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SK Innovation accused of spoiling evidence

Nov 15,2019
LG Chem reported SK Innovation to the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) for spoiling evidence, seeking for a quick ruling to close the case.

The two companies have been fighting an all-out war on both sides of the Pacific over intellectual property of electric vehicle (EV) batteries since April. LG Chem and SK Innovation are the first and third EV battery suppliers in Korea.

LG made the very first move in April when it reported SK to the ITC, alleging SK had stolen trade secrets on lithium-ion batteries in the process of recruiting former employees since 2017. The ITC launched an investigation into LG’s complaint in May.

LG’s most recent complaint to the ITC stated SK violated its “duty to preserve evidence” and committed “civil contempt” as the company did not comply with an ITC data request. LG asked the ITC for “an order for default judgment” against SK and approval that the rival had used LG’s trade secrets.

If the ITC accepts the request, it will rule against SK without going through the process of “initial determination,” explained LG. Skipping this process would speed up the announcement of a final determination by a few months.

If that happens, SK will have to halt imports of EV batteries, parts and manufacturing equipment to the United States, where it has an EV battery plant under construction in Georgia.

LG’s 67-page complaint and list of 94 documents were shared on the ITC website on Wednesday. The company claimed SK internally sent out instructions to EV-battery-related departments pinpointing which documents and emails should be erased. Orders to destroy evidence were sent since April, according to LG.

It also argued that SK did not abide by ITC orders to hand over all documents that may potentially contain information owned by LG Chem and also did not include an expert from LG Chem in the process, as the ITC had ordered.

In a brief statement on Thursday, SK Innovation said that it “is fully committing to responding to ongoing investigations, contrary to its opponent that’s trying to force the suit in its favor by rigging public opinion.”

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]