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Apple files lawsuit over Siri patent rights in China

Apple claims that Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology’s patent concerning voice-recognition technology should be invalid

Siri, what’s the best way to win a patent battle? The answer: filing a lawsuit against a Chinese government agency and a domestic software company over patent rights of voice-recognition technology within the country.

On Feb. 24, Apple Inc. filed a lawsuit against the State Intellectual Property Office and software developer Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology seeking to declare the latter’s voice-recognition patent invalid.

The case arose with the 2011 arrival of the iPhone to the Chinese market. At the time, writes the International Business Times, Zhizhen claimed that Apple violated its 2004 patent for the “Xiao I Robot,” a personal assistant app that used voice-recognition technology. When Apple in turn asked the State Intellectual Property Office to invalidate Zhizhen’s patent, the agency declined.

Apple filed suit against both Zhizhen and the State Intellectual Property Office to force the court system’s hand. The Beijing Number One Intermediate People’s Court is set to hear the case on Feb. 27, although there is no indication that the court will make a final ruling at that time.

Apple has been fighting patent battles on multiple fronts, including the United States, the European Union, and South Korea. However, China represents a relatively new, and potentially lucrative, market for the company.

According to the IBT, the company entered a partnership with China Mobile, mainland China’s largest mobile carrier, to carry iPhones in December 2013. With the partnership, Apple’s share of the China market, which had already reached 7 percent by the end of 2013, is expected to rise even higher.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the company is attempting to assert its dominance in this new market. But will it work? A Chinese court heard Zhizhen’s suit against Apple in July 2013, but the court made no ruling on the case.


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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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