A federal jury awarded T-Mobile $4.8 million in a long-running legal dispute with Chinese telecom giant Huawei over a smartphone testing robot, far less than the compensation the Bellevue wireless company’s legal team sought in the case.
T-Mobile sought damages totaling approximately $502 million — a combination of lost profits, the value of a hypothetical negotiation to license or sell the technology to Huawei and punitive damages to send a message.
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.
The jury found that Huawei misappropriated T-Mobile’s trade secret — a smartphone testing robot named Tappy — but didn’t do it in a “willful and malicious” manner. The jury found that T-Mobile suffered no losses due to the misappropriation of Tappy and declined to award punitive damages.
The jury also found that Huawei, which once was a phone supplier for T-Mobile, broke a handset agreement. For this action, the jury awarded T-Mobile $4.8 million.
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.”
GeekWire has also reached out to T-Mobile for comment on the decision, and we will update this post when we hear back.
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. The original verdict for T-Mobile did not indicate the monetary damages awarded.
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.