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Apple lands in Chinese court to battle Siri patent suit

With a pretrial hearing today, the case pits Apple against Zhizhen Network Technology, which claims a patent for the voice-recognition software used by Siri.


Apple is now squaring off against another legal adversary in China.

The iPhone maker appeared today at a Shanghai court hearing for a case in which it's accused of copying the voice-recognition software used for Siri, AFP reported.

Shanghai-based Zhizhen Network Technology has charged Apple with patent infringement, claiming that it holds the rights to the software in question.

Zhizhen says it patented its "Xiao i Robot" software, which is a "type of instant messaging chat bot system," back in 2004. Siri was developed in 2007. Apple bought the technology in 2010 and unveiled it with the iPhone 4S in 2011.

Both products respond to users via voice recognition, although Zhizhen's software works with both iOS and Android. Used for telecommunications, finance, and e-commerce, the Xiao i Robot software counts more than 100 million users in China, Zhizhen said in a statement to AFP.

"The company will ask Apple to stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple's infringement is confirmed," Si Weijiang, a lawyer representing Zhizhen, told AFP. "We don't exclude the possibility of demanding compensation in the future."

Zhizhen reportedly tried to resolve the matter with Apple out of court last May. But after reportedly receiving no response, Zhizhen launched its lawsuit in June of 2012.

Following today's pretrial hearing, the full case is due to start in July, a Zhizhen spokeswoman told AFP.

This is just the latest conflict for Apple in China.

Last July, Apple paid $60 million to Chinese computer maker Shenzhen Proview Technology to settle a trademark dispute over the use of the iPad name. And this past month, the company has come under fire over its warranty policy in China.