Africa’s top mobile vendor Transsion sued by Huawei over alleged copyright infringement

More smartphone makers have made strides in the African market.

credit: DFIC

Huawei has filed a lawsuit against Transsion, the Chinese budget smartphone maker that dominates Africa, over alleged copyright and intellectual property infringement claims, according to a court filing seen by local business news outlet Yicai.

The legal battle comes right ahead of Transsion’s listing on the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), amidst an escalating rivalry between the duo in Africa market.

Several phone models of Transsion have used Huawei’s loading screen images, the same Yicai report added. The multimillion-dollar suit was filed on September 23 in Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court.

The number of patents and copyrights Transsion owns is lagging far behind its rivals, suggesting the potential risk of copyrights infringement and its weak competitiveness in the high-tech arena.

Along with its subsidiaries, it has obtained 630 patents in total, by comparison, Xiaomi applied for 644 patents in 2017, and Huawei has the ownership of over 100,000 patents.

On Monday, September 30, Transsion, whose mobile phones outsell tech giant Samsung, Apple and Huawei on Africa continent, will begin to trade on SSE’s Star Board, a freshly-minted Nasdaq-style board for tech startups, under the ticker code “688036.” It seeks to raise no fewer than USD 430 million at a price of about USD 5 dollar per share.

Huawei declined to comment on this issue while Transsion said the lawsuit is rumored and its IPO plan will not be affected when contacted for comments by multiple local news sites.

Being called “King of mobile phone in Africa,” the company has a robust Africa sales network, with cellphone brand TECNO, itel, Infinix, smart accessories provider Oraimo, electronics and appliances vendor Syinix, and after-sales service brand Carlcare under its umbrella, though it remains quite low profile in its competitive home market.

Only in the first half of 2019, it sold 17 million smartphones and 38 million feature phones globally, by offering a wide range of competitively priced phones. Transsion brands dominated Africa’s feature phone space last year, with a combined unit share of 59%, followed by Nokia with a 10% share. In the smartphone sector, Transsion was also a frontrunner in terms of shipment, claiming over one-third of the market, while Samsung and Huawei ranked second and third with shares of 23% and 10%, respectively, International Data Corporation stats showed.

However, Transsion has been facing challenges when Chinese smartphone makers like Xiaomi, Huawei, and Vivo are coveting this unsaturated market, where smartphone adoption rate is only 34% and is expected to grow to 67% by 2025.