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U.S. Business Huawei files to trademark Hongmeng mobile OS around the world after U.S. ban

China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has applied to trademark its Hongmeng operating system (OS) in at least nine countries and Europe, data from a United Nations body show, in a sign it may be deploying a backup plan in key markets as U.S. sanctions threaten its business model.

The move comes after the Trump administration put Huawei on a blacklist last month that barred it from doing business with U.S. tech companies such as Alphabet Inc., whose Android OS is used in Huawei’s phones.

A senior U.S. official on Thursday said Huawei’s clients should be asking themselves if the Chinese firm can meet its commitments given its dependence on U.S. companies.

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Huawei – the world’s biggest maker of telecommunications network gear – has filed for a Hongmeng trademark in countries such as Cambodia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand, data from the UN World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) show.

It also filed an application in Peru on May 27, according to Indecopi, the country’s antitrust agency.

Huawei has a backup OS in case it is cut off from U.S.-made software, Richard Yu, chief executive of the firm’s consumer division, told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview earlier this year.

The U.S. official, meeting with officials in Europe to warn against buying Huawei equipment for next-generation mobile networks, said only time would tell if Huawei could diversify.

“It is a fair question to ask if one decides to go with Huawei and Huawei continues to be on our entity list, will Huawei be able to actually deliver what it promises any particular client,” Jonathan Fritz, the U.S. State Department’s director for international communications policy, told reporters in Brussels.

The firm, also the world’s second-largest maker of smartphones, has not yet revealed details about its OS.

Its applications to trademark the OS show Huawei wants to use Hongmeng for gadgets ranging from smartphones and portable computers to robots and car televisions.

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At home, Huawei applied for a Hongmeng trademark in August last year and received a nod last month, according to a filing on China’s intellectual-property administration’s website.

Huawei declined to comment.

CONSUMER CONCERNS

According to WIPO data, the earliest Huawei applications to trademark the Hongmeng OS outside China were made on May 14 to the European Union Intellectual Property Office and South Korea, or right after the United States flagged it would stick Huawei on an export blacklist.

Huawei has come under mounting scrutiny for more than a year, led by U.S. allegations that “back doors” in its routers, switches and other gear could allow Beijing to spy on U.S. communications.

The company has denied its products pose a security threat.

However, consumers have been spooked by how matters have escalated, with many looking to off-load their devices on worries they would be cut off from Android updates in the wake of the U.S. blacklist.

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Huawei’s hopes to become the world’s top-selling smartphone maker in the fourth quarter this year have now been delayed, a senior Huawei executive said this week.

Peru’s Indecopi has said it needs more information from Huawei before it can register a trademark for Hongmeng in the country, where there are some 5.5 million Huawei phone users.

The agency did not give details on the documents it had sought, but said Huawei had up to nine months to respond.

Huawei representatives in Peru declined to provide immediate comment, while the Chinese embassy in Lima did not respond to requests for comment.

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