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IBM tries to come up with creative ways to help companies jump on the outsourcing train.

IBM has a new idea for business software, which it feels is unique enough that it deserves a patent.  The computer industry giant has filed application for a patent, which the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is currently mulling over.  IBM seeks to patent "Outsourcing of Services", which is briefly defined as a "method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organization". 

The patent application, which can be found here, is an attempt to patent the use of computer software to algorithmically analyze a workforce and the various workloads on a company and determine which parts should be cut and outsourced.

The patent application was filed July 12, 2007.

IBM is also seeking to patent a software system for "matching a knowledge worker" with a corporate entity via means including "experience levels, salary, geographic location, job starting date and duration, and industry sector".  The patent application can be viewed here.  The patent has a figure attached which demonstrates its software, which looks like a small calculator.  The figure shows an example of the device displaying the lower costs of dealing with IGSI (Indian) professionals.  IGSI stands for IBM Global Services, India.  The device also seems to be closely connected to outsourcing jobs, as its main purpose appears to be demonstrating to employers that labor can be found far cheaper in non-U.S. locations.

Finally, IBM has at least one more patent in the works.  They currently have an application for a patent for a "System and method of using speech recognition at call centers to improve their efficiency and customer satisfaction".  This application attempts to patent a system for accent reduction in international workers.  The patent's language clearly indicates that it is targeted for situations such as call centers, where a large number of non-native English speakers will be answering calls. 

The patent first propose to electronically transcribe and then provide a digital voice for the caller.  In order to do this IBM proposes using its text transcription system, IBM ViaScribe, developed for hearing-impaired individuals.  Finally, the patent also suggests the speaker take accent reduction classes, such as the programs which IBM offers.

Some may be troubled by the developments that IBM's patents are contributing to the trend of outsourcing technology jobs outside the U.S.  They should not be surprised, however, with the overly broad scope of the applications or of the fact that the applications appear to be for existing or common sense practices. 

There is a long history of tech patents with overly broad language.  There have also been many patents which attempted to patent a well-defined existing technology that already had become common-place in an industry, which the applier was not necessarily the first to develop.  A famous example is Microsoft's 2004 successful attempt to patent the "double-click" (note--their patent only applied to PowerPCs).

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By sprockkets on 10/1/2007 12:02:08 PM , Rating: 1
An application that removes a person's accent is not new?
The method making it easier to outsource people isn't?

IBM is not patenting outsourcing as the article link says, but a way of doing it better.

If there is no prior art and what they did to solve the problem is new and not obvious, then they deserve the patent. We know of devices that can alter a voice so as to make a person think they are of the opposite sex, but again, does it deal with the accent?

RE: so...
By zombiexl on 10/1/2007 12:19:00 PM , Rating: 2
It's a freaking speech recognition + a TTS (text-to-speech) engine. They have both been around for years.

Think of all those automated calls we have these days where you can say you answers. I wrote one for a customer about 8 years ago and the technology wasnt new then.

All they appear to be doing is adding speech recognition at the call center. I've seen this done before as well, just not in the same setting. Its a decent idea, but I dont think its patent worthy..

RE: so...
By Oregonian2 on 10/1/2007 1:43:52 PM , Rating: 2
It's a freaking speech recognition + a TTS (text-to-speech) engine. They have both been around for years.

If that's what it is, then it's definitely old. One of the compression schemes used by cell phone companies is to analyze the incoming speech, send data on it to the other end, and use a synthesizer at the receiving end. Don't know if it's used much but saw it on a list of methods at a seminar a long time ago.

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