Google's $700 million acquisition bid for travel search software maker ITA Software passed muster with the Justice Department April 8, which is a big win for the search engine.
Google will use ITA's flight fare and scheduling software to improve travel search results on Google.com, similar to the way Microsoft's Bing search engine does on its Bing Travel portal.
However, the DOJ imposed a number of conditions for Google to meet if it is to allow the deal to be consummated.
Google must develop and license travel software to existing ITA customers at reasonable terms, create internal procedures, and continue software research and development to improve the product. For example, Google must hone and license ITA's InstaSearch product to travel Websites when its development is complete.
The idea is that airfare comparison and booking Websites, such as Kayak, Hotwire, Microsoft and others that use ITA's software, will be able to leverage ITA's latest technology to compete against any service Google may introduce.
These terms have assuaged the concerns of opponents such as FairSearch.org, which Expedia, Kayak and others forged to make sure the DOJ scrutinizes the Google ITA.
Google gets the goods to build better travel search tools. FairSearch.org gets the restrictions it wished for. In the words of Charlie Sheen, both sides can cry "winning!"
However, FairSearch.org believes it may get more than it bargained for now that DOJ has had the opportunity to scrutinize Google's search business.
FairSearch.org spokesman Kayak Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge and Thomas Barnett, who as a former assistant attorney general led the DOJ's Antitrust Division from 2005 to 2008 and currently counsels Expedia, said the DOJ's documentation shows the agency has a continued interest in monitoring Google.
Barnett said the DOJ noted that the proposed decree did not resolve issues related to "section 2" of the Sherman Act, which prohibits single companies from undermining "the competitive process and thereby enables a firm to acquire, credibly threaten to acquire or maintain monopoly power."