Nippon Steel sues trader Mitsui over patent infringement

TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Nippon Steel Corp. has filed with Tokyo District Court a lawsuit against Mitsui & Co. for its alleged infringement of the major steelmaker’s patent related to electric motor-driven vehicles.

Nippon Steel has filed similar lawsuits against leading automaker Toyota Motor Corp. and a Chinese steelmaker demanding that each company pay about ¥20 billion in damages.

The latest lawsuit came as Mitsui, a major trading house, is believed to have been involved in the business deal between Toyota and the Chinese company, informed sources said.

Under Japan’s patent law, businesses are considered to be violating patent rights if they use or sell products that infringe on a patent.

An official at Mitsui admitted that the company has received a legal complaint by Nippon Steel, but said the trader cannot comment any further.

An official at Nippon Steel declined to comment on the matter.

Nippon Steel has claimed that non-oriented electrical steel sheets supplied by the Chinese company to Toyota had infringed on the steelmaker’s patent.

Non-oriented electrical steel sheets, used in drive motors mainly for electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles, are a very important product that determines the performance of the motors.

With demand for the motors rising on the back of moves toward decarbonization, Nippon Steel decided that it cannot overlook an infringement of its intellectual property rights and took the unusual step of suing the automaker, one of its most important clients.