Nine out of ten times when we report on a lawsuit, it has something to do with patents or trademarks. I'll admit that those posts can get a little dull, but they're important for the world of consumer electronics. If you've been waiting for something a little juicier in your tech legal news, have we got a story for you. The Seattle Times reports that American cellular carrier T-Mobile is suing Huawei, a giant provider of telecom infrastructure hardware and currently the third-biggest manufacturer of phones on the planet, for stealing a robot.
Specifically, for stealing the design and at least some parts of "Tappy," a custom-built robot that T-Mobile USA uses for stress testing new cell phones. You can see Tappy in T-Mobile's promotional video below, posted to YouTube two years ago.
T-Mobile alleges that in 2012 and 2013 Huawei engineers took photos of the Tappy robot, and at one point even snatched one of the device's simulated fingertips used for approximating human screen taps. T-Mobile also says that after this was discovered, Huawei employees tried to sneak back into the company's Bellevue, Washington headquarters. According to the suit filing, T-Mobile spent tens of millions of dollars switching to different phone suppliers after discovering the Huawei employees' actions. Even so, the American carrier claims that Huawei has used the information it acquired to duplicate testing techniques, improving its own hardware sold to other carriers to the benefit of "hundreds of millions of dollars."
Huawei seems to confirm at least some of T-Mobile's filing, stating that the engineers were trying to investigate discrepancies between the Tappy robot's results and Huawei's own stress testing equipment. T-Mobile's filing says that Huawei eventually admitted the theft was performed by its employees. Huawei spokesman William Plummer had this to say to the Seattle Times:
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 USA's lawsuit was filed in the Washington Western District Court on Tuesday. No specific damages or reparations have been outlined.
Source: The Seattle Times