Google, DOJ Discuss Compulsory Licensing for ITA Deal

Google and the Justice Department are exploring whether a licensing deal prohibiting the search engine from harming the competition will make Google's bid for ITA Software work.

Google and the Justice Department are discussing ways to resolve a potential antitrust lawsuit regarding the search engine's $700 million offer for ITA Software, according the published reports.

The Wall Street Journal and Reuters said the DOJ has tabled a compulsory licensing arrangement that would prevent Google from blocking competitors' access to ITA's flight fare and scheduling data.

Google in July agreed to acquire ITA, whose software powers 65 percent of flight bookings for airlines via the Web. Google said it wants to use ITA's data to beef up travel-search results on

The DOJ began scrutinizing the deal last August and has been negotiating with Google for a resolution.

ITA customers, including Expedia, and others opposed the acquisition by forming the coalition, an organized front to ask the DOJ to block the deal.

These companies contend the acquisition would give Google too much sway over online travel, including the right to jack up the existing fees they pay for ITA's data, if not block them from accessing it outright.

Google has repeatedly said it would honor existing ITA contracts and negotiate new deals when they run their course.

However, it looks as though the DOJ is more comfortable with making Google live up to its promise of offering fairly priced deals in a formalized consent decree, according to the Journal.

Moreover, Google has apparently argued any valuable innovations it creates after buying ITA shouldn't be made available to other companies such as Microsoft, whose Bing search engine uses ITA data to provide flight info.

Google, which invoked a provision of federal law that forces the government to decide within 30 days whether to challenge the deal, remains hopeful that a deal will get done. A Google spokesperson told eWEEK: "We're excited to inject more choice for consumers into the online travel space, and while we continue to cooperate with the Justice Department's review, we are ultimately confident that this acquisition will increase competition."

However, the coalition doubts compulsory licensing will suffice.

"Even If Google commits in a court order to license the best flight-search technology, serious concerns would remain about the ability to administer and enforce such an order, and the potential for Google to circumvent it without detection," told eWEEK.

To wit, still wants the DOJ to block the deal, forcing Google to build its own travel-search technology.