Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

NIKON CORPORATION v. ASM LITHOGRAPHY B. V.

March 11, 2004.

NIKON CORPORATION and NIKON PRECISION, INC. Plaintiffs,
v.
ASM LITHOGRAPHY B. V. and ASM LITHOGRAPHY, INC., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MARILYN PATEL, Chief Judge, District

Claim Construction Memorandum and Order for United States Patent Numbers 6,233,041, 6,377,336, 6,392,740, 6,008,500, and 5,810,832
On December 21, 2001, plaintiffs Nikon Corporation and Nikon Precision, Inc. (collectively "Nikon" or "plaintiffs") brought a patent infringement action against defendants ASM Lithography B.V. and ASM Lithography, Inc. (collectively "ASML" or "defendants").*fn1 Among other things, plaintiffs' complaint alleges infringement of four patents: United States Patent Number 6,233,041 ("the `041 patent"), United States Patent Number 6,377,336 ("the 336 patent"), United States Patent Number 6,392,740 ("the `740 patent"), and United States Patent Number 6,008,500 ("the `500 patent"). All four patents pertain to photolithographic and microlithographic machines used in the manufacture of integrated circuits.

Defendants timely answered plaintiffs' complaint, later asserting inequitable conduct and antitrust counterclaims. Some of these counterclaims grew from plaintiffs' alleged infringement of United States Patent Number 5,801,832 ("the `832 patent"), an ASML-held patent also pertaining to photolithographic machinery. Nikon then filed a motion to dismiss defendants' counterclaims. On July 19, 2002, the court denied without prejudice plaintiffs' motion to dismiss. Now before the court are the parties' memoranda regarding claim construction of the disputed patent terms. The court has considered fully the parties' arguments and submissions, and for the reasons set forth below, the court enters the following memorandum and order. Page 2

 BACKGROUND

  Both plaintiffs*fn2 and defendants*fn3 develop and produce systems and components used in photo- and micro-lithography. Used to manufacture semiconductor integrated circuits, lithographic machines create extremely small and precise patterns of electronic circuitry on integrated circuit chips. A subset of photolithographic technology, microlithographic machines*fn4 transfer minute*fn5 pattern features to a substrate — e.g., a silicon wafer — and are the only machines capable of creating the kind of integrated circuit chips needed in the construction of electronic equipment.*fn6 Nikon, ASML, and Canon are the only manufacturers of microlithographic machines.

  To construct a working integrated circuit chip, a microlithographic machine prints a circuitry pattern on each layer of a circuit chip. This printing process often utilizes projection lithography, a type of lithographic patterning that relies on a light source and a pair of optical systems to transfer circuitry patterns. At the start of a projection lithography process, a light-sensitive covering (a "photoresist") is applied to a "wafer" (or "substrate"), a grouping of thin layers of circuitry situated on a base of silicon.*fn7 Also at the start of the process, a transparent piece of glass or quartz (a "mask" or "reticle") is coated partially with chrome such that a pattern of opaque and transparent features emerges. Both the mask and the wafer are then placed in a projection exposure apparatus, the wafer deposited on a "wafer stage," the mask on a "mask stage." Using an optical illumination system, light is then cast onto the mask Light shines through the transparent portions of the mask into a projection optical system. This projection optical system — which is made up, in pertinent part, of a precision lens — focuses the pattern of light features onto the wafer, leaving an image of the pattern in the photoresist layer. The process is repeated for each chip — and each layer of a chip-on the wafer.

  Photolithography machines are complex and expensive devices, but they do not embody entirely new technology. Pioneered in the 1950s and 1960s, photolithography devices are the subject of numerous inventions and a comparable number of patents. Some of these inventions and patents address the "periodic structure" of mask patterns — i.e., the size and series of the transparent and opaque spaces along a mask. When light is projected onto a mask, some light passes through the surface of a mask without diffraction, creating "zero-order diffracted" light; as light is shined onto a mask, other light (viz., "non-zero-order diffracted" light) changes path after contact with the edges of the opaque portions of the mask As the periodic structure of a pattern grows increasingly fine, two things occur: first, non-zero-order diffracted light exits the mask at increasingly large angles; second, more light traveling along the optical axis will strike the mask perpendicularly, diffracting at such large angles that it cannot be captured by the projection optical Page 3 system.

