TOKYO , Nippon Steel Corp. sued Toyota Motor Corp. for a patent covering a technology used to make electric motors. This rare instance of legal wrangling among Japan's top steelmaker, and top automaker over intellectual properties is not common.
Tokyo-based Nippon Steel filed Thursday's lawsuit in Tokyo District Court seeking damages of 20 billion yen ($177m). Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. or Baosteel are also named in the lawsuit. They supply the steel that is alleged to be violative of the patent.
Toyota stated that it was sorry to hear about the lawsuit and stressed that it had investigated any patent conflicts with Baosteel. Toyota considers Nippon Steel an "important business partner", supporting Japan's auto industry for many years, according to a statement. Nippon Steel is the maker of the Prius hybrid as well as the Lexus luxury cars.
Baosteel stated it disagreed with Nippon Steel's claims, and stressed that it had repeatedly attempted to communicate with the steelmaker.
It stated in a statement that it believes patent identification should be based upon rigorous and scientifically-validated technical exchange and verification between the parties.
According to Nippon Steel, the Japanese patent for nonoriented electrical steel sheets is at the heart of the lawsuit. It is an essential component of electric motors used by EVs in power plants and mobile phones.
Officials at Nippon Steel said that their prized technology is crucial to its competitiveness as the world moves to "a carbon neutral society". Innovations that reduce carbon emissions are becoming more important in steel manufacturing.
Nippon Steel also wants a court order against Toyota to stop it from selling hybrid vehicles or electric cars in Japan using motors that are allegedly violating the patent. Nippon Steel stated that it will continue to work with Toyota.
It stated that it could not resolve the dispute despite multiple discussions with Baosteel as well as Toyota.
The company stated that "Nippon Steel is taking these actions to protect its intellectual propriety rights."