By Eric Schweibenz
On April 2, 2010, Chief ALJ Paul J. Luckern issued the public version of Order No. 7 (dated March 12, 2010) in Certain DC-DC Controllers and Products Containing the Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-698), granting Complainants Richtek Technology Corp. and Richtek USA, Inc.'s (collectively, “Richtek”) motion to compel Respondent uPI Semiconductor Corporation (uPI) to produce documents and information related to uPI's 63xx and 77xx families of products.

Respondents uPI and Sapphire Technology Ltd. (“Sapphire”) filed a joint opposition to Richtek's motion to compel, and the remaining respondents Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., Best Data Products, Inc. d/b/a Diamond Multimedia, and Eastcom, Inc. d/b/a XFX Technology USA filed their own separate joint opposition to Richtek's motion to compel.  The Commission Investigative Staff supported the motion to compel.

In support of its motion, Richtek argued that “uPI's 63xx and 77xx families of products, which commercially are identified by uPI as ‘converters’ and ‘regulators’ (rather than ‘controllers’), fall within the scope of the Notice of Investigation, which identifies the products at issue in the investigation as ‘DC-DC Controllers and Products Containing Same.’”  According to the Order, uPI objected to the discovery on the grounds that its “63xx converter products, and voltage regulators, such as uPI's 77xx LDO regulator products, are not DC-DC controllers and are thus beyond the scope of this investigation.”  uPI further asserted that “DC-DC controllers are only one specific type of power management integrated circuit (IC) and are distinct from converters and regulators.”

ALJ Luckern held that the “language of a notice of investigation defines the scope of an investigation,” but “under certain circumstances, the complaint may be used to clarify ambiguous terms in a notice of investigation.”  He further noted the broad scope of discovery in Section 337 investigations, wherein any “party may obtain discovery about any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any claim or defense it may have.”  ALJ Luckern then referred to Richtek’s complaint, which defined DC-DC controllers as “integrated circuits that ‘can efficiently regulate power and convert a high DC power to a low DC power for many modern electronic devices,” and “defines the products at issue as "certain DC-DC controllers and products containing them used to regulate power in many modem electronic devices."  Based on the above, ALJ Luckern held “that Richtek's complaint provides sufficient notice that information regarding products that can regulate power and products that can convert power is discoverable.”  Finally, ALJ Luckern held that a complainant need not accuse products of infringing the asserted patents before obtaining information on such products through discovery.