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Apple’s ability to use Siri as a competitive weapon in the 1.33 billion people market of China – its second-largest market by revenue – could be compromised. A Beijing court has now ruled against Apple by upholding the validity of a patent related to the personal assistant feature held by a Chinese company called Zhizhen Network Technology.

The ruling clears the way for Zhizhen to continue its own case patent infringement case against Apple. Specifically, the Shanghai-based firm is now asking the court to block Apple from selling devices with Siri installed. The iPhone maker is of course expected to appeal the verdict…

Apple became aware of the problem in 2012 after adding Mandarin and Cantonese to Siri’s list of languages. Zhizhen’s technology, dubbed Xiao iRobot, began life in 2003 as a text-based chatbot.

Zhizhen filed its case against Apple in the summer of 2012. Apple responded by taking the country’s State Intellectual Property Office to court, seeking to invalidate Zhizhen’s patent.

It’s important to note that the patent still exists, but the trial to see if Apple is actually infringing it has not occurred yet.

BBC explains that Zhizhen’s technology later evolved into call-centre software used by the Chinese government and several companies. Moreover, Zhizhen built a voice-controlled software for smart TVs, cars and smartphones and even released an iPhone app for finding restaurants, train times and stock prices.

Be that as it may, Zhizhen patented its technology back in 2004, two years before Apple filed its first patent application related to Siri.

BBC has more:

Zhizhen noted that it had filed for the intellectual rights to the underlying technology in 2004 and had been granted the patent two years later.

Apple countered that Siri used a different process to power its voice-recognition tech – a court has yet to rule on this claim.

The news gathering organization has this statement from an Apple spokesperson:

Apple believes deeply in protecting innovation, and we take intellectual property rights very seriously. 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.

While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen.

I hope “reasonable discussions” with the Chinese firm will lead to an amicable solution because – say what you will about Siri –  it’s one of the major features of iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices and among Apple’s key selling points.

The worst-case scenario: Apple does not prevail in a higher court, Apple does not negotiate a licensing deal with Zhizhen and thereby Apple is ordered to disable Siri on all devices sold in China. I hope common sense prevails and that the parties will soon reach an agreement.

  • iBanks

    Well damn…

  • John

    I hope “reasonable discussions” with the Chinese patent troll will lead to an amicable solution because – say what you will about Siri – it’s one of the major features of iPhone, iPod touch and iPad devices and among Apple’s key selling points.

    For the first time @dujkan:disqus I am going to have to disagree with you. Zhizhen doesn’t look like a patent troll, in fact, they look like a company that have actively utilised their patents.

    That said, I would be interested in knowing what exactly the patent covers that Apple are being sued for.

    • nazcorp

      Agreed. It’s so easy to call someone a patent troll but this company isn’t trying to compete against Apple – they simply already patented their ideas. That bring said, I wonder if Apple was already prepared for this with their new speech team and we may see iOS 8 remove the patented technology in favor of an inhouse solution.

  • Chuck Finley

    “Patent troll”? Are you a complete and utterly blind, moronic fanboy or are you actually joking?

    Patent trolls take companies to court over patents they have but aren’t using. This company filed for patent in 2004 before Siri and is using it in a wide range of products, they’re doing what patent law allows a company to do – Protecting their intellectual property.

    It’s hilarious because if the situation was reversed and Apple were suing a company you’d be harping on about how Apple are rightly protecting their intellectual property.

    The sheer fanboyism is just mind boggling.

    • This is literally an iOS fan blog. That’s basically the point of this website. lol

      • Chuck Finley

        Very true, but I still can’t fathom how some people can get this completely blind.

        I mean competition is always a good thing and having a balanced view of competitor products is massively beneficial. It lets you see the benefits and faults of what you’re using and just means you’re not completely close minded, there’s articles like Jeff reviewing a Samsung device and formulating a balanced view of the product, articles like this just seem massively immature.

      • Dan

        sadly a lot of readers (and ‘authors’) don’t share that point of view on iDB.

      • Chuck Finley

        I used to really enjoy reading this blog because it used to be a great source of info on new jailbreak tweaks as well as the jailbreak scene as a whole. Sadly nowadays it appears that a lot of the content here is focused on blindly worshiping Apple as the best thing since sliced bread.

        Though saying that, I’m shocked at the amount of readers leaving comments agreeing with the whole “the company are not a patent troll” statement.

      • Yujin

        Out

      • Chuck Finley

        >Posts in a comments section for discussion of the contents of an article, basically a section of the website for readers to express their opinion
        >Gets told he is trolling because Yujin doesn’t like my opinion

        Expressing your opinion is not trolling by the way. You should probably try a dictionary.

