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Nokia Announces Patent Support to the Linux Kernel 243

Mictian writes "In conjunction with the introduction of Nokia's Linux Handheld mentioned earlier today, Nokia Corporation announced today that it allows all its patents to be used in the further development of the Linux Kernel. Nokia says, that it believes that open source software communities, like open standards, foster innovation and make an important contribution to the creation and rapid adaptation of technologies. And that the investment made by so many individuals and companies in creating and developing the Linux Kernel and other open source software deserve a framework of certainty."
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Nokia Announces Patent Support to the Linux Kernel

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  • Good game Nokia! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zoloto ( 586738 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:38PM (#12637699)
    Nokia, therefore, issues the legally binding Patent Statement, which has been posted on its website at www.nokia.com/iprstatements. The Patent Statement applies to Nokia's patents infringed by current official releases of the Linux Kernel and all future official releases of the Linux Kernel to the extent that Nokia has not declared new functionality embodied in such releases to be outside the scope of the Patent Statement. With respect to new functionality introduced into future Linux Kernel releases, Nokia reserves the right to declare that the Patent Statement shall not apply.

    I'd like to be the first to applaud Nokia. This certainly will win many people over into development circles with their technology and without the fear of litigation that's obvious within OSS development, this will welcome innovation, change and support in ways that aren't available to the traditional software company.

    The above statement made in bold is what worries me, however. What kind of allowance by way of announcement will be made for allowing certain new functionality? Is this a COA statement made so that they can keep their investors/company happy and alive or something else?
    • why give them credit? what about openbsd and freebsd? they borrowed heavily from them for ipso

      sure, this is a step, but it's very small. i would give them a lot of credit if they came out and said "we're never going to sue anyone infringing on our software patents"
      • Re:Good game Nokia! (Score:2, Interesting)

        by vettemph ( 540399 )
        >sure, this is a step, but it's very small.

        It's one thing to say "I forgive your for killing 5 people."

        It's yet another to forgive someone for all the killing they might do in the future along with who they might kill.

        What would you do as a business? ...as a person?

        As long as they issue a statement like this once in a while we won't get to far into something we can't easily get out of.

        Personaly though, I think Nokia is just trying to fend of the WinCE folks by attracting "us". Good job N. In your fa
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:50PM (#12637846)
      Perhaps they want to CTA in case something gets into the kernel that they really can't allow (i.e. something that depends on something that was patented by someone else or protected by a contract)?
    • Re:Good game Nokia! (Score:5, Informative)

      by AaronGTurner ( 731883 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:57PM (#12637917)
      As I read it it means that anything that is infringing now in the kernel is fine, and those same infringements in future kernels are also fine, but that new things introduced into the kernel may or may not be fine.
      • by njchick ( 611256 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:31PM (#12638270) Journal
        Also, code taken from the kernel to other projects is not fine. IANAL, but I guess it means that Linux itself cannot be distributed under GPL, because GPL doesn't allow any limitations on the right to reuse the code.
        • Hm? GPL is copyright law.
          Patent law is another matter.
          If they decide to prosecute any use of linux for patent infringement, that has nothing to do with the GPL.
        • Does the GPL specifically indicate that no limitations should be placed on reuse of any portions of the code? I presume it does, which would mean that Nokia's statement would mean that the Linux kernel could not be distributed under the GPL, and given that it contains GPL code it could not not be distributed under the GPL. I.e. deadlock.
          • Nokia isn't placing restrictions on code they have licensed under the GPL, nor are they placing additional restrictions on other people's code. What they've done is simply say that they will not sue anyone for using their patents in the Linux kernel. They make no promises with respect to other projects. That is no different that the status quo ante where those products that took from the kernel were subject to infringement claims from Nokia. There are no additional restrictions on distribution or use,
      • Finally! With Nokia patents we can produce Linux branded rubber boots with unmatched quality :-)

        Sign me up as a beta tester, my size is 44!
      • I agree. I assume this is simply a CYA measure to prevent abuse. Otherwise, somebody would fork a kernel-kicthensink branch, and merge video en-/de-coding, deCSS, GIF compression, and everything else that might be covered by a apatent into some sort of crazy uberkernel. Multimedia projects could then throw out their code, and take the code from the protected kernel (which would be the same code, anyway) and declare themselves safe from Nokia and anybody who might follow in their footsteps.

