Ocado Group has seen off claims from an international rival “goods retrieval” company that alleged the British online retailer and technology group had stolen several of its technology inventions.
A High Court judge ruled that two patents held by the Norwegian company were invalid and that, regardless, Ocado had not infringed them.
In its claim brought in 2020, AutoStore originally asserted its rights over six patents against Ocado, of which two were invalidated by the European Patent Office before the judgment yesterday in London. A decision on one of those two was overturned in the Norwegians’ favour by the patent office’s appeal body. AutoStore withdrew another two claims just before the hearing in the UK litigation began and now a High Court judge has invalidated the remaining two patents.
In the ruling, Judge Richard Hacon found that even if he had not invalidated the last two patents, the British company had not infringed them. The judge also ruled that Ocado had not infringed the patents that AutoStore had withdrawn from the case.
When the claim was launched, AutoStore said Ocado’s patent filings included “substantial technical information and materials” that related to robotic technology. AutoStore claimed it had provided the information to Ocado “in good faith” between 2011 and 2012. Ocado strenuously denied that the company had stolen AutoStore’s intellectual property.
After yesterday’s ruling, a spokesman for the retailer said it had been vindicated by court rulings in both Britain and the United States.
The spokesman for Ocado described the litigation as “a complete waste of time” and he confirmed that the retailer intended “to seek a significant costs order” against the Norwegian company. “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 intellectual property,” he said.
In a statement after the ruling, AutoStore stated that it “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”.
Shares in Ocado, which designs and licenses its warehouse delivery systems worldwide, closed up 49¼p, or 10.3 per cent, at 527¼p.