Nokia Yields Patents to Linux Kernel

Nokia has modified its Patent Statement with an exemption for official releases of the Linux Kernel. For an indefinite period of time, Nokia reserves the right of non-assertion and will effectively turn a blind eye to any new functionality added to the kernel that infringes upon some of its patents.

This is intended to help provide what Nokia refers to as a "framework of certainty" around open source.

Nokia's stated reason for the move is that the Linux Kernel and other open sources projects contribute to innovation and the creation and rapid deployment of new technologies. In a statement, Nokia challenged other industry leaders to follow suit and take a clear public position on the issue of IP with regard to open source.

For the time being, Nokia's Patent Statement is limited to official releases of the Linux Kernel, but the company is exploring ways to extend the arrangement to other open source projects that it has taken an active role in.

"Nokia's public announcement today is another very public step toward solidify the legitimacy of the Linux open-source system. Coming on the heels of SFLC's announcement that it intends to defend against any legal attacks aimed at the Wine open source project, Nokia's announcement may be an effort to orchestrate a movement among business leaders aimed at ensuring the legal viability of Linux," Allonn Levy, an attorney at San Jose-based Hopkins & Carley, told BetaNews.

"Nokia appears to have concluded that, like open standards, supporting Linux helps developers world-wide create applications that could eventually be used on Nokia's hardware. By facilitating this ever-increasing market of free or low-cost applications for use on Nokia's hardware, demand for the hardware itself will likely rise," Levy added. "Not surprisingly, Nokia today also announced the introduction of an open-source internet-tablet device known as the Nokia 770."

Other industry luminaries have taken an active role in open source. Shortly after the New Year, IBM pledged 500 patents from its portfolio to open source initiatives. The patents will be open for use by any individual, company or community to use in software that will be open source by the standards of the Open Source Initiative (OSI).

Sun Microsystems has also made a sizeable contribution to the open source community, and has begun to open components of its Solaris 10 operating system.

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