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Friday, February 03, 2012, 04:10 am PT (07:10 am ET)

Motorola wins German injunction against Apple push services

German iCloud users may soon be denied access to one of iCloud's most important features, as Motorola has won a permanent injunction against Apple's data pushing services and devices from the country's Mannheim Regional Court.

In an early Friday court session, Judge Andreas Voss handed down the decision that gives Motorola Mobility the ability to shut down iCloud's push email service in Germany if the company chooses to enforce the ruling, reports FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.

The injunction affects not only iCloud, but its predecessor MobileMe as well as any device that can accept data from Apple's push services.

Motorola first leveled the suit against Apple in April 2011, and because it is the result of a full court proceeding, the judgment is permanent. In contrast, most recent reports regarding Apple's myriad patent disputes have involved preliminary injunctions, which follow "fast-track proceedings" and are sometimes temporary.

According to Mueller, the suit brought against Apple Sales International, Apple's Ireland-based European sales organization, is not Europe-wide and only applies to the German market. He explains that the Irish sales arm is the contractual partner of Apple's German online store, and since sales are made in Germany they are governed by that country's laws.

As a result of the decision, Apple can likely keep iCloud running with push email intact, however the company must disable the service if and when Motorola seeks to enforce the injunction.

During the court hearing, Judge Voss discussed a workaround that involves a device's email client to periodically query Apple's servers for new mail. The solution is less of a workaround than it is a step backward as this is how many email clients worked prior to the rise of push services.

Push email was made popular by the now ailing Blackberry brand and allows users to receive new mail almost instantly. The system works by "pushing" new data to appropriate devices as soon as it is received at the server, and is a vast improvement from manually checking and pulling mail or setting an email client to do the same.

Push mail

Screenshot of iOS push and fetch email settings. | Source: Apple


Mueller notes that Apple will almost certainly appeal the ruling Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court as the decision is "preliminarily enforceable," which means that Motorola can enforce the injunction if it posts a 100 million euro bond. However, if an appeals court overturns the original ruling, Motorola will need to pay Apple damages that would be determined in a subsequent hearing.

With Google's planned takeover of Motorola Mobility, it is likely that the company will indeed force Apple to disable push email, in which case German iCloud users will soon have to reconfigure their email clients and devices or move to another service.