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ALJ Gildea Issues Claim Construction Order In Certain Microelectromechanical Systems (“MEMS Devices”) (337-TA-876)




by:
Eric W. Schweibenz
Thomas C. Yebernetsky
Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, L.L.P. - Alexandria Office

 
February 26, 2014

Previously published on February 24, 2014

On February 5, 2014, ALJ E. James Gildea issued the public version of Order No. 53 (dated January 29, 2014) in Certain Microelectromechanical Systems (“MEMS Devices”) and Products Containing the Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-876).  Due to its large electronic size, we have split Order No. 53 into part 1, part 2, and part 3.

By way of background, the investigation is based on a complaint filed by STMicroelectronics, Inc. (“STM”) alleging violation of Section 337 in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain microelectromechanical systems (“MEMS devices”) and products containing same that infringe one or more claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,450,332 (the ‘332 patent); 7,409,291 (the ‘291 patent); 6,928,872 (the ‘872 patent); 6,370,954 (the ‘954 patent); and 6,034,419 (the ‘419 patent).  The Respondents are InvenSense, Inc.; Roku, Inc.; and Black & Decker (U.S.), Inc.  See our March 12, 2013 and April 10, 2013 posts for more details on STM’s complaint and the Notice of Investigation for this matter, respectively.

The ‘332 Patent

The first disputed term of the ‘332 patent was “acceleration threshold,” which ALJ Gildea construed to take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  The second disputed term, a means-plus-function claim, was “wherein said dedicated hardware circuit further comprises second storage means for storing the occurrence of said free-fall detection signal.”  ALJ Gildea determined the function to be “storing the occurrence of said free-fall detection signal” and the corresponding structure to be the counter register.

The ‘291 Patent

ALJ Gildea construed the first disputed term of the ‘291 patent, “signal,” to take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ arguments that the term should be limited to “analog voltage.”  The parties’ central dispute with respect to the second claim term was whether the claimed “filter” must refer to a “low-pass filter.”  ALJ Gildea held that the claimed filter must be a low-pass filter.  Respondents argued that the third disputed term, “a subtractor element, for subtracting said third signal from said first signal,” should be construed as a means-plus-function limitation.  ALJ Gildea rejected this argument, holding that the term does not require construction.  For the same reasons cited in his construction of the second disputed claim term, ALJ Gildea held that the filter of the fourth disputed claim term must be a low-pass filter.  At issue in the fifth disputed term was whether reference to two different signals as a “third signal” was an error amenable to correction or whether it made the claim indefinite.  ALJ Gildea determined that the proposed corrections were not subject to reasonable debate and, therefore, were amenable to correction.  ALJ Gildea divided the sixth disputed claim term, “threshold comparator,” into two parts: “threshold” and “comparator.”  ALJ Gildea held that the term “threshold” should have its plain and ordinary meaning.  As to the “comparator” term, ALJ Gildea determined that the terms should be construed to mean “a circuit that has at least two inputs and produces an output based on a comparison of the inputs.”  ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ argument that the word “signal” in the seventh and final disputed claim term of the ‘291 patent should be limited to mean an “analog signal.”  Accordingly, ALJ Gildea held that the seventh term should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.

The ‘872 Patent

ALJ Gildea held that the first disputed claim term, “sensitive mass extending in a first direction and a second direction,” does not require construction and should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ proposed construction of this term because it imported two narrowing qualifiers, “of planar shape” and “mainly,” which were not expressed or implied in the asserted claims.  Similarly, ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ proposed construction of the second disputed claim term, “sensitive mass being moved by said driving assembly in said first direction”/“second sensitive mass being moved by said second driving assembly in said first direction,” as improperly adding limitations that are not support by the claims or specification.  Accordingly, ALJ Gildea determined that the second disputed claim term should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea construed the third disputed claim term, “[capacitive sensing electrode/first capacitive sensing electrode/second capacitive sensing electrode], facing said [sensitive mass/first sensitive mass/second sensitive mass],” to mean “[capacitive sensing electrode/first capacitive sensing electrode/second capacitive sensing electrode], positioned to sense the movement of the [sensitive mass/first sensitive mass/second sensitive mass].”  Regarding the fourth disputed claim term, “capacitive electrode positioned between the semiconductor material body and the sensing mass and configures to detect movement of the sensing mass in the second axis,” ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ proposed construction and, instead, determined that the claim term should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea determined that the fifth and final claim term, “driving element connected to said sensitive mass through a mechanical linkage, which enables, at least to one part of said sensitive mass, a movement having a component in a third direction perpendicular to said first and second directions,” should also be given its plain and ordinary meaning.

