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Nippon Steel Corp. this month filed lawsuits against Toyota Motor Corp. and Baoshan Iron and Steel, alleging “infringement of Nippon Steel’s patent relating to non-oriented electrical steel sheets.”

The lawsuit is a rare clash between the former two companies, as Nippon is a major supplier to Toyota. Nippon is already grappling with rising raw material costs.

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Nippon Steel files lawsuits alleging patent infringement

patent infringement graphic concept

theaphotography/Adobe Stock

Japan’s Nippon Steel Corp also filed a preliminary injunction before Tokyo District Court prohibiting Toyota from manufacturing and selling motor-driven vehicles.

According to a spokesperson for the company, Nippon Steel believes the sale and use of Baosteel sheets in Japan are in violation of its patent claims on composition, thickness, crystal grain diameter and magnetic properties.

Toyota responded, saying the matter should be discussed between material manufacturers. It further clarified that in its dealings with various material manufacturers, it had always implemented “a careful process” of confirming with them that there were no patent conflicts.

“Concerning the electromagnetic steel sheets manufactured by Baoshan Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. (Baosteel), as well, we confirmed that there was no infringement of another company’s patent before concluding a contract,” Toyota said. “We also received a written statement from Baosteel to that effect.”

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The U.S. steel capacity utilization rate dipped to 84.7% last week, the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) reported Monday.

The rate declined from 85.3% the previous week.

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U.S. steel output dips

steel production

photollurg/Adobe Stock

Production last week totaled 1.87 million net tons, AISI reported. The weekly total marked a drop of 0.6% from the previous week. However, output increased by 20.7% from the same week in 2020.

For the year to date (i.e., through Oct. 23), production reached 77.0 million net tons. Capacity utilization during that period reached 81.3%.

The total marked a 20.3% year-over-year jump from 64.0 million net tons. The capacity utilization rate reached 67.1% during the same period in 2020.

Steel prices flatten

As we’ve noted in recent weeks, steel prices’ over yearlong ascent appears to have at least, for now, slowed down.

The U.S. hot-rolled coil price closed last week at $1,922 per short ton, down 0.16% month over month, according to MetalMiner Insights data. Meanwhile, the hot-dipped galvanized price closed at $2,208 per short ton, down 2.39% month over month.

In addition, the cold-rolled coil price closed last week at $2,131 per short ton, or down 0.98%.

Plate prices have bucked the trend, however, reflecting the runup in oil prices. U.S. steel plate closed last week at $1,829 per short ton, up 7.46% month over month.

AISI advocates for infrastructure bill

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated intentions to vote by the end of October on the infrastructure package under consideration.

Fast forward to the last week of the month and there has still not been a vote.

This week, AISI indicated its support for passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

“The ability of our nation to proceed on a path to economic recovery depends on reliable, safe and efficient modes of transportation,” AISI said. “Our industry like so many others rely on the nation’s roads, rail and water transportation to move raw materials and finished products. Since 2018, American steelmakers have invested $16 billion dollars in modern, state-of-the- art, environmentally responsible steel production to meet our nation’s infrastructure needs.”

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