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IBM withdraws outsourcing patent...

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Pratik Bharti
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IBM withdraws outsourcing patent... - October 6th, 2007

Indian and global IT services providers would heave a sigh of relief, with IBM's attempt to patent a technology that would help companies to figure out which jobs to send overseas getting a quiet burial.

The company today confirmed that it has withdrawn its patent application for "outsourcing of services" which it had filed on July 12 this year.

Alok Shende, head (technology), Datamonitor, said IBM had attempted to patent the business logic of outsourcing itself. Had the patent gone through, it would have resulted in a lot of litigation on patent infringement by other Indian and global IT services providers.

The patent application, titled "outsourcing of services", describes a software that would automate the steps necessary to identify which tasks are best kept in house and which are ideal for outsourcing abroad.

There was quite a buzz in the online community over the issue, questioning why IBM would have thought of making this move. In response to the pressure, IBM has now withdrawn its application for patent number US2007/0162321 - Outsourcing of Services.

"Here's why we are withdrawing it - IBM adopted a new policy a year ago to sharply reduce business method patent filings and instead stress significant technical content in its patents. Even though the patent application in question was filed eight months before the policy took effect in September 2006, had the policy been in place at the time, IBM would not have filed the application. We're glad the community pointed this application out so IBM could take swift action," said an IBM India spokesperson.

The same has been posted on the blog of Bob Sutor, vice-president (open source and standards), IBM.

There are 54 other US patent applications pending that include the word "outsourcing" in the title. This isn't IBM's first patent application that is designed to make it easier and more effective to export work outside the US.

For instance, it filed a patent application in February describing a system to match a "knowledge worker" with a job based on a variety of criteria, including experience, salary and geographical location. The application includes examples of cost comparisons involving workers in India.

The company has also filed an application for a patent for a "system and method of using speech recognition at call centres to improve their efficiency and customer satisfaction".

It attempts to patent a system for accent reduction in international workers. The patent first proposes 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 programmes which IBM offers.

The patent applications are said to be a logical conclusion to IBM's moves to become a powerhouse in India's technology industry.

Samuel J. Palmisano, IBM's chairman and chief executive officer, had last year promised to spend $6 billion by 2009 to strengthen the company's ties with India. IBM has operations in more than a dozen Indian cities and more than 53,000 employees there - more than any place in the world except the United States.
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