Apple Loses Siri Patent Case In China

Voice recognition © brem stocker Shutterstock 2012

Chinese court rules against Apple in a patent case that could bring the iPad maker to the settlement table

Apple has suffered a legal setback in mainland China after a Beijing court ruled against the iPad maker, in a patent infringement dispute over the Siri speech recognition technology.

The Cupertino, California-based company said it intends to appeal the decision, but hinted that it was open to a possible settlement deal.

Legal Setback

The case centres around Siri. Apple was sued by a Shanghai-based company known as ‘Zhizhen Network Technology’, in July 2012. It claimed that Apple’s digital concierge (Siri) infringed on its patents.

When that case was not resolved, Apple then countersued, taking Zhizhen Internet Technology and China’s State Intellectual Property Office to court to seek a ruling that Zhizhen’s patent rights to the speech recognition technology were invalid.

Siri LogoBut according to China’s official Xinhua news agency, Apple has now lost that case when the Beijing First Intermediate Court ruled against it on Tuesday.

Apple apparently still intends to appeal its case to the Beijing Higher People’s Court.

“Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen’s patent before we introduced Siri (speech recognition technology) and we do not believe we are using this patent,” said a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman in an emailed statement to Reuters.

And Apple hinted that it was willing to enter into a settlement deal with the Chinese firm.

“While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen,” the spokeswoman reportedly said.

Zhizhen reportedly developed its Little I Robot chat application in 2003, and filed its patents in 2004, and which were granted in 2006.

China Woes

The voice recognition application was originally an assistant for MSN chat, but Zhizhen later expanded it to the Android and iOS platforms. The app is said to similar to Siri.

Apple of course did not develop Siri itself. It actually acquired Siri Inc in 2010, after that company had developed the intelligent personal assistant back in 2007. Apple incorporated Siri in its iPhone handsets in 2011.

Apple has not had much good fortune in China. In 2011, it lost the right to to use the iPad trademark in China, after Chinese courts rejected Apple’s claim to the name after it accused Proview Technology of infringing on its iPad trademark.

It was later forced to pay $60 million (£38.2m) to Proview Technology in July 2012 in order to settle the dispute.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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