IBM Trying to Patent Some of Its Offshore Expertise (Not)

Ann All

IBM, a company which has taken some heat over its own increased use of offshore labor, is trying to obtain a patent for a software application that will help companies determine which tasks are best suited to send overseas and which are best kept in-house.


The Journal News reports that IBM applied for a patent in July, having already submitted an application in February for a system that matches knowledge workers with jobs based on a number of criteria -- including geographic location. The earlier application features examples of cost comparisons using workers in India.


Slashdot highlights not only those patent applications, but one for a speech recognition system designed to improve the performance of workers in overseas call centers with less-than-stellar English language skills.


India is where Big Blue has focused the bulk of its own offshore expansion, growing its workforce there from 9,000 in 2003 to the current 53,000-plus.


Calling offshoring a "hot button issue," the CEO of staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas says in the Journal News story that the idea of software that facilitates the offshoring process is:

"... either a natural business evolution idea, or it is a crazy scheme to accelerate the number of jobs that disappear from America."

However, an Annex Research analyst tells the Journal News that the software should add intelligence to what has for many companies been "a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants decision" and could even help keep some jobs in the U.S.


UPDATE: No sooner had we penned the above than a sharp-eyed co-worker alerted us to the fact that Big Blue was dropping its application for the software that helps companies evaluate which processes to send offshore and which to keep in-house.


The Channel Register notes that an IBM VP explains in his blog that the company had violated its own policy "to sharply reduce business method patent filings and instead stress significant technical content in its patents."


He adds: "We're glad the community pointed this application out so IBM could take swift action."


The company likely wasn't as appreciative of the snarky tone adopted by many pundits, such as Network World blogger John Obeto, who asked (rhetorically, we assume): "What is next? Patent the drinking of Jolt Cola while working on a computer? Patent breathing while computing? What? Where does this nonsense end?"

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Dec 31, 2007 12:09 PM Don O'Neill Don O'Neill  says:
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