Reuters has reported that Huawei’s U.S.-based research arm has attempted to distance itself from its parent company following the U.S. government’s blacklisting of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd.
The newly established group, Futurewei Technologies Inc, has taken several measures to create separation between itself and its parent company. Although Huawei will continue to own Futurewei, Huawei employees will not be allowed in Futurewei offices, or to use the same IT infrastructure. In addition, the Huawei logo has been internally banned from all of Futurewei’s communications.
This information was brought to the public from an anonymous Futurewei employee, as both Futurewei’s general counsel Milton Frazier and Huawei spokesperson Chase Skinner both declined to provide further comments.
Futurewei has offices throughout the U.S., in Silicon Valley, Seattle, Dallas and Chicago. Until now, the firm showed no unique identity, as employees would refer to themselves as Huawei employees, until this formal separation. According to data from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Futurewei has filed over 2,100 patents in areas including telecommunications, 5G cellular networks, and camera technologies.
Many speculate that the move to establish Futurewei is an attempt to salvage the company’s research partnerships with many U.S. universities. Last year, 26 members of Congress sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, warning that these partnerships “may pose a significant threat to national security.” Some members of congress believe that Huawei’s partnerships are aimed at acquiring advanced technology research to blunt any competitive advantages U.S. firms may have over their Chinese competitors.
For example, University of California Berkeley research chief Randy Katz has allowed researchers to continue working with Futurewei
The University of California-Berkeley, for instance, is allowing researchers to keep working with Futurewei after suspending all funding and information exchanges with Huawei in May, according to guidance to faculty from Berkeley research chief Randy Katz. Although funding from Futurewei was suspended, their employees are still able to participate in research reviews, given they are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and agree to sign an agreement not to share information with Huawei. However, Katz did point out that the U.S. government may still take other actions against Futurewei.
The U.S. Commerce Department said that they could not place Futurewei on the entity blacklist because it is a U.S. company. The agency declined to comment whether U.S. company’s with foreign parent companies would eventually qualify for the entity list. Meanwhile, the list of universities that have partnered with Huawei or Futurewei also includes Stanford, Princeton and Columbia universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan and the University of Texas at Austin.
Congressman Jim Banks (Indiana-R) who introduced a bill in March called the “Protect Our Universities Act” that would allow government agencies to restrict or cancel federal funding for any sensitive research project that are vulnerable to potential espionage, and claimed that “Futurewei is Huawei.
It remains to be seen how the U.S. government will react to the creation of Futurewei, after taking such harsh and decisive action against its parent company. President Trump and President Xi are set to meet this weekend at the G20 in Osaka, and the belligerence between the U.S. government and Chinese tech firms is surely to be on the agenda.