As of this month the M4 technical data has been transfered to the Army. The Army can now purchase M4 carbines from companies other than Colt, which up to know was the exclusive producers of the M4. Army Times reports:
As of July 1, the Army has taken control of the design rights to the M4 carbine from its sole maker, Colt Defense LLC. Translation: With an uncertain budget looming, the service is free to give other gun companies a crack at a carbine contract.
The transition of ownership of the M4 technical data package marks the end of an era and Colt’s exclusive status as the only manufacturer of the M4 for the U.S. military for the past 15 years.
What does this mean for Colt as a company? Not a lot. They will continue to be a supplier and will probably be able to manufacture the M4 cheaper than competitors when / if any more M4 carbines are purchased.
Over at Snowflakes in Hell Daniel E. Watters, an expert, said that the Army will still have to pay in royalties to Colt for every non-Colt M4 purchased. The technical specs are owned by Colt. Anyone wanting to supply M4s to overseas customers will need to get a license from Colt.
There is also a discussion about this at Gun Pundit