back to article IBM tries to patent teleconference sound effects

When hosting a business conference call, there are two easy options for keeping participants interested and alert: a) making sure the conversation is compelling and informative; or b) make farting noises at opportune moments. While tried and true, option b comes with certain drawbacks. For one, the effort could get a …


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  1. Steve Evans

    Thank god...

    There are some ideas that deserve to be patented and then licensed at such horrendous rates that nobody will ever implement them...

    This is one such idea.

    I never thought I'd say this, but US patent system, please do us proud and grant this one (well you grant pretty much anything else!).

  2. raving angry loony

    laughing, crying, it's a joke?

    Please tell me that this "patent" will be laughed out of the system? Please? It can't have gotten THIS bad, can it?

  3. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    Oh, US patent system...

    Good old US patent system, bottomless source of wonder and amusement for the rest of the world....

    I hereby patent an electronic device able to deliver the "Sugar is sweet, And so are you." lame pickup line -even by 5-yo-standards. I do believe that no such patent exist in the US yet. More importantly, about 99.999% of electronic devices currently sold in the US do infringe on my oh-so-very-special patent. Ker-shiiing! Previous art? Do you have the lawyers to prove *that*?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Abolish it...

    A year ago, I would have said that the patent office performed an important function, and merely needed to be reformed. Seriously though, at this point, it sounds as if it beyond reform. We need to shut it down now, fire everyone, and (maybe) think about rebuilding it from the ground up.

  5. Nick Kew

    Meanwhile in the real world

    Those of us who work from home and teleconference frequently know all about noises off. We'd be in trouble if someone were to patent the mute function, though.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too soon to call it

    As far as patents go IBM has a better track record than most for patenting only to prevent obvious patents from being gobbled up by patent hoarders that would otherwise sue for frivolous patents violations and thus stifling innovation. Whether or not this patent applies remains to be seen but it may be too soon to assume the worst. But yeah the U.S. patent system is really lame.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Brilliant !

    Those who have never worked for Big Blue probably don't know that one can, as an IBM'er, earn significant money each time one files a patent. It means that a lot of employes spend their time trying to find patent ideas. I admire the folks which have come with such a silly idea and could convince the whole management to support them in filing this patent (ahhh the smell of incompetence...).

    Unless they really believe they are innovating ("for the company and for the world"), in which case they deserve to be hit repeatedly with the afore-mentioned "conference bridge", to enliven our day.

  8. Mostor Astrakan

    And now, my fellow workers...

    I suggest that in remembrance of our dear departed founder, we observe a few moments of respectful silence, as we contemplate all the good things Mr. Daniel Brown III has done for us, and our company.




    *HONK HONK* Hey heyy!!!

    I see a great need...

  9. Richard Ball
    Thumb Up

    Finally a revenue stream for Skype

    Replace the fart noises with canned ads.

    Or just the whole bloody call. Sod the fact that the people might have had stuff to talk about.

    There's advertising in them-there conference calls.

  10. Anonymous Coward


    ..that it says predefined sound after a length of silience

    On VoIP systems it's called comfort noise, so prior art exists, sorry.

    The reason some people use comfort noise is that VoIP system can often generate no backround hiss, therefore, in period of no voice activity, people sometimes think the call has been disconnected, hence you generate noise. just because it's white noise on most systems, no reason it couldn't be the sound of a chainsaw or people screaming in pain, or even the theme to a tv show.

  11. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
    Paris Hilton

    Great Idea

    Now telephone conference calls will be more like a normal big meeting, complete with snoring and fart sounds.....

    Paris, who also gets bored at meetings (especially if it’s a video call)

  12. Jay Castle
    Thumb Up

    Good Idea!

    I spent 6 years suffering through tedious IBM conference calls - the only distraction I found was to record Star Wars sounds bites when the system asks for your name at the begining. Then, when you leave, it announces your 'name' to the other participants.

