China may soon become a top source of legal headaches, as well as market opportunities. Wednesday, the iPhone maker begins a defense of its Siri software against a Chinese company’s claim the voice-activated personal assistant violates its 2004 patent. Zhizhen Network Technology Co. filed its lawsuit against Apple last summer and today the two firms meet for a pre-trial hearing in a Shanghai court.

According to Zhizhen, its “Xiao i Robot” software was patented before Apple developed Siri in 2007 and unveiled as part of the iPhone 4S in 2011. The Shanghai-based firm is asking the court to halt Apple making and selling products using Siri, a voice-activated personal assistant feature available on newer iPhones and iPads…

Although the case is not scheduled until July, a Zhizhen spokeswoman told AFP that “We surely have confidence” in the outcome.

The company’s lawyer held out the potential that Apple might pay a licensing fee to use the technology. In 2012, Apple paid $60 million to use the “iPad” trademark in China after Shenzhen Proview Technology objected to the U.S. company’s tablet marketing.

Following that settlement, Apple experienced an upswing in demand for the iPad by Chinese consumers.

Siri promo video (Woman asks for weather)

While Apple has become a frequent target for trademark lawsuits as the iPhone and iPad brand expands its international presence, the court battle surrounding the Siri technology may not be as cut-and-dried as Zhizhen claims.

The court likely will face voice-recognition patents held by Nuance, Apple’s partner in developing the voice-recognition software. Apple of course has always been a magnet for similar trademark lawsuits, even more so following its wild successes with iOS-powered mobile gizmos.

Along with China, a Mexican firm is disputing Apple’s right to use the iPhone trademark. To make matters worse, a company in Brazil – which makes an Android-based smartphone – has challenged the iPhone moniker as well.

The factors likely in common: Apple’s deep pockets and a strong desire to expand the products’ availability.

In the case of Siri, itself, the court challenge in China isn’t the first time someone has disputed Apple’s use of the software. Last year, Taiwan’s National Cheng Kung University sued Apple, claiming Siri’s dictation function violated two patents.

Do you think Apple will prevail in this fresh case involving China’s Xiao i Robot?

  • a wolf and a rabbit…
    this time apple is a rabbit… until tomorrow then

  • There’s a crook at every corner.

  • Lupius

    “asking the court to halt Apple making and selling products using Siri”

    Why can’t people just be honest and say “We patented before you. Pay up!”

  • Apple will lose this. You don’t win in a Chinese court unless your Chinese.

    • RarestName

      My Chinese what?

      • It’s a blog you get my point ..or are you just doing it for the likes…? Lol.

  • Karma is bitch….

  • Kurt

    “…Apple developed Siri in 2007 and unveiled as part of the iPhone 4S in 2011.”

    Was this a joke?

    • No apple had Siri back in late 07.

      • Kurt

        Funny I got so many thumbs down. Allow me to explain.

        According to IDB /2011/10/18/why-apple-bought-siri/
        Siri was developed (not by Apple) in August of 2008 . And according to the FCC Apple bought Siri in early 2010. So how did, “Apple develop Siri in 2007”?


  • ic0dex

    Didn’t apple purchase Siri from some company that had it on the App Store?

    “Siri was acquired by Apple on April 28, 2010, and the original application ceased to function on October 15, 2011” Wiki

    So how do we know Apple copied this company?

  • f5faith

    I wonder how much cut the Chinese government gets for manipulating the “patents”.

  • BoardDWorld

    What they’re showing was developed after Siri, out right copying Apple’s Siri. It was actually a plug-in for other chat services. Apple will likely need to pay up but it’s bull sh…