🤖 Ocado wins the robot war
In today’s email:
The Web3 email for your mum
Clyde & Co doubles down on AI
A cool new way to learn a language
Ocado’s robots are free to roam again
Clifford Chance isn’t 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!
EDITOR’S RAMBLE 🗣
Hey — I hope you’re summer’s going well so far!
Each week, I try to find the best topic to cover in depth for this newsletter’s ‘Featured Report’.
I look for interesting business stories where I can highlight the legal considerations (like today’s one).
Or I’ll 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 it’ll be the topic of the next newsletter.
FEATURED REPORT 📰
🤖 Ocado wins the robot war
What’s going on here?
Ocado, the high-tech grocery company, won a three-year patent fight against a Norwegian storage-tech company AutoStore, securing £200m in the settlement.
They've been going at it in court for a while, but AutoStore’s 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 didn’t really understand), check out the High Court judgment. For a much simpler explanation, here’s Ocado’s victory statement on their website in relation to the judgment (annoyingly, they’ve 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 Ocado’s 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 Ocado’s tech would naturally be a threat to the company’s value. And the threat did cause Ocado’s 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. 👇️
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.
🇬🇧 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.
🇳🇴 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:
💸 it’s been expensive (lawyers aren’t cheap, especially if you’re fighting in multiple jurisdictions like they were here),
💔 it damaged Ocado’s reputation for that period, and
📉 the company’s share price suffered throughout.
There’s nothing to say Ocado didn’t protect themselves well beforehand. So it shows that even if you’ve 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 it’s even had to deal with an infringement!
TOGETHER WITH WEB3 DAILY* 🤝
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(Yeah. That’s right, your mum.)
The email is full of the latest Web3 news, but it’s translated into plain English, which means everyone can understand it.
So if you’re sick of pretending to know what a ‘layer 2 cross-chain protocol’ is (or if you’ve never even heard of it) and want to learn about Web3, without your eyes glazing over, sign up to Web3 Daily, it’s free and you can always unsubscribe.
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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 Clarke’s 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. They’ll 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 don’t 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 £1.2bn last quarter, down from £2.9bn in the previous one. Plus, (despite Osborne Clarke’s 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.
🇺🇸 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 £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 £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. Here’s 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 you’re trying to learn.
🗞️ 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
STUFF THAT MIGHT HELP YOU 👌
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