updated 08:00 pm EDT, Thu July 5, 2012
Ziaoi Bot predates Apple's patents, but not Siri's predecessor
In what could turn out to be another copycat Chinese patent suit inspired by Apple's settlement with Proview, Shanghai-based voice activation developer Zhizhen Network Technology has filed suit against Apple for allegedly infringing a patent related to an invention called Ziaoi Bot, "a type of instant messaging chat bot system." Zhizhen filed for the patent on Ziaoi Bot in China during August 2004, and was awarded the patent in February 2006. Apple allegedly failed to respond to Zhizhen's overtures to resolve the dispute through mediation in May, and the company filed suit in a Shanghai court on June 21.
No mention of compensation has been filed with the court, but a Zhizhen representative said that if the court agrees with the infringement, the amount of compensation will likely exceed the $60 million settlement with Proview over the iPad name.
MacNN has looked into the patent, and sees little similarity between Siri and Ziaoi Bot. The lawsuit is filed not on Siri's patents itself, but Apple's explanation to how Siri operates. Regardless of lawsuit focus, previously existing "art" for the patent may exist with Siri's origin in CALO (Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes), an artificial intelligence project originally funded by DARPA that began in May 2003 and ran until 2008. Patents for CALO were filed in 2003 and awarded prior to the February 2006 Chinese patent office award.
The video, seen below, shows the Ziaoi Bot in its current incarnation, released in February 2012. The current revision clearly borrows heavily from Apple's Siri, released several months prior to this video. User interface elements are not the focus of Zhizhen 's suit.
Zhizhen has possibly been emboldened by Apple's legal battle with Proview, finally settled after Zhizhen's court filing date. Another firm, Jiangsu Xuebao is seeking $80,645 in damages for Apple's use of the apparently-trademarkable term "Snow Leopard" in OS marketing.
Xiaoi Bot in action.