Motorola halts iCloud and MobileMe push in Germany

Motorola has begun enforcing a permanent, patent-related ban on key iOS functionality in Germany, although Apple is trying to have the injunction overturned
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

Apple customers in Germany are no longer able to have iCloud and MobileMe email pushed to their iPhones and iPads, due to a patent conflict with Motorola Mobility.

Apple iCloud

Apple iCloud users in Germany will no longer have email pushed to their iPhones and iPads, after the company lost a patent ruling to Motorola. Image credit: Apple

Motorola won a permanent injunction against the push messaging feature in Apple's mobile cloud synchronisation services at the start of February, and it now appears to be enforcing the ban. The result is that Apple's mobile customers have to manually check their mail or set their phone to pull the mail at timed intervals.

"Due to recent patent litigation by Motorola Mobility, iCloud and MobileMe users are currently unable to have iCloud and MobileMe email pushed to their iOS devices while located within the borders of Germany," Apple said in a support note on Thursday.

"Affected customers will still receive iCloud and MobileMe email, but new messages will be downloaded to their devices when the Mail app is opened, or when their device periodically fetches new messages as configured in iOS settings," Apple continued, adding that its push email services for desktops and the web were not affected.

Apple reiterated that it is appealing the push-messaging injunction in Germany, as it believes Motorola's patent is invalid. Motorola is also suing Apple in Florida over alleged infringement of the equivalent US patent, although that is a very new case and is yet to yield any results.

Patent spats

Motorola won the permanent German ban on iCloud and MobileMe's push feature on the same day that it scored a temporary injunction against the sale of some iPhone and iPad variants in the country. That was related to a different patent, though, and the devices were only missing from Apple's online store for a few hours before Apple won a stay on the injunction.

At present, Apple has lodged a complaint with the EU's antitrust authorities about Motorola's tactics in its enforcing its patents. The iPhone maker argues these patents are unavoidable in building mobile devices and so must be offered on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing terms, to which Motorola has committed.

MobileMe and iCloud both offer push email as a key feature. Indeed, iCloud was introduced last year as, in part, a replacement for the more venerable MobileMe.

In its support note, Apple suggested settings for iCloud users that would set their iOS devices to pull email at timed intervals while within Germany, but switch back to real-time push when outside that country's borders.

However, people using the legacy MobileMe service will not get this location-specific feature switching — accessing the MobileMe Mail account in Germany will disable push forever. "Users can move their MobileMe accounts to iCloud to re-enable push services outside of Germany," Apple suggested.

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