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Apple faces new copyright suit after Proview

By He Wei in Shanghai (China Daily)

11:26, July 07, 2012

Apple Inc may face another lawsuit in China as a Shanghai-based company claimed that the US giant's voice technology Siri has infringed on a patent involving its own personal assistant software.

Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co Ltd, the developer of the voice technology called Xiao i Robot, has sued Apple in China, asserting that Siri has violated one of its patents.

The firm's chairman Yuan Hui said Zhizhen sent a legal notice to Apple in May, but received no response.

Zhizhen then filed the suit on June 21 and a Shanghai court announced on June 26 that it will hear the case "quite soon", according to Yuan.

The move came only days after Apple Inc paid $60 million to Proview Technology (Shenzhen) to end a protracted legal dispute over the iPad trademark in China.

Zhizhen's patent covers "a type of instant messaging chat robot system", according to the database of the country's State Intellectual Property Office. It was filed on Aug 13, 2004, and got approved on Feb 15, 2006.

"We have 100 million users in China, and many companies are using our product," Yuan told China Daily on Friday.

In comparison, Siri Inc, essentially a start-up company Apple acquired in 2010, started producing the mobile virtual assistant in 2007.

It allows users to ask questions about finding consumer goods, services or destinations once the program is activated on Apple's smart devices.

Siri became available in China starting early this year, when the iPhone 4S was officially launched in the country. In June, Apple launched Siri services in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Yuan said the Xiao i Robot can communicate through voice, and can answer users' questions while also holding simple conversations.

The software is available on mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android, and has been running on online chat tool Windows Live Messenger for a long time.

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