Taiwanese university claims Apple's Siri infringes its patents

The university wants to help Taiwanese electronic firms counter patent battles brought by foreign firms

A Taiwanese university has sued Apple for alleged patent infringement in its Siri voice assistant, as part of an initiative to help Taiwan's local electronic firms fight back against intellectual property disputes brought by their foreign rivals.

Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University alleged in the lawsuit, filed in a U.S. district court on Friday, that Apple's Siri feature infringes on two of the school's U.S. patents dealing with speech recognition technology. The university is demanding Apple pay a still undetermined amount in damages, and that the court order an injunction on Apple's use of Siri as a feature on its iPhones and iPads.

The school filed the legal action in response to repeated patent infringement lawsuits that foreign companies have filed against Taiwan's electronic firms, according to Chen Xisan, the director of the school's legal department. Apple has for example filed legal action against HTC, which recently saw shipments of its smartphones to the U.S. delayed because of the patent battles.

"We want to help the local industry," Chen said in an interview. "We also want to protect Taiwan's patents from being infringed upon."

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The university is also considering filing further legal action against other foreign companies that have infringed its patents, Chen said. "We are still in the stages of exploring. This lawsuit against Apple is just an early step," he said.

Taiwan has grown increasingly vigilant in trying to prevent patent lawsuits from affecting its local electronic industry. Earlier this month, a Taiwanese government office warned local PC vendors of a new Apple patent for its MacBook Air that could be used to stop the sale of ultrabook models.

Last year, a major Taiwanese research institute also said it was creating an intellectual property "bank" to acquire patents in order to protect local vendors from patent infringement lawsuits.

Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University is filing its lawsuit as a company in neighboring mainland China has also targeted Apple's Siri for patent infringement with its own lawsuit in the country. Shanghai Zhi Zhen Internet Technology, is the developer of software called "Xiao i Robot" that communicates through voice, and can answer users' questions. In 2006, the company was granted a patent in China covering the technology.

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Michael Kan

IDG News Service
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