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Siri, find me a lawyer: Apple in Chinese court for patent infringement charges

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Apple and China just can’t seem to get along lately.

Today Apple appeared in court for the first time in the year-long dispute with Shanghai’s Zhizhen Network Technology Co., which says Apple’s Siri personal assistant technology infringes its patented voice recognition software.

Last year Apple added Mandarin and Cantonese support for Siri and was promptly sued by Zhizhen, which produces an app called Xiao i Robot for both iOS and Android. Xiao i Robot uses speech recognition to deliver news, weather, and other updates to users.

“The company will ask Apple to stop manufacturing and selling products using its patent rights, once Apple’s infringement is confirmed,” the company’s lawyer told the AFP. Unsurprisingly, he added that the company doesn’t “exclude the possibility of demanding compensation in the future.”

This is, clearly, a very typical patent shakedown.

But Zhizhen is not a patent troll. It is a real company producing real products, which the company says it has been working on since the early 2000s and patented in 2004. Here’s a comparison, in Chinese, of its iOS app with Siri:

Apple has already settled in previous Chinese trademark cases, most notably with ProView over its ownership of “iPad.” Apple ended up paying that bankrupt company $60 million to make the case go away.

After a clumsy astroturfing campaign against Apple orchestrated by China Central Television last week and a series of attacks by the state’s main propaganda organ, the People’s Daily, this week, Apple looks to be in for a tough time in China.

The case is scheduled to go to trial in July.