Ocado defeats AutoStore in London high court patent feud

By James Davey and Sinchita Mitra

(Reuters) -British online supermarket and technology group Ocado on Thursday won a high court legal action brought by Norwegian robotics firm AutoStore after the judge dismissed its patent infringement claims.

The two pioneers in warehouse storage technology are facing off in multiple jurisdictions around the world to protect their intellectual property. Ocado, like AutoStore, licences its technology to retailers around the world and uses it for its British grocery delivery service.

The London high court case was heard in March and April last year.

London-listed Ocado said Judge Richard Hacon ruled that Oslo-listed AutoStore’s patents were invalid and, in any event, Ocado did not infringe them.

“AutoStore disagrees with the Court’s decision, especially given that the Technical Boards of Appeal of the European Patent Office upheld one of the patents in issue as valid just a few weeks ago,” it said in response to Hacon’s judgment.

It said the decision has no impact on its business or operations.

AutoStore originally asserted six patents against Ocado in October 2020.

Of these, two were invalidated by the European Patent Office before the judgment was handed down, two were withdrawn by AutoStore shortly before the hearing started, and the remaining two patents were invalidated by Hacon in Thursday’s judgment, Ocado said.

Ocado said Hacon ruled that even if he had not invalidated these remaining patents, Ocado’s technology did not infringe them, and Ocado’s robots also did not infringe the patents that AutoStore had withdrawn from the case.

Thursday’s ruling follows Ocado’s victory over AutoStore in the International Trade Commission in the United States last year.

Ocado said its claims against AutoStore for infringing Ocado’s intellectual property are continuing in Germany and New Hampshire in the U.S..

A spokesperson for Ocado said it would apply to the court to seek to recover its legal costs from AutoStore.

Ocado shares closed Thursday up 10%, paring losses over the last year to 55%.

Last month Ocado said annual losses had ballooned to 501 million pounds ($620 million) after it took a big accounting charge.

AutoStore listed its shares in 2021. They have fallen 28% over the last year.

($1 = 0.8079 pounds)

(Reporting by James Davey in London and Sinchita Mitra in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel, Kirsten Donovan and Leslie Adler)