What happens when two massive companies, both leaders in their industry, decide on a merger/acquisition? Why, over a year of legal delays, of course! That’s what happened with the Google/ITA acquisition announced officially in July of last year. Google, the search engine giant, had proposed a $700 million buyout of ITA, a flight data and reservation software provider. Because of anti-competition risks in the deal, however, a lengthy investigation launched.
The investigation is now over, and the U.S. Justice Department has come to a decision on the deal: Google can proceed with the acquisition, but they’ll have to obey several rules in doing so. These rules are important primarily because ITA software is currently being used by a number of Google’s direct and indirect competitors.
First, Google will have to set up an “internal firewall.” This firewall must effectively prevent the company from accessing or using the sensitive data of competitors that will, inevitably, be collected by the ITA software. Second, Google can’t halt the research and development of the software itself. And third, Google must license that software without restriction based on whether the potential licensee is a competitor. Further, Google’s use of ITA software will be under close supervision for the next eight months, just in case any other issues arise.
ITA is currently the top flight data provider on the web, and is used by companies such as Expedia, Bing Travel, and Travelocity. While to date the company has focused on collecting, organizing, and distributing flight data for current and future travel, upcoming advances in ITA software may also cover flight reservations. Exactly how Google intends to use the ITA software (e.g., with new standalone service, mobile apps, search page widgets, development in other search sectors, etc.) is as of yet unknown.