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Buoyed by patent suit victory against LG, SK says will fight till the end to save name

SK Innovation‘s battery plant under construction in Georgia (SK Innovation)
SK Innovation‘s battery plant under construction in Georgia (SK Innovation)
SK Innovation, apparently buoyed by its recent battery patent victory at the US trade court against LG Energy Solution, reiterated Wednesday that it will “respond sternly” to any attempt by its rival to “hamper its business with legal issues.”

Last week, the US International Trade Commission made a preliminary ruling that cleared SKI of alleged infringement of LGES’ patents related to lithium ion battery separators.

The ruling provided a much-needed boost to SKI, Korea’s third and the world’s sixth largest battery maker, which has engaged in an all-out campaign to reverse a 10-year business ban imposed by the same court in February, in a separate but related case that involves the same foe -- LGES. This separate case revolves around claims that SKI had stolen LGES’s trade secrets and misappropriated them.

“Following a Korean court’s ruling (years ago on the same claim raised by LGES), the ITC has judged (LG’s) patents to be invalid or not violated by SKI. This is tantamount to an acknowledgement of SKI’s original battery technologies, different from those of LGES,” the firm said in reference to last week’s ruling.

By the Korean court ruling, the firm was referring to a case LG filed in 2011 with the Patent Court of Korea, accusing SK of having violated its separator technology patents. In 2013, the court also cleared SK of the accusations.

SKI claimed that should the ITC have tried “substantial verification” of the alleged secret theft and misappropriation, the authority would have made a very different decision. The firm, though, admits fault in its deletion of related documents, which effectively hindered the court’s fact-finding efforts.

SK Innovation is pinning hopes on President Joe Biden to take the unusual step of overriding the ITC action. A key factor to be considered is SKI‘s massive EV battery production base in the state of Georgia. A presidential veto would save thousands of jobs there, as well as provide a chance to jumpstart the local economy and secure a stable battery supply for American EV makers, SKI says. Biden has until April 11 to decide whether or not to intervene.

Dimming the prospect of any dramatic last-minute settlement with LGES, SK Innovation ramped up its rhetoric against the rival, saying it will play “fair and square” in every suit LGES has started “until the end.”

By Song Su-hyun  (