Motorola has filed a lawsuit accusing China's Huawei Technologies of alleged theft of trade secrets in cellular networking gear.

The complaint was filed in U.S. district court in Northern Illinois, claiming Huawei worked with former employees to get detailed confidential information. The employees named in the suit no longer work at Motorola, but they include one executive, Shaowei Pan, who is now listed as chief technology officer at Lemko, a defendant in the suit based in Motorola's hometown of Schaumburg, Ill.

"Huawei, which has an agreement with Motorola allowing that company to resell Huawei's wireless equipment, has only recently learned of the amended Motorola complaint," Huawei said. "Based on our review of the complaint so far, the complaint is groundless and utterly without merit."

Huawei says it has no relationship with Lemko other than a reseller agreement. "Huawei will vigorously defend itself against baseless allegations," the company said. "Moreover, as an active and significant player in global standards-setting bodies, Huawei has great respect for the rights of intellectual property holders and will with equal vigor protect its own hard-earned intellectual property rights."

A Lemko representative was not immediately available for comment.

Revelations of the lawsuit came after Motorola announced an agreement earlier this week to sell its networks business to Nokia Siemens Networks. The acquisition will make Nokia Siemens the world's No. 2 network equipment maker, displacing Huawei in that spot.

At the time, Yankee Group Principal Analyst Ken Rehbehn called the move a "blow" to Huawei, which has struggled for years to expand its footprint in North America. "While Huawei may have made expansion in the U.S. a strategic priority, this loss significantly limits its ultimate reach in the region's mobile equipment market," he said.

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