Chinese court takes a bite out of Apple’s patents

Chinese court rules against Apple in Siri case

So far, the first portion of the 21st century has been marked by the economic rise of China. The country has become a sought-after market for American goods, and its economy has risen in global prominence at a furious pace. However, if there was one area where China has lagged behind its international rivals, it’s in the area of intellectual property. But does a recent Chinese ruling signal that the nation is starting to take IP more seriously?

The case in question involves Apple’s virtual personal assistant, Siri. Back in 2012, Zhizhen Network Technology filed suit in Shanghai, accusing Apple of infringing on its patent for a chat robot system.

Then it was Apple’s turn to go on the offensive, as it sued China’s Patent Review Committee in 2013, asking for a ruling as to the validity of Zhizhen’s patent for “Little I Robot,” a voice-controlled assistant it patented in 2006.

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FURTHER READING:

Expediting patent application examination at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

Protecting innovation while fostering collaboration: Joint development agreements

The upsides and downfalls of patent cease and desist letters

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Well, Apple finally got its answer in the 2013 case, as Beijing’s No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court ruled on July 8 that Zhizheng’s patent was indeed valid. Apple, which has consistently claimed that it did not know about Zhizheng’s patent when it introduced Siri, plans to appeal the decision, stating its belief that Siri does not infringe on the Little I Robot patent.

For a country that has not always seemed to value the development of intellectual property, this ruling could encourage other Chinese companies to generate patents as a way to expand their businesses. For Apple, though, the ruling marks another frustrating hurdle in China, where it has run into issues before, such as when it was forced to purchase the Chinese trademark for iPad from Proview Technology for $60 million.

Managing Editor

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Managing Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance arenas. Rich earned a B.A. in English Literature...

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