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Semcon Tech, LLC v. Micron Technology, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 9, 2014

SEMCON TECH, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
MICRON TECHNOLOGY, INC., Defendant.

Richard D. Kirk, Esq., BAYARD, P.A., Wilmington, DE; Stephen B. Brauerman, Esq., BAYARD, P.A., Wilmington, DE; Alexander CD. Giza, Esq. (argued), RUSS, AUGUST & KABAT, Los Angeles, CA; Jeffrey Z.Y. Liao, Esq. (argued), RUSS, AUGUST & KABAT, Los Angeles, CA., Attorneys for Plaintiff Semcon Tech, LLC.

Frederick L. Cottrell, III, Esq., RICHARDS LAYTON & FINGER, P.A., Wilmington, DE; Jared Bobrow, Esq. (argued), WEIL, GOTSHAL & MANGES LLP, Redwood Shores, CA; Aaron Y. Huang, Esq. (argued), WEIL, GOTSHAL & MANGES LLP, Redwood Shores, CA, Attorneys for Micron Technology, Inc.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

RICHARD G. ANDREWS, District Judge.

Pending before this Court is the issue of claim construction for numerous disputed terms found in U.S. Patent No. 7, 156, 717 ("the '717 patent").

I. BACKGROUND

Semcon filed this suit against Micron on April 27, 2012, alleging infringement of the '717 patent. (D.I. 1). The method of claim 1 is representative of the more than 100 claims contained in the '717 patent:

A method of finishing a tracked semiconductor wafer having a semiconductor wafer surface and a finishing cycle time, the method comprising the steps of:
providing the tracked semiconductor wafer having tracked information;
providing a finishing surface;
providing a finishing aid to an interface formed between the finishing surface and the semiconductor wafer surface;
providing a finishing control subsystem having:
at least three operative process sensors for sensing in situ process information during the finishing cycle time;
access to the tracked information; and
a processor to evaluate the in situ process information and the tracked information;
applying an operative finishing motion in the interface forming at least one region having the finishing aid and wherein the at least one region has a tangential force of friction; and
changing a plurality of control parameters in response to an evaluation of both the in situ process information sensed with the at least three operative process sensors and the tracked information and wherein changing the control parameters changes the tangential force of friction in the at least one region having the finishing aid during at least a portion of the finishing cycle time.

'717 patent, claim 1. The Court has considered the parties' Joint Claim Construction Brief (D.I. 68), appendix (D.I. 69), a letter from Semcon revising several of its constructions (D.I. 88), and oral argument on June 26, 2014. (D.I. 89).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

"It is a bedrock principle of patent law that the claims of a patent define the invention to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude." Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc) (internal quotation marks omitted). "[T]here is no magic formula or catechism for conducting claim construction.' Instead, the court is free to attach the appropriate weight to appropriate sources in light of the statutes and policies that inform patent law.'" SoftView LLC v. Apple Inc., 2013 WL 4758195, at *1 (D. Del. Sept. 4, 2013) (quoting Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1324). When construing patent claims, a matter of law, a court considers the literal language of the claim, the patent specification, and the prosecution history. Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 977-80 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (en banc), aff'd, 517 U.S. 370 (1996). Of these sources, "the specification is always highly relevant to the claim construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a disputed term." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1315 (internal quotations and citations omitted).

Furthermore, "the words of a claim are generally given their ordinary and customary meaning... [which is] the meaning that the term would have to a person of ordinary skill in the art in question at the time of the invention, i.e., as of the effective filing date of the patent application." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312-13 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "[T]he ordinary meaning of a claim term is its meaning to [an] ordinary artisan after reading the entire patent." Id. at 1321 (internal quotation marks omitted). "In some cases, the ordinary meaning of claim language as understood by a person of skill in the art may be readily apparent even to lay judges, and claim construction in such cases involves little more than the application of the widely accepted meaning of commonly understood words." Id. at 1314 (internal citations omitted).

A court may consider extrinsic evidence, which "consists of all evidence external to the patent and prosecution history, including expert and inventor testimony, dictionaries, and learned treatises, " in order to assist the court in understanding the underlying technology, the meaning of terms to one skilled in the art and how the invention works. Id. at 1317-19 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). However, extrinsic evidence is less reliable and less useful in claim construction than the patent and its prosecution history. Id.

Moreover, "[a] claim construction is persuasive, not because it follows a certain rule, but because it defines terms in the context of the whole patent." Renishaw PLC v. Marposs Societa' perAzioni, 158 F.3d 1243, 1250 (Fed. Cir. 1998). It follows that "a claim interpretation that would exclude the inventor's device is rarely the correct interpretation." Osram GmbH v. Int 7 Trade Comm. n, 505 F.3d 1351, 1358 (Fed. Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

III. CONSTRUCTION OF DISPUTED TERMS

A. The '717 Patent

1. "tracked information"

a. Plaintiff's proposed construction: Pre-polishing information about the wafer being polished that is associated with the wafer.

b. Defendants proposed construction: Pre-polishing information about the fabrication of the wafer being polished that is associated with the wafer.

c. Court's construction: Pre-polishing information about the wafer being polished that is ...


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