  "Off-axis" illumination attempts to address this loss of light In off-axis illumination, light strikes the mask at a non-perpendicular angle, i.e., from a direction set-off from the optical axis itself. In this way, zero-order diffracted light is inclined to a degree between the zero-order and first-order diffraction, permitting more of both types of light to enter the projection optical system than wold be possible through "on-axis" illumination. Per wavelength of illuminating light, then, off-axis illumination produces greater diffraction and allows the use of finer mask patterns.

  Even with off-axis illumination, a photolithographic machine requires thousands of components and parts to function properly. The machines require, inter alia, an adequate light source, an illumination optic assembly (including, e.g., lenses, mirrors, and the like), a projection optic system to focus the light pattern, and a system or technique to limit the vibrations that occur as a consequence of wafer and mask movement. The five patents at issue in this action address putative advances on a number of these machine components; four of these patents are held by Nikon, and one is held by ASML.

 I. The Nikon Patents

  A. The `041 Patent

  Titled "Exposure Method Utilizing Diffracted Light Having Different Orders of Diffraction," the `041 patent was issued on May 15, 2001. See `041 Patent at 1. Put generally, the `041 patent addresses a particularized method of transferring a fine pattern from a mask to a substrate through photolithographic projection exposure. Nikon describes the `041 patent as a marked and distinct advance in preceding off-axis technology, technology that used "annular illumination" (that is, illumination in the shape of a complete ring) centered on the optical axis. The `041 patent, Nikon details, uses symmetrical, off-axis pairs of higher-illumination intensity areas in lieu of full ring illumination, adjusting the pair-spacing to suit particular mask patterns. See id. at 14:48-16:36.

  The parties dispute the meaning of terms in two independent `041 claims (viz., claim 1 and claim 12) and in six dependent `041 claims (viz., claims 2, 3, 4, 7, 8, and 13).*fn8 In an "Initial Determination on Violation of Section 337 and Recommended Determination on Remedy and Bond," the United States International Trade Commission ("ITC") addressed some, but not all, of the `041 claims raised here. See In the Matter of Certain Microlithographic Machines and Components Thereof Investigation No. 337-TA-468 (January 29, 2003) (Bullock, A.L.J.).

  B. The `336 Patent

  Labeled "Projection Exposure Apparatus," the `336 patent was registered on April 23, 2002. Page 4

  See Patent `336 at 1. Building on the `041 patent, the `336 patent concerns a particular photolithographic apparatus that uses, inter alia, an irradiation optical system, "fly-eye" optical integrators, and a Fourier transform plane. Id. The parties dispute the meaning of particular terms in four independent `336 claims (viz., claim 1, claim 14, claim 17, and claim 25) and in three dependent `336 claims (viz., claim 2, claim 8, and claim 18). The parties agree that the same meaning and construction should apply to terms shared by the `041 and `336 patents.

  C. The `740 Patent

  Like the `336 patent, the `740 patent is titled "Projection Exposure Apparatus." See `740 Patent at 1. Also like the `336 patent, the `740 patent covers an off-axis illumination system that uses prisms and lenses to redirect light into pairs of intensely lit, symmetrically-spaced areas. Through adjustment of both annular and multipole illumination, the `336 and `740 apparatuses both work to achieve the optimal angle of illumination for particular patterns. Terms used in four independent (viz., claim 3, claim 6, claim 8, and claim 10) and two dependent (viz., claim 7 and claim 9) `740 claims are disputed by the parties. The parties agree that terms used in the `041, in the `336, and in the `740 patents should be construed in the same manner in each patent.

