Fortescue has accused its former employees of misusing information over its green steel production to start up their own company.

Andrew Forrest-led Fortescue Future Industries sued Element Zero, its founders Bartlomiej Kolodziejczyk and Michael Masterman, and Bjorn Winther-Jensen, in the Federal Court of Australia’s NSW registry.

The action revolves around alleged misuse of confidential information over Fortescue’s carbon dioxide-free iron technology, as revealed in a recent judgment delivered by Federal Court Judge John Logan.

The Fortescue parties have described the matter as an “industrial-scale misuse”, according to the judgment.

Element Zero, based on Oxleigh Drive in Malaga, was founded by Mr Masterman, who was Fortescue Future Industries chief financial officer, and Dr Kolodziejczyk.

Dr Kolodziejczyk was the chief scientist at Fortescue Metals Group from mid-2020 to March 2022, according to his LinkedIn account.

Element Zero claimed it has created a mineral processing platform using renewable energy to convert iron ore to iron, with up to 40 per cent less processing energy.

Fortescue alleged Dr Kolodziejczyk and Dr Bjorn Winther-Jensen copied and took information about the green steel process when they resigned from the company in late 2021, the judgment reads.

It is further alleged the information has been used in designing, engineering and constructing an industrial pilot plant to create metallic iron.

In his judgment, Justice Logan ordered an independent lawyer to provide a list of things removed from units on Oxleigh Drive in Malaga, a property in Scarborough, and a property in Victoria.

RP data shows the Malaga address is a warehouse where Element Zero is based, while the Scaraborough unit is owned by Dr Winther-Jensen.

The court has also appointed an independent lawyer and an independent computer expert to conduct search orders.

In his judgment, Justice Logan said the court has not ruled on the merits of the claims made by Fortescue with the parties set for another hearing this month.

An Element Zero spokesperson said the company’s response will include an applciation to vary or set aside the original search orders.

“Element Zero believes this legal action is entirely without merit and welcomes the opportunity to respond to Fortescue‘s spurious claims,” the spokesperson told Business News

“As Element Zero will demonstrate, its green metals technology was developed independently of and is very different from anything that Fortescue is doing or has done in this space. We continue to rapidly advance our technology.

“As the matter is now before the court, we will not be making further comment at this time.”

A Fortescue spokesperson told Business News the company invested significant resources in creating its intellectual property and was committed to vigorously manage and enforce its protection.

Fortescue is leading the world in developing the cutting-edge solutions that will not only help decarbonise our Australian iron ore operations by the end of the decade, but help the world avert the worst impacts of climate change,” the spokesperson said.

“As a first mover, our intellectual property is critical to our ongoing success in this pursuit and must be protected at all times.

“Protecting our IP helps to protect the substantial investment of time and effort made by our innovative employees and stakeholders every day.

“As the matter is the subject of legal proceedings, we do not intend to comment further at this stage.”