17 February 2020Sarah Morgan

USITC ruling raises prospect of SK Innovation EV battery ban

South Korean battery maker LG Chem has been handed an early victory in its dispute with rival SK Innovation over battery technology for electric vehicles.

The US International Trade Commission (ITC) sided with LG Chem in a preliminary ruling on Friday, February 14, finding that SK Innovation, which supplies automakers Hyundai Motor Group, BAIC Group and Daimler, had misappropriated LG Chem’s trade secrets.

In April last year, LG Chem filed a complaint with the ITC and a lawsuit at the US District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging that SK Innovation hired 77 of its “highly-skilled and experienced” employees from the lithium-ion battery division of LG Chem.

These employees allegedly stole LG Chem’s trade secrets relating to the Li-ion battery (the world’s first commercial pouch-type battery for automobiles) to benefit SK innovation in the development of its own Li-ion batteries.

The ITC’s final determination, expected in October, could see a ban on US imports of SK Innovation's battery cells, modules, packs, and related parts/materials, which infringe on LG Chem's trade secrets.

In its statement, LG Chem claimed that SK Innovation had “ordered the deletion of relevant data that would be evidence” in the dispute. LG Chem alleged it had discovered that SK Innovation had proceeded to destroy 34,000 files and emails.

Subsequently, on November 5, 2019, LG Chem appealed for a default judgment. Now, according to LG Chem, the case will bypass the hearing scheduled for early March and instead proceed straight to the ITC’s final determination in October.

In a statement shared with Korean news outlets, SK Innovation expressed regret that its arguments were not fully acknowledged by the ITC.

“Only after we receive the official judgment from ITC we will know the specific reason why they have decided on the default judgment,” SK Innovation said, adding that it would review the judgment and present its objections.

SK Innovation filed its own suits against LG Chem in 2019, alleging patent infringement. These cases are ongoing.

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More on this story

30 April 2019   South Korean battery maker LG Chem and its US subsidiary are suing a competitor for alleged trade secrets theft.
22 February 2021   Automaker Ford is calling on South Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem to settle a dispute with one of its key suppliers, SK Innovation.