LG, SK have crossed the Ru­bi­con in EV bat­tery feud

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Nam Hyun-woo [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

LG Chem and SK In­no­va­tion have crossed the point of no re­turn in their es­ca­lat­ing feud over recharge­able bat­ter­ies for elec­tric ve­hi­cles (EVs) af­ter po­lice con­ducted a search of the of­fices of the lat­ter, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try an­a­lysts, Wed­nes­day.

The two com­pa­nies are in a le­gal bat­tle in the United States, ac­cus­ing each other of em­ployee poach­ing and patent in­fringe­ment, re­spec­tively, but the fight has spread to Korea. Of­fi­cials said a meet­ing be­tween LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol and SK In­no­va­tion CEO Kim Jun at least pro­vided a slim chance for fu­ture talks, but the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into LG Chem’s ac­cu­sa­tion has killed that pos­si­bil­ity.

“So far our stance has been ad­dress­ing the dis­pute through talks, be­cause nei­ther SK In­no­va­tion nor LG Chem want to spend a huge amount on le­gal costs,” an SK In­no­va­tion of­fi­cial said.

“Since the po­lice search took place abruptly, we have yet to de­cide whether to change this stance and be more ac­tive in fight­ing LG Chem’s claims, but our se­nior man­age­ment is con­sid­er­ing this, given LG Chem’s lit­i­ga­tion is aimed at our em­ploy­ees too.”

The re­marks came af­ter the Seoul Metropoli­tan Po­lice Agency searched SK In­no­va­tion’s head­quar­ters in Jongno-gu, down­town Seoul, Tues­day, over LG Chem’s ac­cu­sa­tion that it had has stolen se­cret in­for­ma­tion on EV bat­ter­ies.

LG Chem made the news pub­lic by re­veal­ing the de­tailed charges it was lev­el­ling against SK In­no­va­tion in a lengthy press re­lease. In it, LG Chem said it filed a com­plaint with po­lice in May, claim­ing SK In­no­va­tion had vi­o­lated the Act on Pre­ven­tion of Divul­gence and Pro­tec­tion of In­dus­trial Tech­nol­ogy through em­ployee poach­ing.

“The ri­val com­pany (SK In­no­va­tion) used our cor­po­rate se­crets and car­ried out ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” LG Chem said in the re­lease. “Through th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties, SK In­no­va­tion has dam­aged the fun­da­men­tals of fair mar­ket com­pe­ti­tion.”

An LG Chem of­fi­cial said, “Our stance is clear that we can talk when SK In­no­va­tion makes an apol­ogy and of­fers com­pen­sa­tion,” and the com­pany will do “what­ever is best for the com­pany’s in­ter­est.”

Be­fore LG re­vealed the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, SK In­no­va­tion is­sued a state­ment and stressed that there was no il­le­gal­ity in­volved in hir­ing for­mer LG Chem em­ploy­ees, say­ing it of­fered them jobs them in open re­cruit­ing ses­sions.

In the state­ment, SK said it wanted to ad­dress this is­sue in talks with LG Chem, but the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and LG’s dis­clo­sure ap­par­ently changed this.

Their dis­pute was ig­nited in April, when LG Chem filed law­suits with the U.S. In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mis­sion (ITC) and a U.S. court against SK In­no­va­tion for al­legedly steal­ing con­fi­den­tial busi­ness in­for­ma­tion through planned em­ployee poach­ing.

In re­sponse, SK In­no­va­tion filed patent in­fringe­ment law­suits against LG Chem and its U.S. sub­sidiary, LG Chem Michi­gan, with the ITC and a U.S. court, and against LG Elec­tron­ics with an­other U.S. court, Sept. 3.

In the process, LG Chem has been de­mand­ing SK In­no­va­tion apol­o­gize and pro­vide com­pen­sa­tion. SK In­no­va­tion has been re­fus­ing to do so and wanted to ad­dress the feud with talks to avoid “dam­age to the en­tire do­mes­tic bat­tery in­dus­try.”

As the dis­pute is es­ca­lat­ing, in­dus­try of­fi­cials said a res­o­lu­tion through talks was un­likely.

“This shows the com­pa­nies are shar­ing no com­mon ground in han­dling the is­sue, and there is no turn­ing back,” a se­nior of­fi­cial at a do­mes­tic bat­tery com­pany said. “Given LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol’s prag­matic and busi­ness-ori­ented man­age­ment style, SK’s logic of sav­ing the do­mes­tic bat­tery in­dus­try will not work at all.”

LG Chem CEO Shin Hak-cheol, left, and SK In­no­va­tion CEO Kim Jun

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Korea, Republic

© PressReader. All rights reserved.