Sen. Marco Rubio wants to make sure that the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies can’t pursue intellectual property claims against U.S. companies if the administration finds the company poses an “undue risk” to telecommunication systems.
The Florida Republican filed the amendment to a defense authorization bill. It anticipates a finding from the Commerce Department that Huawei poses the risk and comes amid reports that the Chinese company is considering taking U.S. companies to court over patent disputes.
“Huawei is using the tactics of patent trolls to attack U.S. companies in retaliation for Trump administration national security actions against them,” Rubio said in a Tuesday tweet. “We should not allow China government backed companies to improperly use our legal system against us.” His staff confirmed that Rubio put forth the amendment with Huawei in mind.
The Trump administration issued an executive order on May 15 to block U.S. companies from buying foreign-made telecommunications equipment deemed to be a national security risk. The administration didn’t mention Huawei, but the order is widely understood to be aimed at the company. The Commerce Department hasn’t yet made a finding of risk.
Rubio’s amendment would bar any company that the secretary of Commerce finds poses a risk from pursuing an intellectual property claim in U.S. courts or before the International Trade Commission.
Reuters reported last week Huawei approached Verizon Communications and asked it to pay some $1 billion for allegedly using Huawei technologies. Reuters said the issue involved more than 200 patents.
Huawei has been involved in a number of patent and trade secret disputes with U.S. companies. And Ren Zhengfei, the company founder, recently signaled that the company is ready to use its IP portfolio as leverage.
“Once we have a bit more time, we may try to get some money from those companies that use our IPR,” Ren said in an interview on Chinese broadcaster CGTN on Monday. IPR refers to intellectual property rights.
Ren also signaled that Huawei’s real goal may be to use its patents to leverage cross-licensing agreements with other technology companies to head off what could be expensive litigation.
In a patent infringement case filed by Florida-based Harris Corp., a U.S. military communications supplier, Huawei responded by filing its own patent claims and asking a federal judge in Texas to allow its claims to proceed alongside Harris’s complaint of IPR infringement.
The judge, in an order severing the Huawei claims into separate litigation, said that the Chinese company had argued that jointly litigating both parties’ claims would promote “earlier settlement.”
Ren also made an apparent reference to last year’s defense authorization law that targeted Huawei by name in enacting a prohibition on federal contracting with Huawei or other companies that do business with the Chinese company. Huawei has filed a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality as a “bill of attainder.”
“A country ruled by law has to follow the law,” Ren said. “Ruling by legislature, I think, is not in the spirit of the law.”