Apple taking China’s patent office and Zhizhen Network Technology to court over Siri

siri ios 7

According to a report by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency, Apple is suing both the country’s State Intellectual Property Office and Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology. The main point of contention: patent rights to Siri.

Now, eagled-eyed readers may remember that Zhizhen back in July of 2012 actually filed a case first against Apple as it felt Siri had infringed upon its patent for an instant messaging chat bot system called Xiaoi Bot.

Apple asked China’s State Intellectual Property Office, which is in charge of patent rights protection in China, to invalidate Zhizhen’s patent, but the request was declined. In turn, Apple is now suing both the patent office and Zhizhen…

For context, Zhizhen’s Xiaoi Bot was patented in 2004 and Apple unveiled Siri in October 2011. Here’s Zhizhen’s voice assistant vs Apple’s Siri.

Zhizhen asked the court to prevent Apple from making and selling products using Siri.

Whichever way you look at it, Apple could very easily find itself in hot water with Chinese patent laws because Microsoft and Yahoo have licensed Zhizhen’s technology for use in MSN and Yahoo Messenger IM apps distributed in China.

Zhizhen’s invention is also utilized by Shanghai Expo’s Dr Haibao and on Lenovo’s Android-driven Smart TVs. The patent for Xiaoi Bot was filed on August 13, 2004, and approved on February 15, 2006. Apple snapped up Siri, Inc., the company behind an iOS voice assistant app, on April 28, 2010.

Siri new voice iOS 7 beta 2

No ruling has been announced yet in Zhizhen’s case against Apple, heard last July.

According to a report filed by the Agence France-Presse, a French news agency and among the oldest ones in the world, Apple’s new case will be heard on Thursday by the Beijing Number one Intermediate People’s Court.

Apple is typically a magnet for patent lawsuits.

Patent trolls took the firm to court 92 times in three years. With China increasingly becoming the source of a growing number of frivolous lawsuits, and given the country’s relaxed stance on intellectual property issues, Apple has plenty of reasons to be worried.

For instance, Shenzhen Proview Technology in 2012 forced Apple to pay up a cool $60 million to use the ‘iPad’ trademark in China.

And after a series of PR clashes with the Chinese government threatened to hurt sales, Apple was cornered into changing its strategy in the 1.33 billion people country and now appears very respectful toward Chinese users.

Taking on the state’s patent office may alienate its carefully cultivated relationship with China and prompt the government to once more take advantage of state-run media in order to slam Apple on a daily basis.