The US’ international trade watchdog is investigating allegations that Korean battery maker SK Innovation was involved in the theft of trade secrets from manufacturing rival LG Chem.
The US International Trade Commission (USITC) probe follows a lawsuit filed in the US by LG Chem and its US manufacturing subsidiary, LGCMI, whose pouch-type lithium-ion battery tech underpins what the company said is a “significant share” of the American electric vehicle market.
SK Innovation is alleged to have gained access to the trade secrets by hiring 77 “highly-skilled and experienced employees” from LG Chem’s lithium-ion battery division. LG Chem further alleges that an internal audit of company communications and other data “revealed that these employees openly conspired not only to steal LG Chem’s trade secrets but to leverage that information in employment considerations before SK Innovation”.
LG Chem’s complaint also alleges violations of US import tariff laws relating to the sale of “certain lithium-ion batteries, battery cells, battery modules, battery packs, components thereof, and processes therefore that misappropriate trade secrets”.
LG Chem is asking the USITC to issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders. However, the USITC said it had “not yet made any decision on the merits of the case”.
The case will be assigned to one of the USITC’s administrative law judges, who will hold an initial evidentiary hearing.
SK Innovation has expressed regret over legal moves against the company in the US. The company said in a statement its battery business would “grasp the situation and clarify allegations raised by LG Chem through legal procedures”.