The South Korean government has indicated that it might intervene in the legal dispute between LG Chem and SK Innovation over electric car battery patents, saying it was “inappropriate” for local companies to file suits against each other in foreign courts, according to industry sources on Sept. 9.
Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yoon-mo said at a recent parliamentary SME committee meeting that instead of letting the firms fight in an offshore court, the government would do its best to try and find a more productive solution.
His remarks were to answer questions from committee chairman Lee Jong-koo on whether the minister is willing to intervene.
This is the first time the government publicly spoke up on the issue.
Critics, however, believe it’s inappropriate for the ministry to intervene, especially when it was the Trade Ministry that helped LG file the suit with the International Trade Commission by allowing permission for exporting key battery technology. Other sources also pointed out it won’t be easy to resolve the issue.
In June this year, the deputy trade minister called in executives at both LG Chem and SK Innovation to try and strike a truce, but sources close to the matter say LG was too keen on the lawsuit and wouldn’t back down.
Two months earlier in April, LG Chem filed a pair of lawsuits with the ITC and a US court against SK Innovation for allegedly stealing confidential business information through employee poaching regarding the batteries that SK Innovation's EV batteries supplied to Volkswagen. The LG unit is demanding SK to issue an apology and to compensate for the damages.
On Sept. 3, SK Innovation countersued by filing patent infringement lawsuits against LG Chem in the US to ban the sale of LG's electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
SK Group previously attempted to arrange a meeting between the two group owners, but LG reportedly refused.
One source said the government may not stand by and watch if the lawsuit ends up undermining the local battery sector.
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