Ocado wins UK patent lawsuit over AutoStore

On the left, AutoStore’s ASRS, and on the right, Ocado’s ASRS. | Source: AutoStore, Ocado

Yesterday, the UK High Court ruled that AutoStore’s patents, which have been the subject of a patent infringement case against Ocado, were invalid, and that Ocado did not infringe upon them. Both AutoStore and Ocado operate automated storage and retrieval systems (ASRS) that operate on similar principles.

AutoStore filed the lawsuit in October 2020, when it asserted that Ocado infringed upon six of its patents. The European Patent Office invalidated two of these patents before judgment was made on the case, and two other patents were withdrawn by AutoStore before the hearing started. 

Judge Hacon invalidated the remaining two patents because AutoStore had disclosed its technology publically in a business deal with the Central Bank of Russia before the company filed its patents. Halcon ruled that even if the patents were valid, the Ocado Smart Platform (OSP) did not infringe on them. The judge also ruled that OSP didn’t infringe upon the patents that AutoStore chose to withdraw from the case. 

An Ocado spokesperson said, “As we have said consistently since the day the action was launched that we did not infringe any valid AutoStore patents. Once again a judge has proved we are right. And we have been proved right by courts both in the US and the UK. Autostore’s decision to sue us 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 against them.”

“This entire misguided exercise by AutoStore has simply served to show that it is Ocado that is the innovation factory with robust processes in place to protect and respect IP. Our fulfillment centers can freely operate in light of this judgment. And although AutoStore presented this litigation to the market as a one-way bet – either they would win or “the status quo would be maintained”, the actual outcome of the litigation is that a significant number of their patent assets are being invalidated, their patent portfolio has been reduced and their IP has been weakened. Actions continue against AutoStore in Germany and the US for infringement of Ocado IP rights. The risk of infringement is now with AutoStore.”

In December 2021, AutoStore lost a similar patent infringement lawsuit filed with the International Trade Commission (ITC). US ITC Judge Charles Bullock ruled three of AutoStore’s patents involved in the case were invalid, and that Ocado didn’t infringe upon the fourth patent in the trial. 

The ASRS systems from both companies operate on similar storage and retrieval principles. Items are stored in bins stacked in a grid and retrieved by mobile robots from above the stack.

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