        Then, when Nok
    • Is it irrevocably? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by nietsch ( 112711 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:59PM (#12637944) Homepage Journal
      yet to rtfa, but is thie just a statement or is it a irrevocable licence? It would be a very smart move of nokia to support linux at first, but revoke their licence because it makes more business sense for them to do so (nokia for some reason going bust SCO-stylee).

      I have the impression that they made the mistake to let the PR droids announce this without letting technical and/or legal people have the last word.
      Another thing is that they are silently pushing software patents, something that is still being debated in Europe (and it looks we might just not end up with some abomination like in the US). Without swpats, their move would have been without substance.
      • yet to rtfa

        If you did rtfa, you would see this: Nokia, therefore, issues the legally binding Patent Statement, which has been posted on its website at www.nokia.com/iprstatements [nokia.com].

        ... which, in turn, says this: Nokia hereby commits not to assert any of its Patents (as defined herein below) against any Linux Kernel (as defined herein below) existing as of 25 May 2005.

        So it is irrevocable, but only covers the kernel as of today.

    • Re:Good game Nokia! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by GoCoGi ( 716063 )
      I'm sure this is 100% correct, but they define linux kernel as "released from kernel.org, stable, GPL".
      Any kernel modified by someone else (RedHat, gentoo-sources, ...) does not seem to match the definition.
      If mainline includes patented ideas, they will go into the modified distribution-kernels as well.
      They can (could) be sued.
      • But Gentoo, for example, just automates downloading and patching the source. Unless they were using patented tech in the patch, it would seem that this should fall under the umbrella.
    • by RealAlaskan ( 576404 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:22PM (#12638175) Homepage Journal
      Well, it's not so good as all that, I think.

      You can't take a routine from the kernel and use it in some other GPL'd program, because Nokia's Patent Statement would not apply. That sort of defeats one (at least one!) of the purposes of the GPL, doesn't it? What about code that starts out in some other GPL'd program, like emacs or kde? It's definitely not covered by their Patent Statement, unless it's already in the kernel, and then only for use in the kernel.

      As for their reserving the right to enforce patents against future kernel features, I'm sure that boils down to something like this: ``If Linux starts to cut into our revenues, watch out!''

      As I've said in another post, what we need from them is an irrevokable license to use their patents in any GPL'd program. This isn't that, but it costs us nothing, so we should say thanks, and get on with what we were doing, because nothing has changed.

      Before the announcement, they weren't suing anyone, though they might have chosen to in the future. After the announcement, they aren't suing anyone, though they might choose to in the future. It is a nice goodwill gesture, but nothing has changed.

    • A binding, blanket statement that they will not enforce their patents against arbitrary new functionality in future Linux kernel releases could invite abuse: companies could try to circumvent arbitrary Nokia patents by simply putting implementations into the Linux kernel, even if the patent has nothing to do with kernel functionality.

      Software patents are an unfortunate fact of life right now. Nokia has done pretty much the best one can under the circumstances. I think one should applaud them for that.
    • by mickwd ( 196449 )
      Aren't Nokia one of the major companies pressing for the legalisation of Software Patents in the EU ?

      This would seem like a bit of PR aimed primarily at that process. They're trying to say to the EU politicians: "We (want | need | will-go-out-of-business-without) software patents, and we know you've had lots of complaints from the open-source crowd, but look, their little toy that is generating so much interest among you is safe from us. So if you can now please ignore the open-source crowd's complaints ab
  • by Agelmar ( 205181 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:38PM (#12637700)
    According to the article, "The Patent Statement applies to Nokia's patents infringed by current official releases of the Linux Kernel..."

