Will This Court’s Ruling Silence Apple’s Siri in China?

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) bid to get a Chinese company’s patent on a voice-recognition software invalidated has been rejected by a court in Beijing, reports the country’s official Xinhua news agency via thePeople’s Daily. The ruling could jeopardize Apple’s ability to offer Siri — the iPhone maker’s voice-activated personal assistant — in one of the world’s most important smartphone markets.

As noted by Xinhua, the case originated in 2012, when Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology filed a lawsuit against Apple in a Shanghai court that alleged that the voice-recognition software used by Siri infringed on its patented “Xiao i Robot” software. After that court announced that it would continue the case at an unspecified future date, Apple filed its own lawsuit against China’s State Intellectual Property Office in Beijing’s Number One Intermediate People’s Court that sought to get Zhizhen’s patent declared invalid. However, the court’s recent ruling upheld Zhizhen’s patent, leaving Apple open to continued litigation over its use of Siri in the country.

Zhizhen’s claim of infringement is based on a patent titled, “Chat robot system” that was filed in 2004 and granted in 2006, according to the State Intellectual Property Office. On the other hand, the technology behind Siri was originally developed by a startup in 2007 that was acquired by Apple in 2010. Siri — which made its debut on the iPhone 4S in 2011 — was a major selling point for the device when it was first released. However, since then several other companies have developed their own personal digital assistants, such as Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google Now and Microsoft’s (NASDAQ:MSFT) Cortana. Although Xiao i Robot started as a chat bot for MSN, Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO) Messenger, and other networks, it later evolved into a voice-activated personal assistant app that is available on both the iOS and Android platforms.

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