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Huawei extends IP olive branch to the WestHuawei extends IP olive branch to the West

Chinese tech giant Huawei held a conference with the underlying theme that it is open to working with the rest of the world on IP, as the US makes fresh accusations of Chinese state-sponsored hacks.

Andrew Wooden

June 8, 2022

5 Min Read
Huawei Chief Legal Officer Song Liuping

Chinese tech giant Huawei held a conference with the underlying theme that it is open to working with the rest of the world on IP, just as the US made fresh accusations of Chinese state-sponsored hacks.

Huawei put on an event this morning comprising of a series of keynotes, a showcase of some new awards it had given out for new tech, and a panel session. The overall aim of the event appeared to be to talk about the importance of intellectual property and innovation both within the firm and in the wider tech and telecoms industries.

The ‘IP and Innovation forum’ kicked off with a keynote from Song Liuping, Huawei’s Chief Legal Officer (pictured), who began by laying out the just how much the firm is spending on research, while acknowledging the difficulties that persist following the US-led sanctions:

“For the past three years, the business environment has been challenging. But the harder things get, the more determined we are to invest in the future… In 2021, we increased our R&D investment to 142.7 billion yuan. That’s 22.4% of our total revenue. Both our R&D investment and percentage of revenue spent on R&D have reached a 10-year high. This made Huawei the world’s second largest investor in R&D according to the 2021 EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard. Over the past few years, our annual investment in basic research has passed 20 billion yuan.

With regards to IP, there was a clear intent to communicate the sheer amount of patents applications Huawei is filing, and that it’s happy to work with people globally on them.

“We firmly believe that protecting IP is key to protecting innovation. Huawei has filed more than 10,000 patent applications annually for the past two years. This is a record high for us. We open up our innovations to the industry through patents. We are eager to license our patents and technologies to share our innovations with the world. This will help broaden the innovation landscape, drive our industry forward, and advance technology for everyone.”

These two statements fairly well sum up a two hour event in which multiple keynotes, guest speakers, and a panel came at the same point in various different ways – IP is very important, we have lots of it, and we’re open to working with companies around the world on matters relating to them.

Alan Fan, Head of Huawei IPR Department expanded on this idea of willingness to share its IP before seemingly by way of proof of its R&D chops, to showcase ten innovations it has developed:

“Huawei is also working with patent license administration companies to offer “one-stop” licenses for mainstream standards. Patent quality is the foundation of a patent pool’s success. Small and medium-sized businesses, as well as vertical industry licensees, often don’t have the ability to assess the technical merits of a large number of ICT patents. Patent pool companies can help them to obtain licenses more efficiently. Our high quality patents, backed by our strong contribution to industry standards, will bolster the success of both our pool partners and licensees.

“Patents provide two fundamental rights to innovators: exclusivity and a reward for sharing. While some of our patents are filed for exclusivity rights to protect our products, many of our patents are filed for sharing. When there’s a reward for sharing, how do we use it? It funds our R&D, and helps our inventors bring home the bacon.”

The showcased innovations included a neural network that claims to reduce computing power usage and circuit area by 70%, algorithms for autonomous vehicles, a technique which allows operators to deploy remote core networks on campuses, and what it says is the world’s first symmetric active-active high-end storage system.

The subsequent talks waxed around the idea of patent law, what technology might be able to do in the future, how there are some developments in the Chinese IP system which might be superior to what the rest of the world uses, and some commentary on the rise of nationalism globally and how the schism between east and west would be better off resolved.

There was a lot being said and shown off in the two hour event – but certainly if the overall point is innovation and intellectual property is important – as well as adherence to the laws protecting it – it’s hard to disagree with, though there are probably simpler ways of communicating that. But the other flavour you got from some of the speeches and presentations – aside from the showboating around how much IP the firm has tucked away – was that it’s better to work together. It did this without directly addressing the elephant in the room that Huawei is blocked from trading much of its core wares in many Western countries.

And if that’s the message Huawei wants to put out into the world, that’s fair enough. After all, who but the most hawkish observers think that it wouldn’t be better if East and West could cooperate more, and some of the hostility evident in geopolitics and global business could be taken down a notch?

Unfortunately, the timing of such a plea is a little unfortunate for Huawei. This morning the US government made fresh accusations that Chinese state-sponsored hackers are using a variety of techniques to infiltrate vulnerable telco and IT equipment, allowing them to establish a broad network of compromised infrastructure.

Any calls for a thawing of relations or increased collaboration between Chinese companies like Huawei and Western ones on IP, however well argued, are bound to be somewhat muted as long as there is a widely held belief, particularly in the US, that large scale cyber-espionage campaigns are being waged at the behest of the Chinese state.


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About the Author(s)

Andrew Wooden

Andrew joins Telecoms.com on the back of an extensive career in tech journalism and content strategy.

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