Motorola suit causes Apple to shut down iCloud push email services in Germany

Feb 24, 2012
Tech

The latest casualty in the war between Apple and Motorola: email. Well, kind of. A preliminary injunction in a patent dispute case in Germany has caused Apple to shut down push email services for its iCloud software in iOS 5, PCWorld reports. That means that instead of getting email notifications as the emails are “pushed” […]

The latest casualty in the war between Apple and Motorola: email. Well, kind of.

A preliminary injunction in a patent dispute case in Germany has caused Apple to shut down push email services for its iCloud software in iOS 5, PCWorld reports. That means that instead of getting email notifications as the emails are “pushed” from Apple’s servers, users will either have to open their apps to cause them to search for new mail, or set the apps to download new messages at regular intervals. Apple has said its email services will still work in the country, however.

The injunction also has some effect on iCloud and MobileMe. Apple’s iCloud service will continue to push updates to users calendars and contact information, but MobileMe pushing for those services is disabled, as well. And MobileMe users who check their mail in Germany, where push will be disabled when they open the app, will still have push functionality disabled after they leave the country, Apple said.

The injunction isn’t permanent, but rather reflects a ruling by a German court that has the service disabled until a ruling can be issued as to whether Apple’s service infringes on Motorola’s patents. The patent in question, however, isn’t one for smartphones or even phones in the 3G era – it’s for updating pagers, as patent activist Florian Mueller notes on his blog, FOSS Patents. That might make it harder to fight, since it doesn’t fall under the fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing rules in Europe. Those rules say that companies that hold patents over essential 3G technology can’t discriminate in choosing the companies to which they license it; they don’t apply in this case.

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Apple is appealing the injunction though, arguing that the patent is invalid. It’s also fighting back with patent suits of its own, claiming that Motorola is infringing on its “slide to unlock” patent.

The spooky thing about the case is that it’s not an entire device that’s getting banned in a country, like what happened with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 when Apple and Samsung were squaring off last year in Germany. Instead, a single feature has been banned. As Mueller writes, we’ll likely be seeing more of these highly specific patent battles in the future as tech companies continue to take each other to court. That could make for a strange, shifting smartphone experience in the future, if things continue the way they seem to be going.

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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