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Apple ensnared in Chinese patent fight over Siri

A Chinese company that makes an automated online chat technology is suing Apple(s AAPL) in China, charging that Siri infringes on patents it holds, according to a report Wednesday in the Shangai Daily.

Shanghai Zhi Zhen makes a product called Xiaoi, which the company calls a “chat robot system” used for customer service and hotlines. While Apple owns a patent on Siri, its voice-activated personal assistant app, the Chinese company claims its patent was applied for in 2004 and was granted in 2006. Siri appeared first on the iPhone in fall 2011.

Siri was developed with a technology Apple acquired when it purchased the company behind it in 2010. The speech recognition engine is believed to have been built using technology licensed from Nuance Communications (s nuan).

Shanghai Zhi Zhen’s problem with Siri is the robot interaction aspect of Siri, not speech recognition, according to what its spokeswoman told Shanghai Daily:

“The core technology of Siri is man-machine interaction rather than speech recognition, and that is based on the word chat robot system Xiaoi patented,” Mei [Li] said.

Though the original suit was filed last year, the first hearing is set to take place Wednesday.

Last year Apple was forced to pay $60 million to a local company after a Chinese court ruled against Apple in a trademark dispute over the iPad. The company that won the damages award was bankrupt and looking for cash. But this company, Shanghai Zhi Zhen, has not asked for any damages yet. But it is asking for its patents to be enforced.

Apple, for its part, has reportedly asked the country’s intellectual property agency to invalidate Shangai Zhi Zhen’s patent.

2 Responses to “Apple ensnared in Chinese patent fight over Siri”

  1. Sounds like a bogus claim, concluding man-machine interaction trumps speech recognition.

    Siri’s successive queries never show any knowledge of the previous thought – there is no interaction, just speech recognition that triggers certain API methods. Garbage in, garbage out, garbage in, garbage out. It could just as easily be a multiple choice web form tapping different API methods. – It isn’t because of the speech recognition.

  2. Good luck here, but the reality is that if Apple didnt file a patent in China before the Chinese company, they are screwed. And Apple is not getting much love in China anyway….