Apple loses China speech recognition patent case, separate suit against Apple continues

“A Beijing court has ruled against Apple Inc by upholding the validity of a patent held by a Chinese company, clearing the way for the Chinese company to continue its own case against Apple for infringing intellectual property rights,” Paul Carsten reports for Reuters.

“Apple had taken Shanghai-based Zhizhen Internet Technology and China’s State Intellectual Property Office to court to seek a ruling that Zhizhen’s patent rights to a speech recognition technology were invalid,” Carsten reports. “But the Beijing First Intermediate Court on Tuesday decided in Zhizhen’s favour, the People’s Daily state newspaper reported on Wednesday.”

“‘Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen’s patent before we introduced Siri (speech recognition technology) and we do not believe we are using this patent,’ said a Beijing-based Apple spokeswoman in an emailed statement to Reuters,” Carsten reports. ‘While a separate court considers this question [Apple has appealed to Beijing Higher People’s Court], we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen,’ the spokeswoman said.”

Read more in the full article here.

11 Comments

    1. Corporate espionage reveals to someone in China a company is working on something. They turn around and spend all their time developing a patent application with every single derivative and not developing the product. They push the patent application through in 6 months instead of 6 years (like it would take in the US). They wait…

      Then when the company wants to sell the product they have been working so hard on… Boom! Chinese lawsuit!

      Nice scam.

  1. I realize that there is a vast potential for profits in China, but is it worth it? They are going to demand changes in the product no matter what, steal whatever intellectual property is sent, claim it was stolen from them, and win in their own courts. It seems to me the only way to win “the game” in China is to simply not be a part of it.

  2. Apple’s voice recognition work dates back to 1991 at the latest. (Apple shipped voice recognition software as part of the System Software back in August 1993 and must have been working on it at least a year or two before that.) Additionally, what was not developed internally by Apple was licensed (including patent and IP licensing) from others well known worldwide in the industry.

    Based these two things and upon the old “first to invent” rules typical at that time, Apple should be able to win in any patent fight.

    The unfortunate thing is that in the 90s (and accelerated into the 2000s) a lot of countries started picking up the “first to file” rule (even the U.S. has switched to this rule). Thus, under the new rules it does not matter who invents it first, it matters who filed for the patent first. (Kinda makes having a trade secret very hazardous as if it leaks out and someone else files for a patent on it before you realize it’s been leaked, you’re completely screwed on your own invention.) Thus if some organization in China filed for the patent before Apple or one of its associates then Apple could be legally screwed. Apple or one of its associates could have invented something first, but if they didn’t file first it’s quite possible Apple will lose.

    And, a U.S. company filing in China is not trivial. (It’s not trivial in many other countries either.) Plus, don’t think patent license agreement treaties will cover you. In many cases they don’t. In way too many cases you have to file in many, many countries to be properly covered for a large majority of technology (not just computer related) patents.

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