Taiwan Man Sues Apple in China Over FaceTime Patent

FaceTime China Lawsuit

A Taiwanese man has filed suit against Apple in China, alleging that the Cupertino company’s FaceTime video calling service infringes on his patent, according to Chinese site QQ Tech and translated by M.I.C. Gadget. The Intermediate People’s Court in Zhenjiang will hear the case but, thus far, Apple has failed to respond to the Court’s inquiry.

The plaintiff, known only as Lee, is a technician for a Taiwanese tech company. Required to travel abroad frequently for work, Mr. Lee claims that he derived the idea for internet-based calls via cell phones to mitigate the cost of communication. 

He applied for a patent on the technology on April 21, 2003. The patent was granted and, for a time, belonged to his employer. However, the employer, for reasons unstated, subsequently transferred ownership of the patent to Mr. Lee.

The patent outlines a “voice network personal digital assistant,” (which to us sounds more like a description of Siri than FaceTime) and includes “a radio communication module; a storage network voice services code flash; an electrically connected radio communication module and flash memory of the personal digital assistants, which have at least one processor to perform a network voice service program code.”

FaceTime was introduced by Apple with the launch of the iPhone 4 in June 2010 and was brought to China when the iPhone 4 launched there in September 2010. As for why it has taken so long for Mr. Lee to file his suit, he claims that he only became aware of FaceTime, and its alleged infringement on his patent, when he recently purchased an iPhone 4S in Zhenjiang.

Mr. Lee has not yet made a claim of monetary damages or demands, but his complaint does request that Apple cease infringement of his patent, which would result in a sales ban on any Apple product that uses FaceTime if Mr. Lee prevails.

This is not the first time that Apple has faced a legal challenge in China related to a core product. In July, Apple was forced by a Chinese-based lawsuit to pay Taiwanese company Proview US$60 million to settle the naming rights to “IPAD.”

TMO has reached out to Apple for an official response. We will update this article if they respond.