Human-centric AI news and analysis

Apple hit with $1.43B Siri patent lawsuit from Chinese AI firm

Shanghai Zhizhen also wants Apple to stop selling Siri in China

A Chinese AI firm is suing Apple for alleged patent infringement involving the voice assistant Siri.

Shanghai Zhizhen — also known as Xiao — is seeking $1.43 billion (10 billion yuan) in damages from Apple. It also wants the firm to stop selling products in China that breach the patent, which would mean most iPhones, iPads, and Macs would no longer be available in Apple‘s second-largest market.

“As a tech person, I have a lot of respect for Apple, whose products and services bring a lot of value and experience to the world,” said Xiao-i CEO Yuan Hui in a statement.

“But customers are paying for every Apple product. In turn, Apple has to respect innovation. They use our patents, they need to pay us a reasonable fee.”

[Read: TikTok owner ByteDance’s AI chief to leave as US pressure rises]

The suit is part of a near-decade-long legal battle between the two companies, which began shortly after Siri was first added to iPhones in 2011. Shanghai Zhizhen claims the voice assistant uses tech from its own chatbot system, which it patented in 2009. 

Fang Jianwei, a litigation partner at Zhong Lun Law Firm in Shanghai, told The Wall Street Journal that China‘s courts could ban Apple from selling products with Siri in the country for the duration of the trial. However, he added that such injunctions are rarely granted.

Apple has dismissed the claims. The firm says Siri doesn’t contain any features from the Chinese company’s patent, which relates to games and instant messaging.

“We are disappointed Xiao-i Robot has filed another lawsuit,” Apple said in a statement. “We look forward to presenting the facts to the court and we will continue to focus on delivering the best products and services in the world to our customers.”

Whatever its outcome, the lawsuit will escalate the intellectual property (IP) dispute between China and the US. The United States has long complained that IP theft has cost the country billions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs.

Chinese tech firms have responded with IP lawsuits of their own. The country is also rapidly developing its own patent system. Last year, China became the world’s most prolific patent filer, knocking the US off the top spot for the first time since the global patent recognition system was set up in 1978.

 

Published August 4, 2020 — 10:49 UTC