    I'm personally wondering which patents they claim were being infringed upon. Are there legitimate patent concerns, or is this Nokia trying to position themselves for something else? Neither the liked article or the press release (http://www.nokia.com/iprstatements [nokia.com]) mention any specific patents.
    • There need not be any either. Either way, if such are known, or if any should exist and be found, they are no longer any concern; that's the point of this statement.
    • Sounds more to me like a blanket statement meant to cover any use whatsoever of their patented stuff, and not necessarily declaring that there is any in the kernel. Retroactive absolution, so to speak, to clarify that any and all currently Nokia-patented stuff in the kernel, whether its there already or put in in the future, is protected from litigation.
    • by Famatra ( 669740 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:07PM (#12638028) Journal
      "Or is this Nokia trying to position themselves for something else?" I think that Nokia and Microsoft did not get a long , and are in competition for various operating system for mobile devices, esp. phones. I think Nokia's thinking, and IBM's too, is that they will do better if Microsoft is wounded or defeated, they'll all divide up the corpse among the players left standing. Plus since the Linux community is doing the work in developing it, it costs them little to lend their patents to Linux.
      • by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @05:08PM (#12638576) Homepage
        Nokia is it seems releasing a Linux based device. When they do that the GPL is quite clear about the patents and that you *have* to give usage. So in fact the GPL says _more_ than Nokia do.

        Nor alas is this just PR spin to make them look good. Nokia is lobbying hard to get almost unlimited software patenting allowed in Europe. This press release is part of a game to fool the parliament into believing that open source is not threatened by patents and to make them feel more comfortable. Right now the Finnish MEP's in particular face difficult choices - Nokia is almost "Finland the company" and Linus is "Finland the rockstar" , and they say exactly the reverse about patents.

        • Nokia is it seems releasing a Linux based device. When they do that the GPL is quite clear about the patents and that you *have* to give usage. So in fact the GPL says _more_ than Nokia do.

          Patents and copyright are different beasts. You can write a piece of code which violates someone else's patent regardless of the copyright and license involved.
          • by albalbo ( 33890 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @05:45PM (#12638890) Homepage
            I suspect Alan is fairly au fait with the GPL - you're missing his point.

            The GPL says: "[..] if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies [..] through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program."

            Nokia has to licence its patents, or people who receive the software through it are unable to redistribute that software. That would not satisfy the GPL, hence, they would not be able to distribute the software.
      • Of course, they are doing this for business reasons and to hurt Microsoft. But that doesn't diminish the value of their actions: they are still helping an open source platform used by many people, including their own competitors. That is the spirit of open source.

        Contrast that with Sun's recent patent grant. Sun is shipping both Solaris and Linux systems, but they grant their patents only for Solaris, not Linux. That's presumably because they are the primary user of Solaris, but their competitors would
  • by A nonymous Coward ( 7548 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:39PM (#12637716)
    It doesn't say GPL, so it probably can't actually add any code to the kernel.

    It only applies to current patents, and (IIRC) current interpretations of those patents.

    But at least it sounds good enough to whack Redmond.
    • It's a bold statement in principle, even if it hedges a little in practice... I still say they're deserving of some kudos from the Linux and OSS crowd.
    • AFAIK the GPL refers to copyright on code, not patents. However code that contains an implementation of a patented process, method, etc., may run into problems, at least in certain jurdisdictions, that would make distribution under the GPL difficult or impossible. But the patent itself cannot be GPLed or anything like that.
    • Patents cover ideas, not code. The statement means that if Nokia has a concept patented that would be beneficial to have in the kernel, the developers can write it and include it without fear of litigation. The fact that this is a concern in the first place is the basis for the outcries against software patents.
      • Not the point (Score:3, Insightful)

        The point is that the kernel is governed by the GPL. The GPL forbids further restrictions. The kernel can't add code which must stay in the kernel; if it is in the kernel, it is GPL'd; if it is GPL'd, it can be redistributed and modified.

        This Nokia announcement is worthless from a practical code point of view. It may be good marketing PR, but it will add no code to the kernel.
      • The statement means that if Nokia has a concept patented that would be beneficial to have in the kernel, the developers can write it and include it without fear of litigation.

        Eh, not quite.

        It means that if they wrote it into the kernel, and it was in the right stable kernel before 25 MAy 2005, they need not fear litigation. Anything which didn't make the magic deadline in the magic line of kernels still carries the same old fear of litigation it always did.

