Among the assurances Kayak sought from Google in conjunction with its proposed ITA Software acquisition were firewalls to safeguard proprietary development work that Kayak did to implement ITA Software's airfare shopping and pricing system, Kayak says.
Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer, says Google turned down proposals from Kayak and other unspecified ITA Software customers "to create firewalls for customers' individual ITA servers" in order to safeguard customers' intellectual property.
Google declined to comment on the issue.
Birge says ITA Software's QPX solution contains some 1,200 custom-tuning parameters by route.
In other words, ITA customers can fine-tune 1,200 parameters by route to modify how search results are delivered.
These custom tuning parameters have "enabled many of ITA's licensees to develop properietary technology that manages their usage of ITA's QPX," Birge says. "ITA's licensees are required to use QPX on ITA servers, which means that Google-ITA as a competitor would have unfettered access to these licensees' proprietary innovations."
Thus, in addition to fears that ITA Software, once under the Google umbrella, might not renew licenses or dispense premium upgrades of QPX to clients, Kayak and other customers are concerned that Google would get access to some of the secret sauce customers cooked up to implement the solution if there were no firewalls to safeguard it.
Representatives of Kayak and Expedia apparently have raised the firewall issue publicly for months.
As the likely end game nears in the Google-ITA Software antitrust drama, deal opponents can count the firewall issue among their long list of grievances.
Deal backers may see the issue as just another bargaining chip.