In Brief:   Abstract ideas for time tracking software are not patentable.

Here’s What Happened:  

Realtime Tracker Inc. holds a patent for “Realtime Billable Timekeeper Method, System and Apparatus,” which it described as a “novel computer system, operation and function” for tracking billable hours for professionals in client service fields.

Realtime brought suit against RELX, Inc. doing business as LexisNexis. Realtime alleged that RELX’s “Juris Suite Timer” software infringed on Realtime’s billing software.

RELX brought a motion to dismiss.

The court granted the motion.

Using the two prong analysis for software patents in Alice Corp. Pty. Ltd. v. CLS Bank Int'l, 573 U.S. 208, 216, 134 S.Ct. 2347, 189 L.Ed.2d 296 (2014), the court ruled that the patent claims failed to satisfy the first prong. The claims were directed to “the abstract concept of timekeeping for compensation.” Specifically, the claims required “(1) ‘detecting opening of a document, initiation of a client-service or initiation of a telephone call,’ (2) ‘generating an individual timekeeper entry box configured with an entry for a personal code and a second entry for a client identifier,’ and (3) ‘contemporaneously tracking time associated with the personal code and the client identifier of the document in use, the client-service or the telephone call on task-by-task and client-by-client bases.’” Realtime argued that these features provided was an improvement of prior art and fixed some of the problems in prior art. The court noted that “whether by quill or by computer, humans have undertaken such timekeeping . . . for centuries,” which triggered preemption concerns and confirmed the claims were directed to an abstract idea.

Moving to the second prong of Alice, the court found that Realtime’s patent had no “inventive concept” because any computer device could use the program. 

Why You Should Know This:  Analysists believe that the Alice decision automatically invalidated approximately 60% of issued patents. Since then, software inventions have to do more than describe an abstract idea to be patentable.

Case Information: Realtime Tracker, Inc. v. RELX, Inc., 659 F. Supp. 3d 384 (S.D.N.Y. 2023)

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