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Huawei accused of trying to steal trade secrets from Apple

Matthew Field
Huawei’s chief executive Ren Zhengfei - AP

Huawei has been accused of using "dubious tactics" to steal trade secrets from Apple.

The Shenzhen-based company, which the US claims is working at the behest of the Chinese government, allegedly approached Apple suppliers for details of the Apple Watch and MacBook Pro.

The firm subsequently adopted similar designs to Apple's MacBook when it unveiled its MateBook Pro laptop last year, according to The Information .

The report also claims that a Huawei engineer tracked down a supplier that helps make Apple’s heart rate sensor to ask for details about the Apple Watch.

An unnamed executive at the supplier accused the Huawei team of “trying their luck” for trade secrets about Apple products.

A Huawei spokesman said it denies any wrongdoing, and while it expected its engineers to research competing products it did so within the law.

“In conducting research and development, Huawei employees must search and use publicly available information and respect third-party intellectual property per our business conduct guidelines,” the spokesman said. “Huawei does not seek or have access to our competitors’ confidential information.”

Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and allegations of enabling state espionage, with the United States calling for its allies not to use its technology.

Multiple US companies have made claims against Chinese companies in civil legal cases. Cisco and Motorola have both accused Huawei of stealing IP.

Federal prosecutors this month launched an investigation with US smartphone glass maker that claimed Huawei had used its business relationship to acquire samples of “diamond glass” from it, which it then took apart for research in breach of their agreement.

The report comes as Huawei’s chief executive Ren Zhengfei described attacks on the company as and the arrest of his daughter, Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou, as politically motivated.

"Firstly, I object to what the U.S. has done. This kind of politically motivated act is not acceptable," Ren told the BBC in an interview.

Canada arrested Meng on December 1 at the request of the US. Meng was charged with bank and wire fraud to violate American sanctions against Iran.

Commenting on the spying concerns, the Huawei founder reiterated that the company will "never undertake" any spying activities.