Patently untrue: Xiaomi and Huawei dispute over foldable phone design

Chinese smartphone makers Xiaomi and Huawei have gone head-to-head over whether Xiaomi has copied Huawei’s design of the hinge from its foldable phone. Starting with a veiled attack from a Huawei senior executive, the dispute has become a hot topic amongst Chinese netizens after Xiaomi issued an official statement.

On 9 December, Yu Chengdong, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group made a veiled comment regarding Xiaomi’s foldable hinge design. Without revealing names, Yu joked that “some competitors” just copy Huawei’s patented dual rotating water drop hinge and call it the “dragon bone” hinge. However, it is an obvious dig, as the dragon bone hinge is Xiaomi’s patented hinge design.

After it was picked up by the media on 11 December, Xiaomi made an official statement on the comment the day after. The statement clarified that it had applied for the dragon bone hinge patent on 18 September 2020 and received the patent on 5 January 2021. Huawei’s dual-rotating water drop hinge design, though filed in 2019, was publicly disclosed on 18 June 2021. There was no access for it to copy the design. Also, the dragon bone design features a “three-level rod, five-component, seven-low-friction design” while Huawei’s hinge has a “two-level rod, three-component, four-low-friction design” so there really isn’t a resemblance. The statement also asked Yu to stop smearing others and misleading the public with his “patently untrue” comment.

On the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo, the topic “Xiaomi blasts Yu Chengdong” (#小米炮轰余承东#) reached number 5 on the Hot Search list with 260 million views. Many users online feel that Yu is in the wrong here with his factual inaccuracies, citing publicly available patent figures and timelines mentioned by Xiaomi. Others feel that Xiaomi was forced to respond to Yu’s attack, and saying it “blasted” Yu is unfair to the company. With the foldable phone market growing 175% year-on-year in Q3 2023, the design dispute is only a snippet of the battle for dominance in the market.


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