SK Innovation scores win in patent battle with LG Energy Solution
The trade commission ruled in an initial determination Thursday “there is no violation” of intellectual property rights by SK Innovation of LG Energy Solution's battery technology.
It was the first time the U.S. trade panel ruled against LG Energy Solution in the dispute over electric vehicle (EV) battery technology.
The two companies have been engaged in a legal battle over trade secrets since 2019. In April 2019, LG Chem, which owns LG Energy Solution, filed a complaint with the ITC accusing SK Innovation of stealing trade secrets. In response, SK Innovation filed a complaint against LG for stealing its patents. Then LG filed the same type of complaint against SK.
Thursday's preliminary ruling involves the patent complaint by LG against SK Innovation.
Of the four battery-related patents that LG claimed SK had infringed on, three were determined by the ITC to be invalid patents. The final one, related to a battery separator, was determined to be valid but the commission said that SK didn’t infringe on it.
“We regret the latest ITC determination, but respect it,” said LG Energy Solution in a statement.
“Through the remaining legal process, we plan to prove that the patents are valid and have been infringed upon.”
SK Innovation hailed the ITC’s decision. Previous decisions have not gone its way.
In February, the ITC ruled in favor of LG in the trade secret dispute, effectively banning SK from doing any battery business in the U.S. for the next 10 years.
SK's last hope is for President Joe Biden to exercise a veto right overturning the ruling. His deadline is April 11.
If the veto right is not exercised, SK Innovation made it clear that it would seriously consider leaving the U.S. EV battery business and scrapping a $2.6 billion planned investment in Georgia, which was supposed to eventually create 2,600 permanent jobs.
According to SK Innovation, it is already studying exit strategies from the U.S. including how to handle existing facilities in Georgia.
A financial settlement between the companies is not considered likely by analysts.
LG Energy Solution is reportedly demanding at least 3 trillion won ($2.65 billion) in settlement money while SK Innovation is only willing to pay 1 trillion won.
“The preliminary ruling by the ITC is meaningful because it means SK’s battery technology has been recognized for its originality,” SK Innovation said.
SK Innovation's shares closed at 241,500 won on Thursday, up 10.27 percent from the previous closing price.
LG Chem's shares price closed 1.74 percent higher than the previous trading day.
The ITC’s final ruling on the patent infringement case is expected in August.
BY JIN EUN-SOO [email@example.com]