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Patents IBM The Almighty Buck

IBM Seeks US Patents For Offshoring US Jobs 203

Posted by kdawson
from the quite-a-royalty-stream dept.
theodp writes "IBM and other corporations are seeking patents for inventions covering the offshoring of US jobs. The USPTO is considering IBM's patent application for Outsourcing of Services, a 'method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organization' to 'countries where cheaper labor prices and/or cheaper materials are available.' Then there's Big Blue's Electronic Marketplace for Identifying, Assessing, Reserving and Engaging Knowledge-Workers for an Assignment Using Trade-Off Analysis, which provides a handy-dandy IBM calculator that drives home the point that you'll pay less for IGS India workers, whether onshore or offshore. And with its System and Method of Using Speech Recognition at Call Centers to Improve Their Efficiency and Customer Satisfaction, IBM describes how to operate in 'low cost foreign countries' with 'support people not having good English language skills, or having an accent that makes it difficult to understand them' by exploiting technology developed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as other accent reduction techniques."
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IBM Seeks US Patents For Offshoring US Jobs

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  • by josquint (193951) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @02:43PM (#20794989) Homepage
    I'm sick of calling Dell, etc. and getting an "engrish is my 3rd language" call center representative. If they way to increase the cost of outsourcing, thereby decreasing feasibility, works for me.
    • by fymidos (512362)
      Yeah, IBM is portrayed as the bad guy, but some jobs will be outsourced -like it or not- and they *are* doing this for their customers.

      That said, i'm not quite certain how "exploiting technology developed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing" can possibly be patented ... i mean could the "usage of wheels to help aeroplanes take off" ever be granted a patent?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mikael (484)
        That said, i'm not quite certain how "exploiting technology developed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing" can possibly be patented ... i mean could the "usage of wheels to help aeroplanes take off" ever be granted a patent?

        Web transcription services for podcasts - you extract the audio channel from a podcast as an MP3 file, upload the file to the transcription services server. The file is chopped up into separate pieces, with each piece transcribed separately. Each piece is re-edited until it is u
        • by mikael (484)
          that there weren't any mistaked carried through to the final results. Today, this would be the equivalent of parallel processing techniques.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by fymidos (512362)
          My point was that the technology is already developed, they want to patent a different usage of it....
          • by mikael (484)
            It's still being developed - the transcription service could very well eat into IBM's voice recognition markets.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I love the way you criticize the English skills of call center reps, then follow that criticism with one of the more ungrammatical sentences I've read all day. Very nice, indeed.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Artifakt (700173)
        But, people who are not very skilled in English will have even more trouble communicating with someone else who has different deficiencies. So even though he or she isn't making the point very well, that inadvertently makes the point.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Scamwise (174654)
        A call center representative is paid to have the ability to communicate effectively, if your customers are from an English speaking country that means speaking clear and understandable English.
        A poster on the internet however is not...
        • by ultranova (717540)

          A call center representative is paid to have the ability to communicate effectively

          I was under the impression that a call center representative is paid to confuse and delay callers long enough that the warranty runs out. Effective communication would seem contrary to this goal, unless of course the particular company is pursuing the alternative strategy of convincing the caller that he has to buy lots of extra stuff to make things work.

    • by nurb432 (527695)
      It doesnt bother me anymore, but it used to greatly.

      Now, i just demand to talk to an American supervisor right off the bat.. If they refuse, i take my business elsewhere and be sure corporate knows why.
    • Your post was so ironic I wish I could mod it +1, Ferric.
    • by pokerdad (1124121)

      I'm sick of calling Dell, etc. and getting an "engrish is my 3rd language" call center representative. If they way to increase the cost of outsourcing, thereby decreasing feasibility, works for me.

      Many larger companies (and I can say with certainty that Dell is amoungst these) have higher tiered warranties that you can purchase which guarentee support from an English speaking country.

