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3M and LG Chem enter into NMC patent license agreements; cathode materials for Li-ion batteries

3M and LG Chem have entered into a patent license agreement to further expand the use of nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cathode materials in lithium-ion batteries. Under the agreement, 3M grants LG Chem a license to US Patents 6,660,432 (Paulsen et al.); 6,964,828 (Lu and Dahn); 7,078,128 (Lu and Dahn); 8,685,565 (Lu and Dahn); and 8,241,791 (Lu and Dahn) and all global equivalents including in Korea, Taiwan, Japan, China and Europe.

3M’s battery laboratory collaborated with Professor Jeff Dahn and students at Dalhousie University on the NMC technology. 3M developed a number of compositions of the NMC material, including NMC 111 (for energy and power); NMC 442 (for energy and power); and an optimized high-power NMC 111 composition with high porosity. (Earlier post.) LG Chem had earlier licensed the NMC technology developed at Argonne National Laboratory (Thackeray) (licensed to BASF as a supplier).

NMC cathode compositions offer a balance of power, energy, thermal stability and low cost. NMC cathode materials can be tailored through changes in composition and morphology to meet a wide range of customer requirements from high-energy handheld consumer electronics to high-power electric vehicles.

LG Chem supplies its NMC-based Li-ion cells to a growing number of plug-in vehicles, among them the Chevy Volt.

Broadly, patents on NMC reach back into the 2000s, with Argonne National Laboratory filing the first one in 2000 based on work done by Dr. Michael Thackeray, followed shortly thereafter by a patent filed by 3M based on work done by Dr. Jeff Dahn at Dalhousie University.

In 2014, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) confirmed the novelty of NMC patents for each (Argonne and 3M).

Earlier this year, BASF filed suit against battery materials maker Umicore for infringement of its NMC patents. Umicore is a licensee of 3M NMC patents. (Earlier post.)

With the new patent license agreement with 3M, LG Chem has thus apparently covered all its bases for use of NMC materials.

We are pleased to have reached this agreement with 3M. This license will give our battery customers confidence in LG’s technology and our long-term commitment to the battery industry. The license also opens the door to new opportunities for LG Chem as a supplier of cathode materials to the battery industry.

—Kyunghwa Min, vice president of LG Chem IP Center



Patents are only good for 20 years and some of these are quite old already. LG must feel that getting a head start on some of these is worth the additional costs. However, some are quite old already. By 2025 most of these will be past their effective dates and the technology will be public domain. I wonder if the agreement is limited or exclusive?

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