Once upon a time, Huawei Technologies and Motorola formed a cooperative partnership for wireless technology. Now that Motorola is in the midst of selling off the wireless network business unit to Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), though, Huawei is now suing Motorola to prevent the transfer of its trade secrets to NSN.
This lawsuit is a little different than others in the industry. Where companies like Apple, Nokia, Motorola, and others use patent infringement cases as a strategic tool that is just part of day to day business competing with rival companies, Huawei and Motorola actually have a partnership. Huawei isn't accusing Motorola of stealing or infringing on its patents. It just wants to make sure that the confidential proprietary information shared with Motorola isn't subsequently passed on to NSN as a function of the sale of the wireless unit.
The relationship between Motorola and Huawei dates back over a decade to 2000. The two worked closely together, and Motorola resold Huawei wireless equipment under the Motorola brand. Huawei alleges that--as a function of the partnership--Motorola has had access to confidential intellectual property, and Huawei has been seeking assurances that this proprietary information will be protected and will not be shared with NSN.
According to a Huawei press release, "Since the July 2010 announcement by NSN of its purchase of Motorola's wireless network business, Huawei has tried to ensure that Motorola does not transfer this confidential information to NSN. Motorola, however, has not responded with assurances that it will prevent disclosure of that information to NSN."
Huawei's concern is that it will suffer irreparable commercial damage if its intellectual property and trade secrets become the property of NSN as a function of this transaction. Without acceptable assurances from Motorola that the proprietary information will be protected, Huawei felt it had no other recourse than to file the lawsuit to protect its intellectual assets.
From Motorola's perspective, though--or the perspective of NSN--the absence of the Huawei intellectual property may fundamentally alter the value of the Motorola wireless business unit. In other words, Motorola might be reluctant to offer any such assurances to Huawei specifically because without access to the Huawei intellectual property and secrets that Motorola has enjoyed for the last decade, the wireless unit may not be worth nearly as much--or possibly not worth purchasing at all.