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

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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11,338


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.

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.

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

Pbrutto

macrumors 6502a
Apr 21, 2015
609
1,275
Eastern PA
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.
 

cocky jeremy

macrumors 601
Jul 12, 2008
4,609
2,401
Columbus, OH
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.
Maybe not. Might try to ignore it to keep Apple from moving even more stuff into other countries.
 

coldwaves

macrumors 6502
May 30, 2011
369
186
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.
 
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iReality85

macrumors 65816
Apr 29, 2008
1,050
2,263
Upstate NY
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.

Or in other words, Shanghai Zhizhen copied Siri from Apple, then patented it as their own under Chinese law. /s
 
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coldwaves

macrumors 6502
May 30, 2011
369
186
Or in other words, Shanghai Zhizhen copied Siri from Apple, then patented it as their own under Chinese law.


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.
 

Wreckus

macrumors 65816
Jan 22, 2015
1,037
623
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
So a solution to this would be to release modified versions of iOS and MacOS for Chinese market without Siri.
[automerge]1596461030[/automerge]
Think so..or just get out of China all-together.

IMO, this is all politics by the Chinese Government to punish American companies doing business in the China because of how Trump is treating them.

Wouldn't be surprised to see more rulings like this to other companies in the near future, although not this big though. But you got to wonder if Google Assistant will be hit with this soon.
 

iReality85

macrumors 65816
Apr 29, 2008
1,050
2,263
Upstate NY
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.

It was a tongue-in-cheek comment; I should have added a /s.

Regardless, a patent for 'virtual assistance' sounds pretty vague to me. If it's from 2004, then a chat bot (which were nothing new nor novel at the time) is certainly different than virtual assistants from years later. Why wouldn't they go after Google for Google Assistant, or Amazon for Alexa? Or Microsoft for Cortana? Maybe they have, I don't know. Seems like patent troll behavior.
 

iZac

macrumors 68020
Apr 28, 2003
2,117
1,385
Shanghai
Is this what a modern version of The Cold War is?

Attack and counter attack, hit your enemy where it hurts...
 

BaltimoreMediaBlog

macrumors 6502a
Jul 30, 2015
951
1,654
DC / Baltimore / Northeast
Meanwhile, the Houston Chinese consulate was recently seen burning documents after the U.S. forced its closure from theft of secrets.
This case now has nothing to do with actual patent infringement anymore. It is now strictly an international political argument and spy game between the United States and China which China will not win, well unless someone more influence by China is elected President.
 

Aoligei

macrumors regular
Jul 16, 2020
102
116
Think so..or just get out of China all-together.

IMO, this is all politics by the Chinese Government to punish American companies doing business in the China because of how Trump is treating them.

Wouldn't be surprised to see more rulings like this to other companies in the near future, although not this big though. But you got to wonder if Google Assistant will be hit with this soon.

Well, Apple can certain pull out from China. No one is stopping them to do so.

But if you care to look at Apple’s financial statement, you see that greater China account 15% of Apple’s net sale.

If Apple and its investors willing to let go that 15% net sale, then by all means.

The void that Apple left could easily filled by Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, Huawei and so on. Or Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, Acer etc for computers.

Really, China doesn’t need Apple and Apple need China, for its sales, supply chains, manufacturing etc.
 

Aoligei

macrumors regular
Jul 16, 2020
102
116
Meanwhile, the Houston Chinese consulate was recently seen burning documents after the U.S. forced its closure from theft of secrets.
This case now has nothing to do with actual patent infringement anymore. It is now strictly an international political argument and spy game between the United States and China which China will not win, well unless someone more influence by China is elected President.

Do you have any proof that they are burning documents that related with theft of secretes?
 
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coldwaves

macrumors 6502
May 30, 2011
369
186
Well, Apple can certain pull out from China. No one is stopping them to do so.

But if you care to look at Apple’s financial statement, you see that greater China account 15% of Apple’s net sale.

If Apple and its investors willing to let go that 15% net sale, then by all means.

The void that Apple left could easily filled by Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, Huawei and so on. Or Huawei, Xiaomi, Lenovo, Acer etc for computers.

Really, China doesn’t need Apple and Apple need China, for its sales, supply chains, manufacturing etc.

I agree with this take. Apple pulling out of Chinese market hurts Apple a lot. Impact on China will not be that much. There are lots of good enough replacement. In contrast, retaliation against Apple supply chain will be very painful to Apple but will also hurt China a lot. It is not in China's own interest at all to hurt supply chain. Nor do I think they have a valid reason to do that other than retaliating the US. Apple is innocent here and they should not be hurt for geopolitical reasons.
 
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