A Beijing court rejected Apple's challenge to the validity of a Chinese company's speech-recognition patent Wednesday, according to China's Xinhua news agencyApple's suit against Zhizhen Network Technology Co. and the State Intellectual Property Office came as a response to another, earlier suit by Zhizhen in 2013. The Shanghai-based company accused the U.S. tech giant of violating its patent for "Little I Robot" – a chat system developed in 2003 for MSN chat – when i developed Siri. 

Though Apple's loss clears the way for Zhizhen's suit to come back in play, an Apple spokeswoman says the company plans to appeal.

"Unfortunately, we were not aware of Zhizhen's patent before we introduced Siri and we do not believe we are using this patent," she told Xinhua. "While a separate court considers this question, we remain open to reasonable discussions with Zhizhen."

But Zhizhen lawyer Yuan Yang told reporters the company is "optimistic" about the case, adding that a ruling on the initial suit against Apple can be expected in two to three months.

Of course, Apple is no stranger to legal disputes in China. In 2012, the company paid Shenzhen-based Proview Technology $60 million to purchase the "iPad" trademark, and in the same year, was fined $160,400 for listing apps that sold pirated e-books in the App Store. And while Apple handles this case, Samsung has been exploring an acquisition of speech recognition software maker Nuance Communications, which Apple used to develop Siri.