  D. The `500 Patent

  The `500 patent, titled "Exposure Apparatus Having Dynamically Isolated Reaction Frame," was registered on December 28, 1999. See Patent `500 at 1. Focused on the vibrations caused by acceleration and deceleration of the wafer and mask stages, the `500 patent depicts a "reaction frame" constructed to receive reaction forces generated by the mask stage drive. In two embodiments in the `500 patent, the reaction frame is shown*fn9 somehow isolated from the frame in which the core photolithography apparatus sits. The parties dispute terms used in three `500 claims: claim 1, claim 4, and claim 6.

 II. The ASML Patent

  One of the many challenges in the photolithographic process is achieving proper alignment of the mask pattern relative to particular substrate layers. For many years, lithography machines relied on a process of "global alignment" to achieve adequate mapping; the process of "global alignment" sought to align in one step the entire mask pattern with the entire substrate plane.

  As related aspects (e.g., reduction lens systems) of photolithographic technology evolved, "global alignment" proved an unsatisfactory alignment alternative; it took too long, for example, and it inadequately accommodated the myriad, often mimscule, variations along a large wafer surface. For a time, a process of Page 5 "field-by-field leveling" replaced "global alignment"; "field-by-field" alignment permitted recalibration and realignment for each discrete substrate sub-area, thus eliminating some — but not all — of the minute discrepancies overlooked in the "global alignment" process. In some ways, "field-by-field leveling" proved a market improvement over "global alignment" methods, but this type of "field-by-field leveling" was not without flaw. Repositioning of the substrate demands time and space, both precious commodities in the circuit-chip manufacture process; put another way, "field-by-field leveling" left room for technological advances regarding both cost and time of production.

  The `832 patent aimed to improve the relatively slow and costly "field-by-field" alignment method. Like prior art, the invention covered by the `832 patent sought to permit accurate exposure of a mask pattern on a substrate. Unlike the prior art, however, the `832 patent art employed precise laser interferometer positioning to do so. Rather than by mapping mask marks and (substrate) sub-area marks during the exposure process, the `832 patent art uses of a system of lasers and mirrors-which, together, constitute "interferometers" — to achieve sufficient alignment and to correct for infinitesimal tilts in the surface of the substrate sub-area. "Interferometers" measure substrate displacement along five separate axes (i.e., directions) of movement.*fn10 Through this kind of interferometer-based positioning, both the space and time loss incident to "global" and "field-by-field" alignment would be better minimized.

  The parties dispute terms used in six `832 patent claims: Claim 1, claim 5, claim 8, claim 15, claim 16, and claim 17.

 LEGAL STANDARD

 I. Claim Construction

  Under Markman v. Westview Instruments. Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995), aff'd 116 So. 0 Ct. 1384 (1996), the court "has the power and obligation to construe as a matter of law the meaning of language used in the patent claim." When determining the meaning of claim language, the court principally considers three types of intrinsic evidence: the language of the claim, the patent specification, and the relevant prosecution history. See, e.g., Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic. Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 39 U.S.P.Q.2d 1573 (Fed. Cir. 1996). These three types of intrinsic evidence provide the foundation for — and a kind of order of operations in-claim construction generally. In construing the meaning of claim language, the court looks first at the language of the claims themselves; where the claim language is not sufficiently instructive, courts may then refer to the relevant patent specifications, turning, if necessary, to the prosecution history, if in evidence. Id. at 1582-83. Where claim language is "clear on its face," the court's Page 6 "consideration of the rest of the intrinsic evidence is restricted to determining if a deviation from the clear language of the claims is specified," Interactive Gift Exp., Inc. v. CompuServe Inc., 256 F.3d 1323, 1331 (Fed. Cir. 2001), and Federal Circuit doctrine directs courts to construe disputed claim language according to "an objective test of what one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention would have understood the term to mean." Markman, 52 F.3d at 986; see also Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa N. America Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2002) ("The words used in the claims are interpreted in light of the intrinsic record, including the written description, the drawings, and the prosecution history, if in evidence."); Bell Communications Research, Inc. v. Vitalink Communications Corp., 55 F.3d 615, 620 (Fed. Cir. 1995) (noting that the words of the claims themselves drive construction of claims). Unless a patentee invests a particular claim term with a different definition, patent language is understood to convey its ordinary meaning to one skilled in the art. See Intellical, Inc. v. Phonometrics, Inc., 952 F.2d 1384, 1387 (Fed. Cir. 1992). When courts look to the specifications for clarification of ambiguous claim terms, courts must still avoid reading "limitations appearing in the specification . . . into [the] claims." Intervet Am., Inc. v. Kee-Vet Lab., Inc., 887 F.2d 1050, 1053 (Fed. Cir. 1989).

