An EU judge asked Microsoft and the European Commission to explain how much lines of code were worth as the company challenged an order that it give information to rivals to make their server software work more smoothly with the ubiquitous Windows program.
Judge John D. Cooke, in a terse exchange with Commission lawyer Anthony Whelan, asked whether Microsoft's proprietary information should be given away to its rivals, including patent information.
"The information which forms interoperability is hugely valuable commercial information. In the commercial sense this is highly valuable information, that's why it's difficult to understand the attitude of the Commission that these are mere trade secrets," the judge said a reflection of Microsoft's assertion that to give over the code would be forfeiting the hundreds of years in manpower that went into devising it.
Cooke, who will write the draft ruling which is not due for months wanted to know if "competition rules require that be taken away from Microsoft, conveying a huge commercial advantage."
Whelan said the value Microsoft placed on the code was merely a reflection of the amount of time and effort it had put into creating it, nothing more.
The exchange came as supporters of the European Commission in the weeklong hearing told the Court of First Instance that Microsoft's claims of interoperability between its Windows system and other companies' servers was simply not accurate.
Microsoft says it drew US$10 billion (Ђ8 billion) in revenue from "servers and tools" one quarter of its global turnover in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2005. The company does not break down sales figures by region and would not say how much revenue it derived for the specific market mentioned in the EU case, workgroup servers, reports AP.