Apple Facing $1.4 Billion Lawsuit by Chinese AI Firm in Siri Patent Battle

Apple has been hit with a $1.4 billion lawsuit by a Chinese artificial intelligence company that alleges Apple violated a patent it owns for a virtual assistant similar to Siri, according to a paywalled Wall Street Journal report.

ios14compactsiri

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co. said in a statement on Monday it was suing Apple for an estimated 10 billion yuan ($1.43 billion) in damages in a Shanghai court, alleging the iPhone and iPad maker's products violated a patent the Chinese company owns for a virtual assistant whose technical architecture is similar to ‌Siri‌. ‌Siri‌, a voice-activated function in Apple's smartphones and laptops, allows users to dictate text messages or set alarms on their devices.

As part of the lawsuit, Shanghai Zhizhen, also known as Xiao-i, wants Apple to cease "manufacturing, using, promising to sell, selling, and importing" all products that it says infringe on the patent, which was ruled as valid by China's Supreme Court in late June.

Apple didn't immediately respond to WSJ's request for comment.

The patent ruling is the culmination of several court trials between Zhi Zhen and Apple that's been ongoing for nearly a decade. MacRumors first reported on the Chinese AI firm's claim that ‌Siri‌ infringes on its patent rights in March 2013. The claim is specifically in relation to Xiao-i, a chat robot system the Zhi Zhen has been developing since 2003.

The Xiao-i bot began life as a chat bot for MSN and similar networks, but it has since migrated to a number of platforms including Android and iOS, and evolved to look quite similar to ‌Siri‌. Zhi Zhen applied for the virtual assistant patent in 2004 and it was granted in 2009.

‌Siri‌ was acquired by Apple in April 2010 under the direction of Steve Jobs, but Apple's first notion of a digital personal assistant was originally a concept video in 1987, called the Knowledge Navigator.

Top Rated Comments

Williesleg Avatar
10 months ago
I first saw the headline and thought this was April 1st, didn't realize China actually had and enforced patents! Whoopsee!
Score: 32 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ian87w Avatar
10 months ago

I first saw the headline and thought this was April 1st, didn't realize China actually had and enforced patents! Whoopsee!
They do. But they are biased against foreign companies. Local companies get full protection from the government.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
supremedesigner Avatar
10 months ago
Not surprising...

China has been stealing a lot of technologies from all over the world but now this? That's insane.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
coldwaves Avatar
10 months ago
This case has been going on for many years. The fight centers around whether Zhizhen's patent is valid. Apple first sued to invalidate Zhizhen's patent claim in 2013. Beijing Court rejected Apple's claim and ruled that Zhizhen owns that patent. Then Apple appealed to Beijing Intermediate Court, which again rejected Apple's claim. Apple then appeals to Beijing High Court. Beijing High Court ruled that information about the patent provided by Zhizhen to the court is not in sufficient details and thus sided with Apple. Zhizhen then appeals to the Supreme Court and the court ruled that Zhizhen's patent is indeed valid. However, there is not a ruling yet about whether Apple violates the Zhizhen's patent.

The contention about the patent appears to be about the technicality of the patent application process. Apple's argument is that a gaming function in the patent is an essential function of the patent and is not declared in sufficient details. Zhizhen argues that the gaming function is not at the core part of the patent and thus the details declared in the patent application is appropriate.

The bias in the comments here on the forum is appalling, but perhaps not surprising. It is important to look into the details to know what happens. For many people, when a US company is alleged to violate IP, it is always a victim of unfair trial or a victim of patent troll. When a Chinese company is alleged to violate IP, it is always Chinese stealing tech.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Maximara Avatar
10 months ago

If you actually read the article, you will see that Zhizhen applied for patent in 2004 and Apple acquired Siri in 2010. It is not until Oct 2011 Apple released a beta version of Siri on iPhone 4s. Zhizhen cannot copy something nonexistent.
If only it was that simple. "Mac OS 8 and 9 has optional voice recognition software, which takes your speech and turns it into commands to control your computer. (...) English Speech Recognition can be found on the Mac OS CD-ROM: under CD Extras: Universal Access: Easy Access." - BBC Website ('http://www.bbc.co.uk/accessibility/archive/mac/keyboard/vr/voice-recog-os9.shtml')

Mac OS 8 came out in 1997 and Mac OS 9 came out in 1999.

More over "Siri is a spin-out ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spin-out') from the SRI International ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SRI_International') Artificial Intelligence Center, and is an offshoot of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DARPA')'s (DARPA)-funded CALO ('https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CALO') project" (reference - SIRI RISING: The Inside Story Of Siri’s Origins — And Why She Could Overshadow The iPhone ('https://www.huffpost.com/entry/siri-do-engine-apple-iphone_n_2499165') )

The article itself has this piece of information: "In 2003, the agency’s investment arm, DARPA, tapped the non-profit research institute SRI International to lead a five-year, 500-person effort to build a virtual assistant, one the government hoped might yield software to help military commanders with both information overload and office chores."

