Shown above the artist’s rendering of SK Innovation’s battery factory in Georgia. SK has spent billions of dollars building the facility, but it runs the risk of being prohibited from rolling out products due to the ruling of the International Trade Commission. Photo courtesy of SK Innovation

ITC rules in favor of SK in round 2

Korea’s SK Innovation defeated its cross-city rival LG Energy Solution in a battery patent conflict as the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of the former this week.

In an initial determination, the U.S. trade panel refused to accept LG’s claims that SK infringed on its intellectual property rights in electric vehicle battery technology.

LG has claimed that SK violated four patents related to its rechargeable battery technology. ITC ruled that only one of the four patents at issue is valid as to its patent, and SK did not violate it.

SK welcomed the decision and said that the ITC acknowledged its technical prowess. LG countered that it will try to overturn the preliminary verdict.

SK’s victory marks a new phase between the long-lasting battle between the two competitors. In early 2019, LG filed a complaint with the ITC, accusing SK of stealing its trade secrets.

Earlier this year, the ITC sided with LG, banning SK from exporting lithium-ion battery products to the United States or churning out them in the country for the next decade.

The ruling frustrated SK, which has spent multi-billion dollars constructing electric vehicle battery factories in Georgia.

Imminent decision of Biden administration

In this climate, SK has desperately requested the Biden Administration to veto the ITC verdict. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. government will do so before the deadline of April 11.

SK Innovation would hope that this week’s ruling of the ITC would encourage the veto, but watchers point out that the two issues are not directly related.

“The theft of trade secrets has little to do with the patent brawl. Accordingly, the latest ITC judgment does not likely affect the veto decision,” HMC Investment & Securities analyst Kang Dong-jin said.

“In addition, the ITC came up with its final ruling on the trade secret issues, while that on patent violation is just a preliminary one.”

NH Investment & Securities analyst Ko Jung-woo agreed, noting, “It is impossible to predict how the Biden administration will decide and how this week’s ITC decision will affect it.”