        This is a free pass for some (but not all)

      • I don't think that the developers can use all of nokia patents from now on. As i read the statement, patents that are used today are ok, but for anything new in the kernel, they keep the right to sue. Even if the patent they claim is older than the statement.

        A scary thought is that they (or their successors etc..) can go to the judge with the line "we gave them all those patents, but they want everything, not fair"

        I believe they meant good, but they need to clarify it. A simple "we will never sue linux ke
    • The kernel is GPL and licensing software under the GPL implies that you are granting the rights to any applicable patents to any GPL or derivative code.

      So if you grant your patents to one GPL project, you're granting your patents to any GPL project.

      IANAL, of course, so I may be falsly assuming that a logical argument would stand up legally.
  • Wait... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:41PM (#12637740)
    If they believe in open source so much shouldn't that be *any* open source project as opposed to just the linux kernel?
    • That would be a ridiculously wide statement.
    • by Chyeld ( 713439 )
      Hi! I'm Suckia! Nokia's compeditor!

      Nokia won't let us use their super-duper patent that revolutionizes the industry, so we plan on creating a dummy FOSS project which just does enough to allow us to use their patent as a FOSS project but we plan on doing everything else as a closed source project!

      *nelson*HA HA!*/nelson*
  • Is this in writing?
    Is it in lawyer-compatible writing?
    Is it written in a way that they cannot duck out of it Rambus style?
  • asdf (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr_tommy ( 619972 ) * <tgraham@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:41PM (#12637747) Journal
    Of course, Nokia would have done this regardless of the Tablet they launched today [theregister.co.uk], which, as if by coincidence, runs on Linux. And I'm even more certain it has nothing to do with a Nokia need to get some developer enthusiasm behind it's new software base. And it's got nothing to do with the lack of interest in the Symbian OS they've been running their other new phones off. And I'm sure Microsoft shouting about their new Mobile OS has even less to do with this.
    • Re:asdf (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pecisk ( 688001 )
      Of coarse, it is PR stunt. And I personally won't give a shit about it. It is GOOD to see that Nokia, the mighty gard of it's "intelectual property", trying to build something really USEFUL based on open source. And check out what kind of contributions they got it.

      I hope it is some painful, but strong change in trend for Nokia. They won't change their attitude in one day, proposing software patents in EU, but let's cross fingers and hope for the best.
    • Re:asdf (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Ochu ( 877326 )
      Hey, come on, they are a company, with their own interests. Sure, (software) patents suck, but since Nokia has them, they don't really need to give them away. In fact, they very probably would be sued by their shareholders if they just decided to give away a large part of the things that make them a special company...
  • Yay Nokia (Score:3, Funny)

    by Hrodvitnir ( 101283 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:42PM (#12637751)
    So, that means today we like Nokia, right?

    At least, until we find out that it's all a bunch of marketing doublespeak.
  • Patents (Score:5, Funny)

    by R.Mo_Robert ( 737913 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:43PM (#12637769)
    With all the talk of patents here lately, am I the only one who misread this headline and thought that Nokia patented supporting the Linux kernel? Now I've heard it all...
  • by JakusMinimus ( 49854 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:43PM (#12637770) Homepage Journal
    Linux is GPL'd code. Unless Nokia releases all of it's patents to everyone, this statement means nothing. The GPL does not allow for a sleeper patent attachment (one might say viral, oh the irony) such as this.
    • by slavemowgli ( 585321 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:52PM (#12637872) Homepage
      Actually, it does, simply because the GPL does not say anything about patents at all - remember that copyright and patents are two *very* distinct things.

      One might argue that the GPL's prohibition of "further restrictions" applies to patents, so maybe you can't take a piece of GPL'ed software and add code to it that you have a patent on (assuming that you release the new version at all, of course), but IANAL, and it's wholly unclear to me ATM whether that really would be true or not.

      But outside of that, there's nothing in the GPL that deals with patents (unless I overlooked something important, of course, but that goes without saying).
      • GPL's prohibition of "further restrictions"

        This is exactly what I was getting at. The GPL does not allow for anything under it's copyright to propagate anything that would restrict anyone downstream (outside of GPL restrictions obviously!)
      • > Actually, it does, simply because the GPL does not > say anything about patents at all

        Er, yes it does.