  In most cases, intrinsic evidence will be sufficient to resolve ambiguities and to determine the meaning of the claim terms. Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1583. Only when intrinsic evidence proves inadequate may the court refer to extrinsic evidence, e.g., expert testimony and germane textbooks. Even then, courts must use extrinsic evidence only as an aid in "coming to the proper understanding of the claims" and the underlying technology, id, and only to the extent the evidence helps illuminate the language of the patent documents. Markman, 52 F.3d at 979-81. And even when "enlightened by [] extrinsic evidence," "[t]he district court's claim construction . . .[must] still [be] based upon the patent and prosecution history." Id. at 981 (noting that courts may not use extrinsic evidence to vary or to contradict claim language). When considering extrinsic evidence, the Federal Circuit has evinced a preference for dictionaries and prior art documents, generally eschewing reliance on expert testimony except as a last resort. Id. at 1585.

 II. Burdens of Proof

  In an action for patent infringement, claim construction is the first part of a two-part analysis. See Intellectual Property Development Inc. v. UA-Columbia Cablevision of Westchester. Inc., 336 F.3d 1308, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2003). The second part of this test is the determination of whether the accused device or method infringes the claims at issue. Id. On this second step, the burden of proof typically rests on the party claiming that its patent has been infringed, see Wilson Sporting Goods v. Davis Geoffrey & Assoc., 904 F.2d 677, 685 (Fed. Cir.), cert. denied. 498 U.S. 992 (1990), though only the infringement Page 7 portion of the action is tried to a jury or to a finder of fact. Claim construction issues are questions of law, see Markman v. Westview Instruments Inc., 517 U.S. 370, 389-90 (1996), and are not subject to traditional burdens of proof. The duty of the court is to consider all appropriate evidence-regardless of who produced it — when assessing the proper interpretation of claims.*fn11 See Vitronics. 90 F.3d at 1576.

 DISCUSSION

 I. The `041 Patent

  The parties dispute a host of terms used in the `041 patent claims. The court addresses each of these claims, and discrete claim terms, below.

  A. Claim 1

  The parties dispute the meaning of seven terms used in claim 1: (1) "pattern"; (2) "mask"; (3) "projection optical system"; (4) "illuminating the pattern with at least a first light beam and a second light beam from different directions"; (5) "a first light beam and a second light beam"; (6) "0-order" and "non-0-order" diffracted beams; and (7) "substrate."*fn12 Each term is assessed separately below.

  1. "a pattern"

  The parties agree that the word "pattern" has a well-established "ordinary meaning," Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582 — specifically, "an arrangement of lines or shapes; a design according to which something is to be made"— and the parties appear to agree that the use of the indefinite article "a" connotes "one or more." See Crystal Semiconductor Corp. v. TriTech Microelectronics Int'l. Inc., 246 F.3d 1336, 1347 (Fed. Cir. 2001); Pall Corp. v. Micron Separations. Inc., 66 F.3d 1212, 1216 (Fed. Cir. 1995). The parties do not agree, however, about how the ordinary meaning of "pattern" fits within the context of claim 1.