    "The force is strong with you, young Skywalker" - comedy gold!

  13. northern monkey
    Thumb Down

    Is there *anything*

    that IBM won't patent!? What's the betting a few Big Blue employees were sat having a laugh in the break room talking about how funny if would be if this existed, unbeknowst to them the Big Blue Boss was stood at the coffee machine behind them. Several internal e-mails later it has been established that since they came up with the idea whilst working for IBM it remains the intellectual property of IBM and that they're going to patent it..

  14. Dr Patrick J R Harkin

    How about this?

    1. Monitor lines for sound?

    2. Silence threshold exceeded?

    3. If yes, play pre-recorded mesaage "Get back to work you idle slobs!" and hang up all lines.

  15. Paul 4


    But as long as it is new and novel then it is up to IBM to waste money, not the PO to dicide what is a stupid idea. I imagin the three people who are named on this being in an office somewhere happy in the knolage that long in to old age they will be able to tell there grand children the story about "How I once managed to get one of the lages tech companys in the world to patant a phone that makes silly noises".

  16. Dan 10

    Oh dear

    Most of our conference calls go silent when the project manager says "and whose fault was that then?!"

    Cue complete silence, followed by a loud fart noise and a wolf whistle!

  17. Martin 49

    A non starter.

    Real farts are *way* better.

  18. Stuart 10

    I can see it now..

    "Gentlemen, ladies.. while I have you all on this call, I've just received the sad news that our president/MD/head of paperclips/office junior/caretakers cat has died, let's take a moments silence shall we"

    >automated laughter track<

  19. Anonymous Coward

    If the US Patent system...

    finds that this is unique and not foreseeable then the US Patent system has truely surpassed it's usefulness. Many would suggest that this happened a long time ago.

    Perhaps, the US Patent system has gotten so bad (corrupt or incompetent) that all of the patents granted by them should be peer reviewed by international experts. Hell, I've changed my mind, why not just outsource the who(l/r)e process to China or India, that's done wonders for the US economy in every other sector.

  20. Schultz Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    More important:

    the video loop function with the well timed hmmm and aaah, noises while others speak, so it looks like someone is paying attention during the loo breaks.

  21. Stef 1

    Paul4 got it in one

    Rep @ Paul 4 for correctly noting that it is not up to the USPTO to 'judge' the subject or merit of patent applications, only the novelty and obviousness (and industrial applicability) of what they disclose.

    Epic Fail (as usual) at the rest of the USPTO/patent system-bashers, who would do well to read up about it some more, rather than regurgitating the same old uninformed rants (yawn).

    For that one by IBM, I'll raise you with 6,293,874 by Joe W. Armstrong (the likes of which cause far more of a 'volume' problem for the USPTO than the IBMs of this world). Or US2009195392 by Sony, if you prefer corporate targets.

    I can dig up another 50,000+ like it if need be... But you'd do well to factor in that the USPTO (like any other Patent Office) must consider and prosecute each application on an equal basis (regardless of whether the tech is to kick your own arse or split the atom), lest they be accused of procedural violations and add that unnecessary headache to the pile of unexamined applications.

    So, I'm awaiting news of ire directed at Mr Armstrong for wasting the USPTO's time (just as much as IBM, in fact I daresay more so) with baited breath :-p

    Hey, it's Friday! 1st beer.

  22. Lukin Brewer

    I thought that this had been around for decades the form of automatic level/gain. It's a simple analogue feedback circuit that starts ramping up the gain of the microphone amplifier if the output stops peaking above a certain level. As a result, if there is a pause in the proceedings being recorded, the amplifier noise, background hiss, 50hz pickup and aircon etc swiftly fade up to audible levels and become obtrusive.

    Still, with the new digital system in place, you could substitute the opening to Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother and get a similar, but more interesting effect. And if nobody has said anything by the time the choral section starts, it should be permissible to slip away and do something more useful and interesting with your time.

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