Siri’s speech-to-text makes Apple target of yet another patent suit


Apple is the target of yet another patent suit, this time over Siri’s voice-to-text capability. On Friday, Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University sued Apple(s AAPL) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, according to Reuters. The school says it owns two U.S. patents for the technology that allows Siri to translate voice commands into texts and notes.

The patents owned by National Cheng Kung University were issued in 2007 and 2010. Siri began life as a U.S. government-funded artificial intelligence project at SRI International, but was spun out as its own company, Siri, in 2007 and commercialized. Apple bought Siri in 2010.

The calculation of the damages the university is seeking “would be based on Apple’s U.S. sales of devices that use Siri,” according to its lawyer. That basically means sales of all iPhone 4S and new iPads with iOS 6 software, which is coming this fall. So the school is looking for a very large chunk of change as compensation.

Apple is involved in dozens of lawsuits regarding its mobile technology, including the very high-profile Samsung trial that kicks off Monday in California. Is the overall climate surrounding handset makers and the mobile industry encouraging more of these kind of lawsuits from international companies? Or, as my colleague Jeff Roberts has argued, has Apple’s decision to settle with the near-bankrupt Proview over the iPad trademark in China last month for $60 million emboldened more potential plaintiffs?

Apple is the only target of the school’s suit for now, but Siri competitors are in the crosshairs as well: the school’s lawyer told Reuters it is also looking at both Microsoft(s MSFT) and Google’s(s GOOG) speech-to-text products for possible violations of the same two patents.


Jason Daniels

We keep hearing more and more of these lawsuits involving Apple. While there are others in the company’s crosshairs, it only makes sense that they go after the top dog.


As I understand it, the speech-to-text portion of Siri is provided by Nuance. Somehow, I doubt Nuance doesn’t have a license to perform this function, and I would think Apple would be covered under exhaustion as a Nuance client in this case.

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