Warehouse robotics company AutoStore is suing Ocado for manufacturing and selling technology that allegedly infringes on its patents.
The Norwegian company claims Ocado’s Smart Platform system, which is used across Ocado’s highly automated warehouses, is based on AutoStore’s patented technology.
AutoStore on Thursday filed patent infringement lawsuits in the UK and the US, and is seeking court orders to stop Ocado from making, selling or importing the technology. It is also seeking financial damages.
“Our ownership of the technology at the heart of Ocado’s warehousing system is clear,” said AutoStore CEO and president Karl Johan Lier in a statement. “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.”
AutoStore said Ocado had been a customer since 2012, a relationship that is understood to have involved Ocado receiving robots, software, documentation and training on AutoStore’s technology. AutoStore is the “foundation” on which Ocado was built, the company claimed.
The alleged infringements cover several AutoStore patents, including those relating to the central cavity design of the warehouse robots; the arrangement of the lifting mechanism that enables robots to lift and place bins in their cavities; and the robots’ in-wheel motors.
Ocado said AutoStore’s statement was “the first we have heard” of the legal challenge.
“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,” Ocado said in a statement.
Ocado indicated it could make a legal retort to AutoStore’s action, adding: “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.”
Ocado – which saw its market capitalisation exceed that of Tesco’s for the first time this week – suffered a share price fall of about 7% in the wake of AutoStore’s announcement.