Huawei isn't just in the smartphone and hard-to-pronounce name businesses, they're also a telecommunications giant that handles an enormous amount of business-to-business infrastructure all over the world. That means a diversified portfolio of hardware, software, and (waaait for it) technology patents. BizJournals reports that the Chinese company is bringing that portfolio to bear against T-Mobile US today, alleging that the budget-friendly cell carrier refuses to license 14 of its 4G patents.
The complaint was filed in the US District Court in Eastern Texas, the favorite stomping ground of frivolous software and technology patent trolls everywhere. That doesn't necessarily mean that Huawei's patent complaints are without merit, merely that they're stacking the deck with a historically patent-friendly court. Huawei isn't seeking direct monetary compensation, instead asking the court to decide on the validity of its patents alone, effectively strong-arming T-Mobile into a licensing agreement that would last for years. T-Mobile says that Huawei's offered terms violate the "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" clauses that cover such agreements. Similar agreements with other companies are a significant source of revenue.
T-Mobile isn't the only company to balk at Huawei's licensing terms. Huawei initiated a lawsuit against Samsung for similar LTE patents just last month, both in the United States and China. And this isn't the first time that T-Mobile and Huawei have found themselves on opposite ends of a courtroom: in 2014, T-Mobile alleged that Huawei engineers spied on its corporate laboratories to copy the design of one of its phone-testing robots. That lawsuit is still active, and scheduled to go to trial later this year. It's possible (though probably not provable) that the patent lawsuit filed today could be used as leverage in the older dispute.