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Tesla slams China trademark action
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 09, 2014

Chinese court rules against Apple in patent case
Beijing (AFP) July 09, 2014 - US technology giant Apple has lost a lawsuit against a Chinese state regulator over patent rights to voice recognition software such as the iPhone's "Siri", a Beijing court said.

The legal battle begun in 2012 when Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology pursued Apple for allegedly infringing its Chinese patent with Siri, its "intelligent personal assistant".

Apple asked China's patent review board, which operates under the State Intellectual Property Office, to declare Zhizhen's original patent ineffective but the request was rejected.

Late last year Apple appealed to Beijing's Number One Intermediate People's Court to overturn that decision.

"The court did not support the cause of action stated by Apple," the court said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the case in which Apple "brought a lawsuit" against the government agency.

"The patent for the invention of the 'type of chatbot system' involved remains effective," the court said, referring to Zhizhen's patent.

Apple had decided to appeal to the Beijing Higher People's Court, it added.

Apple's Siri, which responds to a user's commands through voice recognition software, made its formal debut with the release of the iPhone 4S in 2011, while Zhizhen claims its earlier "Xiao i Robot" product works in a similar way.

A Beijing-based spokeswoman for the US firm told AFP: "Apple believes deeply in protecting innovation and we take intellectual property rights very seriously.

"Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent."

Another court would consider the issue, she said, but held open the door to a settlement, adding: "We remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen."

The dispute is not the first time that Apple has been embroiled in intellectual property rights infringement and controversy in China, where its products are popular.

Apple in 2012 paid $60 million to settle a dispute with another Chinese firm over the iPad trademark.

Electric carmaker Tesla on Wednesday denounced a Chinese businessman's lawsuit seeking millions of dollars for alleged trademark infringement as an attempt to "steal" its property and "without any conceivable merit".

Zhan Baosheng, said to be the founder of a cosmetics website in the southern city of Guangzhou, registered "Tesla" as a trademark in China in 2009, the China Business News said.

He also sought to trademark a T-shaped logo and the phrase "Tesla Motors", it said, although those applications were still pending following objections.

Zhan filed a lawsuit against Tesla in a Beijing court last week, the paper reported, demanding it close its showrooms, service centres and charging facilities in China, terminate all sales and marketing activities in the country and pay 23.9 million yuan ($3.9 million) in compensation.

An official with Beijing's Third Intermediate People's Court, who declined to be named, confirmed to AFP that it had received an intellectual property infringement action against the carmaker.

She declined to provide further details.

Tesla, a groundbreaking manufacturer which has stressed that its Model S battery-powered car has the same base price in China as in the US, slammed the lawsuit.

"There can be no legitimate dispute that Tesla created and used these trademarks long before Mr Zhan attempted to steal them from us in China," it said in a statement.

"Since Mr Zhan does not rightfully own the trademark at issue, it follows that his lawsuit is without any conceivable merit."

Two separate Chinese authorities have previously cancelled the trademark "improperly obtained" by Zhan, and the litigation was a "last-ditch effort in his unsuccessful scheme", it added.

Tesla has also filed two lawsuits against Zhan "to obtain recompense for his theft of our property", it said.

The firm's China business has not been affected by the dispute, it added, and the company was continuing to sell and deliver cars in the country, the world's biggest auto market.

Zhan did not respond to a request for comment by AFP.

Trademark and patent infringement are rife in China and foreign companies frequently complain of slack intellectual property rights protection by the government.

In a high-profile case in 2012, US technology giant Apple paid Chinese computer maker Shenzhen Proview Technology $60 million to settle a long-running dispute over the "iPad" name, whose ownership was claimed by both companies.

Tesla, headed by former Paypal entrepreneur Elon Musk, said last month it was giving up its patents to spur development of electric vehicle technology.

China's first-half auto sales up 8.4%: industry group
Beijing (AFP) July 09, 2014 - Auto sales in China, the world's biggest car market, reached 11.68 million vehicles in the first half of 2014, an industry group said Wednesday, up 8.4 percent on last year.

In June alone, sales rose 5.2 percent year-on-year to 1.85 million vehicles, the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers said in a statement, down from May's 8.5 percent increase.

For passenger cars alone, total sales rose 11.2 percent on the year to 9.63 million in the first half and 11.5 percent to 1.56 million in June, the association said.

China has become critically important to foreign carmakers, given the size of the market and weak sales elsewhere in the world.

Full-year auto sales in the country reached 21.98 million vehicles last year, when a recovery in Japanese brands offset the impact of slowing economic growth.

US auto firm General Motors said this week that it registered record Chinese sales during the first half and in June.

Its sales in China in the first six months of 2014 increased 10.5 percent from the same period last year to 1.73 million units, according to a statement. GM's China sales rose 9.1 percent to 257,798 units in June.

"We anticipate sales remaining strong through the end of 2014, as more people -- particularly outside China's major cities -- become first-time vehicle buyers," GM China president Matt Tsien said in the statement.

China sales of another US automaker, Ford, reached 549,256 vehicles in the first half, up 35 percent from the same period last year. In June, Ford's China sales increased 17 percent to 87,783 vehicles, it said in a statement.


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