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Huawei licenses key 5G tech to Oppo, Samsung amid U.S. crackdown

Huawei Technologies has licensed key technologies to smartphone rival Oppo in a win for the Chinese tech champion as it attempts to resist a U.S. crackdown on its tech ambitions.

Huawei also said on Friday for the first time that it has licensed key 5G technologies to Samsung Electronics, the world’s top smartphone maker, and that those deals have been extended.

The patent licensing deal with Oppo — the world’s fourth-biggest smartphone maker by shipments — is Huawei’s largest ever with a Chinese company and covers areas including 5G and Wi-Fi, as well as audio and video technologies, it said.

Huawei said it has patent cross-licensing deals with 20 companies, including domestic and foreign players. Samsung is Huawei’s biggest licensee among foreign companies in terms of the number of devices sold and the patents covered, while Oppo is the most significant domestic company by the same measures.

Huawei has been working to expand revenue from patent licensing after U.S. sanctions disrupted its core smartphone and telecom equipment making businesses. Huawei was the first company in the world to introduce 5G integrated chipsets, for example, but it was forced to abandon that area of development after Washington sharply curbed its access to American technology, including its top chipmaking suppliers. The company can now only buy off-the-shelf downgraded 4G mobile chipsets from Qualcomm of the U.S. — but it still controls a rich 5G patent portfolio.

“Huawei has developed multiple high-value patent portfolios in the global marketplace in domains like 5G, Wi-Fi, and audio and video codecs,” said Alan Fan, head of Huawei’s Intellectual Property Department, in a press briefing. “This will enable our industry to keep innovating and provide consumers with more competitive products and services.”

Oppo told Nikkei Asia that the license deal will give it access to Huawei’s most advanced 5G-related technologies, while Huawei will be able to use some of Oppo’s patents. “It’s a win-win for both sides,” said Adler Feng, Oppo’s chief intellectual property officer.

Huawei has not disclosed the value of individual deals but said its revenue from patent licensing was between $1.2 billion and $1.3 billion from 2019 through 2021, and such revenue was growing.

In terms of the number of patents granted in 2021, Huawei ranked No. 1 at both the China National Intellectual Property Administration and the European Patent Office, and No. 5 at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Huawei said it remains dedicated to its long-term investment in research and development and to enriching its intellectual property portfolio. As of the end of 2021, Huawei said, it had 107,000 R&D employees, or nearly 55% of its workforce. Nikkei Asia

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