French LNG cargo containment system designer GTT has won its appeal in the Supreme Court of Korea to suspend a decision against the company metered out by the Seoul High Court.

GTT said on 22 December it appealed the Seoul High Court’s decision handed down on 1 December, which would have obliged the design company to separate its technology licence agreement from the technical assistance it provides if requested by shipyards.

At the time, the company said: “GTT wishes to emphasise that the licence of the technology and the technical assistance constitute an inseparable offering, which guarantees the integrity of its technologies.”

Along with the appeal, GTT asked the Supreme Court to suspend the Seoul High Court’s decision.

The Supreme Court agreed to the suspension on 17 January.

“Therefore, shipyards cannot request GTT to separate the technology license and the technical assistance until a decision is made by the Supreme Court of Korea,” the company said.

The Euronext Paris-listed company said it would “keep the market informed of any significant development on the matter”.

The decision of South Korea’s Supreme Court to suspend the Seoul High Court’s December ruling against GTT is the latest legal move in what has been a long-running battle by the country’s shipbuilders to slim the role of the technology provider, which has built up a dominant role in LNG carrier tank design.

Shipyards pay GTT a licence fee per newbuilding. But the yards want to take on technical assistance for the construction and installation of the company’s systems.

South Korea has tried to build its own alternative LNG cargo containment systems to rival GTT’s widely used membrane type.

The most notable of these is the KC-1 membrane-type system, which was fitted to two large LNG carriers that were delivered five years ago but were pulled out of service shortly after their deliveries and have yet to be returned to trading.

Key dates in Korea Fair Trade Commission’s action against GTT
  • 21 October 2020: KFTC opens hearing into GTT
  • 25 November 2020: KFTC decision ordering GTT to allow the Korean shipyards upon their request, to perform all or part of the technical assistance services currently included in the technology licence
  • 31 December 2020: GTT’s appeal before the Seoul High Court
  • 6 January 2021: Seoul High Court decision to suspend the effect of the KFTC decision
  • 14 January 2021: KFTC’s appeal before the Supreme Court of Korea
  • 14 May 2021: Decision of the Supreme Court of Korea to reject the appeal from KFTC
  • 1 December 2022: Seoul High Court upholds KFTC decision against GTT
  • 22 December 2022: GTT appeals and asks for suspension of the Seoul High Court’s decision to Supreme Court of Korea
  • 17 January 2023: Supreme Court of Korea agrees to suspend the Seoul High Court’s decision