Just as Apple has finally settled its long-standing legal dispute in China over the iPad moniker for a cool $60 million, paving the way for the official tablet launch in the country, a new patent infringement claim has been filed.

This one targets Apple’s Siri digital personal assistant. As it would seem, Siri might have taken more than a few clues from an interesting voice-activated technology a local firm patented back in 2006, months before the first iPhone had been unveiled.

This development could potentially be devastating now that Apple is gearing up to launch the iPad in the country because the device will come preloaded with Siri as part of a fall iOS 6 software update…

According to M.I.C. Gadget, Shaghai-based Zhi Zhen Network Technology filed a lawsuit asserting that Siri infringes upon its Xiaoi Bot patent which outlines an instant messaging chat bot system of sorts.

Worse, it seems that both Microsoft and Yahoo have licensed this technology for use in their MSN and Yahoo Messenger IM apps distributed in China. It’s also being used by Shanghai Expo’s Dr Haibao and on Lenovo’s Smart TV powered by Android 4.0.

The patent for Xiaoi Bot was filed on August 13, 2004, and approved on February 15, 2006. Apple snapped up Siri, Inc., the company behind an iOS voice assistant app, on April 28, 2010.

Pre-trial negotiations are being mulled as Zhi Zhen reportedly tried to talk Apple into resolving the issue back in May, to no avail.

Here’s China’s Siri-like Xiaoi Bot in action, on an Android device. It definitely bears more than a passing resemblance to Siri, doesn’t it?

[tube]hZyD8-T-C0I[/tube]

As if that weren’t enough, Cupertino is facing another legal proceeding by a Chinese household chemical company which is taking Apple to court over “Snow Leopard” trademark.

Don’t you love it how Apple is now the favorite target of firms from China, where gray imports and counterfeit products are blossoming at a staggering rate?

And did Apple shot itself in the foot by not researching enough before buying Siri?