US Report: Microsoft wants source-code protection

Microsoft is asking a judge to require anyone who views its Windows source code for evidence-gathering purposes in the DoJ antitrust suit to enter into stricter agreements with the company.

It's also asking a judge to limit the time Chairman Bill Gates is questioned as both sides gather evidence for a Sept. 8 trial. In a filing in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Microsoft said its source code is "the software equivalent to the formula for Coca-Cola," and may provide clues to the company's plans for future operating systems.

Thus, Microsoft wants more business protection from those who obtain access to the source code as part of the antitrust case brought against the company by the DoJ. The DoJ on Friday filed a request asking a judge to compel Microsoft to turn over portions of Windows 95 and 98 source code. The company claims that even its own developers only have access to the software on a "need-to-know" basis. "The source code to Windows 98 is among Microsoft's most valuable and closely guarded assets. That source code, for a currently shipping product responsible for generating billions of dollars of revenue for Microsoft, should not be treated cavalierly," said the company in its filing.

Microsoft is suggesting that those who would view the code enter into an agreement that would require them to keep the code secret and put restrictions on accepting certain jobs that might tempt them to reveal the code. The company said such contracts are common in the software industry and that it would agree to provide the code under such provisions. In its filing last week, the DoJ argued that existing agreements would protect the code.

The two sides are scheduled to meet Thursday in a Washington, D.C., federal courtroom, where Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson will review the scheduling of pre-trial hearings and go over the requests for evidence from both parties. Microsoft also is asking the judge to judge turn down a DoJ request to question Gates for more than one day. The company said it's offered Gates for eight hours and that the DoJ is deposing many other executives who are responsible for Windows. "There is no point in wasting Mr. Gates' time with questions that have already been answered by persons more directly involved in the development of Windows 98 and the promotion and distribution of Internet Explorer technologies," the filing states.

Microsoft also is asking a judge to turn down a DoJ request to depose more than 17 witnesses, saying that their testimony will be "cumulative and unnecessary".