May 24, 2016 / 4:45 PM / a year ago

China's Huawei files patent suits against Samsung Elec

People walk past a sign board of Huawei at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Asia 2016 in Shanghai, China May 12, 2016.Aly Song

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] on Wednesday said it sued Samsung Electronics Co Ltd claiming infringement of smartphone patents, the Chinese firm's first intellectual property challenge against the world's top mobile maker.

Huawei has filed lawsuits in the United States and China seeking compensation for what it said was unlicensed use of fourth-generation (4G) cellular communications technology, operating systems and user interface software in Samsung phones.

"We hope Samsung will ... stop infringing our patents and get the necessary license from Huawei, and work together with Huawei to jointly drive the industry forward," Ding Jianxing, president of Huawei's Intellectual Property Rights Department, said in a statement.

Samsung told Reuters it would "take appropriate action to defend Samsung's business interests" without elaborating further.

The lawsuit marks a reversal of roles in China where firms have often been on the receiving end of patent infringement disputes. In smartphones, makers have grown rapidly in recent years but different intellectual property laws outside of China have slowed overseas expansion.

Last year Xiaomi Inc [XTC.UL] was forced to briefly halt sales of handsets in India after a patent infringement complaint from telecom equipment maker Ericsson.

A man speaks on his mobile phone near a Samsung store in central Kiev, Ukraine, May 11, 2016.Valentyn Ogirenko

In the broader smartphone industry there has been a flurry of patent lawsuits in recent years, most notably between Samsung and U.S. rival Apple Inc.

Apple sued Samsung in the United States in 2011, claiming the Korean maker used unlicensed technology and imitated the look of the iPhone. The pair subsequently filed a number of suits against each other in several other jurisdictions but agreed in August 2014 to drop all litigation outside the United States.

In China, Samsung's fortunes saw it become the biggest smartphone vendor before being leapfrogged by local brands and losing market share to late-comer Apple. It is now ranked sixth by sales, trailing Huawei, OPPO, Vivo, Apple and Xiaomi.

Last year, Shenzhen-based Huawei invested 59.6 billion yuan ($9.2 billion), or 15 percent of annual revenue, in researching and developing technologies, products and wireless communications standards, the company said in its statement.

Huawei, which generates most of its revenue making telecommunications infrastructure, said it has been granted 50,377 patents globally as of Dec. 31.

Samsung, also the world's No.1 memory chip and television maker, said in a May 16 filing it held 110,145 patents globally at end-2015 and invested 14.8 trillion won ($12.45 billion) in research and development as well as intellectual property last year.

Additional reporting by Se Young Lee in SEOUL; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Stephen Coates

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