Motorola patent that got Apple's push mail banned in Germany could be invalid, court says

In a case pitting Motorola against Microsoft, a German court raised doubts about a patent Motorola had asserted against Apple

A Motorola Mobility patent that was successfully used to force Apple to turn off its iCloud push email services for users in Germany last year could be invalid, the District Court in Mannheim, Germany, said on Friday.

The court said it doubted the validity of Motorola's patent entitled "Multiple Pager Status Synchronization System and Method," also known as the push notification patent, in a lawsuit between Motorola and Microsoft. Google-owned Motorola alleged that several Windows Phone devices in Germany infringed on this patent, according to Microsoft.

The court however decided to postpone a decision in the case pending a validity procedure about the patent in the German Federal Patent Court, Mannheim court spokesman Joachim Bock said in an email.

"This decision is a win for consumers, and we're gratified the Court has not allowed Google to obtain an injunction and has expressed doubts about the validity of Motorola's patent," David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in an emailed statement.

Motorola is evaluating its options, said Katie Dove, Motorola's communications director Europe in an email.

The Mannheim court was initially set to rule in the case between Motorola and Microsoft in May last year, but the court decided to reopen

the lawsuit because Microsoft presented new facts, the Mannheim court said at the time.

While the German procedures were pending, a U.K. court ruled in December in a lawsuit between Motorola and Microsoft that the push notification patent is invalid because it lacks novelty and is obvious over common general knowledge, according to the ruling. While German courts are independent from other European courts, decisions by other courts are often considered in further legal proceedings.

For over a year now, as a result of lawsuit by Motorola over the same patent, users of iOS devices in Germany only receive mail when they open the Mail app, or when the app is set to check for email. Apple had to turn push mail services for iCloud and its predecessor MobileMe off in February last year after a decision by a German court.

Apple appealed that case and the Higher Regional Court in Karlsruhe is set to rule in that case next Thursday, said Christiane Oehler, spokeswoman for the Karlsruhe appeals court.

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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