• ALJ Gildea Issues Claim Construction Order in Certain Semiconductor Chips with DRAM Circuitry (337-TA-819)
  • January 9, 2013 | Authors: Eric W. Schweibenz; Thomas C. Yebernetsky
  • Law Firm: Oblon, Spivak, McClelland, Maier & Neustadt, L.L.P. - Alexandria Office
  • On December 19, 2012, ALJ E. James Gildea issued the public version of Order No. 17 (dated December 6, 2012) construing the disputed terms of the asserted claims in Certain Semiconductor Chips with DRAM Circuitry, and Modules and Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-819).

    By way of background, the investigation is based on a complaint filed by Elpida Memory, Inc and Elpida Memory (USA) Inc. (collectively, “Elpida”) alleging violation of Section 337 by respondents Nanya Technology Corporation and Nanya Technology Corporation U.S.A. (collectively, “Nanya”) in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain semiconductor chips with DRAM circuitry, and modules and products containing the same that infringe one or more claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,150,689 (the ‘689 patent), 6,635,918 (the ‘918 patent), 6,555,861, 7,659,571 (the ‘571 patent), 7,713,828, 7,495,453 (the ‘453 patent), and 7,906,809 (the ‘809 patent). See our November 16, 2011 post for more details. A Markman hearing was held on August 29, 2012.

    The ‘689 Patent

    The ‘689 patent discloses designs and methods of manufacturing semiconductor integrated circuit devices such as DRAM using a “capacitor over bitline” or COB structure. Claims 1-6, 8-11, and 15-18 are asserted in the investigation.

    ALJ Gildea held that the first two disputed terms, “refractory metal” and “barrier metal,” should be given their plain and ordinary meaning as understood by one of ordinary skill in the art.

    The next disputed term was “a barrier metal film interposed between said polysilicon film and said first refractory metal film.” Elpida and Nanya disputed whether the limitation “interposed between” requires that the pertinent layers be directly touching each other. ALJ Gildea agreed with Elpida, holding that “interposed between” does not require the pertinent layers to be in direct contact with each other.

    The parties disputed four additional claim terms that again centered on whether the limitations “interposed between” or “between” required the pertinent layers to be in direct contact. ALJ Gildea held that none of the four claim terms containing the limitations “interposed between” or “between” required the layers to be in direct contact.

    The ‘918 Patent

    The ‘918 patent and the ‘689 patent share a specification, although the ‘918 patent claims are directed to the peripheral circuitry as well as the memory array. Claims 1-16 and 18-21 are asserted in the investigation.

    The first two disputed terms are: “bit lines extend in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the word lines and are located above the word lines” and “bit lines extend in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the word lines and are located above the word lines.” The parties’ disputed the term “perpendicular.” Based on a review of the intrinsic and extrinsic evidence, ALJ Gildea held that “perpendicular” means “at a right angle.”

    The next disputed claim terms were: “a wiring strip contacting said first and second impurity regions” and “a wiring strip disposed over said second portion of said semiconductor substrate and contacting said first and second impurity regions.” Specifically, the parties disputed whether “contacting” means “electrically connects” or “touching.” ALJ Gildea held that “contacting...is a term of art that under its plain meaning refers to an electrical connection.”

    The term disputed by the parties was “a wiring strip disposed over said second portion of said main surface of said semiconductor substrate.” Nanya proposed “a wiring strip disposed over the second portion of the semiconductor substrate and touching the first and second impurity regions.” ALJ Gildea rejected the limiting language proposed by Nanya, holding that the claim language should have its plain and ordinary meaning.

    The next disputed term was: “first metal nitride film as a barrier between said polysilicon film and said first refractory metal film.” At issue was whether theses terms should be given a meaning different from that given to the same terms in the ‘689 patent. ALJ Gildea held that all the terms, except for “as a barrier,” should have the same meaning given to them in the ‘689 patent. As to the “as a barrier” limitation, ALJ Gildea held that applicant’s remarks in the prosecution history require a different interpretation, as compared to the ‘689 patent. Accordingly, ALJ Gildea held that the “as a barrier” limitation requires the barrier to prevent reactions between the two layers. Therefore, ALJ Gildea held that the terms should have the following meaning: “first metal nitride film as a barrier located between said polysilicon film and said first refractory metal film that prevents reaction between the polysilicon film and the first refractory metal film.”

    ALJ Gildea held that the final disputed term, “refractory metal,” should have its plain and ordinary meaning.

    The ‘571 Patent

    The ‘571 patent discloses a semiconductor device having a trench-gate-type transistor and a method for manufacturing said semiconductor device.

    The parties first disputed the term “a side wall insulating film for covering the lateral face of the second portion of the gate electrode.” Specifically, the parties disputed the term “covering.” ALJ Gildea agreed with Nanya’s proposed construction and held that “covering” should be construed to mean “overlies and is in contact with.”

    The parties also disputed the claim term “the epitaxial layer comprises an upper and a lower layer.” Nanya proposed the following construction: “the epitaxial layer contains an upper layer and a lower layer that have distinctly different impurity concentrations.” In opposition, Elpida argued that Nanya’s proposed construction adds the limitation “that have distinctly different impurity concentrations,” which is not required by the words of the claim or the intrinsic evidence. ALJ Gildea held that the claim term does not require construction; therefore, the term should be given its plain and ordinary meaning.

    The ‘453 Patent

    The ‘453 patent discloses “an output circuit having an output buffer of which impedance can be adjusted, a semiconductor device having this output circuit, and a method for adjusting impedance of an output buffer included in the output circuit.” Claims 1, 15, and 27 are asserted in the investigation.

    The two similar disputed terms were “each unit buffer including a plurality of parallel-connected transistors each individually on/off controlled” (claims 1 and 27) and “each unit buffer included in the first and second output buffers includes a plurality of parallel-connected transistors each individually on/off controlled” (claim 15). ALJ Gildea held that a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claim terms from their plain and ordinary meaning. Additionally, ALJ Gildea held that, to the extant that some construction is helpful, the limitation that “each individually on/off controlled” can further be construed to mean “wherein transistors in each unit buffer are individually on/off controlled.”

    The ‘809 Patent

    The ‘809 patent discloses “a semiconductor device comprising an oxide film on a semiconductor silicon substrate, gate wiring, and an elevated source/drain structure having an orthographic projection, for exhibiting stable performance.”

    The parties disagreed over the construction of the following claim term: “an upper surface which is substantially the same as the lower surface and aligned with the lower surface.” Nanya’s proposed construction required both upper and lower surfaces to be the same size. ALJ Gildea rejected Nanya’s proposed construction as unsupported by the language of the claim or the specification. ALJ Gildea held that the claim term should be given its plain and ordinary meaning.