(Adds INEOS comment, detail)
HONG KONG/LONDON, March 21 (Reuters) - China Petroleum & Chemical Corp (Sinopec), Asia’s largest oil refiner, has denied violating intellectual property rights of INEOS after the Swiss-based chemicals company opened a case at a Beijing court.
Subsidiary Shanghai Research Institute of Petrochemical Technology is being sued over technology related to the industrial chemical acrylonitrile, state-owned Sinopec said in a statement emailed to Reuters on Friday.
Acrylonitrile is a building block for carbon fibre used in products in the automotive, aerospace and defence industries.
The subsidiary developed what became a core technology “after 50 years of research,” the company said.
“Sinopec has full proprietary intellectual property rights over such technology. There is no ground for the infringement alleged by INEOS,” Sinopec said.
INEOS said a Sinopec subsidiary Sinopec Ningbo Engineering Company had broken a long established technology agreement which, together with trade secret misuse by other Sinopec companies, had enabled development of a series of new world scale Acrylontirile plants without the consent or agreement of INEOS.
“We have good and valuable relationships with Sinopec and other Chinese companies across our business,” said Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS Chairman in a statement.
“But in this case, we have to take action to protect the interests of our stakeholders.”
Shares of Sinopec closed 2.2 percent higher in Hong Kong compared with a 2.4 percent rise in the benchmark index.
INEOS said it is pursuing parallel actions in the Beijing High Court and through arbitration in Sweden.
China has long been a flashpoint for disputes over intellectual property rights. Last year, U.S. private researcher Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property said 80 percent of global intellectual property rights abuse occurred in China.
The U.S. and other foreign governments have urged China to take a stronger stand on the matter which affects products ranging from medicine to software to movies.
Last month, Sinopec Corp unit Sinopec Yangzi Petrochemical Co agreed to form a $500 million 50/50 joint venture with INEOS in China’s Nanjing city to make industrial chemicals phenol and cumene. (Reporting by Charlie Zhu in Hong Kong and Simon Falush in London; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Elaine Hardcastle)