LG Chem takes SK Innovation to court again

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LG Chem takes SK Innovation to court again

LG Chem sued SK Innovation in the U.S. District Court in Delaware Thursday and filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) for violating patents for electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

The case is LG Chem’s latest move in a legal dispute against SK Innovation that started last April, currently ongoing in courts in Korea and the United States. LG Chem and SK Innovation are leading EV battery manufacturers, ranking No. 1 and No. 3 domestically and both within the global top 10 list by shipping.

While LG Chem’s previous accusations against SK Innovation mainly regarded stealing trade secrets, this is the first time it has filed a suit on specific patents. The defendants in the suit are SK Innovation and its U.S. battery unit, SK Battery America, which was incorporated in Delaware.

In detail, LG Chem’s complaint to the ITC is aimed at halting imports of SK Innovation’s battery cells, modules and production equipment to the United States. SK Innovation has an EV battery plant in Georgia which it is currently filling with equipment to mass produce batteries for Volkswagen from 2022.

The lawsuit LG Chem filed in the Delaware district court claims damages and calls for its patents to be protected.

LG Chem alleges SK Innovation “unrightfully took advantage of” five patents - three related to the “safety reinforced separator” and two on lithium-ion battery cathodes. Both are core components in EV batteries.

“All five are ‘original patents’ that are hard to bypass for making rechargeable batteries,” LG Chem explained.

In particular, the safety reinforced separator is a critical piece of technology that helped LG Chem win contracts with global carmakers, the company said. Developed in 2004, it involves attaching a ceramic layer to separators to enhance durability and heat resistance.

LG Chem holds more than 800 patents worldwide related to safety reinforced separators. It reported China’s Amperex Technology Limited to the ITC in 2017. The case was recently settled when the Chinese firm agreed to a licensing contract.

In August, SK Innovation sued LG Chem and LG Electronics, a sister affiliate under LG Group, in the U.S. Federal Court in Delaware for infringing its patents in EV batteries. It also filed a complaint to the U.S. ITC.

SK Innovation released a statement Friday saying it will thoroughly prepare legal responses to the suit.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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