Ex-Huawei man claims Chinese giant is suing his startup to 'surpass' US tech dominance

Both parties accuse each other of IP theft

CNEX Labs co-founder and CTO Yiren Ronnie Huang have accused Huawei and its subsidiary Futurewei of engaging in industrial espionage to steal CNEX's SSD intellectual property.

The claim was made in a Texas court filing earlier this week in response to Huawei suing CNEX Labs and Huang for IP theft, racketeering and employee poaching related to SSD controller technology.

Huang and CNEX alleged in the 16 October filing: "Huawei and Futurewei have served as critical participants in a corporate espionage campaign orchestrated to steal intellectual property from American technology companies, like CNEX, in hopes of surpassing the United States as the world's predominant technological superpower by 2025."

CNEX was founded in San Jose in June 2013 by Huang, Alan Armstrong and Joe DeFranco, and develops controller technology for NVMe SSDs.

Futurewei Technologies is based in Plano, Texas, and was founded in 2001 as a Huawei subsidiary to develop next-generation wired, wireless and telco kit. Huang was a principal system architect at Futurewei Technologies between January 2011 and May 2013.

According to Huawei's original complaint document, filed on 28 December 2017, it hired Huang to research various technologies, including architecture design and product development about SSDs, Huawei's proprietary Advanced Computing Network (ACN) technology, PCIe and NVMe technologies.

The firm said Huang had signed an employee agreement assigning to Futurewei any invention or idea he conceived that related to his work at Futurewei.

The agreement required Huang to provide Futurewei with a copy of each patent application filed by him or naming him for a year after his departure from Futurewei. Huawei alleged he failed to do this.

It also claimed: "On June 26, 2013, less than a month after he departed Futurewei, Huang filed the first of at least 18 patent applications that relate to work and research that Huang performed while employed at Futurewei."

Huawei also claimed Huang unlawfully solicited Huawei employees to join CNEX.

Huawei wants a jury trial and various remedies, such as having the Huang patents assigned to Huawei.

The Chinese firm said in a statement to Bloomberg yesterday: “Huawei strongly denies the allegations in CNEX’s and Mr Huang’s counterclaims. Those counterclaims simply mimic the claims that Huawei first filed against CNEX and Mr. Huang... Huawei looks forward to protecting its intellectual property in court.”

The Reg has asked Huawei for comment.

The case is Huawei Technologies Co. v. Huang, 17-893, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Sherman). A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for 1 May 2019, by which time parties should be prepared to try the case and a jury trial will be scheduled. ®

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