Motorola's push mail patent ruled partly invalid in Germany

The case can be appealed at the Federal Court of Justice

The German Federal Patent Court has branded as partly invalid a Motorola message synchronization patent that was used to force Apple to switch off iOS push email services in Germany for more than a year.

The decision, issued Wednesday, follows two related complaints filed by Apple's and Microsoft's German subsidiaries challenging the European patent from Google-owned Motorola Mobility, according to the court.

Apple had to switch off push mail services for iOS devices in Germany after Motorola decided to enforce an injunction granted by the Regional Court of Mannheim in February 2012. That decision was overturned by Mannheim's appeals court, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe in August, which lifted the injunction via an interim decision.

Because that decision was not final, Apple had to post a bond of €100 million ($134 million) to lift it and switch on push email for Germans again. Push email has been available for iOS devices in Germany again since Oct. 1.

However, the Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe still has to reach a final decision in this case.

But, because the patent was only partially invalidated, part of it still stands, the Federal Patent Court said. The court did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a similar case, Motorola also alleged that several Windows Phone devices in Germany infringed on this patent. The Regional Court of Mannheim in April decided to postpone a decision in the case pending a patent validity procedure at the Federal Patent Court.

The parties involved can appeal the case with the German Federal Court of Justice. However, that appeals court will only review the legal assessment of a case by the lower courts to determine if any of their findings are affected by a procedural error.

Apple and Motorola did not reply to a request for comment. Microsoft declined to comment.

A U.K. court last December ruled the same patent invalid in a lawsuit between Motorola and Microsoft because it lacked novelty, the court said at the time.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, open-source and online payment issues for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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