Google Inc Monday apologized for using another company's technology in a Chinese input method product it released a week ago.
The program, categorized as Input Method Editor Software and called Guge Pinyin, was found - after its official release on April 4 - to share a lot of similarities with Sougou Pinyin, an input method product launched by Chinese portal Sohu.com in June last year.
Google Monday said it did include "some data source that doesn't belong to Google in the trial period of the new product" and "felt sorry for its users and Sohu.com".
But the company also said the product had finished the latest upgrade Monday and the current version of the product's dictionary was based on Google's own database.
Lee Kai-fu, vice-president of Google and president of Google China, Monday said: "We will continue to intensify our research activities in our input method product and keep consummating product functions and users' experience."
The similarity of Google and Sohu.com's products lies in the product dictionary, which enables users to write in Chinese characters by typing in their pinyin equivalents.
Sohu.com had said that Google "stole its dictionary", for it not only discovered many similarities in the dictionaries of the two products but also found the same bugs in the two.
The company delivered a letter to Google's Beijing office at the weekend, giving Google three days to comply with its request to stop offering download of Google's product, an apology and a discussion of compensation.
Liu Xinzhi, spokesman of Sohu.com, told China Daily Monday that the company is still waiting for an official apology from Google, and Sohu.com retained its right for any further legal action.
Yu Guofu, chief lawyer of Sam Partners Law Firm, said it's still too early to say that Google's new product has violated Sohu.com's copyright.
"The identification of copyright violation needs a great scrutiny," said Yu. "It is still hard to say whether Google has done something wrong."
Some experts said Google's statement Monday reflected a lack of confidence, which is unusual for the US Internet giant.
"I think the fault may lie with individual program developers who were responsible for the product and wanted to finish the job quickly," said Liu Bin, chief analyst from research house BDA China.
He said Google did not need to steal somebody else's dictionary since it would be very easy for the company to establish its own, based on database supported by the company's powerful search engine.
(China Daily April 10, 2007)