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SKI and LG Chem reconciled "Apocalypse"

From the perspective of industry insiders, the current LiFePO4 battery industry in my country has established a complete industrial chain, and the technologies, processes, raw materials and other links have basically achieved localization, and some have reached the international leading level. However, the understanding of intellectual property rights of my country’s battery companies needs to be improved. The patent layout is relatively weak.

According to foreign media reports, South Korean lithium battery suppliers SK Innovation and LG Chem reached a settlement recently. The former will pay the latter 2 trillion won (approximately US$1.8 billion) in compensation, including a one-time payment and operating royalties. The two parties agreed to withdraw all legal disputes in the United States and South Korea, and reached a 10-year non-dispute clause. At this point, the two-year "disputes of the century" in the lithium battery industry have come to an end.

With the rapid development of the LiFePO4 battery industry, the above cases have also sounded the alarm for Chinese enterprises, and relevant enterprises urgently need to do a good job in risk investigation and patent layout.

Reconciliation is the result of multiple factors

Both LG Chem and SK Innovation are important suppliers in the US power battery market. Among them, SK Innovation mainly provides power batteries to companies such as Volkswagen, Ford and Hyundai Motors, while LG Chem is a battery supplier for Tesla and General Motors.

The patent dispute between the two companies should start in 2019. That year, LG Chem initiated four lawsuits against the US International Trade Commission (ITC), accusing SK of infringing its patents, and then accusing SK of stealing its trade secrets. In the following two years, the two sides fought many times. In February of this year, ITC made a ruling in favor of LG Chem, imposing a 10-year import ban on SK lithium-ion batteries. SK responded: "It will withdraw from the new Georgia battery factory that is under construction and costing US$2.6 billion."

"The factory will create 6000 jobs for the local area." Insiders told reporters that in the entire litigation process between LG Chem and SK Innovation, there were shadows from the government and auto giants. Because once the sale is banned, not only SKI Innovation but also the above entities will suffer losses.

As of March 31 this year, the incident had a "god reversal" and the ITC ruled that SK Innovation did not infringe LG Chem's battery-related patents.

What needs to be clarified here is that trade secrets and patent infringement are two separate lawsuits. Industry insiders pointed out that the 2 trillion won compensation is for trade secret litigation. Although the investigation of patent infringement is added in the middle, the purpose is to put pressure on each other. "The reversal of the ITC ruling may be due to the early knowledge that the two parties have reached a settlement and the early settlement of the patent infringement case, so that the two companies can live up to their face."

Jiang Tao, deputy general manager of the Data and Consulting Division of Beijing Chaofan Intellectual Property Management Consulting Co., Ltd., pointed out that the reconciliation of the two companies is almost an inevitable result, which is the result of many factors. From a strategic perspective, the LiFePO4 battery import ban is not conducive to the competition between the United States and South Korea in the international new energy market.

Chinese companies lack core patents

The above cases are not unique. With the vigorous development of the new energy vehicle and power battery industries, intellectual property litigation cases of lithium batteries occur from time to time, and it is difficult for companies to obtain evidence and defend their rights.

"In a case, lithium battery manufacturers usually need to notarize the purchase of at least two models, each of which is at least two. The cost is high and the rights protection period is long. The entire case takes about 3 years, which is relative to the replacement cycle of lithium battery products. Severe lag.” Zeng Yuqun, chairman of CATL, once called for strengthening the protection of intellectual property rights of lithium batteries.

From the perspective of industry insiders, the current lithium battery industry in my country has established a complete industrial chain, and the technologies, processes, raw materials and other links have basically achieved localization, and some have reached the international leading level. However, the understanding of intellectual property rights of my country’s battery companies needs to be improved. The patent layout is relatively weak.

"In terms of quantity alone, the number of patent applications in the field of lithium batteries in our country ranks first in the world. What we lack are high-value core patents, which must be technically'occupying the barrier' and legally'able to stand the test'. , The market is'deserving interest'." Jiang Tao pointed out that my country's lithium battery research and development started late, lacking core patents in some basic technologies, especially materials, and being restricted by foreign companies. This situation is still in the research and development of next-generation lithium battery materials. exist. The research and development of advanced materials technology often requires long-term investment and bears the risk of failure, which most companies cannot bear.

In addition, most of the R&D resources are concentrated in scientific research institutes, and scientific research projects are difficult to match the market demand, resulting in a disconnect between the results and the market, and the technology is mainly imitated and improved. Therefore, it is difficult for Chinese enterprises to produce core technologies and corresponding high-quality patents.

It is necessary to strengthen management and continue to innovate

With lessons learned, how can my country's power batteries protect intellectual property rights?

Jiang Tao pointed out that LiFePO4 battery companies should strengthen the attention and management of technical secrets, and learn to use the experience of LG Chem and SK Innovation cases to learn to use trade secret litigation to defend their rights. Conversely, when companies introduce technical talents, they must consider whether there is a risk of infringing on trade secrets. Enterprises must clarify which content is suitable for technical secret protection and which content is suitable for patent protection. For technologies learned through reverse engineering, it is recommended to protect them through patents to minimize potential losses caused by the flow of talents.

"Behind the litigation of enterprises in the field is the huge market interest in the lithium battery field. If there is interest, there will be disputes. In the future, there will be more and more patent and trade secret lawsuits in the lithium battery field." Jiang Tao further stated that LG Chem is a lithium battery. One of the most active patent applicants in the LiFePO4 battery field will not rule out the possibility of relying on its own patent advantages to prevent domestic companies from entering overseas markets, especially those companies with similar technologies. Therefore, domestic companies must do a good job of risk investigation and patent layout in advance.

Jiang Tao emphasized that by making good use of patent information resources, companies can grasp the development trends and trends of the technology under research and accelerate the R&D process. Enterprises should not only be satisfied with patent applications, but should consider entering a new level of "creating a safe and free environment with controllable risks for business operations". For example, in the research and development process, for the purpose of preventing risks, do a good job of technical themes and competitor analysis; combine the results of existing technology searches, focus on research and development projects, carry out core patent planning and layout; appropriately conduct overseas patent applications; improve patent information of technical personnel Application ability, establishment of high-level intellectual property team, etc.

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