South Korea’s rival battery-makers LG Chem and SK Innovation, who are the suppliers to leading automakers such as Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors, are caught in a growing row in the United States as the quest to produce jobs complicates an ongoing legal fight.
Last year, LG Chem took legal action against smaller rival SK Innovation over alleged stealing of commercial secrets, seeking to prohibit SK from producing battery cells in the United States and from importing the parts to make the cells.
In February, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) made a an initial ruling in LG Chem’s favor, with a final decision expected in October.
SK Innovation and LG Chem refused to comment.
LG Chem, which prepares to build a battery factory with General Motors in Ohio, secured backing from Ohio’s governor, who said the ITC has to “remedy SKI’s unfair competition,” the documents revealed, dating from May and seen on Tuesday showed.
He said a failure to do so could be a negative for the investment by LG Chem and GM that will bring manufacturing jobs back to the US, ultimately employing around 1,100 American employees.
“SKI is alleged of stealing LG Chem’s intellectual property and using it to directly compete against workers in Ohio,” said Mike DeWine, Ohio governor, in a statement to the ITC in May.
SK Innovation’s clients Volkswagen and Ford say a potential sales ban would be harmful to EV battery supply and to jobs just when the COVID-19 pandemic has created large-scale crises related to unemployment and economic damage.
“To avoid a catastrophic supply disruption,” the commission should permit SK Innovation to manufacture EV batteries in SK’s proposed U.S. factory located in Georgia, Volkswagen stated in its public interest comments to the ITC in May.
“The risk to such U.S. jobs is especially unacceptable in light of current economic conditions caused by COVID-19,” Ford stated in its comments to the ITC.