      But the reality is that most consumers only care about what language tech support speaks when they have to call them, and aren't willing to shell out the extra bucks at the time of purchase. In general, society rewards tech companies that keep prices low, regardless of how they do it. So it should be no surprise that

    • I read the last link out of curiosity and saw this: "...a specialized computer program which allows you to immediately see, hear, and compare your accent to that of a native Canadian speaker."

      I beg of you, is that what we really want, people from developing countries who can perfectly pronounce "hello sir, are you having a chance to get oowt and aboowt of your hoowse today, eh?" Just imagine an accent half Apu and half Saskatchewan and you'll get my drift.

      Seriously though, using speech recognition technolog
  • IBM describes how to operate in 'low cost foreign countries' with 'support people not having good English language skills, or having an accent that makes it difficult to understand them' by exploiting

    I have patented a method for cutting sentences short to make them more clear.
    • by fymidos (512362)
      and did you actually use it on the patent application ?
    • by garry_g (106621)
      Wonder if I should put in for a patent on identifying the urge for critical bodily relief and subsequent acting on the urge.

      When is the USPO finally going to kick the big players in their behinds for even thinking of patenting such obvious things?
      • by sg_oneill (159032)
        Thats whats puzzling me. I was always under the impression your not supposed to patent business practices. These are not INVENTIONS.
    • by Artifakt (700173)
      Then please don't litigate.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    1: Apply for a patent of India style English
    2: ???
    3: ???
    4: Profit!
  • for a second, I thought they were patenting offshoring/outsourcing. Now that would have been wacky...
  • Exploit this... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by UncleTogie (1004853) * on Saturday September 29, 2007 @02:53PM (#20795057) Homepage Journal

    "...by exploiting technology developed for students who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as other accent reduction techniques."

    Speaking as a guy that's 70% deaf, these "techniques" could suck the chrome off a Harley. I have to ask accented people to repeat themselves, speak slower, and have YET to find one that knows the meaning of the word 'enunciate'. Heck, I had to get transferred 3-4 times one call to find someone who knew the definition of either "deaf" OR "hearing-impaired".

    I won't argue that these patents might make some cash in the short term, but I'm curious if they've factored in the value of consumer good will...

    • At my last "real" job, providing support for Linux/Windows2K on Stinkpads and servers/desktops there were several young women (very typical IMHO) who would speak so softly that I continually asked, please speak up I can't hear you, over and over again. Finally at the end of the "meeting" with the young ladies (young American, Anglo ladies) I would say "I'm sorry but I just cant make out what you said, please send me an email.

      It must be noted that other people, men in particular, were perfectly understandab
    • I won't argue that these patents might make some cash in the short term, but I'm curious if they've factored in the value of consumer good will...

      For placing a projectile travelling at high velocity into the foot of person holding the projectile launcher, or metaphorically performing the same function on a company.

      One can only hope that if IBM is granted these patents, their rigourous enforcement will make offshoring less attractive.
    • by SL Baur (19540)

      I'm curious if they've factored in the value of consumer good will...
      I will argue the same point I argued when we were discussing Microsoft's targeted advertising in the basic O/S patent. Isn't it a good thing to make outsourcing more expensive for US companies?

      I hope they make the patent licensing prohibitively expensive, but even if they make licensing cheap, it will still raise the cost of outsourcing and I view that as generally a good thing.
  • by SpaceLifeForm (228190) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @02:54PM (#20795067)
    Patenting business methods that are nothing more
    that what used to be called 'management'.

    My how management has gotten messed up over the last 30 years.

  • by Kainaw (676073) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @02:55PM (#20795083) Homepage Journal
    If a few companies patent the entire outsourcing process, they will make it difficult for others to outsource. Then, there will be more domestic jobs and they'll have to work with immigration to outsource the labor here at home (where they will at least pump a little of their pay back into the economy).
  • Wow. (Score:2, Funny)

    by similar_name (1164087)
    I'm going to patent the process for getting patents.

    That'll show 'em.
  • by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @02:57PM (#20795093)
    If they're sucessful in holding up that first patent, that means no other companies could do it!!!! I hope they win when someone sues them or they sue someone over it. Then you'll only get cheap foreigners that don't speak english well when you call IBM support. I'm all for this one!
  • by Colin Smith (2679) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:00PM (#20795101)
    Be happy.

