The US Department of Justice (DoJ) escalated legal action against Huawei, filing charges accusing the company of racketeering and conspiring to steal trade secrets from six technology companies.

In court documents, the DoJ claimed Huawei and a handful of subsidiaries in the US and China used deceptive tactics to gain access to IP from US companies, which was then used in commercial products. It alleged the company accessed source code and user manuals for internet routers, antenna technology and robot testing technology.

A Huawei representative told Mobile World Live the allegations are “without merit,” adding the DoJ “will not prevail on its charges, which we will prove to be both unfounded and unfair”.

The allegations were tacked on to an earlier set of charges brought by the DoJ in January 2019, accusing Huawei of bank fraud, sanctions violations and theft of IP from T-Mobile US. The government noted its investigation remains ongoing.

Huawei, CFO Meng Wanzhou and four affiliates, Huawei Device; Huawei USA; Futurewei; and Skycom were named as defendants in the latest case.

Authorities argued the alleged use of stolen technology gave Huawei a competitive edge, allowing it to “drastically cut its research and development costs and associated delays” to more rapidly grow its business.

The DoJ said Huawei gained access to the information by violating confidentiality agreements signed with US companies; recruiting employees from other companies and asking them to share their old employer’s trade secrets; and using proxies such as professors at research institutions to obtain IP.

It added the alleged activity stretched back to 1999.

Licence extension
The US government did however issue a 45 day extension to a temporary trading licence, allowing US companies to continue to do business with Huawei.

Since Huawei was added to an economic blacklist in May, the US Commerce Department has issued a Temporary General Licence to US companies, which has been extended several times.

The existing licence was due to expire on 16 February.

In a statement, Huawei said the licence would not “have a substantial impact” on its business, and it did not change the fact that it continues to be treated unfairly.