Harris Corporation, best known for its aerospace and defense communications and electronic systems, filed a patent lawsuit against information and communications technology giant, Huawei in the U.S. District Court of Eastern District of Texas in October 2018. Harris has alleged infringement of seven patents from its portfolio of more than 3,000 patents against several Huawei products including its CloudCampus solution. The asserted Harris patents relate to improving computer network connections and security.
Huawei, founded in 1987, has over 180,000 employees in 170 countries and regions. Its annual net revenue in 2017 was $92.55 billion, putting it at #72 of the Fortune 500 list. Huawei is one of the largest information and communications technology (ICT) companies in the world, with 36 joint innovation centers and 14 Research & Development centers throughout the world. While smaller, Harris has earned its place in the ICT industry since its founding in 1895 through serving government and commercial markets in more than 150 countries. With over 17,000 employees and $6.94 in revenue, Harris ranked #407 in the 2017 Fortune 500 list.
The two ICT giants have yet to face each other in a legal battle. In its complaint, Harris highlights its commitment to innovation as evidenced by over 7,700 scientists and engineers in its employ, advanced innovative facilities, over $300 million spent in research and development along with substantial government funded research in the fiscal year 2018, and its vast patent portfolio consisting of over 3,000 patents. It claims to be “a proven leader in tactical communications, avionics, air traffic management, space and intelligence, and weather systems.”
Harris lodged a detailed complaint asserting seven patents with priority dates between 1998 and 2002. Harris alleges infringement by a number of Huawei’s products, including routers, access points, switches, and access controllers that use CloudCampus solution, Wireless Intrusion Detections System, Wireless Intrusion Prevention System, WLAN security and/or intrusion detection and prevention technology. Harris also alleges infringement by Huawei’s four Cloud Mitigation Alliance scrubbing centers in the U.S. that work with the Anti-DDoS systems. Additionally, it alleges infringement by Huawei’s products compatible with IEEE 802.11 and IEEE 802.15.4 standards, including Wi-Fi, Zigbee, and eSight.
According to Harris, Huawei’s CloudCampus solution allegedly infringes three of the seven asserted patents. The CloudCampus solution purportedly reduces operational expense in cloud networks by about 80%. Moreover, Huawei’s CloudCampus solution allows for improved wireless performance, reduced management nodes in the network by 90%, mitigating interference, and converged deployment of IoT and Wi-Fi networks. It also enables remote complex WLAN planning and configuration on the cloud management platform.
Harris claims that it first informed Huawei of the infringement of patents in March 2018. Since then, Harris attempted to contact Huawei regarding the same on three more occasions with no response from Huawei. Huawei’s last attempted contact was in May 2018. Within seven months of first attempted contact with Huawei, Harris filed its patent infringement lawsuit. Interestingly, all the asserted patents will expire within the next four years, the earliest having already expired earlier this year.
Harris has filed just a handful of lawsuits in the last few years, only five being patent related. In fact, this is the only patent lawsuit filed by Harris this year. Harris’ move to file its only lawsuit this year, and fifth ever patent lawsuit, against a giant like Huawei is a bold move to be sure. The lawsuit is still in its early stages, and Huawei has not yet responded to the complaint. It seems likely that Huawei will strike back hard, with a counter patent infringement lawsuit as well as a challenge to the validity and alleged infringement of Harris’ patents.
It’s certainly reasonable to wonder what prompted Harris to filed a lawsuit mere months after first contacting Huawei with the infringement assertions. How much of Harris’s strategy is based on the upcoming expiration of the asserted patents? Is patent licensing revenue the end goal, or is Harris attempting to force some other business outcome? Answers to these questions are bound to come out once the litigation progresses.