  Plain language suggests that "pattern" denotes a design or series of marks in a semiconductor integrated circuit that is to be transferred to a photoresist layer of a substrate. In the relevant art, the term "pattern" signifies a series — often of a particular design or repetition-of circuit features in a semiconductor integrated circuit to be transferred to a photoresist layer of a substrate, and when it uses "pattern," the claim language depicts the exposure of a particular kind of pattern-viz., a circuitry pattern-onto a mask or circuitry chip. See Pitney Bowes. Inc. v. Hewlett-Packard Co., 182 F.3d 1298, 1311 (Fed. Cir. 1999) (requiring each "term [to] be read to correspond to the only plausible meaning in each context"). Specification language, in turn, references the "patterns" imposed on semiconductor memory devices and liquid crystal components through the process of photoresist-based photolithographic projection. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 1:19-24. As it is used in the relevant claim and specification language, then, "pattern" Page 8 possesses specified meaning, not by virtue of improperly imported limitations, cf. N. Telecom Ltd. v. Samsung Elecs. Co., Ltd., 215 F.3d 1281, 1290 (Fed. Cir. 2000), but through claim and specification language itself. See Pall Corp., 66 F.3d at 1216. The term "pattern" is used to denote "a design or series of marks in a semiconductor integrated circuit that is to be transferred to a photoresist layer of a substrate." Neither party offers a more appropriate construction, and the court thus construes "pattern" accordingly.*fn13

  2. "mask"

  Construction of the term "mask" follows similar lines. As with "pattern," the parties agree that the word "mask" has an established meaning in both common and scientific idioms. Read as a part of claim 1, in fact, "mask" carries a specific and well-established meaning: It denotes an item containing a circuit pattern in a semiconductor integrated circuit. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 1:19-24. Both the context of the claim, see Pitney Bowes, 182 F.3d at 1311, and the specification language buttress this construction. See `041 Patent at 3:15-37 (discussing the manufacture of semiconductor and liquid crystal devices). By comparison to the parties' over-and under-generalized definitions, the court's construction better captures the meaning of "mask" while leaving related-but distinct-claim terms, purposes, and connotations outside the definition of this oft-used term. The court construes "mask" to mean "an item, in a semiconductor integrated circuit, on which a circuit pattern is placed" Id.

  3. "projection optical system"

  During previous stages of this litigation, the parties did not dispute the meaning of the term "projection optical system"; indeed, they apparently stipulated before the ITC that the term should be construed as "a lens system or other component or components that project or expose a pattern onto an object." Before this court, ASML still favors this construction, but Nikon now proposes an alternative, asking the court to read the term to mean "a collection of optical components for forming an image of a pattern onto a photo resist layer on a substrate."

  Neither party disputes that the "projection optical system" constitutes part of the larger lithographic exposure apparatus. See Patent `041 at 5:29-37. Nor does either party dispute that the role of the "projection optical system" is to project an image of a pattern onto a specific substrate. Id. But by comparison to this limited (and particularized) role, the parties' proposed constructions either overspecify or overgeneralize the operation of the relevant art. Cf. id.; see also id. at 3:17-37 & 11:60-12:45 (discussing the image formation process). Nonetheless, without resort to the parties' imprecise definitions, Page 9 the court can construe the claim term by reference to the words' ordinary meaning and by reference to the intrinsic evidence. As the claim phrase itself suggests, a "projection optical system" is "a component or combination of components that projects (i.e., transfer) a mask pattern onto a substrate." The specification language, in turn, repeatedly refers to "projection optical system" as the mechanism by which mask patterns are translated to a substrate. See, e.g., Id. at 12:55-13:62; 15:42-16:53. Consistent with plain meaning and the lessons of the specification language, the court construes the term "projection optical system" to mean "a component or combination of components that transfers or translates a mask pattern onto a substrate."

  4. "illuminating the pattern with at least a first light beam and a second light beam from different directions"

  Because the court has construed the term "pattern," the court need only construe two portions of the phrase "illuminating the pattern with at least a first light beam and a second light beam from different directions": one, "first . . . and [] second light beam"; and, two, "from different directions." The court addresses the two in turn below.

  a. "first . . . and [] second light beam"

  In the photolithographic pattern-transfer process, two light beams (viz., the "first light beam" and the "second light beam") illuminate a pattern from no fewer than twelve different directions. Upon contact with the pattern, the two beams are diffracted into distinct orders of diffracted beams; these diffracted beams, in turn, travel through the projection optical system along a shared optical path. To differentiate between these two beams, the claim refers to "first" and "second" "light beams." According to Nikon, the "first . . . and [] second light beam" claim language should be construed to denote "beams of light that are, at least during some portion of their paths, separate and discrete." ASML does not contest inclusion of the concluding phrase of Nikon's construction, but ASML offers a substantially more specific alternative; according to ASML, the court should construe "first" and "second light beams" to mean "separate and discrete beams, as are produced by the disclosed spatial filter, emanating from discrete areas on the Fourier transform plane (like holes in the spatial filter)."*fn14

