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Huawei's tough IP strategy set to continue

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Amidst thawing political pressure in the US, increasing appetite to cash in on its intellectual property and an aggressive legal strategy, an analysis by E&T and IFI CLAIMS shows that there is no end to Huawei's global technology patent hegemony.

While Huawei continues to deny allegations of corporate espionage and patent infringement, it continues to go from strength to strength as a world-leading innovator.

In addition to continuing to generate cash from patents it already holds, and potentially regaining some strength as the icy political relationship between the company and the White House thaws, an analysis of patent grants suggests that Huawei's aggressive IP strategy is set to continue.

2019 will be another strong year for Huawei with regards to IP, with its innovation seemingly undisturbed by bad PR and sanctions, according to figures projected by IFI CLAIMS: a patent service and leading provider of patent data. It anticipates that 2019 will slightly exceed 2018 figures - an all-time high for the firm - reaching 2,380 granted patents by the end of the year - growing by 8.4 per cent.

Huawei's interests have shifted towards Europe and back towards mainland Chinese. A recent EU report places Huawei as the fifth largest research and development spender in 2017. With a bulk of 76 per cent of Huawei’s patent families having 'Chinese priority', according to new findings, the numbers draw an interesting picture that the company's inventive work is now mainly done on the home turf.

Previous lawsuits involving western companies such as Cisco or Motorola, Huawei manifested itself as a force to be reckoned with.

Despite easing pressure on the frim, Huawei's legal games in the US appear to become ever more difficult to uphold. Last week one of such legal blows hit the firm. A US court opted in favor of California semiconductor designer CNEX Labs Inc. and against Huawei Technologies. Huawei lost in claiming CNEX was involved in stealing trade secrets.

An important question going forward, for both future legal cases and the firms market dominance in sectors, is: What does Huawei's R&D IP treasure box contain and what does it tell us about the firm?

To find out E&T worked with IFI CLAIMS, to inspect Huawei's parent company Huawei Investment and Holding Co and Huawei Technology patent portfolio.

In a recent investigation, E&T argued that patents can serve as a proxy for how prepared engineering companies are for a low-carbon future.

IFI CLAIMS analysed 147,290 documents, the total number of global patent documents Huawei owns across their 21,387 families (groups of patents filed in multiple countries based on a single patent application). Among Huawei Patent-Holding Subsidiaries, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd owns the largest share of patent families, with 16,819 patent families or 81 per cent. 

The patent classification of greatest interest to Huawei is H04 or 'electronic communication technique'. Ranking top within the classification is H04L ('transmission of digital information'). Among 6,524 patents, this includes examples such as 'sequence-based signal processing method and apparatus'.

Notably, IP strength has been built in the area of H04W 72/ or 'local resource management', which includes wireless traffic scheduling or selection or allocation of wireless resource.

Huawei's interest in H01Q, which includes antennas or 'antenna and communications devices' is significant in relation. In 2012, a new report suggested that an Iranian-based company which sells Huawei products - Soda Gostar Persian Vista - had attempted to sell embargoed American antenna equipment, made by American company Andrew LLC, to an Iranian firm MTN Irancell. 

Knowing which kind of patents Huawei holds could grow more important in the future, as the firm is poised to ramp up its royalty claims for US based companies.
This would be to 'claw back some much-needed cash in their ongoing fight with Washington'. As a leader in the development of 5G and other areas, companies using Huawei's patents or those in the supply-chain may increasingly bear the brunt, should US-Huawei relationship go awry again.

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