Nikhil SubramaniamMar 28, 2013 11:17:26 IST
Apple is in Chinese courts once again defending one of the vital pieces of the iOS ecosystem. Despite attempts to get a patent lawsuit dropped, the company has to go to trial with Zhizhen over a dispute related to voice-based search assistant Siri.
Last year, Zhizhen Technology sued Apple for the use of Siri, which allegedly violated some of the patents held by the Chinese company. Zhizhen’s popular Xiao i Robot voice-activated software is used widely in China. Zhizhen sued, claiming that Apple’s Siri infringes on its patents for voice recognition software. Apple had requested the Shanghai Court to drop the case, but the company was denied that luxury and the trial has been set for July, Hurriyet Daily News reports.
Both companies were summoned to Shanghai Court yesterday for a pre-trial hearing.
Under dispute in China
Zhizhen’s Xiao i Robot was patented back in 2004, a good three years before Siri appeared. Apple bought over Siri Inc in 2010 and added the now-popular personal assistant to the iPhone 4S. The Chinese firm's voice-recognition system is said to work in the same manner as Siri and can be used by devices running either iOS or Android.
On the question of the future use of Siri in China, Zhizhen said that once the court confirms Apple's infringement on its patent, it will be asking Apple to "stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights." Si Weijiang, the lawyer representing Zhizhen, also said, "We don't exclude the possibility of demanding compensation in the future."
Zhizhen spokeswoman Mei Li added, "We surely have confidence, our lawyers also told us they have confidence, but of course we will have to see how the judge will rule."
This is not the first time Apple is playing the defendant in a Chinese courtroom. Apple was sued by Chinese company Proview for use of the iPad brand in China. Apple eventually had to settle with Proview for using the trademark in the country. The settlement was especially bitter as Apple presumed that it had purchased the rights to the name in mainland China but discovered that the deal only gave them the rights to use the name in Taiwan.
Besides legal trouble, Apple fans in the country have been crying foul over what they perceive as discriminatory treatment by the Cupertino company. Some Chinese consumers have been complaining about Apple’s policy of shorter warranty periods in China and the sale of refurbished devices instead of new ones. China, being the largest smartphone market in the world, is obviously a country where Apple has been trying to gain market share. This is one of the reasons cited by analysts speculating that Apple will be launching a low-cost iPhone that will appeal to a wider Chinese audience.
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