  The court does not disagree with ASML's presentation of the relevant technology; the beams do indeed emanate from discrete areas, interacting at a point with spatial filters. But the court cannot adopt ASML's expansive reading of "first . . . and [] second light beam" to mean "[s]eparate and discrete beams, as are produced by the disclosed spatial filter, emanating from discrete areas on the Fourier transform plane (like holes in the spatial filter)." As the court understands the intrinsic record and the claim language, all that Page 10 is at issue is two separate light beams that are, for at least part of their lengths, separate. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 13:55-14:17. Nothing in the patent specifications undercuts the thrust of this understanding, and the court thus construes "first . . . and [] second light beam" to mean "two beams of light that are, for some portion of their paths, separate and discrete."

  b. "from different directions"

  The parties agree that the court's construction of the term "from different directions" should begin with the phrase "[t]he `first light beam' and the `second light beam' illuminate the `pattern' at different angles of incidence." The parties do not agree, however, regarding where the definition of the claim should end: ASML believes that "at different angles of incidence" itself offers a sufficient construction of the claim term; Nikon, by contrast, asks the court to detail the kind of different angles of incidence at issue, appending the apparently non-exhaustive example, "which include angles having the same magnitude but different directions." Cf. In the Matter of Certain Microlithographic Machines and Components Thereof Investigation No. 337-TA-468 at 285 (rejecting a similar, though notably different, Nikon-proffered construction).

  As the court reads them, the parties' constructions are not mutually exclusive, whether linguistically or logically. The term "different angles of incidence," if understood as an incorporative category, undoubtedly includes some angles "having the same magnitude but different directions," so what Nikon seeks to add plainly falls within the technological capacity of the invention, if only as an example. But the limitation Nikon seeks to import is unsupported by the claim text and the relevant specification language. See `041 Patent at 3:31-3:50 & 12:13-45. Where claim language conduces to ready explication, the Federal Circuit has long reminded, courts should construe claim terms to mean precisely what they say. See Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582. However innocuous (and technologically valid) Nikon's proposed illustration, there is no reason to venture from the plain meaning of the claim terminology here. The claim expressly discusses beams emerging "from different directions"-i.e., from distinct and unshared angles of incidence. Cf. Teleflex, Inc. v. Ficosa North America Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1328 (Fed. Cir. 2002) ("We have `cautioned against limiting the claimed invention to preferred embodiments or specific examples in the specification.'") (citation omitted). Nothing in the intrinsic evidence controverts this claim language, and Nikon posits no compelling reason to read into the claim an example (viz., "which include angles having the same magnitude") of something the claim's language already — if implicitly — embraces. Consistent with the Page 11 intrinsic evidence, the court construes "from different directions" to mean "at distinct and unshared angles of incidence."

  5. "O-order" and "non-O-order" diffracted beams

  In the photolithographic process, when the "first" and "second light beams" strike a mask pattern, some light diffracts directly back along the same axis; some does not. Claim 1 places these different types of diffracted light into two categories — viz., "0-order diffracted beams" and "non-0-order diffracted beams"— noting what role these beams play in the microlithographic projection procedure. Claim 1 does not otherwise define the "0-order diffracted beam" and "non-0-order diffracted beam" terms, and Nikon now asks the court to construe the "0-order diffracted" and "non-0-order diffracted" terms to mean "light beams, rays or components formed when light from respective localized areas of relatively higher light intensity diffracted by a mask pattern." Before the ITC, Nikon offered an identical construction, and, at that time, ASML apparently acceded to it.

