Google’s ITA acquisition is officially in the clear; a federal court ruling approved the consent agreement between Google and the Department of Justice that was made in April.
The Court Approval
The court approval is the last government-mandated step in the ITA acquisition process. While Google’s acquisition of the ITA flight information company and associated software was reviewed for eight months and given the go-ahead from the Department of Justice in April of this year, the court needed to ratify that agreement to make it official.
That’s now happened thanks to the October 5 official approval by U.S. District Judge Robert Wilkins. Wilkins stated that the agreement was “in the public interest.” That consent agreement includes requirements that Google continue to license the ITA flight information software to other companies, including competing sites (such as Bing, which uses ITA for its flight data), and that Google allow government review for any future complaints of anti-competitive behavior involving the ITA acquisition.
Google has now cleared all government hurdles and simply needs to get and give the final nod from ITA (which may have already happened; the companies have given no indication of a change in plans). Google recently unveiled a preview of Flight Search, and a Google spokesperson said Google is excited to implement those features and tools.
The ITA Acquisition History
Google first announced its $700 million acquisition of ITA back in July 2010. In response, a number of concerned competitors requested an injunction from the Department of Justice.
Companies involved included Microsoft, Kayak, and Expedia, who formed the FairSearch.org group. These companies stated they were concerned about Google’s potential abuse of the software, especially if Google restricted other companies from licensing it; Bing, Kayak, Expedia, and many other travel sites use ITA for flight data. ITA is the leader in the flight information field.
The official complaints were made in October 2010, with the Department of Justice review beginning in early 2011. That review was completed and additional terms were provided in April (as mentioned above), while the recent ratification of that agreement finalizes the process. This makes the Google-ITA deal a 15-month baby, even if we don’t include pre-acquisition negotiations.