Richard Stallman has written an article on NewsForge on Nokia's patent announcement. He contrasts Nokia's action unfavorably with the "significant step forward" IBM took "by offering blanket licenses for 500 of its patents to all free software developers. These are but a fraction of IBM's software patents, but still it was a substantial step. These 500 patents, at least, are no longer a danger to free software developers." He characterizes some other companies, such as Sun, as
"exploring how little they can give to the free software community and still pose as our supporters." Stallman writes:
In January it was Sun's turn. Sun's announcement, if read quickly, appeared to say Sun had authorized free software developers to practice thousands of software patents. In fact, the announcement didn't really give anyone anything. Sun merely reminded us that Solaris is free software and that Sun would not sue us for using that. However, all other free software projects still face the threat of patent lawsuits from Sun.
Nokia's offer, he says, "isn't nothing" unlike "Sun's empty gesture", but he hopes Nokia will broaden their umbrella to cover the some 4,000 free software packages in the Free Software Directory, not just Linux.
He discusses the situation in Europe with regards to software patents and notes that Nokia's announcement highlights that FOSS is obviously truly endangered by software patents, since otherwise there would be no need for such a promise, limited though it is. Proprietary software vendors and users "can also be sued for patent infringment," he writes, which is why, he says, one German government study found 85% opposition to software patents.
But here is the part of his article I particularly wished to emphasize to Groklaw's readers, because he is asking for help:
If you can present me with a copy of a real threat letter that was sent by a patent holder to a free software developer, that would be useful.