        Have you actually read the GPL?
    • But this is Nokia saying this, not the kernel developers. Does this have no legal meaning simply because the target's licence doesn't allow for this?
    • Any code written specifically by Nokia for the Linux Kernel needs to be unencumbered for the sake of those producing derived works, but the GPL does not restrict outsiders from random acts of (partial) generousity. It does mean that if you take code from the kernel for another purpose, you may find yourself outside the scope of Nokia's licence.

      This is a step in the right direction, but the real goal is the elimination of software patents. The European parliament is likely to vote for this, but national

  • Syncing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by taskforce ( 866056 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:46PM (#12637802) Homepage
    I'd say this would be a step forward to greater device intergration - an open source of version of a program like iSync with compatibility with propretary methods and cables of syncing data. Maybe a plugin for the new Thunderbird/Lightning project which syncs contacts, dates and messages with Nokia phones?
  • So, now Linux will have all the gaming power of the N-Gage?

    Where can I get an ISO, I'm switching now.
  • Just Linux? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:49PM (#12637829)
    What if Linux were to fork? Would the "non-Linux" version be able to use the patents? It just doesn't make sense to grant permission to one project when it's under a GPL license. The whole point of the license is that you can do as you like with the code so long as you offer the same freedom with you redistribution of said code. What if some driver uses their patent and someone rips it out and puts that driver into the Hurd? The GPL is supposed to allow that type of thing, granting permission to use a patent for a particular project isn't really playing nice.
    • What if Linux were to fork?

      The code concerned by Nokia patents will just have to use threads instead I guess...
    • Excuse the self reply. My guess is that it's because they are using Linux in a product. They probably don't want people to interpret their distribution of code implementing their patents under GPL as giving permission to use those patents for other GPLed projects. IANAL, but I suspect there would be at least some merit to such an argument (for other use). By explicitly granting permission to use the patents just for the versions of Linux they want to use, it makes their intent regarding the patents clear.
      • If they're the ones producing and distributing the code, the GPL's "no extra restrictions" clause may well come into play. Hope the GPL3 clarifies this stuff a bit.
  • by Dark Paladin ( 116525 ) * <jhummel@joh[ ]mmel.net ['nhu' in gap]> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:50PM (#12637841) Homepage
    Nokia also believes that a party should not enjoy use of Nokia's patents and at the same time threaten the development of the Linux Kernel by assertion of its own patents. Therefore, Nokia's commitment shall not apply with regard to any party asserting its patents against any Linux Kernel.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that this means that if you are a Linux developer, use one of Nokia's patents as regards to this agreement, then turn around and try to sue LInux (or IBM, natch) for violating *your* patents, then you lose the ability to use Nokia's patents so Nokia can go after *you*.

    If nothing else, it will make some companies who would sue Linux in a Rambus "We'll help develop the technology by committee then sue anybody who tries to actually use it without our permission" from (allegedly, like SCO) letting their technology be added into Linux, release a kernel, then start suing companies for violating their IP. With Nokia's clause here, they'll have to make certain that nothing of what they did includes Nokia's patents.

    Phew. Interesting how complex things have to get just to cover your ass thanks to a exploitive lawsuit happy companies.
  • by Baki ( 72515 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:52PM (#12637865)
    As much good intentions Nokia may have at this time towards Linux and OSS in general, it is not acceptable to be at the mercy of such good will. Software patents need to be rejected on principle, and not be accepted because they happen to cause no damage AT THE MOMENT because of current good will.

    Nokia is one of the main proponents of software patents in the European debate regarding this subject. The only answer is: we don't want your parents, we don't want any (software) patents in existance at all. Anything other would be very hypocritical.
    • I wonder about it too - it is strange that such large company can't take their act together. Come on, Nokia, you DON'T gain nothing much of software patents IF you act in market in good faith.

      But let's be honest here - is good to see the change in trend. World won't change in one day, and software patents are here to stay for some time. But for Europe let's hope they simply won't go in serious action. Let's do our best.

