Apple is in court again in China, defending another of its products from attack based on pre-existing claims from a Chinese company. This time around it’s Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant, that has landed it in Chinese legal trouble, after last year another company took issue with the iPad trademark resulting in a $60 million settlement deal.
The claim this time is from Zhizhen Technology Co., a Shanghai company that holds a patent for voice recognition software for its “Xiao i Robot,” software that was originally patented back in 2004. Siri, Inc. was founded in 2007, after being spun out of SRI International and before being acquired by Apple in 2010. Zhizhen first filed suit back in July last year, at which time this video supposedly demonstrating a version of Xiao i Robot in action on a Lenovo device surfaced.
Xiao i Robot can be installed on smart TVs, and is employed by countries around the world in customer service functions, according to an article from Shanghai Daily published back in June 2012. The tech has apparently been used by 360buy.com, as well as the Chinese government and a number of other enterprise customers.
Zhizhen told says it will ask Apple to “stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple’s infringement is confirmed,” one of its lawyers told the AFP. Should it be successful, it may also seek compensation down the road for any damage done by Siri to its financials to date. Apple had asked for the case to be dropped, and was rejected in that effort, the lawyer said. Today’s hearing paves the way for a full trial beginning in July 2013.
Recently, Apple has fallen under attack by Chinese media for customer service and return policy complaints. The company has responded on its official website to respond to some of these attacks, but analysts suggest this could be part of an effort to encourage more consumption of home-grown tech solutions by Chinese consumers. China also recently partnered with Ubuntu creator Canonical to develop a China-specific open source operating system that seems in part designed to wean its IT sector off of foreign-developed software tools.