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LG Chem’s beef with SK Innovation probed

May 31,2019
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will investigate whether SK Innovation stole trade secrets from LG Chem in the process of recruiting talent.

The ITC said in a release Wednesday that it will launch its investigative efforts when the case is assigned to one of the ITC’s administrative law judges.

“The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time,” the commission said in a statement. “Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.”

Late last month, LG Chem filed a complaint with the ITC and requested the commission order imports of batteries made by SK Innovation to be stopped.

LG Chem alleges SK Innovation violated a tariff act in importing and selling certain lithium-ion batteries, battery cells, battery modules, battery packs, components and processes by misappropriating trade secrets, the ITC said.

LG Chem and its branch in Holland, Michigan, filed the complaint against SK Innovation and its U.S. branch in Atlanta, Georgia.

Korea’s largest battery maker by shipments also sued its rival in the U.S. District Court of Delaware. SK Innovation’s U.S. battery arm is located in Delaware.

LG Chem welcomed the announcement, saying it hopes the commission will shed light on its rival’s unfair infiltration of its trade secrets.

The battle started when LG Chem accused SK Innovation of hiring 76 of its employees and unlawfully acquiring trade secrets, citing a captured image of an application form used in the hiring process.

The form asked each applicant for information on their previously undertaken projects, duration of the work and number of coworkers and project leaders, including their names.

SK Innovation responded that it was “doing business based on fair competition,” adding the problematic form was drawn up in consultation with outside human resources agencies.

LG Chem rebutted that the form was not “general” for any industry and was intentionally used to extract inside information.

SK Innovation later responded it didn’t need its rival’s technology or trade secrets as it has a different way of producing batteries.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]