This story has been updated to include reaction from Huawei.
A federal jury sided with T-Mobile in a long-running dispute with Chinese telecom giant Huawei over a smartphone-testing robot.
The case dates back to 2014, when T-Mobile filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Seattle, alleging Huawei stole designs and parts of the company’s top secret cell phone testing robot, nicknamed “Tappy.” The robot is designed to simulate the touch of a human finger, so that T-Mobile can test devices that it plans to carry, helping to develop maintenance plans and find ways to lower device return costs.
A jury trial on the matter began in late April and both sides wrapped closing arguments this week. The jury began deliberating Monday afternoon and came back with their verdict Wednesday afternoon.
Court filings do not indicate damages awarded to Bellevue-based T-Mobile. GeekWire has reached out to lawyers involved in the case and court personnel for more information and will update this post when we hear back.
Huawei Vice President of External Affairs William Plummer offered this statement following the verdict:
“Huawei is analyzing the jury’s verdict and evaluating its legal options. Huawei continues to believe in the merits of its defense to the allegations made by T-Mobile. According to the jury’s verdict, T-Mobile was not awarded any damages relating to the trade secrets claim and there was no award of punitive damages. Although the jury awarded damages under the breach of contract allegation, the amount was a small fraction of what T-Mobile requested. Huawei is a global leader in innovation, and respect for intellectual property is a cornerstone value in our business.”
In closing arguments, T-Mobile’s team claimed $8.2 million in lost profits due to the decision to pull Huawei phones from its devices lineup. T-Mobile also asked for damages in the form of a “reasonable royalty,” which is basically a hypothetical negotiated value that would come from a license or purchase of Tappy technology. That figure, according to witnesses and experts for T-Mobile, totaled approximately $159.6 million.
T-Mobile also recommended the jury require Huawei to pay “punitive damages,” that would send a message to the company and stop it from repeating its alleged actions. That number was double the combined lost profits and reasonable royalty figures, or approximately $334 million.
Huawei used to be a phone supplier for T-Mobile. T-Mobile argued that Huawei violated several agreements between the two companies, and used that relationship to copy the design and repurpose the testing robot, which T-Mobile claimed as a trade secret, for its own financial gain.
T-Mobile claimed Huawei sent an engineer to T-Mobile headquarters on a “reconnaissance” mission to get photos and other information about Tappy. Another Huawei employee was seen on camera taking a piece of the robot, and lawyers for T-Mobile said he turned around and sent the specs to several Huawei engineers.
Lawyers arguing on behalf of Huawei claimed that Tappy is far from a trade secret, as plenty of information about Tappy can be found in the public domain through things like patent applications and promo videos. Huawei did build its own testing robot, xDeviceRobot, but it did so to replicate T-Mobile’s stringent testing environment and improve its phones.