    In a couple of years the dollar will have fallen so far that the Indians will be off shoring to you!

     
  • Can they do this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SanityInAnarchy (655584) <ninja@slaphack.com> on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:04PM (#20795125) Journal
    Specifically, can you patent a business practice, or a business model?

    I can understand patenting technologies that lead up to it, but patenting the whole thing? I have no idea if that's within the scope of a patent...
    • That's fairly irrelevant. What matters is whether the patent office will grant the patent. After that, it's simply a matter of waving the patent around and threatening people with expensive litigation.

      This is why patents suck these days: the vast majority do nothing to improve society, and are merely giant clubs in lawsuit wars.
      • Hey, IBM might require astronomical sums to license the patent, making outsourcing no longer feasible. It's their master plan to save the US labor market while being able to outsource themselves!
    • Specifically, can you patent a business practice, or a business model?
      Yes. The US Congress streamlined patent litigation by setting up a special court to cover it, and that court immediately set about ruling that everything under the sun is patentable.
      • by ls -la (937805) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:23PM (#20795245) Journal

        Yes. The US Congress streamlined patent litigation by setting up a special court to cover it, and that court immediately set about ruling that everything under the sun is patentable.
        That gives me a great idea. Hold on while I patent sunlight.
        • by Hollinger (16202)
          Sunlight simulator [google.com]

          A sunlight simulator includes an elongated, cylindrical housing, an artifical light source disposed along the longitudinal axis thereof, and a plurality of light collecting subassemblies equidistantly spaced radially from and around the light source. The light source is of a type that emits a substantial amount of radiation in the UV portion of the spectrum. The light collecting subassemblies provide a plurality of individually and selectively adjustable beams of UV radiation. A plurality

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Specifically, can you patent a business practice, or a business model?
      It depends. In the sane world that most people inhabit, no of course you can't. In the US, yes you can.
    • by jbengt (874751)
      Specifically, what you can patent is a business Process.
      IANAL, YMMV, etc.
    • The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the Court that hears patent appeals) recently addressed this issue [fedcir.gov] (in the context of arbitration) and determined that you can't patent a method that can be performed mentally (e.g., all in a person's head). So, to answer you question, you can't patent a business method if it isn't limited to use of a particular machine (like a processor that executes an arbitration algorithm).
  • I checked the link, and this isn't coming from The Onion.
  • by gbutler69 (910166) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:09PM (#20795169) Homepage
    My ancestors fought in order to have equitable pay for work, decent working conditions, and something approaching a society where there is a reasonable middle-class.

    This is the kind of thing that seeks to have the U.S. be like a third-world nation. A small group of people who control most of the wealth and everyone else not much more than slaves.

    I for one, will not stand for it. I WILL rise up. I WILL start the fucking revolution. It is time for us American citizens to wake up from our slumber. We need to hang these fuckers. Every last one of them.

    They have no loyalty to anything but the money in their own pockets. The rest of the worlds people should do the same in their countries. If they won't, then that is up to them to live in squalor.

    I say, No Way! Not here! My ancestors didn't die in Steel Mills and Coal Mines etc. in order for the few to be permitted to take everything away from the many.

    It is time to rise up! Time to start the revolution. This MUST NOT be permitted.

    Only cowards will rest on their laurels while everything is stolen away from us like this. This is MY COUNTRY and I WILL FIGHT for it.

    WAKE UP PEOPLE! THIS IS PURE EVIL!

    Tear it down. Tear it all down. Time for a house cleaning. Time to teach the moneyed elite that we will not stand for it.

    Don't give me any crappy economic arguments about comparative advantage and such. If the only comparative advantage is that one workforce has rights to decent working condition and decent wages and one doesn't, then fuck economics.

    Take these people in their fancy business suits that care not one shit for you and other American Citizens. Hang them!

    Rise up! Rise up! Don't be a coward! Don't sit idly by while you are robbed of everything your forebears fought and died for.

