John Szepietowski reviews the case of Ocado Group Plc v AutoStore Technology AG

Ocado Group Plc (‘Ocado’) recently lost its latest court case with rival AutoStore Technology AG (‘AutoStore’) after Judge Richard Hacon refused to grant an injunction that would stop the use of certain information in a separate US patent infringement case.

In an increasingly bitter dispute between the two companies that both provided automated grocery delivery systems, online grocer Ocado sought to restrain its Norwegian rival from referring to discussions they held regarding their parent disputes in 2018 at a key hearing at the US International Trade Commission in August.

The Case

AutoStore, founded 1996, uses ‘cube storage automation’ that involves storage bins stacked vertically in a grid, allowing robots positioned at the top to retrieve the bins when needed. Ocado, founded in 2000, uses a system where robots move around a vertical grid, which it calls a ‘smart platform’.

AutoStore stated that their relationship with Ocado commenced as early as 2012. In late 2020, AutoStore launched a major marketing campaign about two new products, its Blackline robot and a software product called Router. Both of these products infringe Ocado’s patented intellectual property. Despite this, AutoStore filed a claim for patent infringement against Ocado and two of Ocado’s suppliers. Ocado filed a defence in the United Kingdom High Court in December 2020, stating that no infringement of AutoStore patents had occurred. Ocado had been using that technology in the United Kingdom, prior to AutoStore filing their patent. AutoStore have also filed a very similar claim in the US International Trade Commission, which Ocado is in the process of defending.

In January 2021, Ocado took action against AutoStore in the US District Court for the District of New Hampshire for infringement of several Ocado patents relating to Robot and Storage System technology. The claim seeks to prevent AutoStore from continuing to use its Blackline robot and its Router software system, as well as certain other aspects of its storage system that infringe Ocado’s patents.

Ocado filed an anti-trust complaint against AutoStore in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in February 2021. Most recently, Ocado filed a complaint in March 2021 against AutoStore’s Norwegian, German and Polish companies before the District Courts of Mannheim and Munich in Germany for the Blackline robot’s infringement of certain Ocado Utility Model IP Rights.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email or visit our Linkedin page.

Joseph Beams

This information was correct as at September 2021

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