BASF Wins Potentially Lucrative Battery Patent Case

BASF could be poised to capitalize on a growing market for electric cars.

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Electric vehicles currently account for only a small fraction of American auto landscape, and the number powered by batteries with a chemical process called NMC is even smaller.

Both statistics, however, appear likely to change in coming years, and BASF could be poised to capitalize following a recent court decision.

Reuters reports that a recent preliminary ruling by a U.S. International Trade Commission judge found that Belgian materials company Umicore infringed two battery chemistry patents held by the German chemical giant.

Should the initial finding be upheld by the ITC, BASF could eliminate a top competitor in the U.S. market for NMC technology.

Most lithium-ion batteries that currently power electric vehicles — including those made by Tesla — utilize a process called NCA, which stands for its alloy of nickel, cobalt and aluminum.

But Quartz reports that NMC — or nickel, manganese and cobalt — expected to take over a majority of the lithium-ion battery market over the next decade.

The NMC process produces more energy than NCA and could allow cheaper electric vehicles to travel greater distances on a single charge. Already, Quartz reports, the Chevrolet Volt, BMW i3 and Nissan Leaf use NMC batteries.

BASF — the U.S. market leader in NMC batteries — alleged that Umicore was effectively ripping off its patented chemical processes.

"This dispute is aimed at protecting our investments and our patented technology position, and ensuring a level playing field," the German company told Quartz.

The Belgian company, meanwhile, asserted that the process is, in fact, much simpler than what BASF outlined and vowed to continue the legal fight.

"We remain steadfast in our view that the scientific evidence presented in court precludes the possibility of any patent infringement and we very much intend on presenting our view to the commission,” said Umicore's Kurt Vandeputte.

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