Apple has switched off push notifications in Germany, responding to Motorola Mobility's successful patent lawsuit, so iCloud users in Germany will have to learn to pull together.
The outage also affects MobileMe, but anyone using ActiveSync or other push mechanisms will be fine as the companies behind those aren't being sued by Motorola Mobility. iCloud and MobileMe users will have to switch to periodic polling while Apple appeals the decision, and the mobile industry's patent war spills into the pockets of ordinary users.
Apple Germany has posted a guide for locals and visitors, explaining how to set up both iCloud and MobileMe to pull data instead of waiting for it to get pushed, and reminding visitors that they'll have to reactivate pushed services when they get home.
This isn't, apparently, the first time a patent spat has meddled with what's already in our palms - it's just a particularly obvious one. Patent court lurker Florian Mueller cites a handful of changes to the Android experience he attributes to patent cases - from the disappearance of a bouncing scroll bar to clumsy photograph browsing and the much-discussed slide-to-unlock widget vanishing from Motorola handsets (though outside Germany Motorola handsets can still be unlocked that way).
These interface patents are unrelated to those essential to the telephony standards, which come with FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) obligations. Apple has complained to the EC about Motorola Mobility's behaviour regarding those patents, claiming that it was never given a fair shot at a licence, but interface elements aren't essential to telephony so fall outside that complaint.
Motorola Mobility reckons it owns the idea of pushed notifications just as much as Apple owns slide-to-unlock, and if it indeed does then Apple has no right to push stuff around without a licence.
In his blog on the subject Mueller reminds us that German courts refuse to discuss the validity of patents during infringement hearings. The court has to decide if the patent is being infringed, not if it is a valid patent, and in this case Apple has been found to be infringing.
Apple still has the right to appeal, and will, but Motorola Mobility has the right to demand enforcement while the appeal is progressing, which is why Germans relying on Apple to keep them updated will need to learn to do some smart pulling. ®