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Nippon Steel sues Toyota and Chinese steel-maker for patent violation

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Nippon Steel Corp. said Thursday it has filed lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. and Chinese steel-maker Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. alleging infringement of a patent related to a key steel product for electric vehicles.

The steelmaker said it is seeking damages of ¥20 billion ($176 million) from each company and has also asked the Tokyo District Court for an injunction prohibiting Toyota from manufacturing and selling in Japan electric vehicles made with nonoriented electrical steel sheets suspected of violating its patent.

Japan’s largest steel-maker did not disclose the details of its injunction request, such as target brands and the number of vehicles to be covered.

Nippon Steel said in a statement that it had discussed the matter with the two companies but failed to reach a resolution, leading it to take legal action to “protect its intellectual property rights.”

The company claims the major Chinese steel-maker has violated its patent related to components used in making nonoriented electrical steel sheets.

It is quite rare in Japan for industry leaders engaged in mutual business transactions to be involved in a legal battle.

Toyota said in response to the suit, “It is extremely regrettable to have a lawsuit filed against us, as we understand this matter should be discussed between material manufacturers.”

The automaker said it had confirmed there was no patent violation with the material manufacturer before signing a contract for the nonoriented electrical steel sheets, apparently referring to Baoshan.

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