    Wake up people of America! Wake up!

    Fight for your rights! Fight to death if necessary! Do not allow this wholesale theft of the American Dream!
    • I completely agree with your sentiment but without the wholesale slaughter. What you really want is transparency so you can ridicule or sue those in power into compliance with your wishes. Things like pervasive decentralized video recording (as in everyone has a mini-camcorder that they don't even think about woven into their clothes until they - and their camera - witness something like police brutality) with the emphasis on decentralized meaning you don't share your footage unless you want to. Also the
      • I didn't intend to imply there should be wholesale slaughter. What I meant to convey is that these actions are meant to undermine everything valuable about a civil society where people have a right to dignity, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

        Those who would work to deprive us of these rights, must be stopped. With complete and utter finality!

    • by Kamineko (851857) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:43PM (#20795355)

      Lazlow: "Let's go over here to line 4, hello caller, what's your name?"
      Jeff: "Jeff from Rockford."
      Lazlow: "Hello Jeff, what's up?"
      Jeff: "I want to tell you and your listeners about a once-in-a-lifetime
                  chance to make a difference. There's a rally tomorrow evening at
                  the park. Starting at 7. Although we'll be painting banners and
                  singing songs and all day to prepare for it. Then, when tens-of-
                  thousands have gathered in the park, we're gonna march onto Town
                  Hall. Lazlow, the people have spoken! And they have said 'no, not
                  in my town!' So folks, if you're listening, and want to make a
                  difference, get yourself down to the park, and prepare to bring
                  democracy back to the people."
      Lazlow: "So...what's this rally about, Jeff?"
      Jeff: "It's about people standing up and being counted. It's about the
                  future. It's about telling those morons in the suits 'no thanks!
                  Not in my town! Not while I have a breath in my body and hope in
                  my soul! I will not, I cannot let this pass!'"
      Lazlow: "Let what pass?"
      Jeff: "It's about grabbing the town by the balls and saying 'listen son,
                  either put-up, or shut up! No more Mr. Nice-guy. No more easy
                  solutions for difficult problems!' It's about what it means to be
                  an American. It's about giving something back."
      Lazlow: "Giving what back, Jeff?"
      Jeff: "Hope! Dreams! Belief!"
      Lazlow: "Belief in what, I mean, look Jeff, I..I admire your passion,
                      really I do, but...what will people be marching for? Wh..what's
                      your rally about!?"
      Jeff: "It's about justice, Mr. Low! A chance to shine and make a
                  difference! About thousands of people walking side-by-side as
                  brother marchers. Only one thing on their minds - the chance to
                  make a difference! Bring your friends! Nothing shows a man how
                  much you mean to him more than the chance to walk together for
                  justice! Bring your kids! They can paint signs, and we'll even
                  have a face-painter, and a vegen bar-be-que. Bring your parents,
                  dude, even the elderly care about tomorrow!"
      Lazlow: "I understand that, it sounds like a great rally, but w..we're
                      not a political station and you haven't really told us why
                      people should do this...what is it about?!?"
      Jeff: "Look..look, do you wanna help or not??"
      Lazlow: "I don't know what I'm helping!"
      Jeff: "You're helping America! What kind of patriot are you? It's a
                  rally!!"
      Lazlow: "You don't know what it's for, do you!?!"
      Jeff: "It's for hope. Please come, everybody! It'll be real good!"
      Lazlow: "Alright, you fight the power, brother!"
    • It is time to rise up! Time to start the revolution. This MUST NOT be permitted.

      If you're upset that these big companies are seeking business method patents for processes that may or may not even pan out in the marketplace, I'm puzzled. The method patents will only allow certain companies to use certain methods to perform some of their business functions offshore. This will allow them to keep others from using the same carefully defined methods, or will force other companies to license those methods. Ei

    • by HexaByte (817350)
      Sergeant HexaByte reporting for duty, Colonel!

    • You (everyone) just have to realise that they stole all your money from you and are now leasing it to you at 5% a year.

      Money is power, by allowing them to lend your money to you they have taken all the money and all the power.

