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Chinese company Zhizhen sues Apple over Siri-like patent

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.

by MacNN Staff



  1. SwissMac

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Mr Cynic says...

    With all the corruption in China, how easy would it be for someone to bribe an official to fiddle the dates of paperwork entered into the system so that the false, copy-cat patent seemed to be dated before something Apple invented, then patented and then made incredibly popular?

    Or is this just the cost of using Chinese manufacturers - they might be cheap, but they steal your ideas and then ask you to pay them a royalty for something you actually invented and which they had worked on in manufacturing?

  1. Salty

    Joined: Dec 1969



    If the court actually accepts a guilty verdict for Apple they should just disable Siri in the country and run commercials saying that it's hard to operate in China when their corrupt justice system makes it difficult to sell anything useful.

  1. davoud

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I lived in Asia for more than 10 years. I recognize their blatant, ham-fisted extortion when I see it, and I see it here. It wouldn't work in most countries, but with a government that is corrupt from top to bottom (yes, the government of so-called Communist China is in the pocket of capitalists) the foreign company has no alternative but to pay the extortion.

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