If that little trip into the patent rabbit hold isn't enough there is Who invented Siri? Apple sued for patent infringement - who else might be in line? ('https://www.ambercite.com/amberblog/2018/9/25/apple-siri-sued')

So there is previous work going back to 2003 (one year before the Zhizhen patent) with related previous work going back to 1999 (five years before the Zhizhen patent) with a somewhat similar patent (US7558730 ('https://patents.google.com/patent/US7558730B2/en')) from 2001 (three years before the Zhizhen patent)

Aren't patents fun?
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pbrutto Avatar
10 months ago
Given China’s general disregard for other countries/companies IP, this seems like it will be a nightmare for Apple. It’s easy for China to ignore knockoffs and IP theft by their own companies, but now that a company there is targeting a US company with a massive investment on their soil, I’m sure they will suddenly care.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

General Music and AirPod 3 Feature

Rumor: Apple to Announce Third-Generation AirPods and HiFi Apple Music Tier on May 18

Thursday May 13, 2021 10:32 pm PDT by
A new rumor suggests that Apple will announce the third-generation AirPods and the recently rumored HiFi, or high-fidelity Apple Music tier, on Tuesday, May 18, via a press release on its website. The new rumor comes from Apple YouTuber Luke Miani who shared the alleged exclusive news with the AppleTrack website. According to the YouTuber, Apple plans to release the next-generation AirPods...
2021 mbp hdmi slot 3d

2021 MacBook Pro Leaks Confirm Returning MagSafe and Ports

Friday May 14, 2021 3:06 am PDT by
Apple's upcoming MacBook Pro models are expected to feature a number of major changes such as larger display options and powerful new Apple silicon chips. Among the more surprising updates to this year's MacBook Pro models is the return of three ports that have been missing from the machines for over five years. Expected to come in 14- and 16-inch sizes, the 2021 MacBook Pro models are...
apple park drone june 2018 2

Apple Fires Newly Hired Ex-Facebook Product Manager Following Revelations of Past Misogynistic Comments

Thursday May 13, 2021 12:10 am PDT by
Apple has fired Antonio García Martínez, an ex-Facebook product manager and author of the controversial book "Chaos Monkeys," following public and internal calls for removal and investigation due to past misogynistic statements, The Verge reports. Apple hired Martínez earlier this week to join its ads team, however, comments that Martínez made in the past sparked condemnation from users...
magic mouse space gray discontinued

Apple Discontinuing Space Gray Mac Accessories Now That iMac Pro is Dead

Friday May 14, 2021 11:52 am PDT by
Following the discontinuation of the iMac Pro, Apple also appears to be discontinuing Space Gray "Magic" accessories that it sold separately alongside the iMac Pro. The iMac Pro was the only Space Gray Mac, and Apple designed special matching accessories for it. The Space Gray Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad all now say "While supplies last" in small wording at the bottom...
tile amazon sidewalk integration

Apple Says Tile Trackers Sold Poorly in Apple Stores

Friday May 14, 2021 4:53 am PDT by
Earlier last month, Spotify, Tile, and Match (owner of Tinder), testified at an app store antitrust hearing spearheaded by the U.S. Senate. During the hearing, Spotify called Apple's App Store "an abusive power grab," while Tile said Apple uses its platform to "unfairly limit competition for its products." Now, in response to their testimonies, Apple's vice president and chief compliance...
google photos

PSA: Google Photos Unlimited Storage Ends Next Month, Here's How to Export Your Pictures to iCloud

Thursday May 13, 2021 5:26 am PDT by
For as long as it's existed, Google Photos has offered free unlimited storage for uploading images at a reduced yet good enough quality for most users. From June 1, 2021, however, all photos and videos uploaded to Google accounts will count against users' cloud storage. If you've been relying on Google to back up your media library, it may be time to move that content elsewhere. This article...
fortnite apple logo 2

Judge in Epic vs. Apple Case Floats Potential Compromise

Wednesday May 12, 2021 3:54 pm PDT by
In the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Epic Games, the two companies are this week calling up their expert witnesses to argue their points before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who will make a decision in the case after a three week trial. Expert testimony is not as exciting as some of the leaked App Store documents that were highlighted last week, especially as much of what's being...
syng cell alpha

Longtime Apple Designer Christopher Stringer's Latest Project Is a High-Fidelity Speaker With AirPlay 2

Friday May 14, 2021 7:30 am PDT by
Christopher Stringer, a key member of Jony Ive's design team who spent 21 years at Apple before departing in 2017, is resurfacing today with his new venture Syng, which seeks to make an impact in the high-end audio market. Stringer, who contributed to many of the most iconic product designs in Apple's history, announced his plans roughly a year ago, and Syng is today introducing its flagship ...
Twitter Feature

Twitter's 'Blue' Subscription Service May Cost $2.99, Will Offer Undo Tweet Option

Saturday May 15, 2021 11:08 am PDT by
Twitter has been working on some kind of subscription service since last summer, and Jane Manchun Wong, who often digs into new features coming in apps, has shared details on just what Twitter is exploring. Twitter's subscription service could be called Twitter Blue, and at the current time, it's priced at $2.99 per month. There will be a "Collections" section that allows users to save and...
imac m1 blue isolated 16x9 500k

M1 iMac is Up to 56% Faster Than Prior-Generation High-End 21.5-Inch iMac

Wednesday May 12, 2021 10:03 am PDT by
Apple's M1 iMacs are set to start delivering to customers next week, and ahead of the official launch day, benchmarks for the machines have been showing up on Geekbench, likely from reviewers who are testing them. It will come as no surprise that M1 iMac benchmarks are right on par with benchmarks for the M1 MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini, coming in with an average single-core score...