  Before this court, however, it appears that ASML has altered its position, asking the court to define "O-order diffracted beams" and "non-0-order diffracted beams" as nothing more than "0-order diffracted ray[s] of light and other higher order diffracted rays of light such as the 1st-order, 2nd-order," and the like. The court is mindful that the "0-order diffracted" and "non-()-order diffracted" terms carry, in certain contexts, purely descriptive, adjectival meaning, though not necessarily the circular meaning ASML suggests. In reference to a light beam, for example, "0-order diffracted" means simply that the beam is not diffracted to a particular (or any) order of magnitude. Since "diffraction" has a readily ascertainable meaning in the art (namely, the phenomenon exhibited by wave fronts that, passing the edge of an opaque body, are modulated, thereby causing a redistribution of energy), it follows that a "0-order diffracted beam" is a beam in which the energy has been modulated and redistributed to the "0-order." In the context of claim 1, moreover, the "0-order diffracted" and "non-0-order diffracted" modifiers are used only vis-a-vis specific light beams, specifically those formed when light from localized areas of higher-intensity light is diffracted by a mask pattern. See `041 Patent at 18:21-26.

  Specification language buttresses this understanding of the claim terms, and it allows the court to avoid resort to ASML's largely tautological approach. See`041 Patent at 3:31-50 & 9:32-41. "0-order diffracted beams" and "non-0-order diffracted beams" have specific meaning in the context of the claim, and the court must construe the terms to this end See Pitney Bowes. 182 F.3d at 1311. For these reasons, the court construes "0-order diffracted beam" to mean "a light beam or ray formed when a Page 12 mask pattern diffracts light back directly along the illumination axis"; in turn, "non-O-order diffracted beam" means "a light beam or ray formed when a mask pattern diffracts light off the illumination axis."

  6. "substrate"

  As with "pattern" and "mask," the parties agree that the word "substrate" has an established meaning in scientific parlance. See, e.g., McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (defining "substrate" as, inter alia, "the physical material on which [a] microcircuit is fabricated"). As with "pattern" and "mask," though, the parties disagree regarding the breadth the construction of "substrate" should take. ASML contends, and the court does not disagree entirely, that "substrate" signifies "an item such as a photosensitive member that is exposed with a pattern." But however initially valid ASML's broad phrasing, the term "substrate" does more than signify a purely generic type of device. "Substrate," as it is used in claim 1, denotes an item (e.g., a wafer) to which a photoresist layer is affixed; the transfer of the pattern through the photolithographic exposure process has nothing to do with the meaning of the bare "substrate" term. A narrower, more particularized usage comports with ordinary meaning of the term and with the specification language, see `041 Patent at 1:19-24, two things the court plainly cannot ignore. See Vitronics, 90 F.3d at 1582.

  When construing the "substrate" term, moreover, the court need not articulate a definition that reiterates the meaning of an entire claim or that revisits the function of an entire invention. To a significant degree, Nikon's attempt to affix "during a lithographic operation" as a modifier to its definition — like its "exposed with a pattern" addition — aims to fold a general description of the lithographic process into the meaning of the unadorned "substrate" term, spurring unnecessary redundancy in the name of claim construction. The claim language suggests that a "substrate" is an item on which a photosensitive layer is placed, and the specification language supports this simple understanding. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 1:19-24 & 3:15-37. Nothing more need be added. Thus, consistent with this intrinsic evidence, the court construes "substrate" to mean "an item on which a photosensitive layer or pattern is formed or placed"

  B. Claims 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8

  The parties dispute the meaning of three terms found in dependent claims 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8: one, "Fourier transform plane"; two, "illumination optical system";*fn15 and, three, "fineness of said pattern." The court addresses the terms seriatim. Page 13

  1. "Fourier transform plane"

  The parties appear to agree that the term "Fourier transform plane" — itself a term of art — has a plain and ordinary meaning: The mathematically calculable grouping of points generally corresponding to or substantially near the pupil plane of a projection optical system. The patent discusses a Fourier transform plane in both spatial and functional ways, noting both where such a plane might lie and what purpose such a plane may serve in the lithographic process. Id.

