Batteries, Emissions, Energy Storage

EV battery companies set to battle over trade secrets in court

The U.S. manufacturing subsidiary of a South Korean electric vehicle battery company is suing another South Korean firm for alleged theft of trade secrets.

The LG Chem unit filed a pair of lawsuits against SK Innovation. Brought jointly by LGCMI, the US-subsidiary, and its parent corporation, the suits were filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court of Delaware.

The suits allege that the defendants accessed trade secrets by SK Innovation’s hiring of 77 “highly skilled” employees in the lithium ion battery division of LG Chem, which develops pouch-type Li-ion batteries for automobiles. This technology has been adopted by automotive manufacturers worldwide as well as other consumer electronics applications.

These employees include dozens of engineers involved in the research and development, manufacturing and assembly, and quality assurance testing of Li-ion batteries, including the newest and most advanced generation battery technology, according to LG Chem. The lawsuits allege that a significant number of these workers engaged in the theft of LG Chem’s trade secrets to benefit SK Innovation in the development and manufacturing of pouch-type Li-ion batteries, of which LG Chem is the world’s leading supplier.

“SK Innovation has taken LG Chem’s highly skilled engineers and other critical business services staff, thereby gaining access to LG Chem’s highly valued lithium ion battery trade secrets. As a direct consequence of that theft, SK Innovation has begun manufacturing and selling imitation Li-ion batteries to LG Chem’s customers and prospects across the world,” Hak Cheol Shin, Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of LG Chem, said. “SK Innovation’s blatant disregard for the rule of law damages the integrity of the free market and disrespects the innovators whose blood and sweat created a technology that’s proven vital to a greener world.”

LG Chem and SK Innovation are no strangers to court battles. SK won a patent lawsuit against LG seven years ago in Korea, according to reports.

Last year, SK Innovation announced it was building a $1.67 billion EV battery manufacturing plant in Georgia. LG Chem has a battery manufacturing facility in Michigan.

Various financial forecasts predict that the EV battery market could generated between $2 billion and $8 billion in the U.S. by 2022. A report by Accenture earlier this month estimated that the anticipated wave of EV adoption could provide a $2 trillion economic opportunity for utilities by 2040.