Ocado, the UK-based grocery delivery firm, has won a decisive legal victory against Norway-based Autostore. The High Court Judge rejected Autostore’s claims that Ocado had infringed six of its patents relating to the use of robots to retrieve goods from warehouses. Two of the patents were invalidated because Autostore had already disclosed their technology publicly, while two were revoked by the European Patent Office and complaints about the other two were withdrawn. If all the patents were valid and none of the complaints had been withdrawn, the judge noted that Ocado would still not have infringed upon any of them.
“Autostore should have known that their claim was misguided from the very beginning, as their patents were never valid,” an Ocado spokesperson stated. “This entire misguided exercise by AutoStore has simply served to show that it is Ocado that is the innovation factory with robust processes in place to protect and respect IP… And although AutoStore presented this litigation to the market as a one-way bet – either they would win or ‘the status quo would be maintained’, the actual outcome of the litigation is that a significant number of their patent assets are being invalidated, their patent portfolio has been reduced and their IP has been weakened.”
While lawsuits had also been filed in Germany and the US, a member of the Ocado legal team said that the risk of infringement was now with Autostore. Simon Ayrton, partner at Powell Gilbert, which represented Ocado, stated that “For AutoStore, the decision severely undermines the value of its IP since the judge found that AutoStore’s core patents were invalid, as well as not being infringed by Ocado. Furthermore, AutoStore’s business remains at risk of being injuncted in Germany and the US, where Ocado is continuing with its infringement suits against AutoStore.”
The ruling is a significant victory for Ocado, which had previously asserted that the lawsuit was “an attempt by Autostore to slow Ocado’s momentum and distract our partners and investors.” It is expected to boost investor confidence and reduce the risk of damages claims that could have run into millions of pounds had Autostore won the case.