Huawei files to trademark mobile OS around the world after US ban

Huawei — the world’s biggest maker of telecoms network gear — has filed for a Hongmeng trademark in countries such as Cambodia, Canada, South Korea and New Zealand. (Reuters)
Updated 13 June 2019
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Huawei files to trademark mobile OS around the world after US ban

  • The move comes after the Trump administration put Huawei on a blacklist last month that barred it from doing business with US tech companies

LIMA/SHANGHAI: China’s Huawei has applied to trademark its “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) in at least nine countries and Europe, data from a UN body shows, in a sign it may be deploying a back-up plan in key markets as US 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 US tech companies such as Alphabet, whose Android OS is used in Huawei’s phones.
Since then, Huawei — the world’s biggest maker of telecoms 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) shows.
It also filed an application in Peru on May 27, according to the country’s anti-trust agency Indecopi.
Huawei has a back-up OS in case it is cut off from US-made software, Richard Yu, CEO of the firm’s consumer division, told German newspaper Die Welt in an interview earlier this year.
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, portable computers to robots and car televisions.
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.
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 over a year, led by US allegations that “back doors” in its routers, switches and other gear could allow China to spy on US 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 offload their devices on worries they would be cut off from Android updates in the wake of the US blacklist.
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.


Nicaragua puffing up status in rarefied world of premium cigars

Updated 29 min 43 sec ago
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Nicaragua puffing up status in rarefied world of premium cigars

  • Nicaraguan cigar exports to the US have increased by 40 percent since 2008
  • Half of town of Esteli is employed in the tobacco industry

ESTELI, Nicaragua: From “rich and full-bodied” to “complex with hints of licorice,” aficionados exhaust the lexicon to capture the essence of Nicaragua’s most highly-prized produce — not wine, but cigars, which are especially popular in the United States.
The recognition turns the vibrant green hills of Esteli, in the troubled Central American country’s northwest, into a hive of activity come harvest time.
Here, 800 meters (2,620 feet) above sea level, half of the population of 110,000 is employed in the tobacco industry — picking, drying or curing, or rolling cigars in factories.
“No one has soil as good for tobacco as Nicaragua,” explains Nestor Plasencia, whose family business is one of the country’s leading cigar exporters, as he sits and savors the sweet aroma of one of their creations.
Nutrient-rich volcanic soil and know-how imported from Cuba more than 50 years ago, as well as a knowledgeable workforce have set Nicaragua apart when it comes to growing flavorful top-quality tobacco.
Apart from Esteli, the two other tobacco-growing regions are the Condega and Jalapa valleys in the north, each with their own distinct soils and minerals.
Part of the lure of Nicaraguan tobacco is that “the same seeds planted in different soils and climatic regions give different flavors,” Plasencia said, between spiralling puffs.
Cuban cigars may easily outsell the lesser-known Nicaraguan product in Europe, but Nicaraguan brands have taken advantage of the crippling US embargo on Havana — in place since 1961 — to sell to the Americans.
Nicaraguan cigar exports to the US have increased by 40 percent since 2008, reaching 140 million cigars in 2018, outstripping the Dominican Republic and Honduras, according to figures from the Cigar Association of America (CAA).
Nicaragua’s industry is a young one — it was started by Cuban exiles who fled Fidel Castro’s revolution in 1959. When the Central American country’s civil war ended at the start of the 1990s, the industry started to flourish.
“My family started in tobacco in Cuba in 1865. Today we operate in Nicaragua and Honduras,” says Plasencia, whose father hails from the Caribbean island.
Today, the country has 70 factories producing more than 5,000 brands, says the director of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco Producers, Wenceslao Castillo.
Karina Rivera, a quality control supervisor at Plasencia Cigars, tests an average of eight cigars a day.
“If I see that it’s not at the level of quality demanded by customers, we report immediately to find out where the problem is,” she said.
Smokers say a lot is going on in a cigar during puffs, tasting richness, balance and complexity — a variety of flavors and aromas that have helped several Nicaraguan brands conquer the US market.
In 2018, American trade magazine Cigar Aficionado named seven Nicaraguan brands in the top 10 of its annual ranking.
As for the Best Cigar of the Year, the “E.P. Carrillo Encore Majestic” is made in the Dominican Republic, but with Nicaraguan tobacco, the magazine says.
“The strength of the Nicaraguan tobacco industry is our focus on quality, which is why we are today the largest exporter of premium cigars to the United States,” Castillo says proudly.
It’s clear that in the rarified world of premium cigars, names are important. To the aficionado, in clubs and the best bars, they trip off the tongue — La Opulencia Toro, La Imperiosa, Villiger La Vencedora Churchill...
“We believe that 60 to 70 percent of our success is due to the way tobacco is dried and the time spent on fermentation and aging — we don’t rush things,” says Castillo.
“The trilogy of this success is the soils, the microclimate and the people, the care they put into their work,” says Plasencia, who runs two factories in the Central American country and exports 15 million cigars a year to the United States.
The cigar industry has had to do more that resist climatic changes to survive.
It’s one of the few to emerge largely unscathed from the political and economic crisis that has rocked Nicaragua for more than a year, after a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrations left more than 325 people dead and forced 62,000 into exile.
It also put 400,000 out of work in an economy that had enjoyed annual 4.0 percent growth, according to the private sector.
“If it weren’t for these factories, Esteli would surely be deserted,” says 43-year-old Silvia Moreno, who has worked in the tobacco industry for half her life.