Apple Sues Chinese IP Office Over Siri Patent Dispute


Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is suing China’s State Intellectual Property Office — the government agency responsible for patent rights protection — over rights to a software related to Siri, reports the country’s official Xinhua news agency via the Economic Times. The Cupertino, California-based company has also named Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology, a China-based tech company, in its lawsuit. Per Xinhua via the Economic Times, Apple’s case against the State Intellectual Property Office and Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology will be heard in the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Thursday.

According to Xinhua, Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology filed its own lawsuit against Apple in 2012, alleging that the voice-recognition software used by Siri infringed on its patented “Xiao i Robot” software. Apple previously asked the State Intellectual Property Office to declare the company’s patent invalid, but its request was refused. According to Xinhua, the case against Apple was heard by a Shanghai court in July. The court announced that it would continue the case at a future date without specifying a time. Apple’s recently filed lawsuit appears to be the iPhone maker’s attempt to end Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology’s ongoing litigation.

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology claimed that Siri violates its patented technology that covers “a type of instant messaging chat robot system,” reports Xinhua. The Chinese company noted that its system can intelligently respond to users’ queries by using a series of artificial intelligence servers and databases, reports Xinhua. Apple’s Siri intelligently responds to users’ natural language queries in a similar way, according to Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology’s complaint.

According to evidence presented by Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology, the Chinese company filed a patent for the “Xiao i Robot” technology in 2004. On the other hand, Siri — Apple’s voice-activated personal assistant — debuted on the iPhone 4S in 2011.

At the time, the voice-activated technology was considered a major selling point for the device. The technology behind Siri was originally developed by a startup that was acquired by Apple in 2010. Since the release of Siri, several other tech companies have developed and released their own personal digital assistants, such as Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Google Now feature.

China has become an increasingly important market for Apple, and the company recently reached a multiyear distribution deal with China Mobile (NYSE:CHL), the world’s largest carrier, with more than 771 million subscribers on its network. According to data from market research firm IDC via the Wall Street Journal, Apple’s market share in the country rose from 6 percent during the third quarter to 7 percent in the fourth quarter, placing it in fifth place overall in the Chinese market.

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