       
    • ...starve them. They make their money off us, off of what we buy, off of what we earn. If we cut our earning and spending to the bone, it cuts their food supply.

      Work as little as possible, buy as little as possible.

      This requires no organization.

      This requires no violence.

      This requires no breaking of laws.

      This requires no political power.

      The only sacrifice is being poor, and we are going to end up that way anyway.

      In return, you get ample free time.
    • And even if you did, you can't fight economic realities, these will bite you one way or another.
  • This is a joke, right?
  • What is more galling is that the entire patent application was punched up by grunts in Bangalore. Would very much like to see a headline like, "IBM replaces CEO with Muniyandi Appannakaruppandi Joshi, a graduate of Aiyyappa Institute of Mangagement Sciences (second class, registered with Govt of India), for one tenth of the salary."
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      Would very much like to see a headline like, "IBM replaces CEO with Muniyandi Appannakaruppandi Joshi, a graduate of Aiyyappa Institute of Mangagement Sciences (second class, registered with Govt of India), for one tenth of the salary."

      I too would like to see this. Would have big bang for the buck. For just one CEO @ 12M USD you could have 120 North Americas finest, or 1200 overseas help desk people. Do the CFO and other VPs and you could have an army of talent. And if you actually hire real technical

    • except for the 1/10 salary part.

      I expect a large number of the Fortune 1000 to be run out of India and China in the next decade and the majority in the next generation.

      With enough "core" business processes offshored, just what is the value-add of US management?
  • Prior Art? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haus (129916) on Saturday September 29, 2007 @03:24PM (#20795253) Homepage Journal
    Nothing here (on the surface) seems to breaking new ground here, even in combination. Now if the system worked as it should, this patent would not be granted. Or, it were to be granted, it would be set-aside in a challenge due to prior art.

    But with the Patent Office in its usual dysfunctional form and with IBM sitting on top of a team of patent lawyers that would not blush at arguing about IBM being the inventor of the wheel. It should be yet another step towards maintaining the status quo.
  • I entered "Samuel Palmisano" and it suggested several million Dalits that would be suitable as replacements.
  • 10.000 year old "trade" concept is being tried to patent.

    prior art ? a few here :

    - ANY trade that buys finished goods from some source and sells to other.

    - SLAVERY

    - ANY action that you buy intermediate parts from somewhere and produce a finished product somewhere else.

    ibm, you really, really suffered a great deal of credibility and charisma in many circles. you shouldnt employ such morons with such 'innovative ideas'.
  • With the fall in the US Dollar, off-shoring is dead. They should try patenting on-shoring. That involves hiring Mexicans to do the work in San Diego...
  • Devices for shooting oneself in the foot? "A Method for Removal of the Nose as an Expression of Disdain for the Face?"
  • IBM will license this patent for free to the open source community.
  • Here's the formaula that the geniuses at IBM / etc are using for outsourcing jobs:

    if ((body-temperature-A == body-temperature-B) && (salary-A salary-B)) {
    outsource(B, A);
    }

    Sadly subtlties like the typical 10-1 (or more) productivity ratios between entry-level fucks and experienced people noticed by anyone actually at all involved in the software industry don't enter into the equation.

    Then they wonder why their outsourced projects have such piss-poor productivity and would have been ch
  • Someone else mentioned that there is too much prior art. Another point is that this is an obvious process, given the current state of the art. A patent is only supposed to be awarded if it si something that is "non-obvious" to someone else in the industry.
  • Grant a company a patent for TAKING JOBS AWAY from US citizens? Every last one of you should be shot in the head for even CONSIDERING the patent!
    • If you don't want US companies to offshore jobs (note, they are not US's jobs, US's citizens haven't got a birth right to jobs created by *multinational* corporations incorporated in the US) then I am pretty sure you neither want those same companies stablishing offices in other countries and transferring profits (and thus paying taxes) in the US.

      Want capitalism? Then it is time we all embrace the full package and cut the bullshit.

      You don't like capitalism? Look at the old USSR, old China or North Korea for

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