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Mems Technology Berhad v. International Trade Commission

June 3, 2011

MEMS TECHNOLOGY BERHAD, APPELLANT,
v.
INTERNATIONAL TRADE COMMISSION, APPELLEE, AND KNOWLES ELECTRONICS LLC, INTERVENOR.



On appeal from the United States International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 337-TA-629.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lourie, Circuit Judge.

NOTE: This disposition is nonprecedential.

Before LOURIE, MAYER, and GAJARSA, Circuit Judges.

MEMS Technology Berhad ("MemsTech") appeals from a final determination by the United States International Trade Commission that the importation and sale of certain silicon microphone packages violated § 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 as amended, 19 U.S.C § 1337. The Commission determined that MemsTech's accused products infringe the asserted claims of U.S. Patents 7,242,089 and 6,781,231 (the "'089" and "'231" patents) and that the asserted claims are not invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 102 or § 103 for anticipation or obviousness. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

Knowles Electronics LLC ("Knowles") owns the '089 and '231 patents, which pertain to microelectromechanical system ("MEMS") packages comprising a substrate, a cover, and a microphone (also termed a transducer). '089 patent col.1 ll.49-50; '231 patent col.1 ll.40-41. MEMS microphone packages are used in a variety of consumer electronic devices, including mobile phones.

The '089 patent discloses MEMS packages that allow acoustic energy to contact a transducer while protecting the transducer from light, electromagnetic radiation, and physical damage. '089 patent col.1 ll.44-49. The MEMS packages of the '089 patent include a volume defined by the transducer and either the cover or the substrate. Asserted on appeal are claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 20, 28, and 29.*fn1 Claim 1, the independent claim from which the other asserted claims depend, recites:

1. A surface mountable package for containing a transducer, the transducer being responsive to sound pressure levels of an acoustic signal to provide an electrical output representative of the acoustic signals, the surface mountable package comprising:

at least a first member and a second member and a chamber being defined by the first member and the second member, the transducer being attached to a surface formed on one of the first member or the second member and the transducer residing within the chamber;

the surface being formed with at least one patterned conductive layer, the patterned conductive layer being electrically coupled to the transducer; an outside surface of the surface mountable package comprising a plurality of terminal pads electrically coupled to the patterned conductive layer; a volume being defined by the transducer and one of the first member or the second member, the volume being acoustically coupled to the transducer; and one of the first member or the second member being formed to include an aperture, the aperture configured to permit the passage of an acoustic signal to the transducer.

'089 patent col.11 ll.20-44 (emphases added). A cross-sectional view of a preferred embodiment is shown in Figure 1, infra, which comprises a cover 20, a substrate 14, a transducer 12, and a back volume or air cavity 18. Id. col.3 ll.36-43. The MEMS package depicted in Figure 1 also comprises an aperture 24 in the cover 20, which allows external sound waves to reach the transducer in the package. Id. col.3 l.66--col.4 l.4.

The '231 patent discloses MEMS packages that shield the microphone from an interference signal or an environmental condition. '231 patent col.1 ll.38-39. Claims 1 and 2 are asserted. Claim 1 recites:

1. A microelectromechanical system package comprising:

a microelectromechanical system microphone;

a substrate comprising a surface for supporting the microelectromechanical microphone;

a cover comprising a conductive layer having a center portion bounded by a peripheral edge portion; and

a housing formed by connecting the peripheral edge portion of the cover to the substrate, the center portion of the cover spaced from the surface of the substrate to accommodate the microelectro-mechanical system microphone, the housing including an acoustic port for allowing an acoustic signal to reach the microelectromechanical system microphone wherein the housing provides protection from an interference signal.

Id. col.5 ll.12-25 (emphasis added). Claim 2 recites:

2. A microelectromechanical system package for providing a shield from an interference signal, the microelectromechanical package comprising:

a silicon-based microphone;

a substrate including a surface at least partially covered by a first layer of a conductive material, the silicon-based microphone is electrically coupled to the layer of a conductive material;

a cover comprising a second layer of a conductive material, the cover electrically connected to the first layer of a conductive material and providing a chamber in which the silicon-based microphone is located, the chamber providing an acoustic front volume for the silicon-based microphone.

Id. col.5 ll.26-38 (emphases added). Figure 1, infra, depicts a cross-sectional view of a preferred embodiment, which comprises a cover 20, a substrate 14, and surface-mountable components 12 (one of which is a transducer). Id. col.3 ll.17-24.

MemsTech imports MEMS microphone packages into the United States. On December 6, 2007, Knowles filed a complaint at the Commission alleging a violation of § 337 in the importation and sale of certain MEMS microphone packages (the "accused products") by reason of infringement of the asserted claims of the '089 and '231 patents. Knowles named MemsTech as the only respondent.

On January 3, 2008, the Commission instituted a § 337 investigation based on Knowles' complaint. 73 Fed. Reg. 2,277, 2,278 (Jan. 14, 2008). In response to Knowles' allegations, MemsTech asserted noninfringement and invalidity of the asserted claims. On January 12, 2009, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued his "Initial Determination on Violation of Section 337 and Recommended Determination on Remedy and Bond." In re Certain Silicone [sic] Microphone Packages & Prods. Containing Same, Inv. No. 337-TA-629, 2009 WL 389263 (USITC Jan. 12, 2009) (hereinafter, "Initial Determination").

