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A small Beijing software firm is taking Microsoft to court, alleging that it hasn't been keeping its end of a bargain to license technology for converting the Roman alphabet into Chinese characters.

Zhongyi Electronic says Microsoft last paid licensing fees for its patented "Zhengma" product ten years ago, after it included it in the Chinese release of Windows 95, Chinese government-approved news outlet Xinhua said.

Microsoft denies the charge. "Microsoft has fully performed its obligations including paying Zhongyi the license fees in accordance with the license agreements," it said in a statement.

Court proceedings began in Beijing on Tuesday, according to Zhongyi. A defeat for Microsoft would be ironic - Peking style - given it expends so much effort in China defending its own intellectual property. ®

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