A Chinese company has filed a lawsuit as it seeks an injunction to stop iPhone production in China, including the upcoming iPhone 13.

Xiao-i (whose full name is Shanghai Zhizhen Network Technology Co) previously made an unsuccessful attempt to block sales of all devices with Siri in China, claiming that Apple’s intelligent assistant (IA) violated a “chat robot” patent the company owns …

Background

Xiao-i last year claimed that Siri breached its patent for a chat robot, and sought an injunction that would prevent Chinese sale of all Apple devices that used the IA.

The previous two court battles ended with a 1-1 draw. In the first case, Apple asked the court to invalidate the patent, but the judge declared it valid. In the second, Xiao-i failed to persuade the court to grant an injunction, leaving open the question of whether Siri breached its patent.

Xiao-i’s attempt to stop iPhone production

The South China Morning Post reports that the company is now trying again, this time attempting to stop all iPhone production within the country.

A Chinese artificial intelligence firm has asked a Shanghai court to stop the production and sale of Apple’s iPhone in the country over a long-standing patent dispute involving virtual assistant Siri, around a week before the world’s most valuable company launches the latest update of its flagship smartphone […]

Xiao-i Robot, last Friday applied to the Shanghai Higher People’s Court for a preliminary injunction to ban the manufacture, sale and export of iPhones containing Siri that infringe on its patent, according to the Chinese company’s statement that was posted on its official WeChat account on Tuesday.

Xiao-i Robot chief executive Yuan Hui said in the statement that Apple did not respect its intellectual property. “Apple should immediately stop the infringement, take down and stop selling the related products,” Yuan said.

The timing of the lawsuit is clearly intended to maximize the pressure on Apple to agree to a settlement rather than risk disruption to its production at such a critical time. This is a particular risk in China, where courts have a reputation for favoring local companies over foreign ones.

However, the Cupertino company mostly chooses to fight such cases, and a former senior Apple exec who’s worked directly with Tim Cook told me the CEO hates to be bullied or blackmailed, and never wants to give in to such attempts. Additionally, the Chinese government would likely not want to risk disrupting such a lucrative manufacturing operation, especially as it would only increase the rate at which Apple is diversifying its production to a number of other countries.

Apple did not comment specifically on this latest development, referring SCMP to its statement on the second case:

We are disappointed Xiao-i Robot has filed another lawsuit. We look forward to presenting the facts to the court and we will continue to focus on delivering the best products and services in the world to our customers.

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