Apple loses initial Siri patent skirmish, preps for next battle round

By Quinten Plummer, Tech Times | July 9, 2:33 PM

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Xiaoi Bot and Siri go head-to-head for another round. Apple's attempt to invalidate the patent claims of Xiaoi Bot's creators was struck down in the Beijing First Intermediate Court.
(Photo : Kārlis Dambrāns | Creative Commons)

The battle between Siri and Xiaoi Bot will continue, after the Beijing First Intermediate Court ruled against Apple's assertion that a Shanghai firm's patent on voice-prompted assistance was invalid.

The Shanghai technology firm, Zhizhen, reportedly filed a suit against Apple in 2012, alleging that the U.S. developer and vendor of high-end electronics stepped on protected ideas when it deployed Siri onto iPhone and other Apple products.

Xiaoi Bot, Zhizhen's voice assistant software, was said to have been patented in 2004. Before the most recent decision on the dispute, July 8, Apple asked Chinese regulators to review Xiaoi Bot.

When the State Intellectual Property Office re-affirmed Xiaoi Bot's patent, Apple attempted to counter the Zhizhen's suit in the Beijing First Intermediate Court - Apple's counter suit also included the State Intellectual Property Office. That counter punched failed to connect, as the intermediate court upheld Zhizhen's claims on July 8.

In a written statement, an Apple spokesperson responded to the latest blow it suffered in the Chinese legal system.

"Apple created Siri to provide customers with their own personal assistant by using their voice. Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent," stated the spokesperson. "While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen."

After heading back into their corners, the two sides appeared to be poised for another round in court. Apple was said to be preparing to escalate the dispute to Beijing Higher People's Court.

In the next round of the dispute, Apple may focus its attack from a different angle. The U.S. technology company may focus on differentiating Siri's architecture from Xiaoi Bot, asserting that the two services work from two different points to reach similar goals.

While some analysts of the Chinese mobile market have stated their disbelief that Siri would be pulled if Xiaoi Bot and its creators continue to win the legal dispute, they have stated that Apple may have to settle up with Zhizhen financially.

In 2012, Apple had to reach a financial settlement with another Chinese technology firm. Before the matter was settled, a Chinese court ruled that Apple hadn't legally purchased the iPad trademark from Proview's Taiwan arm in 2009.

Apple ultimately settled with Proview for $60 million, much less than $1.5 billion the firm was originally seeking in order for Apple to continue using the iPad brand in the Chinese market.

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