Just to answer my own question, before it even arrives in my own inbox:
It looks like in the case where you have a primitive overlapping two planes on a single layer, and connecting to one, that protel does its thing *before you even get to the gerber stage* with plonking a thermal relief down on the layer for that primitive.
So essentially, it shorts the two split planes together, then DOES NOT DETECT they are shorted in a DRC.
Chalk another one up to experience I guess.... I've never even heard of this bug before, but I can guarantee Altium have.
You know - I really don't mind the occasional bug in software, it happens. And Windows isn't the nicest environment to develop in... But what really does annoy me about these sorts of things, is if Protel maintained an open and honest bug list on their website that listed exactly, in a point by point list, the things you should not do with various versions of their software, it would be a lot easier to make a board 100% right first time with their software.... Maybe it's worth someone's time to make one up and host it somewhere (like the OrCad website?!?!?) since Altium seem so unwilling to help their own users navigate the collection of small, yet potentially very damaging list of bugs.
You are welcome to add propose bugs for inclusion on the Yahoo groups database: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/protel-users/database?method=reportRows&tbl=1
(you will probably need to sign on to get access).
Anyone proposing a bug should format it a manner that directly maps to the database format to make it easy to copy and paste.
Anyone wishing to take on the job of managing it is welcome. I have taken the view, that items in the database should be bugs and not just one persons whim and preference. They should, where possible, be confirmed.
The problem of vias shorting planes and incomplete plane DRC has been discussed before. There has been discussion on the past about this and similar issues, the big one being disconnection of plane segments by overlapping disconnect flashes. This problem of pad/vias that bridge a split plane should probably be in the bug database.
Protel do maintain a knowledge base which includes bugs.
I am interested, do many other software vendors publish bug lists? I know of a few, but I know of many that don't.
[DXP comment: DXP does warn of entities overlapping split planes which at least tells you you may have something wrong. Under some conditions the warning is given too aggressively, but this is better than not warning of a possible issue, unless there are so many false warnings that the user becomes complacent.]
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