Nippon Steel drops patent lawsuits against Toyota, Mitsui

(Reuters) -Japan’s Nippon Steel said on Thursday it had dropped lawsuits against Toyota Motor and Mitsui & Co over electrical steel sheet patents, but continues to seek damages from China’s Baoshan Iron & Steel (Baosteel).

Nippon Steel’s lawsuits, which were filed in 2021, sought compensatory damages from Toyota, Baosteel, Mitsui and Mitsui & Co. Steel, alleging infringement of patents on non-oriented electrical steel sheets.

The Japanese steelmaker said it had terminated the lawsuits against Toyota and Mitsui by waiving claims against them.

Nippon Steel said in a statement it will continue its case against Baoshan and “firmly protect its intellectual property rights as the fruits of its technological development”.

Baosteel said that it would continue to actively respond to the lawsuit and resolutely defend its rights and interests.

“Baosteel has been stringently abiding by various laws and regulations including intellectual property law in both domestic and international businesses,” it added in a reply to a Reuters request for comment.

“Continuing the dispute with Toyota is not in the best interests of strengthening Japan’s industrial competitiveness,” a Nippon Steel spokesperson said, adding that Japan’s automobile and steel industries needed to join forces even more firmly amid intensifying global competition on decarbonisation.

“We will further strengthen our efforts with Toyota in various fields, including automobile electrification and decarbonisation initiatives,” he added.

Nippon Steel’s patent infringement lawsuit against its key and long-standing customer Toyota was a first.

Having two of Japan’s manufacturing giants, its biggest steelmaker and automaker, locked in a rare court battle signified the high stakes involved in materials production as the global low-carbon revolution took hold.

Nippon Steel has said electrical steel sheets are indispensable materials for automobile electrification and are one of its key products aimed at helping decarbonisation for cars, electrical products and power plants.

“Nippon Steel has decided to drop its lawsuits over electrical steel sheet patents against Toyota brought in 2021,” Toyota said in a statement.

(Reporting by Mariko Katsumura, Yuka Obayashi in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Amy Lv in Beijing; Editing by Janane Venkatraman and Alexander Smith )