    • Well, really, you can't reject it. It's a promise not to sue anyone for any hypothetical patent infringements which may have happened to date:

      From Nokia's IP statement [nokia.com]:

      Nokia hereby commits not to assert any of its Patents (as defined herein below) against any Linux Kernel (as defined herein below) existing as of 25 May 2005.

      How do you plan to reject that? Are you going to take them to court and try to force them to sue kernel developers or Linux users? Since there is no quid pro quo required,

      • let everyone know loudly that this public relations move is not going to change our mind regarding software patents.

        especially some politicians might be fooled by such moves; one of their concerns regarding software patents is the damage they might do to open source software. PR stunts like this could make them think that this is not the case. that must be avoided. it must remain clear that software patents are, in the long term, of utmost danger to OSS.
        • it must remain clear that software patents are, in the long term, of utmost danger to OSS.

          Absolutely! But still, there's nothing to reject; there's no offer.

          We should respond with something like: ``This is a harmless, meaningless gesture from Nokia. Open source and Libre software developers still need a useful commitment on patents from them.''

          Or, perhaps, if we want to sound a little nastier and more cynical: ``Since Nokia couldn't find any lawsuits they wanted to file, they've made a big noise

  • by lheal ( 86013 ) <(moc.oohay) (ta) (9991laehl)> on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:54PM (#12637894) Journal
    Why wouldn't they allow their patents to be used in an OS?

    They reserve the right to snatch that back, such as if the Linux kernel suddenly acquires the ability to become hardware and run itself.

    Or if they ever start to "see themselves as a software company" or believe they're "really about consulting" or some other such dreck, then they'll snatch back their patents. They'd also be on the road to corporate oblivion, but that would be independent of allowing FOSS use of their patents.

    Keep making the neat gizmos, Nokia.
  • by acidrain ( 35064 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:55PM (#12637903)
    How much modification can I make to the linux kernel before it is not the linux kernel? E.g. if I made it into a user-space image manipulation program that ran under windows? Here is the crux of my concern: if you liscence something to a open source program, you have given a liscence to the whole world to use it but under ambiguous terms. The only real restriction that I can see here is that the code has to remian GPL and that you need to prove some ancestry to the kernel, which can be a total farce involving a few copy commands... Otherwise if the version with their code has to come directly from Linus then they have seriously encumbered the kernel and that fails their GPL requirement. To sum up, if you are going to open up your technology to one open source project you should really open it up to everyone. Not to slag Nokia here, what they have done is great, and to be lauded, just if you are going to bring a case of beer to the party, you shouldn't write your friends names on the box. It's not cool and people will snag a bottle if they feel like it anyhow.
  • by fbonnet ( 756003 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @03:56PM (#12637914)
    are both Finnish, which certainly is coincidental.
  • I'm afraid this statement is rather useless. Allthough the Linux kernel (the tree of Linus) is protected, derivatives are not. IMHO this means that anyone customizing the kernel (eg to run on a telephone) is not safe from them.

    However, there is one very nice paragraph:

    Nokia also believes that a party should not enjoy use of Nokia's patents and at the same time threaten the development of the Linux Kernel by assertion of its own patents. Therefore, Nokia's commitment shall not apply with regard to any pa

    • In other words, if anyone starts threatening Linux with patents, they might find Nokia lawyers on their doorstep.
      Almost but not quite, I think. I read this as saying, "If you use Linux (or possibly something else that may contain patents of Nokia's?) and you are threatening Linux development with your own patents, we'll set the dogs on your ass to sue you over our own patents."
  • by mjrauhal ( 144713 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:00PM (#12637948) Homepage
    The patent license seems to be purely a PR stunt without any real substance whatsoever.

    First, they don't even assert that anything is covered by their patents.

    Second, they assert a right to start acting up anyway if something that is covered by their patents ends up in the kernel.

    Third, even if some patented thing in Linux was covered by this license, its use is only authorized in the Linux kernel as published on kernel.org (not even vendor- or self-patched versions), which is pretty useless.

    Fourth, the above condition is incompatible with GPL's clause 7. It follows that if Nokia makes a credible patent claim on something that is in the kernel, then nobody has a valid license to distribute the kernel anymore until the patent issue is sorted out in the usual manner (that is, by getting a GPL-compatible license or working around it).

