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The Wall Street Journal
lunes, 2 de septiembre de 2019
By Dan Strumpf and Patricia Kowsmann
U.S. prosecutors are looking into additional instances of alleged technology theft by Huawei Technologies Co., according to people familiar with the matter, potentially expanding beyond existing criminal cases against the Chinese telecommunications giant.
Among the situations being examined are episodes in which Huawei was accused of stealing intellectual property from multiple people and companies over several years, as well as how the company went about recruiting employees from competitors, these people said.
The inquiries, which include a subpoena for documents from Huawei by federal prosecutors from the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn, suggest that the government is investigating aspects of Huawei’s business practices that weren’t covered in indictments of Huawei issued earlier this year.
The new inquiries overlap with findings from a Wall Street Journal investigation in May that documented numerous allegations of intellectual property theft against Huawei throughout its history, these people said. They include alleged theft of smartphone-camera technology from a Portuguese multimedia producer and Huawei’s practices of recruiting employees from rival companies, the people said.
Huawei said at the time that it is committed to complying with laws in global markets and has a track record of innovation. “We respect the integrity of intellectual property rights-for our own business, as well as peer, partner and competitor companies,” the company said.
It couldn’t be determined if new charges are being sought against the company. A Huawei spokesman declined to comment. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment.
The new lines of investigation underscore the challenges facing the Chinese tech giant-which is the world’s largest maker of telecom equipment and the No. 2 seller of smartphones-following numerous moves by the U.S. targeting Huawei in recent months that have been criticized by the Chinese government.
Those moves include an executive order signed in May by President Trump allowing the U.S. to ban telecom gear made by “foreign adversaries,” seen as targeting Huawei. The same month, the Commerce Department added Huawei to its “entity list,” blocking the company from buying U.S. components and software without a license.
Huawei is already contesting one case of trade-secret theft: In January, prosecutors in Seattle issued an indictment accusing Huawei of stealing smartphone-testing technology from its one-time partner T-Mobile US Inc. from 2012 to 2013. The indictment also accused Huawei of launching a bonus program to reward employees who stole confidential information from rivals. Huawei called the charges “politically motivated” in an Aug. 9 motion to dismiss the case.
Among the areas that investigators are now probing concern allegations that Huawei stole smartphone camera technology from Rui Oliveira, a multimedia producer from Portugal, according to the people familiar with the matter. After Mr. Oliveira accused the company of stealing intellectual property in his U.S. patents, Huawei sued him in March and said in court papers that it didn’t infringe on his patents.
Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and attorneys from the Eastern District of New York met with Mr. Oliveira in early June, according to one of the people. The agents asked Mr. Oliveira questions about Huawei executives who participated in Mr. Oliveira’s meetings with Huawei in 2014, when he had proposed assigning manufacturing rights to the company for his patents, the person said.
Authorities have also interviewed Robert Read, a former contract engineer for Huawei in Sweden from 2002 to 2003. The Wall Street Journal reported in May that Mr. Read helped Huawei recruit laid-off workers from nearby offices of Ericsson AB during those years. Mr. Read described how Huawei at its Sweden office stashed foreign-made equipment in a secure basement to be dissected by Huawei engineers. The chamber had counterparts in other Huawei facilities, according to current and former U.S. officials. Mr. Read confirmed he was approached by investigators after the article’s publication.
Huawei has repeatedly defended its record when it comes to respecting intellectual property rights, and says it has found itself on both sides of such disputes during its history. At a news conference in June, Huawei’s chief legal officer said the company has never been found by a court to have acted maliciously in any case involving alleged theft of trade secrets. Attorneys define malice as intention to do injury.
In a filing last week in the Seattle case, prosecutors revealed more details about Huawei’s alleged bonus program, which they said was launched in 2013. As part of the policy, Huawei established “a special Huawei encrypted internal email address” for transmitting especially sensitive information, and said “employees were told that they had the responsibility to collect competitor information,” according to the filing.
When the directive was sent to Huawei’s U.S.-based employees in an email titled “Attention to get Rewards!”, a U.S. human resource executive at Huawei wrote in an email to U.S. colleagues that while such a program “may be normal and within the usual course of business” in “some foreign countries and regions,” it was prohibited by the company’s U.S. corporate policies, according to the filing. A Huawei spokesman declined to comment.