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March 28, 2013

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Firm expands case against Apple's Siri

APPLE Inc denied at a court hearing yesterday that its Siri voice-activated personal assistant infringes on the patent of a Shanghai-based Internet technology company.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff, Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co, expanded the scope of infringement claims to all Apple products that use Siri, including iPhone 4S, iPhone 5 and iPad mini.

"Apple has unveiled more products with the Siri application after we filed the lawsuit," said Yuan Yang, Zhizhen's lawyer. "We think all the above products infringed the patent right of 'Xiao i Robot'" voice recognition software.

Siri is a voice-activated personal assistant for iPhones and iPads that recognizes speech and answers users' queries. The case has attracted great public attention since Apple could be forced to remove the Siri application from its products or stop selling products with Siri if it lost the case.

Zhizhen alleged that the US firm's use of Siri infringes on its patent for the software it says it has been developing since 2003.

Zhizhen said it applied for patent rights for "Xiao i" in 2004 and the patent took effect immediately after it was publicized in 2006. The Shanghai company got a patent license from China's State Intellectual Property Office in 2009, which is still valid.

The company said the software has been widely applied in many fields, including government hotlines, telecommunications, banking and e-commerce customer service sections. Its clients include Microsoft, Yahoo and the Bank of Communications, Zhizhen claimed.

Apple said Zhizhen's accusation was not clear and lacked evidence. Apple said Siri didn't infringe because it didn't have a game server, which is one of the technical features of 'Xiao i.'

But Zhizhen said if the operation mode of Siri is the same as Xiao i, then it is infringement.

Apple's lawyer also asked Zhizhen to clarify compensation but Zhizhen said it only wanted the court to confirm its patent right.

Apple asked the Shanghai No.1 Intermediate People's Court to suspend the case pending a ruling at the state intellectual property office on its effort to invalidate the Chinese firm's patent. The court rejected it but granted another month for both sides to find evidence.


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