Duly Noted

DOJ requires Google to develop and license travel software

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that in order for Google Inc. to proceed with its proposed acquisition of ITA Software Inc., the department will require Google to develop and license travel software, to establish internal firewall procedures and to continue software research and development. The department said the proposed settlement will protect competition for airfare comparison and booking websites and ensure those websites using ITA’s software will be able to power their websites to compete against any airfare website Google may introduce.

DOJ said that Google will be required to provide mandatory arbitration under certain circumstances and provide for a formal reporting mechanism for complainants if Google acts in an unfair manner.

The DOJ’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to block the proposed acquisition. At the same time, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve the competitive concerns of the lawsuit.

“The Department of Justice’s proposed remedy promotes robust competition for airfare websites by ensuring those websites will continue to have access to ITA’s pricing and shopping software,” said Joseph Wayland, Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Antitrust Division.  “The proposed settlement assures that airfare comparison and booking websites will be able to compete effectively, providing benefits to consumers.”

Under the proposed settlement, Google will be required to continue to license ITA’s QPX software to airfare websites on commercially reasonable terms. QPX conducts searches for air travel fares, schedules and availability. Google will also be required to continue to fund research and development of that product at least at similar levels to what ITA has invested recently, and to  develop and offer ITA’s next generation InstaSearch product to travel sites.

To prevent abuse of commercially sensitive information, Google will be required to implement firewall restrictions within the company that prevent unauthorized use of competitively sensitive information and data from ITA’s customers.

Any person may submit written comments concerning the proposed settlement during a 60-day comment period to James J. Tierney, Chief, Networks and Technology Enforcement Section, 450 Fifth Street, N.W., Suite 7100, Washington, D.C. 20530.

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