Source: Autostore

Warehouse robotics business AutoStore will pay Ocado Group £200m over the next two years to bring an end a three-year patent dispute between the two companies.

The robotics rivals announced a “complete settlement of all claims” in their global legal wranglings over patents “avoiding further litigation and associated costs”.

The agreements see all patent litigation claims withdrawn, and a “mutually beneficial global cross-licence of each other’s pre-2020 patents”.

Norwegian company AutoStore in 2020 claimed Ocado’s Smart Platform system, which is used across Ocado’s highly automated warehouses, was based on its patented technology. AutoStore filed patent infringement lawsuits in the UK and the US, and sought court orders to stop Ocado from making, selling or importing the technology, as well as financial damages. 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.

“Our ownership of the technology at the heart of Ocado’s warehousing system is clear,” said AutoStore CEO and president Karl Johan Lier at the time.

The claim saw Ocado suffer a share price fall of about 7%, bringing to an end a short period of its market capitalisation exceeding that of Tesco.

Claims, counterclaims and legal contests continued until, in March, Ocado declared “total victory” after a UK High Court judge ruled patent infringement claims asserted against it were invalid “on all counts”. Ocado had previously won similar proceedings in the US.

“AutoStore’s decision to sue has been a complete waste of time – for us and them – and will now also be a further waste of money for them as we intend to seek a significant costs order,” Ocado said in a statement following the court victory.

It is understood Ocado’s legal team, having defended the company through the trials, were to switch to an offensive approach and seek to invalidate more AutoStore patents.

Announcement of the settlement, which draws a line under the gruelling legal battle, saw Ocado’s share price soar by more than 10% this morning. AutoStore’s was down 2%.

“I am pleased we have been able to settle the disputes in a constructive and collaborative manner,” said Ocado CEO Tim Steiner. “We can now each move forward and concentrate on providing our partners with world-beating technology.”

AutoStore CEO Mats Hovland Vikse said: “We are glad to have achieved a resolution that gives both companies opportunity and freedom to commercialise our extensive patent portfolios. This settlement resolves our differences and allows us to continue focusing on our respective business goals.”