By Eric Schweibenz
On May 8, 2014, ALJ E. James Gildea issued the public version of Order No. 34 (dated April 15, 2014) in Certain Silicon Microphone Packages and Products Containing Same (Inv. No. 337-TA-888).

By way of background, the Commission instituted this investigation on July 23, 2013 based on a complaint filed by Knowles Electronics, LLC (“Knowles”) alleging a violation of Section 337 by Respondents GoerTek, Inc. and GoerTek Electronics, Inc. (collectively, “GoerTek”) in the importation into the U.S. and sale of certain silicon microphone packages and products containing the same that infringe, or that are made by a process that infringes, one or more claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,439,616 (the ‘616 patent), 8,018,049 (the ‘049 patent), and 8,121,331 (the ‘331 patent).  See our June 25, 2013 and July 24, 2013 posts for more details on the complaint and notice of investigation, respectively.

The ‘616 Patent

The parties agreed that “aperture” should be construed as “an opening through which an acoustic signal enters the package and passes to the transducer,” and ALJ Gildea confirmed after reviewing the intrinsic record.  ALJ Gildea also approved of the parties’ agreed-upon construction of the term “package,” as “a single, self-contained unit which fully encloses a device…” 

The parties disputed the construction of the claim terms “sealing ring,” “transducer,” and “back volume.”  The primary dispute regarding “sealing ring” was whether or not it is a separate element from the package substrate or integral thereto, and ALJ Gildea considered these to be attempts to import limitations into the claims from the specification, and simply construed “sealing ring” as having its plain and ordinary meaning.  In view of the intrinsic record, the term “transducer” was construed as “microphone,” conforming to Knowles’ proposed construction.  Based on the construction of “transducer” as “microphone,” ALJ Gildea construed “back volume” as “cavity providing an acoustic pressure reference.”   

The ‘049 Patent

The parties agreed upon constructions for the terms “acoustic port” (used interchangeably with “aperture”), “package,” and “solder pad,” and ALJ Gildea agreed with all the proposed constructions.  The disputed term “housing” was construed to mean “a case or enclosure to cover and protect a structure or mechanical device,” in accordance with GoerTek’s suggested plain and ordinary meaning.  “Back volume” was construed in the same way as in the ‘616 patent; namely, as a “cavity providing an acoustic pressure reference.”  The term “attaching a plurality of package covers” was construed as having its plain and ordinary meaning of attaching more than one package cover.

The ‘331 Patent

Several of the terms with agreed-upon constructions from the ‘616 and ‘049 patents were also at issue in the ‘331 patent.  Unique to the ‘331 patent, the parties also proposed constructions for the terms “planar,” “non-planar,” and “surface mount silicon condenser microphone package,” and “surface mount MEMS microphone package” that ALJ Gildea agreed were appropriate.  The disputed term “housing” was construed as in the ‘049 patent as meaning “a case or enclosure to cover and protect a structure or mechanical device.”  The second disputed term, “rigid,” was not construed, with ALJ Gildea noting that it would have been understood by a person of ordinary skill in the art according to its plain and ordinary meaning.

Since ALJ Gildea considered all of his constructions to be substantively the same as at least one of the proposed constructions submitted by the parties, he declined to permit the parties to submit new expert opinions based on this order.

ALJ Gildea concluded by recommending that the parties engage in renewed settlement talks, and to the extent that the investigation moves forward, requested that the parties “use their best efforts to remove extraneous, unduly repetitive, or unsupported claims or defenses” before the hearing.