Beijing: On the heels of a recent settlement of trade dispute with a Chinese firm, Apple Inc faced another lawsuit in China as a Shanghai-based company claimed that the US giant's voice technology Siri has infringed on a patent involving its own personal assistant software.
Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co Ltd, the developer of the voice technology called Xiao i Robot, has sued Apple in China, asserting that Siri has violated one of its patents.
The firm's chairman Yuan Hui said Zhizhen sent a legal notice to Apple in May, but received no response, state run China Daily reported Saturday.
Zhizhen then filed the suit on June 21 and a Shanghai court announced on June 26 that it will hear the case "quite soon, Yuan said.
The development comes within days of Apple paying USD 60 million to Proview Technology (Shenzhen) to end a protracted legal dispute over the iPad trademark in China.
Zhizhen's patent covers "a type of instant messaging chat robot system", according to the database of the country's State Intellectual Property Office.
It was filed on August 13, 2004, and got approved on February 15, 2006.
"We have 100 million users in China, and many companies are using our product," Yuan told the Daily.
In comparison, Siri Inc, essentially a start-up company Apple acquired in 2010, started producing the mobile virtual assistant in 2007.
It helps users find consumer goods, services or destinations once the programme is activated on Apple's smart devices.
Siri became available in China starting early this year, when the iPhone 4S was officially launched in the country.
In June, Apple launched Siri services in Mandarin and Cantonese.
Yuan said the Xiao i Robot can communicate through voice, and can answer users' questions while also holding simple conversations.
The software is available on mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android, and has been running on online chat tool Windows Live Messenger for a long time.
Its clients include China's three major telecom operators, computer-maker Lenovo Group Ltd, government agencies as well as major banks and financial institutions, the company's website showed.
For instance, Fetion, the instant messaging software developed by China Mobile Communications Corp, has embraced the Xiao i Robot technology.
Once adding Xiao i Robot's account as a friend, users will be virtually chatting with the robot.
At this point, the suit does not make a specific request for compensation.
"Our only demand is that Apple stop infringing on our patent and cover the court costs," Yuan said.
The case is the latest legal hurdle Apple has had to clear in China.
The company was hit earlier this week with a suit from Jiangsu Xuebao Daily Chemical Co Ltd for allegedly infringing its "Snow Leopard" trademark, because a version of the Mac OS X also uses the Snow Leopard name in Chinese.
First Published: Saturday, July 07, 2012, 13:45