FRANKFURT/BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- German chemicals firm BASF said today it has sued Belgian specialty materials group Umicore in the United States for infringing two patents related to components for lithium-ion batteries.
BASF has been investing hundreds of millions of euros to become a major force in battery chemicals, a market dominated by Asian players, betting on growing demand for electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion batteries.
The German company said it had filed suits against Umicore with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and a federal district court in Wilmington, Del., in late February.
According to the court filings, it accused Umicore of selling battery technology, certain lithium metal oxide cathode materials, that was developed by the University of Chicago Argonne and then licensed to BASF in 2009.
It also accused Umicore of threatening to sue a customer that was considering replacing Umicore with BASF as its supplier of battery components.
BASF said in the filings that Umicore's action had lost it billions of U.S. dollars of potential revenue and cost it the ability to compete as a supplier for electric car platforms expected to launch in 2016 and 2017.
Umicore said it believed that BASF's allegations lacked merit and pledged to vigorously defend itself.
"Umicore has retained Fish & Richardson P.C., the leading ITC and patent litigation firm in the U.S., and looks forward to demonstrating the full validity of its technology," the company told Reuters in an emailed statement.
According to German magazine Wirtschafts Woche, which reported on the suit on Thursday, Umicore has until April 17 to file a response to BASF's allegations.