Apple's Patent Saga in China Continues, Siri is the Latest Victim

Apple has been facing a growing number of legal challenges in China.
By Michael Kan
News Jul 6th 2012

Apple has become the target of another lawsuit in China, this time because of its Siri technology, with a Shanghai-based company alleging that Apple has infringed on a patent involving its own personal assistant software. 

The company, Shanghai Zhi Zhen Internet Technology, is the developer of software called "Xiao i Robot" that communicates through voice, and can answer users' questions while also holding simple conversations. In 2004, the company applied for a patent in China covering the technology, and was later granted it in 2006. 

"We have a 100 million users in China, and many companies are using our product," said the company head Yuan Hui, in an interview on Friday. The software is available for Android, iOS, Windows Live Messenger, and is used by products from China Telecom, China Mobile, as well as major banks in the country. 

Apple's Siri, which is also a personal assistant software, became available in China starting early this year, when the iPhone 4S was officially launched in the country. Last month, Apple said it had incorporated Chinese Mandarin and Cantonese languages into Siri. 

In May, Zhi Zhen Internet Technology contacted Apple about the alleged patent infringement. A month later, the company filed a lawsuit against Apple in a Shanghai court, which has accepted the case, Yuan said. "Our only demand is that Apple stop infringing on our patent," he said.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The patent lawsuit is one more legal battle Apple has to deal with in China. Earlier this week, a Chinese court announced Apple had to pay US$60 million to buy ownership of the "iPad trademark" in China from a local company.