The proposed settlement in the Google-ITA Software deal requires the parties to negotiate new contracts and renewals for ITA's QPX and looming InstaSearch customers, but Google and ITA are free to develop exclusive products without having to pass them along to clients.
The proposed final judgement [pdf] between the United States of America and defendants Google and ITA Software states:
"Nothing in this Final Judgment shall require defendants to provide to any third party any product, service, or technology (or feature thereof) that Defendants develop exclusively for use in the Google Services, nor shall any product, service, or technology, or the relative functionality of one or more Google Services (including, but not limited to, the Google Consumer Flight Search Service) when compared to third-party websites using QPX, be considered in determining Defendants' compliance with any provision of this Final Judgment."
So, in other words, ITA's customers will get updates to QPX, but ITA and Google will be able to develop the Google Consumer Flight Search Service without being required to include those innovations in QPX, according to the proposed settlement.
Why would Google buy ITA for $700 million if the tandem was required to transfer the fruits of all of their labors to competitors?
While the exclusivity provision seems like a no-brainer, it became an issue in the deal debate as opponents feared they would be left out of the loop concerning all the good stuff.
With the proposed settlement, ITA's customers indeed would enjoy certain protections, but ITA and Google will be free to innovate on their own, as well.
There's another element of the proposed settlement which hasn't been given much publicity. A provision bars Google from hording certain airline availability information provided to the Google Consumer Flight Search Service. Google would be required to include that airline availability information in QPX for ITA's customers unless the airline explicitly decides to withhold the availablilty information from one or more QPX customers.
And, Google is barred from providing airlines with incentives to restrict QPX clients' access to that airline availability information.
The proposed final judgment also outlines procedures for ITA customers who are unable to reach QPX or InstaSearch agreements to pursue binding arbitration.
Throughout the life of the agreement, Google would be required to publish a Web page at http://itaqualifyingcomplaint.com [it wasn't operational yet] with a form to submit qualifying complaints and the page also would include a link to the final judgment.
And, Google would be required to furnish the Justice Department with those complaints every six months during the reporting period.
The reporting period runs until two years after Google launches its Google Consumer Flight Search Service or five years from the signing of the final judgment, whichever comes earlier.