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Apple rebuffs USD 1.4 billion patent lawsuit filed by Chinese AI company

Shanghai Zhizhen Intelligent Network Technology has been locked in a legal battle with Apple over the Siri voice assistant system since 2012.

credit: DFIC

Apple has rebuffed a RMB 10 billion (USD 1.4 billion) lawsuit by a Chinese artificial intelligence company, saying in a statement on Tuesday that its voice assistant software Siri does not contain features included in the Shanghai company’s patent.

Shanghai Zhizhen Intelligent Network Technology, also known as Xiao-i Robot, said in a statement on Monday that the company is suing Apple in the Shanghai High People’s Court for an estimated 10 billion yuan in damages.

It also requested that Apple stop “manufacturing, using, promising to sell, selling, and importing products” containing Siri in the country, which would affect most of the American software giant’s products including iPhones, iPads and Macs.

“As a tech person, I have a lot of respect for Apple, whose products and services bring a lot of value and experience to the world,” said Xiao-i CEO Yuan Hui in the statement on Monday. “But customers are paying for every Apple product. In turn, Apple has to respect innovation. They use our patents, they need to pay us a reasonable fee.”

In its statement on Tuesday, Apple said Xiao-i’s patent relates to games and instant messaging, and that independent appraisers certified by the Supreme People’s Court had already concluded that Apple does not infringe Xiao-i’s technology.

“We are disappointed Xiao-i Robot has filed another lawsuit,” Apple said. “We look forward to presenting the facts to the court and we will continue to focus on delivering the best products and services in the world to our customers.”

A decade of legal battles

The fresh lawsuit continues a nearly decade-long legal row. In June, China’s Supreme Court ruled that Xiao-i’s patent was valid, after multiple legal battles with Apple since 2012. Xiao-i first applied for the patent, which it describes as a chat robot system that can complete conversations in natural language, in 2004. It was granted it in 2009, before Apple first integrated Siri with its iPhone 4s in 2011.

China’s trade partners have long complained about intellectual property (IP) theft in the country, and enhanced IP protection was a key component of the phase one trade deal signed between China and US in January.

Amid efforts to address IP protection concerns and cut reliance on imported technologies, Chinese companies have been filing more patents than before, with China overtaking the US in terms of its total number of international patents filed last year.

In February, Shenzhen-based telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies also filed a suit against US telecoms operator Verizon, seeking compensation for alleged infringements of 12 of its patents.

Xiao-i said in the statement on Monday that its latest lawsuit is significant not just for the company, but also for the entire Chinese tech industry.

“The lawsuit will give confidence to Chinese technology companies that value technological innovation,” it said. “Through this lawsuit, we will prove the strength of Chinese AI enterprise to the whole world!”

This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post