LG Chem ups game in SK Innovation tit-for-tat

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LG Chem ups game in SK Innovation tit-for-tat

The battle between LG Chem and SK Innovation over alleged trade secret theft continues, with each side digging in, the two going back and forth with claims and LG Chem producing images it insists proves what it alleges.

On Thursday, LG Chem reiterated its accusations against SK Innovation. It said that the rival had stolen the information in the course of employee recruitment. The statement came one day after SK Innovation rebutted earlier claims from LG Chem. It said that the employment process “was conducted in good faith.”

The drama all got started earlier this week when LG Chem, the country’s largest battery maker, said it was taking its complaints against SK Innovation to the U.S. International Trade Commission. It added that it was suing the company in the U.S. District Court of Delaware.

LG Chem said that SK Innovation hired 76 of its battery employees and that trade secrets were exposed through the employment process. The company offered up a captured image of an application form used in the hiring process. The form asks for information about projects undertaken at previous employers, duration of the work and number of coworkers. Candidates can also include names of coworkers and names of project leaders.

“In the application process, LG employees downloaded as many as 1,900 documents containing key trade secrets from the company’s system,” LG Chem had said Wednesday.

SK Innovation responded, saying it was regrettable that LG Chem risked national interest by filing in the United States. It also said it was “doing business based on fair competition.”

According to a spokesperson from SK Innovation, the form was drawn up in consultation with outside human resources agencies.

“It’s not mandatory for applicants to write down all the names,” she said, adding they are mostly used for references.

LG Chem was not satisfied. It insisted on Thursday that the form is not at all “general” in any industry and is made with intention of acquiring inside information in the process.

On the regrets expressed by SK Innovation, LG said it was “playing by fair rules, and protecting copyright in favor of national interest.”

As for filing a suit abroad, LG said it is “an obvious decision considering the car battery market is much larger in overseas markets.”

SK Innovation maintains it will explain whatever necessary through the legal process and also continue to work towards expanding its business.

Though a late-comer to the industry, the battery maker has been aggressively expanding its production capacity over the past few years.

The escalated rivalry could deal a big blow to their businesses, especially as LG Chem has requested the ITC halt SK Innovation battery imports.

BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]
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