About the fineprint in Software patents (Motorola vs. Apple)

Recently Motorola sued Apple because of Patent EP0847654 and Apple deactivated the push function for e-mails. Only on mobile platforms. Only for iCloud and MobileMe. Only within the borders of Germany. See http://support.apple.com/kb/TS4208.

What happened? While everyone in the blogosphere is ranting about e-mail pushing being patented etc. I dared to search for the original patent text and was a little bit surprised:

  • The Patent goes back to 1996
  • The title is “Multiple Pager Status Synchronisation System and Method”

In my opinion it describes something unrelated to modern e-mail systems. The patent describes a trivial three-message exchange over radio communication to ensure that multiple pagers in a group reflect the same status whether a message has already been read. Nothing about e-mail in general can be found.

This is the reason for affecting only iCloud and MobileMe e-mails and not any wired services or address book synchronisation via radio communication.

In my eyes this is a good example, how interpreting an old and almost obsolete patent in a different realm can lead to crippling of a service which is completely unrelated to the original patent application. Adopting well established protocols or methods in wired communication to wireless was the trigger of this law-suite.

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