SK unit wins patent suit, rushes into EV batteries

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SK unit wins patent suit, rushes into EV batteries

SK Innovation said it won its suit to nullify a patent claimed by LG Chem, a move that will help it accelerate its development of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The company said the Korea Intellectual Property Tribunal issued a ruling on Thursday that LG Chem’s Lithium-ion Battery Separator (LiBS), a core material for lithium-ion batteries, does not appear to be any different in function or effectiveness from a similar product made by SK. As such, it said, there are sufficient grounds to warrant nullifying LG’s patent.

In late 2004, SK became the first Korean company and the third in the world to develop LiBS. One year later, it built a plant in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, and started production. LG Chem filed a patent infringement suit last December, claiming that its Safety Reinforced Separator technology was being illegally used by SK to produce LiBS.

SK fought back by asking the Korea Intellectual Property Office to revoke LG’s patent for the technology, insisting that SK is producing LiBS based on an independently developed technology, or its so-called Ceramic Coated Separator.

“LG Chem filed the suit in order to keep SK Innovation, a newcomer in the EV battery market, under check,” an industry insider said.

In 2007, SK was embroiled in an unexpected legal dispute with Japanese-based Tonen over patent infringement. SK won the case after three years and continued producing the material as it built four more plants.

With this latest obstacle removed, SK aims to speed up its development of EV batteries. The company signed a contract with German auto parts maker Continental to set up a joint venture to co-develop EV batteries last month. The market expects the partnership to produce the world’s highest quality EV batteries. SK plans to soon start operating a 200-megawatt-hour battery plant in Seosan, South Chungcheong, which will produce batteries for 10,000 20-kilowatt-hour EV vehicles.

By Song Su-hyun [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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