They lost the battle against LG Chem and now SKI is banned from importing or manufacturing certain battery components in the USA for a period of ten years. Deliveries to Ford and VW are, however, excluded for a number of years.
The crime would have taken place in connection with SK Innovation (SKI) employing 77 people who previously worked at LG Chem’s lithium-ion battery division, where the first commercial cells of the bag type were developed for the automotive industry. In 2019, LG Chem sued its competitor, claiming that they had stolen trade secrets in the United States.
The complainant said he had evidence of a conspiracy between his former staff and SKI. A similar lawsuit was filed in South Korea, where LG Chem won in the country’s highest court, reports Electrek. SKI denies the allegations. There have been concerns that the conflict between Korean battery manufacturers would affect supplies to the car industry, and fears have come true – in a way.
For LG Chem also got right in American court, and now the US International Trade Commission has imposed a ten-year ban where SKI is not allowed to bring certain lithium-ion batteries into the country – or manufacture them in the US. This applies to modules, battery cells and other components, reports Nikkei Asia.
– SKI’s total indifference to our warnings regarding intellectual property rights gave us no choice but to file a complaint, said Jong Hyun Kim, CEO of LG Energy Solution.
– As a global leader and technical innovator, we will in future further strengthen our protection of intellectual property rights, he says.
However, the ban contains a parenthesis. Among the models that rely on SKI batteries are Ford’s upcoming electric version of the pickup F-150 and Volkswagen’s electric car ID.4. For the delivery, SKI is building battery factories in the state of Georgia, an investment of 2.7 billion dollars – perhaps not entirely in vain.
The International Trade Commission has made an exception where SKI may supply Ford and VW with certain battery products for the F-150 and cars on VW’s MEB platform for four- and two-year periods, respectively – for the companies’ US-based production. This is so that they have time to find new battery suppliers. Ford is happy to have received a four-year respite, but at the same time states that it is not an easy thing to change battery supplier.
The dispute has also assumed political dimensions. Georgia’s governor, for example, has called on US President Joe Biden to overturn the ruling, as it risks jobs and investment in the state. A possible solution to the dispute is also a settlement between the two battery companies, reports the newsletter Omev.