updated 09:15 am EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
Appeal already in works
Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court has upheld a 2006 Zhizhen patent challenged by Apple, says China's official Xinhua news agency. Zhizhen filed suit against Apple in 2012, accusing it of violating a patent used for its "Little I Robot" voice-controlled assistant with Siri, the voice command system used in iOS. Apple though sued Zihizhen and China's Patent Review Committee late last year, with the hope that the court would render Zhizhen's patent invalid.
Following today's loss, Apple says it will appeal. "Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent," a spokeswoman states. "While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen."
A lawyer for Zhizhen, Yuan Yang, says the company expects a ruling on the original case in two to three months, and is "quite optimistic." He adds that the company doesn't have a particular financial demand in mind, and is mostly concerned with rights. "In the end, it might be that the two sides could cooperate to deal with the problem and reach a win-win result."
Xinhua writes that while Little I Robot was originally developed as an assistant for MSN chat, Zhizhen did deploy an Android app in 2012 with some design elements similar to Siri, such as its microphone icon. Zhizhen claims that over 200 million people use Little I Robot's technology indirectly, via partners like Lenovo and China Mobile. Siri is not originally Apple's creation; it was first developed as a separate iPhone app by its namesake, and then sold to Apple in 2010, before launching on the iPhone 4S in 2011.