One of the curses of being an innovator is every time you innovate, someone comes along and says they had a patent on it first. Apple knows this dilemma well, and the latest patent infringement claim Cupertino has to defend itself against is in China over Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant.
According to a claim by Zhizhen Technology Co., a Shanghai company, the patent they have for voice recognition software as applied to its “Xiao i Robot” software was filed in 2004, three years before Siri was even founded and six years before Apple acquired the company.
What is Xiao i Robot? Like Siri, it’s a voice recognition app that is mostly found installed on smart TVs and used around the world for various customer service functions. Customers of Xiao i Robot include 360Buy.com, the Chinese government and various enterprise customers.
The patent infringement suit was filed in July, with Zhizhen saying it will ask Apple to “stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple’s infringement is confirmed.” That’s obviously not going to happen, so what we’re looking at here in a worst case scenario is Apple having to make a payout, similarly to the resolution of the Chinese Proview iPad trademark case.