What just happened? Apple’s Siri is not the most successful digital assistant, but that didn’t stop a Chinese AI company from use it as a means to block sales of Apple devices in the region and potentially score some settlement cash. All of this is possible thanks to a patent awarded by the Shanghai Supreme Court, which could be entirely unrelated to the AI tech found in Siri.
Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology was recently awarded a patent for voice assistant technology that has many similarities with Apple’s Siri. While that wouldn’t sit well with the Cupertino company in any possible situation, it does come at a time when the US and China are trading blows in a trade war.
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, the Chinese company has filed a lawsuit in a local court that alleges Apple has infringed on its newly-awarded patent and is seeking an estimated 10 billion yuan (around $1.45 billion) in damages.
While it may appear like the digital assistants developed by Amazon and Google are preferred by most, Siri is integrated with almost every Apple product. Thus, Zhizhen is aiming to obtain a full ban on all Siri-enabled products in China, which includes iPhone, iPad, Macs, HomePod, and wearables like AirPods and Apple Watch.
It’s worth noting that Zhizhen, also known as Xiao-i, won the digital assistant technology patent after eight years of efforts in that direction. But while Xiao-i’s patent has been acknowledged by the Shanghai court, proving that Apple’s Siri is a carbon copy of it will be a challenge.
Apple believes it has a good fighting chance and noted that Siri doesn’t include the features described in Xiao-i’s patent, which are mostly related to gaming and instant messaging. According to Apple’s third quarter report, it generated $9.33 billion in revenue from China, that’s approximately 16 percent of the total revenue for that quarter.