019.
A Huawei logo seen at the Consumer Electronics Show Asia 2019 in Shanghai on June 11, 2019.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei said yesterday that the proposal by a United States senator to prevent the firm from seeking damages in US patent courts was dangerous and would be a catastrophe for global innovation.

At a Shenzhen press conference to highlight its efforts in respecting and protecting intellectual property (IP) rights, the firm's chief legal officer Song Liuping hit out at accusations that Huawei had committed IP theft. "In the past 30 years, no court has ever concluded that Huawei engaged in malicious IP theft, and we have never been required by the court to pay damages for this," he said, presenting a summary of the firm's IP achievements over the years.

He warned against politicising innovation and IP, adding: "No company can become a global leader by stealing from others."

Huawei, which has been blacklisted by Washington, was dealt another blow last week when US Senator Marco Rubio filed legislation to prevent it from seeking damages in US patent courts. This came after reports that the firm was seeking US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) from US telco Verizon Communications, in licensing fees for its patented technology.

Mr Song stressed that Huawei takes a defensive approach in its IP rights policy and is not weaponising its IP rights. "With regards to what some US politicians proposed, that Huawei should be banned from exercising our IP rights, I think this is a very dangerous action," he told reporters. "If such a legislative proposal were to be passed, it will be a catastrophe for global innovation."

When Huawei's lawful rights are infringed upon, it will take legal action to defend itself, he said.

Mr Song noted that IP is a private property and it should be free from geopolitical issues, like trade talks, as well as "any other allegations that states have between them".


He noted that Huawei has, over the past 30 years, paid more than US$6 billion in royalties to legally use the IP of other firms, with nearly 80 per cent of them being US firms. On the other hand, it has received more than US$1.4 billion in licensing revenue since 2015, thanks to its 80,000 patents worldwide.

Mr Song maintained that Huawei owed its success to its emphasis on research and development as well as IP protection.

He said the firm's investment of US$15 billion in R&D last year was the fifth-largest in the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 28, 2019, with the headline 'US patent curbs 'can hurt global tech''. Print Edition | Subscribe