Spinvox Tries To Patent Dictation?

from the um,-seriously? dept

Over the years I've heard of a few different companies that have done variations on what Spinvox appears to be doing: using a combination of both speech recognition and cheap offshore labor to convert audio voicemail messages into text. But, Mark alerts us that Spinvox is trying to patent the process of using humans to transcribe messages (you can see the patent application here). It seems pretty ridiculous that the concept of transcribing a voicemail message could get a patent -- and one hopes that such a patent no longer has any chance under the current Bilski rules, but you never know. It's quite telling, though, how the company responds when asked about the patent:
"Generic patents help us build different combinations -- i.e.: Humans interacting with machines -- to prevent any other companies doing similar things in the long term."
In other words, they're blatantly admitting it's got nothing at all to do with actually innovating, but getting enough of a patent thicket to have different combinations that prevent anyone else from doing things.

Separately, it's a bit odd, but mixed in at the end of the BBC article is a small highlight of one potential problem with using humans to transcribe voicemails: some of the Pakistani transcribers apparently haven't been paid by Spinvox, and attached a message to one of the transcriptions, telling the recipient of their plight and asking for help.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Petréa Mitchell, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 1:17pm

    Oh, it's *way* worse than that

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    yozoo, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 1:27pm

    They Think Small Time

    they should try to patent the parts, imagine how valuable a patent on "using a phone to listen" and "using a keyboard to type" would be.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    TXCHLInstructor (profile), Jul 31st, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Oh, that's truly rich!

    "some of the Pakistani transcribers apparently haven't been paid by Spinvox, and attached a message to one of the transcriptions, telling the recipient of their plight and asking for help."

    Poetic justice. That's just rich.

     

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  4.  
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    Yakko Warner, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Oh, that's truly rich!

    Just wait until I sue them for infringing on my patent for using unpaid slave labor in foreign countries as a method for reducing employment costs. They won't get away with this!

     

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  5.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:23pm

    C'mon Mike

    "some of the Pakistani transcribers apparently haven't been paid by Spinvox, and attached a message to one of the transcriptions, telling the recipient of their plight and asking for help."

    C'mon, be fair. You know the only reason they haven't been paid is because, unfortunately for Spinvox, someone ELSE owns the method patent "exchanging money on a regular basis, but not too much money, in order for brown people to pretty much do all the work and let us get rich"....

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:39pm

    Uhm... don't courts have a teller that types up the cases s/he hears into transcripts? So the idea has prior art.

     

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  7.  
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    drkkgt (profile), Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:41pm

    Wow, the patent they just got in May for the Method of managing voicemails from a mobile telephone has a great line it it.

    This presents several challenges to the user: first, he may not have a pen and paper to hand to take down any important information; secondly, he may forget or not be able to hear the options and hence will be unable to operate the voicemail system effectively.
    Because of this inadequate and opaque interface, voicemail is not used by at least 45% of mobile telephone users. Of those that do use voicemail, it typically accounts for 30% of a user's call time and spend. One of the reasons for this perhaps surprisingly high level is that, because of the difficult interface, users frequently dial in again just to listen to key voice messages they did not get the details of the first time round.

     

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  8.  
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    drkkgt (profile), Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:43pm

    Re:

    oh wait, they repeat the same thing in the new one listed in Mike's article.

    Oh and thanks for the link to the register Petréa, good article.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymouse, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 2:48pm

    Re:

    The court stenographer records the proceedings.
    Later the stenographic record is converted to
    text.

     

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  10.  
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    anon and on, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 4:27pm

    my favorite tidbit about this amazing company is how their marketing materials call their voice-to-text conversion system (which utilizes thousands of human agents in developing countries) by two names, ""The Brain" and a space age "D2". Then you find out that D2 stands for DD, the co-founder Daniel Doulton.

    More fun reading here http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/article-1202185/Pay-cut-SpinVox-phone-text-tycoons-told.html

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 5:24pm

    Re: Re:

    Exactly. So the idea has prior art.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 5:29pm

    Re:

    "Because of this inadequate and opaque interface, voicemail is not used by at least 45% of mobile telephone users."

    Uhm... I would say voicemail is not used because people don't leave voicemails. They use text messaging instead. If someone sent me a voice mail I would listen to it but none of the inconveniences you mention apply to the person sending the voice mail. I argue that most people would listen to their voice mail if they received one and they do listen to the voice mails they receive.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 5:39pm

    Re: Re:

    Just like with answering machines. When answering machines first came out people used them a lot. People would always leave messages on answering machines. Now, thanks to cell phones, no one bothers with answering machines anymore. This house has no answering machine except for the one that is built into the cordless phone unit only because the unit just so happen to have a built in answering machine. It's never used. Someone needs me they call my cell phone. I never leave messages on answering machines anymore, just call their cell phone.

     

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  14.  
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    CleverName, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 6:03pm

    Closed Captioning

    There is a large business segment that already does this sort of thing and has been doing it for quite some time.

    This Spinvox patent is stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 31st, 2009 @ 6:36pm

    Re: Closed Captioning

    There you go, prior art.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 1st, 2009 @ 1:15pm

    Re: Re: Closed Captioning

    There you go, prior art.

    So? It's not like you can just send an example of prior art to the USPTO and have a patent automatically invalidated. Oh no, it requires much more than that, starting with lawyers and money.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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