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Federal judge rules in favor of Google's ITA buy

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins clears the acquisition, saying that the deal has safeguards in place to protect third parties.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

A federal judge has cleared Google's acquisition of ITA Software, effectively putting the year-long story to rest.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins today approved the consent decree signed between the search giant and the U.S. Justice Department that paved the way for Google to acquire ITA Software. According to Bloomberg, which obtained a copy of the order, Wilkins approved the deal based on his belief that the safeguards in place to protect third-parties were enough to justify the acquisition.

In April, Google announced that it had signed a deal with the Justice Department, allowing it to acquire ITA. That agreement included a clause saying Google would be required to continue to license ITA's travel technology to any and all rivals for a period of five years on "reasonable and nondiscriminatory" terms. In addition, Google agreed to furnish the Justice Department any complaints it receives from competitors saying that their travel information was not receiving fair placement in the company's search.

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Google announced plans to acquire ITA for $700 million last year. Soon after, the company was hit hard with opposition by several competitors, including Microsoft and Expedia, saying that the deal should not be approved. The companies formed a group called FairSearch.org to combat Google's acquisition bid, saying that it would stifle competition, since they rely upon ITA's technology to power their services.

For its part, Google denied those claims, saying that the deal would benefit consumers and would not interfere with ITA's business in a way that would hurt rivals.

"We're confident that by combining ITA's expertise with Google's technology we'll be able to develop exciting new flight search tools for all our users," Google wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

After the Justice Department came out in support of the acquisition, the companies that make up FairSearch.org stopped short of saying that they were pleased, but did say that they the agreement is a "clear win for consumers." They then took another shot at Google.

"While this enforcement action is an important victory, Google's abuse of its search dominance still threatens competition and consumers in many critical areas of online services," the organization wrote in a blog post earlier this year. "Antitrust enforcers and lawmakers in the U.S. and elsewhere must remain vigilant in their investigation of these larger concerns and take whatever further enforcement actions are needed to protect consumers."

Since then, Google has been working alongside ITA to integrate the company's tools into its own services. Last month, Google gave users an "early look" at its new Flight Search feature, which relies upon ITA's technology and allows users to find flights from the company's search tool.

Google did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment on the federal judge's ruling.