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Apple loses voice recognition patent suit in China, faces legal challenges over Siri

A Beijing court has affirmed the validity of a voice recognition patent —held by China's Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co. —that Apple is accused of infringing with Siri, clearing the way for the resolution of a long-pending intellectual property case that could see the personal digital assistant muted in China.


The "Little I Robot" application | Source: YouTube

Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court ruled on Tuesday that China's Patent Review Committee made the correct choice when upholding a patent covering Zhizhen's "Little I Robot" application, a "chat robot system" similar to Siri. Apple disagrees and will appeal, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent," an Apple spokeswoman told the publication. "While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen."

Zhizhen first filed suit against Apple in a Shanghai court in 2012, and the iPhone maker responded by seeking a review of the patent. That review went against Apple, at which time the company sued both the Patent Review Committee and Zhizhen in Beijing.

Both parties appear to be open to settling the matter in order to avoid the same kind of drawn-out litigation Apple was forced into over its iPad trademark in China. Apple eventually paid some $60 million to Shenzhen Proview Technology in order to settle that case.

"The most important thing is to ensure [Zhizhen's] rights," Zhizhen lawyer Yuan Yang said. "The company doesn't have a specific economic request. In the end, it might be that the two sides could cooperate to deal with the problem and reach a win-win result."