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Chinese company sues Apple for patent infringement with Siri

Apple showed up in a Shanghai court on Wednesday on the receiving end of a patent suit, with a Chinese company alleging that the Siri digital assistant featured in iPhones and iPads is based on software that infringes its patents.

Zhi Zhen Network Technology filed a Chinese patent application for its Xiao i Robot software in 2004, and that that patent was granted in 2006. Like Siri, Xiao i Robot features voice interactions, with the ability to answer questions and hold simple conversations.

Zhi Zhen has released versions of Xiao i Robot for the web, Android, Windows Phone, desktops, and Apple's iOS. The firm claims its technology has more than 100 million users in China, with companies such as China Mobile, China Telecom, and a number of major banks featuring Xiao i Robot.

Zhi Zhen launched its suit in July of last year, shortly after Siri became available in China. Lawyers representing the firm told AFP that the Zhi Zhen's goal is to get Apple to stop infringing, but that a monetary settlement could be a possibility.

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

Apple's Wednesday court appearance was a part of pre-trial proceedings. The full case is slated for a July hearing, according to Zhi Zhen spokespersons. The two companies will in the near future exchange evidence at a pre-trial hearing.