Shown above is the head office SK Innovation in Seoul. The company is building electric vehicle battery factories in Georgia. Photo courtesy of SK Innovation

The amount expected to be multi-million dollars

Korea’s battery giant LG Energy Solution is practically asking for multi-billion-dollar compensation from its cross-city competitor SK Innovation after a recent U.S. ruling.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) concluded in February in favor of LG Energy Solution in a claim that SK Innovation had stolen its 22 trade secrets to develop batteries for electric vehicles.

The trade panel also prohibited SK Innovation’s import or production of lithium-ion batteries in the United States, a big blow to the firm that is constructing $2.6 billion battery factories there.

“Over the past 10 years, we have spent 5.3 trillion won ($4.7 billion) in the research of batteries. The overall costs would be almost 20 trillion won, including facility investment,” LG Energy Solution’s legal department head Han Woong-jae told a recent conference call.

“The ITC verdict indicates that SK Innovation stole our trade secrets to save more than 5 trillion won in the research expenses alone.”

Early this month, ITC disclosed a redacted version of its opinion, noting that it would have taken 10 years for SK Innovation to make battery products independently.

Han did not elaborate on how much LG Energy Solution is demanding in compensation. But he practically confirmed the recent media reports that LG asks for multi-billion dollars while SK offers less than $1 billion.

“The difference between the two companies’ calculation of the damages is billions of dollars,” he said.

SK Innovation hopes the Biden administration has 60 days to review the ITC ruling. But observers expect that the new president would not veto it.

“Even if the ITC verdict is vetoed, damage lawsuits would continue in the U.S. for a long time,” Samsung Securities analyst Cho Hyun-ryul said.

“As the two companies are estimated to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S. a year for the related legal costs, I think that the two will seek an out-of-the-court settlement.”