Patent wars force Apple to restrict iPhone email software in Germany
APPLE’S German arm has been forced to stop automatically alerting iPhone users when they receive an email after it lost a patent battle to Motorola.
It is being viewed as a significant development as it is the first time that the smartphone industry’s high-stakes patents wars have affected iPhone users directly by restricting the capabilities of their handset.
Push notifications for iCloud and MobileMe services were disabled last night, Apple told German users. To get their email, contacts and calendar updates, users will have to collect it manually or set their iPhone to make regular checks.
It follows Motorola’s victory in a court case last month. At the time, Apple dismissed the relevant patent as an “old pager patent” and vowed to appeal the decision.
“Apple believes this old pager patent is invalid and we’re appealing the court’s decision,” it said.
Motorola is engaged in several legal battles with Apple, as part of the broader patent wars. Last week a court in Munich ordered it not to include a “slide to unlock” feature in its future smartphones, after Apple successfully claimed it infringed an iPhone patent.
Google’s last year decided to spend $12.5bn to acquire Motorola because of its portfolio of thousands of smartphone patents. The search giant plans to use the armoury to defend the Android operating system from attacks by Apple, Microsoft and others.
Apple this week complained to the European Commission that Motorola was failing to meet its so-called FRAND obligations, which require firms to licence standard technology to rivals on fair terms. Officials in Brussels are already investigating Samsung on similar allegations.
But according to Florian Mueller, a German intellectual property expert who tracks the patent wars, Motorola’s “old pager patent” is unlikely to come under the scope of any European Commission investigation because it is not cover standard technology.
“This is the first time that Apple's customers have started to see and feel the effects of the ongoing patent disputes in the smartphone and tablet computer industry in the form of a removal of certain functionality,” he said.
“The patent that now affects Apple's push email service in Germany does not appear to be essential to any industry standard.”
Germany, Europe’s largest smartphone market, has become the frontline in the patent wars because of its relatively speedy court process and because the winner in an intellectual property case is often granted a potentially disruptive injunction against the loser.