Ocado has slammed US authorities’ decision to investigate its technology stating it could harm “public health, safety and welfare”.
On Monday the US International Trade Commission (ITC) announced plans to open a formal investigation into Ocado which would prevent it bringing any robots or other key technology into the country.
The ITC is launching the investigation into Ocado’s Smart Platform (OSP) technology in response to claims from Norwegian tech firm AutoStore that it had infringed a number of its patents.
It comes after AutoStore announced in early October that it was suing Ocado for patent infringement, demanding that the company immediately ceased building and selling the automated robotic picking systems which have been integral to its recent success.
Ocado is currently in the process of building 20 automated distribution centres across the US for grocery giant Kroger, its largest corporate client, with the first set to open early next year.
Its lawyers argued that bringing this process to a halt would put American’s unable to go to physical stores during the pandemic at risk.
“Excluding the OSP from the US market . . . will harm the ability of US consumers, especially consumers in underserved communities, to obtain healthy and affordable food and also will harm Kroger’s ability to compete with established online grocers,” they said.
They added that the pandemic will “almost certainly” still be an issue when Ocado’s distribution centres are up and running, and that the investigation “could be deleterious to public health, safety and welfare in the US” during the pandemic.
AutoStore’s civil case against Ocado is now understood to be on hold in the US until the outcome of the ITC’s investigation is known.