Ocado Sues Rival AutoStore in Germany as Patent Fight Deepens
(Bloomberg) -- Ocado Group Plc, a supplier of automated grocery warehouses, is suing AutoStore Technology AS in Germany for patent infringement in the latest retaliation against the Norwegian competitor.
In an already protracted dispute that involves allegations of fraud, anti-competitive behavior, and theft of intellectual property dating back nearly a decade, a unit of Ocado has asked regional courts in Mannheim and Munich to grant protection for some inventions relating to its robotic cube-storage system.
The German lawsuit is the latest in a series of claims filed in U.S., U.K., and European courts by both companies as they grapple to become the preeminent global supplier of automated warehouses used by retailers, such as grocers, to supply online deliveries to customers.
Read more: Ocado Escalates AutoStore Patent Fight Over Storage System
AutoStore, founded in 1996, uses “cube-storage automation” that involves storage bins stacked vertically in a grid, allowing robots positioned at the top to retrieve the bins when needed. Ocado, founded in 2000, has developed a system where robots move around a vertical grid, which it calls a “Smart Platform.” The British company has almost tripled in value over the past two years as it sells the automated warehousing systems and software to retailers globally.
However, AutoStore believes technology it developed is at the heart of the Ocado Smart Platform and is seeking to block the British grocer’s expansion in the U.S. and U.K. Ocado denies these claims saying it has unique hardware and software. In February, the company initiated action against AutoStore in the U.S. and said it wants fair competition and for AutoStore to stop trying to interfere with sales.
In the latest battlefront, Ocado is suing three different Autostore companies in Poland, Norway and Germany which is AutoStore’s largest market. “Ocado takes the breach of its IP rights seriously and will continue to defend its position as appropriate,” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.
AutoStore said the latest filing by Ocado is a “tactical distraction” from the main legal cases in the U.S. and U.K. “We will not tolerate Ocado’s continued infringement of our innovations as it pursues lucrative partnerships by selling our technology as its own. We are confident in the merits of our case and nothing in Ocado’s latest action changes that,” a spokesman said in an emailed statement.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.