Lawsuit Against Apple's Siri Ads Faces Tough Challenge

Class Action Suit in California Says Voice-Recognition Claims Are Misleading But Will Be Difficult to Prove in Court

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Everyone who's used an iPhone 4S knows Siri doesn't work quite as well as Apple's ads make it appear.

While the "Rock God" spot claims that you can tell Siri what you'd prefer her to call you, people with foreign names like mine can attest that you can't.

But good luck proving that in court. A class-action suit was filed last week in California's Northern District Court claiming the "extensive and comprehensive nationwide marketing campaign" starring Siri is "fundamentally and designedly false and misleading."

The suit, filed by the law firm Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd on behalf of plaintiff Frank Fazio, who bought his iPhone 4S in Brooklyn in November, is looking to "halt" the national ad campaign and seeks redress for Mr. Fazio and all similar consumers.

But a class action for false advertising has at least two tough hurdles to get anywhere. "It's going to be a tough case to prevail on," said Chris Cole, partner and chair of false advertising practice at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. "I'd be very surprised if Apple doesn't have evidence that Siri worked prior to the ads. … It's also going to be very hard to sustain a class. I'm sure it works perfectly for some voices and not for others."

This, of course, isn't Apple's first false-advertising rodeo. It has been sued for false advertising about speeds of its iPhone 3G, for Macs and for iPhone 4's antenna issues.

Showing off the voice-recognition service has been Apple's primary marketing tactic to differentiate the latest iPhone 4S from its same-look-and-feel predecessor, iPhone 4. After launch, Siri has drawn some criticism for not understanding, for example, Scottish accents or school-aged children.

The suit specifically refers to TV ads from TBWA Media Arts Lab that show Siri can "make appointments, find restaurants, and even learn the guitar chords to classic rock songs or how to tie a tie."

Apple declined to comment on pending litigation and TBWA referred calls to client.

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