SEOUL, April 1 (Korea Bizwire) — The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on Thursday made a preliminary ruling in favor of South Korea’s No. 2 battery maker SK Innovation Co. in a patent suit with its local rival LG Energy Solution Ltd., the latest twist in the bitter dispute between the two Korean battery makers.
The ITC said in an initial determination that SK Innovation didn’t infringe upon four U.S. patents on lithium-ion battery technology claimed by LG Energy Solution.
LG Chem Ltd., which owns LG Energy Solution, in April 2019 filed a trade secret suit with the U.S. trade panel against SK Innovation, and five months later, lodged a separate patent infringement suit against its smaller rival over the battery technology.
SK Innovation also filed a patent infringement suit with the ITC against LG Chem in a tit-for-tat battery dispute.
LG Energy Solution, which supplies Tesla and a number of automakers, is the world’s No. 2 EV battery supplier with a share of 23.5 percent, and SK Innovation was in sixth place with a 6 percent share in the global EV market last year, according to SNE Research.
The two Korean makers both focus on pouch battery cells, which are lighter and thinner compared to prismatic and cylindrical cells.
The latest decision comes after the ITC gave a final ruling on Feb. 10 in favor of LG against SK in the trade secret case, issuing a limited 10-year ban on imports of certain lithium-ion batteries by SK.
The preliminary ruling gives some breathing room for SK Innovation, which has been making last-ditch efforts to nullify the ITC ruling, which could jeopardize SK Innovation’s $2.6 billion battery factory currently under construction in Georgia.
If President Joe Biden does not veto the ruling within 60 days or the two companies do not reach a compromise within the presidential review deadline by April 11, it becomes final.
SK has claimed that it does not need LG’s trade secrets as its development and manufacturing method for EV batteries is different from its rival and that it received an unfavorable ITC ruling due to destruction of evidence.
Following the news, shares of SK Innovation on the Seoul bourse jumped over 10 percent in the morning session.
SK Innovation welcomed the ITC’s decision.
“SK Innovation has long developed its own advanced battery technology and expected the ITC would make such a decision,” the company said in a statement. “This preliminary decision acknowledges SK Innovation’s independent (battery) technology.”
LG Energy Solution said it will continue to make efforts to prove SK violated its battery technology patent, saying the ITC’s patent suit is “a completely separate case” from its trade secret case with SK.
The final ruling in the patent case is due on Aug. 2.
Shares of SK Innovation on the Seoul bourse jumped 10.27 percent to 241,500 won, far outperforming the benchmark KOSPI’s 0.85 percent gain.