AT&T Seeks Patent For Limiting Access To U.S. Workers
from the this-is-patent-worthy? dept
theodp writes "To be fair, IBM isn’t the only corporation guilty of demanding U.S. patents for outsourcing methods. For example, AT&T Knowledge Ventures has a patent pending for Managing Incoming Telephone Calls at a Call Center, an invention that calls for transferring callers to offshore call centers unless advance payment is received for the privilege of speaking to someone in the United States. ‘Such an option may be beneficial to callers who have difficulties with accents or who have personal or political agendas against outsourcing,’ explains Ma Bell 2.0. AT&T’s patent claims also cover buying down wait time (‘The current wait time is 34 minutes. You may reduce your wait time by a minute for each dollar you are willing to pay. Please enter the number of minutes/dollars you want.’)."
Beyond the ridiculousness of the very concept, I’ve heard such an idea talked about for years. It’s a pretty straightforward and obvious idea — but it’s one that few others were interested in implementing (or patenting) as it would likely piss off users. Apparently AT&T doesn’t worry about such things. In the meantime, in March of 2004 (about a year and a half before AT&T filed for its patent), I wrote about how the company E-Loan was offering something quite similar. Rather than an upfront payment, E-Loan offered customers a choice of an onshore or offshore call center person, with the knowledge that an offshore support person would help them get a loan faster and an onshore one would take longer. That seems pretty similar to the idea of paying — it’s just that the cost is in time instead of money. Even if this isn’t direct prior art, it certainly suggests that these types of ideas have been floating around for quite some time and hardly should be entirely “owned” by one company.