A Chinese technology firm has filed a legal challenge accusing US giant Apple of infringing its patented voice recognition software with its Siri function on the iPhone, the company said yesterday.
The move comes just days after Apple paid US$60 million to end a dispute over who could use the iPad name in China.
Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co Ltd (上海智臻網路公司) patented its Xiao i Robot software in 2004, while Apple’s Siri, which made its debut with the release of the iPhone 4S last year, was first developed in 2007.
The Chinese company’s version operates in a similar way to Apple’s personal assistant and works on the iOS and Android operating systems.
Si Weijiang (斯偉江), a lawyer acting for the Shanghai-based firm, said it had tried to contact Apple two months ago over the alleged infringement, but received no response.
“We sent legal notices to Apple in May, but no one contacted us. We filed the lawsuit in late June to the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court,” Si said.
“Currently, the case is now at the court-mediated stage,” he added.
“We mainly ask Apple to stop infringing on our patent and cover the court costs, but once the court confirms Apple has infringed on our patent, we will propose compensation,” he said.
The company’s chairman, Yuan Hui (袁輝), told the Apple Daily newspaper that the firm had 100 million users in China.
“People feel that China has no innovation, that companies here just copy, but in fact, we are leaders in our field, and we have created our own innovation,” Yuan told the paper.
The paper added that Apple was also facing legal action from another Chinese company for allegedly infringing its “Snow Leopard” trademark.
The High Court of the southern province of Guangdong said on Monday that Apple had paid US$60 million to settle a long-running legal battle with Chinese computer maker Shenzhen Proview Technology (深圳唯冠) over the iPad name.
Both Proview, based in the southern city of Shenzhen, and Apple had claimed ownership of the Chinese rights to the “iPad” trademark.
Proview’s Taiwanese affiliate registered “iPad” as a trademark in several countries including China as early as 2000 — years before Apple began selling its hugely successful tablet computer.
Analysts said the Chinese government wanted the matter resolved, wary of the damage a ruling against Apple could do for the foreign business climate in China.
Greater China — which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan — has become Apple’s fastest-growing region, with revenues second only to the US.