    To sum it up, it seems they're just trying to shine their shield after bashing in some FFII heads here in the EU.
  • Nokia is giving patents (and relying on patent system), but should linux kernel team accept patented stuff to begin with? I mean, it's nice and all for Nokia to share, but shouldn't they be sharing equally regardless? The patent system is notoriously slow, imprecise and contains many erroneous/broad patents. I can't help but think that relying on such a system is like willingly introducing a bottleneck. The whole pantent structure is also resting upon enforcement, and the assumption that people cannot c
  • The Patent Statement (Score:5, Informative)

    by MrByte420 ( 554317 ) * on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:01PM (#12637960) Journal

    Legally Binding Commitment Not to Assert Nokia Patents against the Linux Kernel

    Patent Statement

    Nokia hereby commits not to assert any of its Patents (as defined herein below) against any Linux Kernel (as defined herein below) existing as of 25 May 2005. The aforesaid non-assertion shall extend to any future Linux Kernel to the extent that Nokia does not declare any new functionality embodied in such Linux Kernel to be outside the scope of this Patent Statement. Nokia shall issue such declaration through its website no later than one hundred and twenty (120) days after the official release of such Linux Kernel.

    Both of the aforesaid non-assertion commitments are subject to the condition that the party relying on any such commitment and its Affiliates do not assert any of their patents, or patents they control or have a third party assert any patent, against any Linux Kernel.

    Nokia's Patent Statement is not an assurance that any of its Patents validly covers the Linux Kernel, is enforceable, or that the Linux Kernel does not infringe patents or other intellectual property rights of any third party.

    No other rights except those expressly stated in this Patent Statement shall be deemed granted or received by implication, or estoppel, or otherwise.


    of a party means any legal entity greater than fifty percent (50%) of whose outstanding shares or securities representing the right to vote for the election of directors or other managing authority are, or greater than fifty percent (50%) of whose equity interest is, now or hereafter, owned or controlled, directly or indirectly by that party, but only as long as such ownership or control exists.

    means Nokia Corporation and its Affiliates.

    "Linux Kernel"
    means any version of the Linux kernel which (i) is released as "stable version", (ii) is licensed under the "GNU GENERAL PUBLIC LICENSE Version 2, June 1991 for the Linux operating system" and (iii) has been published by the Kernel.org Organization, Inc on its Linux Kernel Archive website at www.kernel.org.

    means any such claims, including without limitation, method and product claims, of any and all patents and patent applications with a priority date of 31 December 2005 or earlier, now owned or hereafter acquired by Nokia, which are infringed by any Linux Kernel that exists as of 25 May 2005 or by any functionality embodied in any future Linux Kernel to the extent that Nokia has not declared as described hereinabove such functionality to be outside the scope of this Patent Statement. For the avoidance of doubt, Patent shall not include any claims for enabling technologies that are not themselves embodied in the Linux Kernel (e.g., without limitation, hardware or semiconductor manufacturing technology as such).

    • I'll reply to my own post :)

      This seems a little confusing/concerning. I think its well intentioned but if the code is licenseed as GPL how can it be under the restrictions that these claims only apply to the kernel. Suppose I want to go use kernel code in my own open source code and this code is covered by the patent, all of the sudden the GPL code is not GPL'able.

      I really don't think this has alot of legal teeth - I think its more just them saying that in spirit, they're not going to sue us. Lets
  • by doormat ( 63648 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:01PM (#12637970) Homepage Journal
    from turning around in 10 years and demanding back-payments on all patent encumbered features and technology in the kernel? A la Rambus.

