THE IMPORTANCE OF EXPANDING A COMPANY'S PATENT PORTFOLIO: A REAL EXAMPLE
Storage and vehicle charging systems need to be developed rapidly to keep up with the rapid growth of electric transportation. Companies intend to gain a share of this market by entering different parts of the supply chain. When any part of the technology chain fails, companies' products can be halted production.
MU Ionic Solution Company, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Chemical and UBE Industries, developed the Sol-Rite brand electrolyte in the last decade. A feature of this product is that it improves the charge ability, lifespan, and safety of lithium-ion batteries. Japan's company recently filed a lawsuit against Opel, the German car maker, and CATL, the Chinese giant battery maker, for producing products similar to their registered patents in Germany.
CATL has provided the documentation to the court about the use of its own add-ons that lead to improved performance and enhanced commercial capabilities. In an effort, to turn the court's decision in their favor, Opel and CATL used Nullity action (invalidated the disputed claims) in MU Ionic's patent and eliminated the legal basis of MU Ionic's objection. Litigation of this technology began in 2015 and has continued until 2023.
Opel uses CATL batteries in its Corsa-e and Zafira-e vehicles. Similar experiences can be likely replicated by Opel's larger rivals, such as Volkswagen and BMW.
Even though Opel and CATL ultimately settled their lawsuit alleging non-infringement of MU Ionic's intellectual property rights, it looks like we'll be facing more similar cases in the future as the battery industry grows.