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Ocado announced last night it had “comprehensively won” a legal battle with rival AutoStore over the intellectual property related to its technology.

Ocado said judgment was handed down after close of business on Thursday, with the UK High Court finding against AutoStore “on all counts”.

AutoStore had originally asserted six patents against Ocado in October 2020.

Of these six patents, two were invalidated by the European Patent Office before judgment was handed down, two were withdrawn by AutoStore shortly before the hearing started, and the remaining two were invalidated by Judge Hacon in Thursday’s judgment.

Judge Hacon decided that even if he had not invalidated these remaining patents, Ocado’s OSP did not infringe them – and that Ocado’s robots also did not infringe the patents that AutoStore had withdrawn from the case.

This decision follows Ocado’s victory over AutoStore in the International Trade Commission in the US last year.

Ocado said its claims against AutoStore for infringing Ocado’s IP are continuing in Germany and New Hampshire, US.

Ocado shares are up 1.8% this morning to 536.5p following strong gains in recent days.

Morning update

Origin Enterprises, the international agronomy services group, has acquired Neo Environmental.

Neo is a consultancy business that provides planning, environmental and technical advice to a range of clients, primarily in the energy and infrastructure sectors across the UK & Ireland.

Origin CEO Sean Coyle said: “The acquisition of Neo Environmental aligns with our strategy to broaden the Group’s amenity, environmental and ecological portfolio and enhances our ability to deliver on our ambition of promoting sustainable land use.

“In addition to clients in the energy and infrastructure sectors, as subsidy regimes change, we expect farmers will continue to assess alternative uses for less productive agricultural land. Neo, in conjunction with our existing ecological specialist business Keystone Environmental, will ensure we are positioned to provide an enhanced range of consulting and advisory services. We are delighted to welcome Neo to the Origin Group and look forward to working with the team.

“Following the completion of our €20m share buyback programme this week, which has seen a cumulative €60m returned to shareholders via share buybacks in the last two years, we expect our near-term capital deployment will be focused on further bolt-on acquisitions, strategic capex to drive organic growth and our progressive dividend policy.”

Greencore has announced the appointment of Harshitkumar Shah as non-executive director with effect from 1 April 2023.

Shah has held numerous senior international finance roles over a 17-year career with Cadbury, including finance director roles in the UK, US, Asia and Africa.

As well as a background in finance, Shah has significant experience in corporate strategy and M&A and has worked in both public listed and private equity backed organisations.

He is currently CFO, Europe at Belron International.

Leslie Van de Walle, chair, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Hetal to the board. His addition brings in-depth food industry experience from his tenure with Cadbury. This, combined with his strong financial experience, will be highly beneficial to the board.”

On the markets this morning, the FTSE 100 has opened flat at 7,621.7pts.

Risers include Hotel Chocolat, up 2.9% to 180p, B&M European Value Retail, up 1.9% to 487.7p and Deliveroo, up 1.2% to 90.9p.

Fallers include Kerry Group, down 1.7% to 91.4p, Just Eat, down 1.2% to 1,514.6p and THG, down 1.1% to 66.9p.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 gained another 0.7% back to 7,620.4pts yesterday for its fourth successive day of rises this week.

Ocado was a key riser, climbing 10.3% to 527.2p, ahead of the High Court judgement vindicating the group in its IP dispute with a rival.

Other risers included THG, up 5.9% to 67.6p, Deliveroo, up 4.1% to 89.8p, Marks & Spencer, up 3.9% to 166p, Domino’s Pizza Group, up 3% to 286p and Sainsbury’s, up 3% to 275.7p.

The day’s fallers included Wynnstay, down 1.7% to 442.5p, Tate & Lyle, down 1.6% to 779.4p, Hotel Chocolat, down 1.4% to 175p, Virgin Wines, down 1.2% to 40.5p and Naked Wines, down 1% to 103p.