China's Huawei and ZTE initiate legal spat over intellectual property

On Thursday, Huawei announced it had filed lawsuits against fellow Chinese company ZTE in three European countries for patent and trademark infringement.

Lawsuits filed in France, Germany, and Hungary claim ZTE has infringed on a series ofHuawei patents relating to data cards (such as USB dongle modems), LTE technologies, and illegal use of a Huawei trademark.ZTE returned the volleyon Friday, suing Huawei with claims of patent infringement relating to LTE air interface protocol technology.

China-based companies suing each other is not a headline one hears everyday. Have the rules of the game changed?

Both Huawei and ZTE have grown respective mobile telecommunications businesses by leaps and bounds in the past few years. The pair have also been under the political microscope as market reach introduced each to becoming global leaders.

Along with the growth come new challenges. Huawei and ZTE are leading the modem data card market and both have seen early success in LTE infrastructure and device deployments. Traditionally fast-followers, the manufacturers are now in the running alongside traditional end-to-end telecom suppliers.

Litigation and IPR protection appear to be tactics that each company will now consider as part of the necessary mix to lead and defend market positions, even if the other party has its roots in China.