AutoStore said Ocado has been a customer since 2012 and alleged that Ocado’s automatic storage system is based on the ones AutoStore is already using, according to Reuters. The company, which was founded in 1996, is seeking financial damages and to bar Ocado from making and selling the products and importing them to the U.S.
Although Ocado only claims 1.7 percent of the British grocery market, it has nonetheless done well for itself, using the robotic technology to spur partnership deals with supermarkets around the world, Reuters reported. It has a stock market valuation of over 20 billion pounds (about $25.7 billion).
Ocado also benefited from the pandemic’s switch to digital shopping and has seen its shares more than double this year, according to Reuters. Ocado was formed in 2000 by three former Goldman Sachs bankers.
AutoStore said it doesn’t believe there’s any ambiguity as to its ownership of the technology, adding it “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,” Reuters reported.
In response, Ocado said it is “not aware of any infringement of any valid AutoStore rights and of course we will investigate any claims once we receive further details.” The company also said it has its own patents and is investigating whether AutoStore is violating those.
Automation is increasing in the retail world, with Kroger joining forces with Ocado last year in a deal to make 20 automated warehouse facilities. In July 2019, the companies were making the second of 20 of them in Florida.
That deal was seen as instrumental in Kroger competing with Amazon, Reuters reported.
Ocado’s robots were reported in 2019 to be three times faster than those used by Amazon, which still has a dominant spot in the U.K.’s online delivery pool.