With respect to the '089 patent, the ALJ construed the term "electrically coupled" in claim 1 to mean "arranged so that electrical signals may be passed either directly, or indirectly via intervening circuitry, from one component to another." J.A. 70. The ALJ construed "volume" in claims 1, 15, and 28 to mean "a space defined by the transducer and one of the first member or the second member." J.A. 86. The ALJ determined that MemsTech's accused products infringe claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 20, 28, and 29 of the '089 patent.*fn2 Regarding validity, the ALJ determined that U.S. Patent 6,522,762 ("Mullenborn") does not anticipate claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 28, and 29. The ALJ also determined that U.S. Patent 4,533,795 ("Baumhauer"), alone or in view of Kress,*fn3 does not render obvious claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 20, 28, and 29. Finally, the ALJ determined claim 1 was not obvious over U.S. Patent 5,459,368 ("Onishi").

With respect to the '231 patent, the ALJ construed the term "electrically coupled" in claim 2 to have the same meaning as in claim 1 of the '089 patent. The ALJ also determined that the term "microelectromechanical system package" in the preambles of claims 1 and 2 is a claim limitation. The ALJ determined that MemsTech's accused products infringe claims 1 and 2 of the '231 patent. Regarding validity, the ALJ found that Baumhauer does not anticipate claims 1 and 2. The ALJ also found that Onishi does not render obvious claim 1 or 2.

The ALJ further considered whether, under § 337, "an industry in the United States, relating to the articles protected by the patent, . . . exists or is in the process of being established." 19 U.S.C. § 1337(a)(2) (2006). The ALJ first noted that the Commission decided not to review his initial determination that Knowles satisfied the domestic industry requirement for the '231 patent. The ALJ then determined that Knowles satisfied the domestic industry requirement for the '089 patent because its "SiSonic" silicon microphone packages practice claim 1.

Based on the findings in his Initial Determination, the ALJ concluded that the importation or sale of the accused MemsTech products violated § 337. The ALJ recommended that the Commission issue a limited exclusion order as to those MemsTech products found to infringe the '231 or '089 patents.*fn4

The Commission determined to review portions of the ALJ's Initial Determination and issued a notice specifying the issues under review. 74 Fed. Reg. 11,748 (Mar. 19, 2009). The unreviewed portions of the Initial Determination became the decision of the Commission. J.A. 258; see also Ajinomoto Co. v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 597 F.3d 1267, 1272 (Fed. Cir. 2010). On June 11, 2009, the Commission issued a notice of its final determination of violation of § 337, and on June 12, 2009, the Commission issued an opinion setting forth the reasons for its determination. The Commission issued a revised opinion on August 18, 2009, and a corrected revised opinion on August 21, 2009.

The Commission affirmed the ALJ's determinations under review, with certain modifications. Regarding the '231 patent, the Commission, inter alia, affirmed the determination that MemsTech's accused products infringe claims 1 and 2; affirmed the determination that Baumhauer did not anticipate claims 1 and 2; and affirmed the determination that Onishi did not render obvious claims 1 and 2.

Regarding the '089 patent, the Commission, inter alia, affirmed the construction of the claim term "electrically coupled"; affirmed the construction of the claim term "volume"; affirmed the determination that the accused products infringe the asserted claims of the '089 patent; affirmed the determinations that Mullenborn does not anticipate claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 20, 28, and 29; affirmed the determinations that Baumhauer alone, Baumhauer in combination with Kress, and Onishi*fn5 did not render obvious claims 1, 2, 9, 15, 17, 20, 28, and 29; and affirmed the determinations that Knowles' SiSonic products practice the '089 patent and that a domestic industry exists for this patent.

Accordingly, the Commission found a violation of § 337. The Commission's determination became final following the sixty-day Presidential review period under

19 U.S.C. § 1337(j)(4). MemsTech appealed. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1295(a)(6).

DISCUSSION

We review the Commission's final determinations under the standards of the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA" or "Act"). See 19 U.S.C. § 1337(c) (stating that "[a]ny person adversely affected by a final determination of the Commission" may appeal to this court "for review in accordance with chapter 7 of Title 5"). Under the Act, rulings of law are reviewed de novo, and findings of fact are reviewed for substantial evidence. Ajinomoto, 597 F.3d at 1272; OSRAM GmbH v. Int'l Trade Comm'n, 505 F.3d 1351, 1355 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Substantial evidence is "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id. (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 217 (1938)).

I. Claim Construction

Claim construction is a matter of law subject to de novo review. Cybor Corp. v. FAS Techs., Inc., 138 F.3d 1448, 1454-55 (Fed. Cir. 1998) (en banc). To ascertain the scope and meaning of the claims, we consider the claim language, the specification, the prosecution history, and relevant extrinsic evidence. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1314-17 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). "[A]bsent contravening evidence from the specification or prosecution history, plain and unambiguous claim language controls the construction analysis." DSW, Inc. v. Shoe Pavilion, Inc., 537 F.3d 1342, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2008). Extrinsic evidence "may be used only to help the court come to the ...


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