Apple Faces Siri Lawsuit In China
July 6, 2012

Apple Faces Siri Lawsuit In China

Big trouble in not-so-little China

Michael Harper for — Your Universe Online

Just as they wrap up one legal brouhaha in China, another one begins. Apple is now the target of a new suit in Shanghai as a voice application developer, Zhizhen Network Technology, is reportedly suing Apple over their Intelligent Digital Assistant, Siri.

Zhizhen is alleging that Apple has infringed upon a patent they hold related to "a type of instant messaging chat bot system" they call Xiaoi Bot. According to Marbridge Consulting, the patent for Xiaoi Bot was filed by Zhizhen Network Technology on August 13, 2004, then later approved on February 15, 2006.

The team at Zhizhen claims they sent a legal notice to Apple this past May, seeking to settle their dispute through mediation. Apple did not, however, respond to their letter. Sticking to their guns, Zhizhen filed their suit on June 21 and the courts in Shanghai announced they´d hear the case 5 days later.

Apple, of course, didn´t create Siri. They purchased the technology from an app developer of the same name in 2010 and later baked the technology into their iPhone 4S smartphones last fall.

Though it´s interesting to see China suddenly concerned with intellectual property, it´s been suggested that by hearing cases such as these, the Chinese courts are working to enforce stricter patent controls. Once China has enough valuable IPs on their own, they´ll be able to take advantage of these tight controls.

There haven't been any financial details announced yet, but given Apple´s recent willingness to settle out of court for $60 million to continue their thriving business in the East, a Zhizhen representative has said they expect to earn even more from their Siri Suit. This is, of course, assuming Apple feels a pinch from this litigation.

Apple has been making a push towards China in recent years, pledging to not only build more stores there, but to also bring some China-specific features to their products, such as Baidu search on iOS and native sharing to popular Chinese social networking sites in Mountain Lion. Apple also plans to bring Siri to the popular iPad in their release of iOS 6, due out this fall.

It´s been an interesting week for the Apple legal team in China. Most notably, they finally settled with Proview, paying out $60 million to the debt-riddled display maker. As pointed out by the Wall Street Journal, this $60 million is a small price to pay considering the Cupertino company was able to make $8 Billion from sales in China in the first 3 months of 2012.

Shortly after the Proview settlement made headlines, another Chinese company by the name of Snow Leopard Household Chemical Co., LTD. filed a lawsuit against Apple over the right to use the “Snow Leopard” name in China. Snow Leopard is, of course, a 3-year old version Mac OS X. The report, discovered by M.I.C Gadget, says the company registered their name, Xuebao, (which translates to Snow Leopard in English) back in 2000. This case won´t likely have the same headline-grabbing drama as the Proview and Siri case, however, as the chemical company is only looking for a $80,000 payout and official apology from Apple. There´s also the small fact that Apple never used the word “Xuebao” to sell their software in China.