Two Korean manufacturers of electric vehicle (EV) batteries have recently been at the centre of a trade secret dispute in the US which was concluded with the sealing of a 2 trillion won ($ 1.8 billion) settlement.


LG had filed a complaint in April 2019 against SK Innovations with the US International Trade Commission (ICT), alleging that SK Innovation had misappropriated important electric vehicle battery trade secrets by systematically hiring former LG employees to gain inside information. LG Chem alleged that the unlawful misappropriation of know-how and trade secrets from former employees had cost them over $1 billion in revenue.

ITC decision

In February, the ITC issued a ruling which delivered an important victory to LG. The ITC accepted that SK Innovation had intentionally destroyed evidence of its trade secret theft and ruled that they had violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which legislates against unfair competition.

The Commission issued a limited exclusion order imposing a 10-year ban on SK Innovation to stop the importation, domestic production and sale in the US of certain EV batteries. The order defined some exceptions, but was nevertheless deemed catastrophic for SK Innovation’s EV battery line.

This decision caused a political headache, because SK Innovation had recently started the construction of a multi-billion battery manufacture plant in the US state of Georgia and concluded important deals with OEMs Volkswagen and Ford for the supply of lithium-ion batteries for their electric vehicle lines.

Decisions by the ITC are subject to review by the President of the United States and although disapproval is rare, Biden’s administration was faced with the unpleasant choice of having to contradict the ITC or potentially undermine relationships with two key players of the car industry as well as voters of Georgia, which recently proved to be a a key swing state in Biden’s presidential election.

However, the parties have now agreed a settlement to drop all litigations, but with SK Innovation agreeing to make payments to LG totalling 2 trillion won ($ 1.8 billion) as a lump sum and as royalties over a six year period.  This will enable both parties to co-exist and continue with their commercial plans.


This case is a good example of how trade secrets can prove to be invaluable assets for IP owners. LG had also filed a patent-related claim with the ITC citing the alleged infringement by SK Innovations of 4 patents related to EV batteries, but the ICT ruled in April 2021 that there was no patent infringement. It was only the trade secret dispute that eventually allowed LG to get the remedies which they were seeking and consequently sealed the lucrative settlement deal with their competitor.

There is a tension in trade secret law between allowing engineers to use their basic skills when they move to new jobs to protect their right to make a living, but also to protect companies from unfair competition if their trade secrets are revealed. Action can be taken to remedy theft or abuse of trade secrets so long as reasonable steps are taken to keep the relevant information secret and that the relevant contracts with employees, directors and contractors are carefully worded.


At Scintilla, we help innovative companies get a grip on their intellectual property. Our unique commercial approach combines registration of patents and trade marks with strategic input so that IP can be a springboard for business growth. If you would like to discuss your IP needs, do contact us or book a free initial consultation!