    (for those that dont know, Rambus put in a bunch of ideas into the JEDEC council for DRAM (SDRAM, DDR, etc) and some got used. They then turned around later and submarrined the DRAM industry by demanding payment on SDRAM, DDR, etc. They sued and lost I believe, but have won or settled other cases regarding anti-competitive tactics by the rest of the industry to stamp them out.)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:02PM (#12637980)
    I attended a lecture on innovation management by an individual responsible for it at Nokia and he said that their view is pretty much that "we're in the business of innovation - not lawsuits" and said that their policy is to never take legal action against someone infringing their patents (i.e. the instructions to their lawyers is: If you start a patent lawsuit you're fired even if you're right). The reason why they use patents is only to protect themselves from lawsuits by others. And he had a quite good piece of advice for anyone considering patenting something: It's not worth it since by the time you've got twelve idiots deciding your fate you've got nothing left to win.
    • by jeti ( 105266 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:58PM (#12638484) Homepage
      If the above claim was true, Nokia would gain nothing by the patent system. They'd just be sinking money so they can't be attacked.

      Why then is Nokia agressively lobbying for software patents in Europe?
      • MOD PARENT UP! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dabadab ( 126782 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @05:36PM (#12638823)
        The parent post points out the hypocrisy in this statement: if all that Nokia wants is to be safe from patent lawsuits then it would be quite counterproductive to push for software patents in the EU - which is exactly what they are doing.
        So, I do not really believe that they do not plan to use SW patents offensively.
  • As soon as the sound system initialises it has to play that irritating Nokia theme tune.
  • by linuxtelephony ( 141049 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:18PM (#12638132) Homepage
    I read the article and came away thinking I trust Nokia even less now. The news *seems* good on the surface, but several key sentences gave me pause.

    For instance, it seems very clearly to me that Nokia is saying that the Linux kernel is currently violating one or more of their patents. I did not search deeper, but I, for one, would like to know what patents they claim are being infringed?

    Sure, it seems nice of them to say it is OK to use those items, but something about this smells fishy. I think I'll wait for the other shoe to drop.

    Another though occurred to me. Has anyone done an analysis to see if any of the 500 IBM patents are used in the kernel? Could this be in response to that usage (if it exists)? I mean, if they are going to rely on Linux (see the new 770 web tablet), and they think they found patent infringement, then they would be precluded from going after it, because to do so would rescind IBM's permission for Nokia to use IBM's patent(s) that may be in Linux as well. This could just be PR spin to try and make Nokia smell better.

    Like I said, I'll wait for the other shoe(s) to drop. I think there is more to this story, and before I am willing to pat Nokia on the back, I want more details.
  • by MartinG ( 52587 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:26PM (#12638222) Homepage Journal
    By distributing linux with their new devices they are implicitly granting all recipients of these devices a license to patented code (if any) that may exist in linux under the terms of the GPL. This is because they have to distribute under the terms of the GPL or not distribute at all and the GPL makes it clear that no additional restrictions can be added (such as "we may revoke patent licenses at a later date" or "this is only for linux, not for other programs")

    So because it is under the terms of the GPL, we are allowed to use patented code from linux (if any) in any other GPL programs. If they say we can not they are breaking the terms of the GPL and must stop distributing linux.

    Of course it may be that they have no patents on any code in linux. In that case they can say what they want about how they can be used.

    Also, if they do have patents on code in linux and they still impose their terms on it, as well as not being allowed to distribute it themselves they would be able to use their patents to prevent others distributing it unless they removed the patented code.

    Software patents suck.


  • So where are the patents? The closet approximiation of Nokia's patents is this list of 900+ patents: Nokia Software Patents at the European Patent Office (EPO) [ffii.org]. Most are related to mobile data syncing, but a few might be applicable to Linux, such as "ep1432207: Adaptive delayed ACK switching for TCP applications."
  • by a_n_d_e_r_s ( 136412 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @04:43PM (#12638375) Homepage Journal
    The EU parlament are going to vote for software patents next week - so this is just a PR stunt to get the parlament members to think that Linux is safe and thus approve software patents in EU!

    • Indeed. Nokia is one of the largest, if not the largest, among pro-SWPAT lobbiers in the Union, so this is absolutely no reason to praise them. And the waxwork cabinet of Finnish PM Vanhanen unfortunately voted in Council of Ministers just like Ollila told him to.
  • This is their good cop move, behind the scene they threaten every political person they can that they are are going to suppress jobs in europe if patents dont become legal.
    At least they have a good cop move, unlike microsoft.

All laws are simulations of reality. -- John C. Lilly