[A2k] Eweek: Google, DOJ Discuss Compulsory Licensing for ITA Deal

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Wed Feb 9 04:05:54 PST 2011


Google, DOJ Discuss Compulsory Licensing for ITA Deal

By: Clint Boulton

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 Google.com.

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

ITA customers, including Expedia, Kayak.com and others opposed the  
acquisition by forming the FairSearch.org 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  

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 FairSearch.org coalition doubts compulsory licensing will  

"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," FairSearch.org told eWEEK.

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


Thiru Balasubramaniam
Geneva Representative
Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)
thiru at keionline.org

Tel: +41 22 791 6727
Mobile: +41 76 508 0997

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