Following an anti-trust ruling in the EU, Microsoft will be offering the protocols to Samba in exchange for a $10,000 chunk of change. A group called the Protocol Freedom Information Foundation will be handling this on behalf of the Samba team. The developers who have access to the protocols will not be able to dish them out to others, but will be able to develop new software that interacts with the protocols better. The biggest bonus here is developers can directly see what they are coding against and can make sure they aren't “violating” any Microsoft software patents. At the very least, it might make for better peace of mind.
This should, in theory, help out the Samba project a lot – particularly in adoption of new features, such as ones Microsoft introduced with Windows Vista and Server 2008.