• ALJ Bullock Issues Claim Construction Order in Certain Digital Televisions and Components Thereof (337-TA-806)
  • April 23, 2012 | Authors: Christopher Ricciuti; Eric W. Schweibenz
  • Law Firm: Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, L.L.P. - Alexandria Office
  • On April 13, 2012, Chief ALJ Charles E. Bullock issued Order No. 6 construing certain terms of the asserted claims in Certain Digital Televisions and Components Thereof (Inv. No. 337-TA-806).

    By way of background, this investigation was instituted by the Commission on September 12, 2011 after Renesas Electronics Corporation and 511 Technologies, Inc. (collectively, “Renesas”) filed a complaint naming Vizio, Inc. (“Vizio”) as Respondent. See our August 15, 2011 post for more details about the complaint. The patents at issue are U.S. Patent Nos. 7,199,432 (the ‘432 patent) and 6,531,400 (the ‘400 patent). A Markman hearing was held on February 2, 2012 regarding the interpretation of the claim terms discussed below.

    The ‘432 Patent

    Claims 9, 10, 12, 31, 32, and 35 are asserted against Vizio. The parties agreed as to the construction of the terms “element,” “defining,” “memory device,” “MISFET,” “wherein said dummy regions, said first dummy interconnections and said second dummy interconnections are arranged at a scribing area,” “active region(s),” “scribing area,” “filled in,” “dummy regions not functioning as an element,” “dummy interconnections,” and “wherein said dummy regions, said first dummy interconnections and said second dummy interconnections are regularly arranged at a scribing area, respectively.”

    The parties disputed the meaning of the term “said second dummy interconnection” in claim 10. Renesas proposed the construction “any one of the mock interconnections formed over the first interlayer insulating film, that does not function as part of an element but that is capable of improving planarization,” arguing that the word “said” refers back to the “second dummy interconnections formed over said first interlayer insulating film” recited in independent claim 9. Vizio argued that the claim term is indefinite because it lacks a proper antecedent basis, resulting in a structural ambiguity as to the spatial limitation placed on the second dummy interconnections. The Commission Investigative Staff (“OUII”) proposed the construction “the second [mock interconnections] (of claim 9),” and argued that the claim is not indefinite because a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the spatial relationship between the claimed dummy interconnections based upon the pertinent disclosure in the specification. ALJ Bullock agreed with OUII’s proposed construction. The ALJ determined that, despite the disputed claim term lacking an explicit antecedent basis, it was amenable to construction in view of the specification and the understanding of a person of ordinary skill in the art.

    The parties also disputed the meaning of the term “said MISFET” in claim 32. Renesas proposed the construction “MISFET(Qt),” arguing that “said MISFET” in claim 32 refers back to “MISFET(Qt)” in claim 31 from which claim 32 depends. Both Vizio and the OUII asserted that the claim is invalid for indefiniteness because claim 31 recites two different MISFETs, MISFET (Qt) and MISFET and, therefore, is insoluably ambiguous. ALJ Bullock agreed with Vizio and the OUII that “said MISFET,” as recited in claim 32, is indefinite. Because claim 31 referred to both “a MISFET” and “MISFET (Qt),” and because “a MISFET” could refer to any one of the three different types of MISFETs identified in the specification, the ALJ found that one of ordinary skill in the art could not reasonably ascertain the scope of the claim term. Accordingly, claim 32 was found to be invalid.

    The ‘400 Patent

    Claims 6-10 of the ‘400 patent are asserted against Vizio. The parties agreed as to the construction of the terms “damascene wiring,” “dual damascene wiring,” “single wafer processing apparatus,” and “metal layer including copper as its principal component.”

    The parties disputed the meaning of the term “a first major surface of wafer” and “the first major surface of the wafer” in claim 6. Renesas asserted that this phrase should be construed as “the exposed face of the wafer upon which materials may have already been deposited.” Vizio, instead, asked that the term be construed as “a starting surface of a wafer,” and the OUII offered that the term should be construed as “the exposed face of a wafer on which the step is performed.” After finding that Vizio’s proposed construction was in direct conflict with the teachings of the ‘400 patent, ALJ Bullock adopted the OUII’s construction and construed the phrase as “the exposed face of a wafer on which the step is performed.”

    Finally, the parties disputed the meaning of the term “prior to a substantial progress of corrosion” in claim 8. Renesas and the OUII both argued that the term should be construed as “before the corrosive formation of open defects and short-circuit defects” because “a person of ordinary skill in the art would appreciate that corrosion in the context of the ‘400 patent is ‘substantial’ when it causes open defects or short-circuit defects in a device being manufactured.” Vizio disagreed, arguing that the term is indefinite because the “specification does not provide an objective anchor to permit one of ordinary skill in the art to understand what constitutes a ‘substantial progress of corrosion,’” and that Renesas and OUII’s construction improperly reads features into the claim to preserve its validity. ALJ Bullock agreed with Renesas and the OUII, finding that the phrase “prior to substantial progress of corrosion” is not indefinite, and adopting the parties proposed construction.