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Nippon Steel Corp. has filed a lawsuit with Tokyo District Court against Mitsui & Co. for its alleged infringement of the major Japanese steel-maker’s patent related to electric motor-driven vehicles.

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

Mitsui, a major Japanese trading house, is believed to have been involved in the business deal between Toyota and the Chinese company, sources have 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 had received a legal complaint made by Nippon Steel, but said the trader could not comment any further.

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

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

Nonoriented 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 could not overlook an infringement of its intellectual property rights and took the unusual step of suing the Japanese automaker — one of its most important clients.

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