By John Presper

On April 28, 2022, Bell Semiconductor, LLC of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (“Bell Semic”) filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to section 337.

The complaint alleges that the following proposed respondents unlawfully import into the U.S., sell for importation, and/or sell within the U.S. after importation certain integrated circuits and products containing such integrated circuits that incorporate Bell Semic’s proprietary “dummy” fill technology and infringe U.S. Patent No. 7,007,259 (“the ’259 patent”):

  • NXP Semiconductors, N.V. of The Netherlands
  • NXP B.V. of The Netherlands
  • NXP USA, Inc. of Austin, Texas
  • SMC Networks, Inc. d/b/a IgniteNet of Irving, California
  • Micron Technology, Inc. of Boise, Idaho
  • NVIDIA Corporation of Santa Clara, California
  • Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. of Santa Clara, California
  • Acer, Inc. of Taiwan
  • Acer America Corporation of San Jose, California
  • Infineon Technologies America Corp. of Milpitas, California
  • Analog Devices Inc. of Norwood, Massachusetts
  • Bose Corporation of Framingham, Massachusetts
  • Marvell Technology Group, Ltd. of Bermuda
  • Marvell Semiconductor, Inc. of Santa Clara, California
  • Suteng Innovation Technology Co., Ltd. d/b/a RoboSense of China
  • Kioxia Corporation of Japan
  • Kioxia America, Inc. of San Jose, California
  • Socionext Inc. of Japan
  • Socionext America, Inc. of Santa Clara, California
  • Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.
  • Lenovo Group Ltd. of China
  • Motorola Mobility LLC of Chicago, Illinois

According to the complaint, the ’259 patent relates to a new methodology for inserting “dummy” material, also known as “dummy fill,” into low-density regions of semiconductor devices to increase the overall uniformity of the structures on the surface layer and reduce the density variability across the surface of the devices.  Specifically, the ’259 patent is directed to a method for dummy metal insertion that minimizes the timing impact to clock nets and at the same time guarantees reaching minimum density in a single pass, resulting in the dummy regions being prioritized such that the dummy regions located adjacent to clock nets are filled with dummy metal last, thereby minimizing the timing impact on the clock nets.  The accused products are semiconductor devices (specifically undiced wafers, diced wafers, and packaged chips and chipsets both attached and unattached to printed circuit boards) and end products incorporating such devices, including cellular telephones, tablet computers, personal computers, graphics cards, memory modules, radios, LIDAR modules, and amplifiers.

The complaint states that Bell Semic also filed parallel lawsuits asserting the ’259 patent against certain of the proposed respondents in district court in the Southern District of California, Eastern District of California, District of Massachusetts, and District of Idaho.

Bell Semic alleges that a domestic industry exists under 19 U.S.C. § 1337(a)(3)(A), (B), and/or (C) with respect to the “significant and continuous investment in plant and equipment, significant and continuous employment of labor and capital, and/or substantial and ongoing investment in engineering, research, and development of semiconductor devices developed, researched, designed, engineered, and produced in the United States by Bell Semic’s domestic licensee, Broadcom Inc.”  In particular, the complaint identifies the Broadcom SAS3908A0-2 Mass Storage Controller as a representative domestic industry product, which is allegedly made through the use of design tools—including the Cadence Virtuoso and Innovus layout tools produced by Cadence Design Systems, Inc.—that insert dummy metal relative to clock nets according to the methods and computer readable media claimed in the’259 patent.  The compliant cites Broadcom’s headquarters in San Jose, California and its facilities in Irvine, California and Chandler, Arizona as locations where the production, research, development, design, and engineering of the domestic industry product are performed.

With respect to potential remedy, Bell Semic requests that the Commission issue a permanent limited exclusion order and permanent cease-and-desist order directed to each proposed respondent.