        Also, not responding well to any kind of criticism and telling critics to get out? Now there’s a product of the Chinese government if I’ve ever seen one.

      • Tommy

        Oh grow up kid. What do you think this is? Your grandfathers home?

      • @dongiuj

        Stop “trolling” with your “troll” comments. It’s just the lamest comment ever now.

    • Antzboogie

      China is full of patent trolls if they don’t want Siri, Siri doesn’t want them. They can stick to Zhizhen lmao.

      • Chuck Finley

        It’s not just China though, it’s every country. Despite being a pretty underhand tactic patent trolling remains a feasible way of making money. There are patent trolls all around the world.

    • This article wrongly assumed that the company was a patent troll, when all it was doing was protect its assets. The post has been edited to remove the “patent troll” mention, which admittedly was an horrible mistake.

    • Tommy

      Didn’t u know? Christian is the biggest iFag on iDB. Everything he blogs about sided heavily on Apple devices whilst he scorns upon the products of other manufacturers.

  • Kevin Osborne

    The Chinese are seriously concerned about copyright infringement? o.O Bahaha! Oh the irony…

    • RarestName

      Generalisation.

  • Dan

    I hope “reasonable discussions” with the Chinese patent troll will lead to an amicable solution

    You sir, have lost all credibility

    • Rowan09

      Maybe he knows something we don’t and made the statement because the company wants Apple to stop selling IOS devices instead of a licensing deal.

  • RarestName

    The company isn’t a patent troll. They’re doing exactly what Apple is doing. It’s not like they’re suing over patents that they don’t use.

  • @dongiuj

    Zibreg, are you ok? Not loving apple too much, are we? On a certain computer company’s payroll by any chance?

  • George Newell

    Siri is crap anyway. Only works every now and then and is more of a hindrance to productivity than actually helpful.

    • Rowan09

      Disagree. I use Siri a lot while driving at work and in my personal vehicle. It is by far better than Voice Control before the 4S so it’s a great addition that you just don’t use.

      • RarestName

        One thing that Voice Control is superior to Siri is offline recognition.

      • Rowan09

        True. Some of Siri’s functions should be available offline and I believe Apple will make it happen.

      • George Newell

        Well when I use it 9 times out of 10 it just doesn’t work 100%
        Which means more manipulation required to do a task that would of been quicker without using Siri.
        The one time it does work it’s great!
        Needs more work though don’t you think.

      • Rowan09

        I don’t have any issue with it, it works most of the time for me. I use it to read my text when driving, send a text, make a phone call or play music while running.

    • Jared

      I agree. This evening I asked Siri to turn off my alarm. Her response: “turn off what?” When I said “alarm” she said “you have three alarms” and that was it. Didn’t turn anything off.

      That’s all I use “her” for nowadays anyway. :-/

  • Eni

    Siri is going crazy anyway lol

    • George Newell

      My point exactly. Lol

  • Adam

    This is definitely not a case of a patent troll this is simply an unfortunate situation for Apple.
    I’m sure this will get settled Apple will either have to pay or they won’t I don’t see them not using Siri in China.

  • Byron C Mayes

    Wait. *China* is worried about someone violating intellectual property?

  • Thiago Vaccaro

    China is disgusting. They do things beyond the human etics, and they just don’t care. They are ignorant, they mistreat all kinds of animals, and they don’t give a f**k. The world, and Apple, should stop giving such a importance to this mean country. Japan is not different. After the Marshall Project, they ran into the US balls, but they are false people.

    • nazcorp

      Who’s to say we Americans (or any other country for that matter) are any better? Every country is ran by humans which have faults and give in to greed. The USofA sells and profits off products that cause cancer, covers up diseases instead of curing them and mandates what children must be taught in school (no religion at all). I think you need to recheck your opinions and be wise to keep them to yourself until you’ve researched other countries.

  • Ibrahim R.I.AlBoraey

    I live in china, and I have a lot of Chinese friends who are using iPhone 4s or later, which included Siri, but I have never seen any of them using it. and most of them did disable that option.

  • Block devices with Siri on? Don’t they think that’s a bit too extravagent? Apple could just release a firmware with it disabled along with a short message about how China doesn’t want Siri on there without being given a pile of cash first…

  • Tommy

    “I hope common sense prevails”? Lol if it were someone else using Apples patent you’d be all fired up by now CZ

  • The great artist reign is slowly coming to an end…

  • hkgsulphate

    there are no real laws in China if you know what I mean