The ‘954 Patent

At issue with the first disputed claim term of the ‘954 patent, “microactuator means,” a means-plus-function claim term, was the claimed function.  ALJ Gildea rejected both parties’ proposed functions, holding that the function, “microactuation,” does not need further construction.  ALJ Gildea determined that the second disputed claim terms “stator element”/”rotor element” should be construed to take on their plain and ordinary meanings.  ALJ Gildea rejected STM’s proposed size limitations for the third disputed term, “mobile mass,” and, instead, held that “mobile mass” should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea determined that the fourth and fifth set of claim terms, “mobile sensor arm(s)”/“fixed sensor arms(s)” and “driving unit,” respectively, should be given their plain and ordinary meaning.

The ‘419 Patent

The first claim term of the ‘419 patent in dispute was “disposed in contact with said region with a dopant.”  ALJ Gildea determined that this term should take on its plain and ordinary meaning.  Specifically, the word “disposed” was commonly understood to indicate an arrangement or positioning of something and the word “contact” imparted the notion of electrical connectivity. ALJ Gildea construed the second disputed claim term, “contact hole,” to mean “an opening for making an electrical connection.”  The third disputed claim term was “a tungsten plug member disposed in contact with said region doped with a dopant and extending up through a contact hole,” with the terms specifically at issue being “disposed” and “region doped with a dopant.”  ALJ Gildea determined that the term “disposed” meant “positioned, arranged, or placed” and the term “region doped with a dopant” to mean “a region wherein an impurity has been added.”  ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ proposed constructions for the fourth disputed claim terms, “the region is aligned with the contact hole”/“the region doped with a dopant is aligned with the contact hole,” because they improperly attempted to introduce a process step into an apparatus claim.  Accordingly, ALJ Gildea determined that the claim terms should take on their plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea construed the fifth set of disputed claims terms, “a bottom layer of oxide on the substrate”/”a bottom dielectric oxide layer disposed over said silicon substrate,” to mean “a bottom layer of oxide touching the substrate” and to require no construction, respectively.  ALJ Gildea determined that the sixth set of disputed claim terms, “the tungsten contact being disposed in a contact hole which is defined in a series of dielectric layers comprising a bottom layer of oxide on the substrate”/“a tungsten contact disposed on the region,” required no further construction because the terms were either previously defined or are not in dispute.  ALJ Gildea rejected Respondents’ proposed construction of the seventh disputed terms, “interconnect layer being non-overlapping on at least one side”/“interconnect layer having no overlap over at least one side,” because their proposed construction was unsupported by the claims, specification, or prosecution history.  Accordingly, ALJ Gildea determined that the claims should take on their plain and ordinary meaning.  ALJ Gildea determined that the last disputed claim term, “about 0.1 microns,” was not insolubly ambiguous.  Furthermore, ALJ Gildea determined that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand that when the claim states “about 0.1 microns, any distance that when rounded to one significant figure would be tolerably close to 0.1µm.”



 

The views expressed in this document are solely the views of the author and not Martindale-Hubbell. This document is intended for informational purposes only and is not legal advice or a substitute for consultation with a licensed legal professional in a particular case or circumstance.
 

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Eric W. Schweibenz
Thomas C. Yebernetsky
 
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