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
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).