Ocado sued by Norway rival in warehouse technology patent row

1 October 2020, 13:06 | Updated: 1 October 2020, 16:45

Ocado is facing allegations that its robot-operated warehouse technology has infringed a rival company's patents.

The online grocery firm, which has built a surge in its market value in recent years on the sale of such systems, is being sued by Norwegian robotics company AutoStore.

It has filed lawsuits in both the US and UK to seek financial damages, which could run into hundreds of millions of pounds, and an end to Ocado's lucrative partnerships covering the rollout of the automated warehouse technology.

Ocado responded by saying it had not been notified about the legal action but indicated it would fight any such claims.

The Norwegian company argues that its storage system and robots are the foundation on which the Ocado Smart Platform was built on - adding that Ocado was a customer until 2012.

Chief executive and president of AutoStore, Karl Johan Lier, said: "Since 1996, AutoStore has developed and pioneered technology that has revolutionised retail storage and order fulfilment, and is driving the growth of online retail.

"Our ownership of the technology at the heart of Ocado's warehousing system is clear.

"We will not tolerate Ocado's continued infringement of our intellectual property rights in its effort to boost its growth and attempt to transform itself into a global technology company.

The UK firm, which has enjoyed a ten-fold rise in its market value over the past four years, saw shares fall by more than 8% following the revelation of the allegations but closed just 1% lower.

On Tuesday, its market value surpassed that of Tesco, the UK's largest grocery retailer, on the FTSE 100.

The company responded: "We are not aware of any infringement of any valid AutoStore rights and of course we will investigate any claims once we receive further details.

"We have multiple patents protecting the use of our systems in grocery and we are investigating whether AutoStore has, or intends to infringe those patents.

"We will always vigorously protect our intellectual property."