China’s leading food delivery platforms, Ele.me and Meituan, find themselves entangled in a legal battle over alleged patent infringement. The First Intermediate People’s Court in Chongqing is set to hear the case on March 6th, 2023.
The smart locker arms race between the two giants began during the pandemic, as contact-free delivery became essential. Ele.me is accusing two Meituan subsidiaries of infringing on patents it filed for specific smart locker technology uses. This technology enables customers to collect delivered goods from designated lockers, providing a convenient and contactless delivery method.
This lawsuit comes at a critical time, as the Chinese government has been tightening anti-trust regulations throughout the pandemic. Meituan, which has a dominant 70% market share, was previously fined 3.44 billion RMB (500 million USD) in 2021 for reportedly forcing merchants to commit to exclusive agreements.
As the legal dispute unfolds, it remains to be seen if this will significantly impact Meituan’s reputation and market position in China’s competitive food delivery industry.