Motorola Solutions Says It's Winning Radio Battle With Chinese Rival Hytera

(Bloomberg) -- Motorola Solutions Inc. says it has the upper hand in its global legal fight with Chinese rival Hytera Communications Corp. over two-way radios used by utility workers, construction crews and others.

Over the past week, a German court and the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington have said Hytera’s products should be blocked from those countries because of patent-infringement claims.

The companies are battling over technology that ensures utility workers can get through to each other, even in dire situations like the wildfires in California or other disasters where radio towers are not working properly. Motorola Solutions, which controls more than half the U.S. market for the radios, claims Hytera has built its business on stolen technology -- a charge that Hytera denies.

The decisions “further validate our global efforts to stop Hytera’s unlawful behavior,” said Mark Hacker, general counsel for Motorola Solutions. “We have invested significant resources developing and delivering new and innovative products around the world to earn our customers’ trust. In contrast, Hytera has built their business by illegally copying our hard work.”

At the heart of the fight is Motorola Solutions’ contention that Hytera lured away radio engineers so it could steal proprietary technology for two-way radios used by emergency services workers, and in hospitals, schools and construction sites. Hytera denies the allegations and has said Motorola Solutions is using litigation trying to maintain an effective monopoly in the U.S. market.

On Tuesday, a federal court in Germany ruled that Hytera was infringing a Motorola Solutions patent and issued an order that would limit the Chinese company’s ability to provide certain services in the European country.

That followed a decision from the International Trade Commission on Friday, which imposed an import ban on Hytera products that goes into effect in January unless President Donald Trump intervenes and vetoes the order, an unlikely scenario.

Complaints of intellectual property theft by China have been a key element of the Trump administration’s trade conflict with the government of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Hytera isn’t giving up, though, and says Motorola Solutions is more focused on litigation than competing in the marketplace. It points to a section of the ITC order that said redesigned products are in the clear.

“Clearing the way for our i-Series products represents an important victory for Hytera and for the digital mobile radio market on the whole,” Hytera said Friday. “It not only assures greater choice in the marketplace, but it also reminds companies like Motorola that the United States legal system can’t be manipulated in order to maintain a monopoly.”

The decision in Germany "has absolutely no impact for U.S. customers," Hytera said in a statement on Tuesday. "The recent ITC ruling in the U.S. allows Hytera to continue to invest in the U.S., which will offer increased value and innovation to the market."

Motorola Solutions questioned whether i-Series products were new, original designs or merely the old radios with key features removed, citing an article about the dispute in Urgent Communications, a trade publication.

“Contrary to Hytera’s statements, these features are central to Hytera’s products and are widely used,” Hacker said.

Even with the big decisions in Germany and the U.S., the legal battle is far from over. Hytera and some of its customers have filed antitrust lawsuits against Motorola Solutions in China and the U.S.

Hytera also has filed its own patent-infringement lawsuit and petitions challenging some Motorola Solutions patents with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Motorola Solutions has a pending case accusing Hytera of stealing trade secrets and copyright-infringement, with a trial scheduled for November 2019 in Chicago.

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