Ocado wins the robot war

TOGETHER WITH...

In todays email:

  • The Web3 email for your mum

  • Clyde & Co doubles down on AI

  • A cool new way to learn a language

  • Ocados robots are free to roam again

  • Clifford Chance isnt merging in the US

  • Slaughter and May gets socially mobile

  • Why fish and chip shops are disappearing

  • Osborne Clarke wants you back in the office

and more!

If you take just one thing from this email

If theres a lawsuit brought against a company even if theyve done nothing wrong its bad news.

This is because the legal process takes time and for that period, the company will have to spend money on legal fees, be distracted from their main objectives and suffer a temporary bad reputation.

Its worse if its a public company as its share price will probably fall even before anything has been proven.

EDITORS RAMBLE

Hey I hope youre summers going well so far!

Each week, I try to find the best topic to cover in depth for this newsletters Featured Report.

I look for interesting business stories where I can highlight the legal considerations (like todays one).

Or Ill try to pick stories that are about the business of law firms (like the A&O Shearman one).

My main goal is to cover whatever would be most useful for you to improve your understanding of the legal and business world and make you more confident in your applications.

So, if you ever see a news article which you think would be a good LittleLaw report, just email me a link or a screenshot and maybe itll be the topic of the next newsletter.

- Idin

FEATURED REPORT

Ocado wins the robot war

Whats going on here?

Ocado, the high-tech grocery company, won a three-year patent fight against a Norwegian storage-tech company AutoStore, securing 瞿200m in the settlement.

They've been going at it in court for a while, but AutoStores finally agreed to pay up and settle the claim. Both companies put out a joint statement to confirm they can still use their own tech without any problems.

What was the dispute about?

It all started back in 2020 when AutoStore accused Ocado of breaching six of their patents related to robot technology. They launched a full-blown legal battle in the UK and other jurisdictions (like the US and Germany).

If you want some insanely in-depth technical explanation of the claims (which I didnt really understand), check out the High Court judgment. For a much simpler explanation, heres Ocados victory statement on their website in relation to the judgment (annoyingly, theyve misspelled judgment in the post in UK spelling, court judgments don't have an 'e' in them).

Anyway, the judgment says that AutoStore's patents were invalid. And on top of that, the Court said that even if the patents were legit, Ocado didn't infringe on them. So the verdict was firmly in Ocados favour.

Did the patent battle impact Ocado's share price?

When the claims were made public back in 2020, investors got a bit jittery. Ocado is a grocery company that really stands out because of its clever use of tech systems to make things more efficient (check out this amazing video of its robot packing system below).

So a threat to Ocados tech would naturally be a threat to the companys value. And the threat did cause Ocados share price to nosedive in 2020.

But since the settlement has been announced a few days ago, AutoStore's market value plunged by 7% in Oslo.

Ocado's much happier now that its share price went up 8% in early trading after the settlement announcement. 儭 

Which law firms were involved?

Intellectual property (IP) law is very complex and technical, so a few different law firms (as well as technical experts) were involved in this dispute.

突 Team Ocado: This team was led by Sullivan & Cromwell, a US law firm who called the victory a massive win. Ocado were also supported by Powell Gilbert, a London-based IP law specialist.

喫 Team AutoStore: US-law firm Kirkland & Ellis were leading the way along with London-based boutique law firm Bristows.

The main two teams from these firms getting involved with this case would be:

  •  the IP team who would be the patent experts, and

  •  the litigation team who are best placed to advise on the court process.

Why should law firms care?

The robot wars show just how important strong IP protection is for a company.

In the case of Ocado, although they were ultimately the winners, for three years they were dealing with the claim being brought against them.

This is harmful for them because:

  • its been expensive (lawyers arent cheap, especially if youre fighting in multiple jurisdictions like they were here),

  • it damaged Ocados reputation for that period, and

  • the companys share price suffered throughout.

Theres nothing to say Ocado didnt protect themselves well beforehand. So it shows that even if youve not donw anything wrong, a long and drawn-out court battle can still be damaging.

One interesting legal side-point is that the Unified Patent Court (the new court for patents in Europe which we covered a couple weeks back) is now dealing with its first settlement before its even had to deal with an infringement!

TOGETHER WITH WEB3 DAILY*

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(Yeah. Thats right, your mum.)

The email is full of the latest Web3 news, but its translated into plain English, which means everyone can understand it.

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A BIT OF FUN

a lil warning for you if it's not too late

IN OTHER NEWS

  •  Slaughter and May, the Magic Circle firm, is the first major law firm to set social mobility targets. By 2033, they want a quarter of their staff to come from less privileged backgrounds, an increase from the current 18.8%. They're going to keep us updated on their progress in their yearly business report, as they believe having a diverse team is key to their success.

  •  Osborne Clarkes new rule says showing up at the office at least three times a week will make you eligible for an extra bonus. But that's just one of many things they'll look at when deciding who gets a bonus. Theyll also consider things like whether you've done your training or how well you're doing on your work goals. (also OC just moved into their shiny new flagship office in Bristol maybe they just dont want it sat empty).

  •  Investing in offices in London has hit a 14-year low, according to recent data. With high interest rates making it pricier to borrow money for buying or building offices, spending fell to 瞿1.2bn last quarter, down from 瞿2.9bn in the previous one. Plus, (despite Osborne Clarkes best efforts) firms are still figuring out how much office space they need with the whole hybrid work thing. On the bright side, the West End had a few big deals that propped things up a bit.

  • 綾 Clifford Chance, the Magic Circle firm, has said "no thanks" to the idea of merging like Allen & Overy did. They're instead focusing on growing their US business step by step. They're doing pretty well too at the moment they recorded 瞿2bn in revenue for the first time and recently opened up a new office in Houston, Texas!

  •  Clyde & Co, a global law firm specialising in insurance, has teamed up with the tech company Luminance (in a deal with millions of 瞿s) to use AI to speed up handling claims. It's a pretty neat system that helps them decide to settle or dispute claims faster. Heres a two-page document of what the firm itself had to say about the project.

AROUND THE WEB

  •  Cool: This is a cool way to learn a new language and grow your vocab while reading your favourite books or articles in whatever language youre trying to learn.

  • 儭 News: Top up your commercial awareness with business news that respects your time and intelligence written by an investment banker. The Daily Upside delivers quality insights and shares unique stories you won't read elsewhere.*

  •  Interesting: This is why UK fish and chip shops are disappearing (in short, rising ingredient costs, energy costs and strong competition).

* This is sponsored content

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