Apple Sued Over Speech Recognition Software Yet Again

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) use of speech recognition technology is once again the target of a lawsuit. In court documents first spotted by Patently Apple, Apple is being accused of infringing on a 2010 patent titled, “Integration of audio or video program with application program” that is currently owned by a company called Cedatech Holdings. As noted in the lawsuit, the patent covers “a system running an application program, wherein a separate audio or video program is integrated with the application program.”

Cedatech claimed that Apple is infringing this patent by selling products that offer the capability to integrate an audio or video program with a separate application program. While this broad claim would likely involve most of Apple’s products, the lawsuit cited the iPhone 5 and its audio speech recognition feature that works across multiple applications, as an example. Cedatech also claimed that Apple was inducing infringement by instructing consumers to use the speech recognition feature on the iPhone 5.

“The iPhone 5 infringes at least one claim of the ‘591 Patent, at least by providing an audio speech recognition program,” wrote Cedatech in its filed complaint. “This audio speech recognition program provides input into any separate application program running on the operating system.”

The filing of this lawsuit follows Apple’s recently defeated bid to get a Chinese company’s patent on its speech recognition software invalidated. As noted by Xinhua, Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology has similarly accused Apple of infringing on its patent for a “Chat robot system.” However, while Zhizhen’s patent is aimed directly at Siri as an infringing program, it appears that Cedatech’s patent would only target Siri in the specific instances when its speech recognition feature interacted with other applications. Cedatech’s lawsuit would also appear to ensnare Apple’s Dictation feature, since it is designed to work across multiple applications as an assistive technology.

Cedatech is seeking all damages to which it is entitled to compensate for the infringement of its patent rights, pre-judgment and post-judgment interest on its damages at the maximum rate permitted by law, and attorney’s fees. In what appears to be a typo, Apple’s name in this section was inadvertently substituted with Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC. As noted by Patently Apple, Cedatech is also suing HTC and Dell over the same patent claim and this was the likely reason behind the slipup.

Cedatech is being represented by attorney Allen Wan and Frank Washko of the Tiburon Intellectual Property, a law firm that specializes “in managing, protecting and monetizing intellectual property.” The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, a popular venue for many intellectual property licensing companies.

According to PatentFreedom, a non-practicing entity — or NPE — is a company that derives “the majority of its revenue from the licensing or enforcement of its intellectual property.” These entities are also popularly referred to as “patent trolls,” although Patent Freedom prefers to avoid the use of that term. While it’s unknown if Cedatech qualifies as an NPE under this definition, the company’s assertion of a rather broad patent against multiple companies and its choice of venue that is known to be popular with NPEs makes it more than likely that it is. According to data compiled by PatentFreedom, Apple holds the overall record for the number of times that it has been sued by NPEs, with 212 lawsuits since 2009. Apple has previously described NPEs as “a drag on technological innovation, inflicting billions of dollars in deadweight losses every year,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

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