  As Nikon correctly suggests, of course, the relevant specifications discuss more than the Fourier transform plane when delineating the construction of the optical system. "[O]ptical paths," the specifications teach, are placed "substantially equidistant from the optical axis of the projection optical system at or in the vicinity of the Fourier transform plane," see `041 Patent at 3:42-46 (emphasis added); see also id. at 4:45-48 (". . . equal distance from the optical axis of the projection optical system at or in the vicinity of the Fourier transform plane"), and "a spatial filter" is "arranged at the Fourier transform plane or the illumination optical system or in the vicinity of the exit end of the integrator element." Id. at 11:3-11 (emphasis added). With these lessons in mind, the court cannot doubt that the specification language contemplates both a Fourier transform plane and a plane conjugate to the pupil plane, adding that planes optically conjugate to particular Fourier transform planes operate analogously to the Fourier transform plane in the photolithographic process. Were the court required to assess the operation of the Fourier transform plane and all of its functional equivalents, then, Nikon would be correct that any definition of the "Fourier transform plane" term should embrace the appendix "or a plane conjugate to the pupil plane."

  But it is not for the court to evaluate the lithographic function of the Fourier transform plane and all of its operational equivalents. Rather, the court's task is to define "Fourier transform plane" as a distinct and independent claim term.*fn16 See SRI Int'l v. Matsushita Elec. Corp., 775 F.2d 1107, 1121 (Fed. Cir. 1985) (en banc); see also DeMarini Sports. Inc. v. Worth. Inc., 239 F.3d 134, 1314 (Fed. Cir. 2001). "Fourier transform plane," as noted, has long been understood to denote a mathematically calculable plane generally corresponding to or substantially near the pupil plane of a projection optical system.*fn17 Nothing in the specification contravenes or expands this plain definition of "Fourier transform plane," see `041 Patent at 14:25-36; 15:23-30, and nothing in the intrinsic record suggests that, as a discrete phrase, "Fourier transform plane" includes distinct planes, whether optically conjugate to the pupil plane or not. Bounded by the scope of the parties' dispute, the court thus construes "Fourier transform plane" to mean "a mathematically calculable plane generally corresponding to or substantially near the pupil plane Page 14 of a projection optical system" That the plane is so calculable does not require that the finder of fact perform the complex calculation, nor does it mean that such a plane is not measurable optically; it only attaches to the term the standard, widely-accepted definition of "Fourier transform plane."

  2. "illumination optical system"*fn18

  ASML and Nikon agree that the definition of the term "illumination optical system" should denote, in some way, a system constituting a component, or group of components, that directs or otherwise acts on an illumination beam. The parties' disagree, however, about the generality with which this definition should be posited. ASML favors a broad construction of the term; Nikon advocates a narrow one.

  Specification language refers to — and details — collections of tangible optical components, many of which work on light from an illumination source such that they produce a region of illumination light having a particular distribution at the mask-pattern surface. See Patent `041 at 10:51-11:12; see id. at 1:26-3:37. To the extent Nikon says as much in its description of the operation of an "illumination optical system," the court agrees. But to the extent Nikon seeks to fold this language into a construction of the relevant term, the court cannot agree; that the system should function properly is inherent to the invention itself — whether in the form of an "illumination optical system" or any other — and the court need not include as much in its construction of the "illumination optical system" term. All the court need determine is what an "illumination optical system" is.

  The "best mode" description for the `041 patent makes clear that an "illumination optical system" includes a host of component parts — e.g., an ellipsoidal mirror, a relay lens, and a condenser lens — all organized such that light is directed toward a mask See id. at 10:64-11:12. When construing the "illumination optical system" phrase, the court need not venture beyond what the claim says and what the specification language teaches. As the claim language says and the specifications teach, an "illumination optical system" is "an optical component, or combination of optical components, that directs light from a light source onto and through a mask pattern." The court construes "illumination optical system" to mean precisely that.

  3. "fineness of said pattern"

  According to the parties' claim construction memoranda, ASML and Nikon now agree on a construction of this term. As a result, the court need not construe this phrase.

  C. Claim 12

  The parties dispute the meaning of two terms in claim 12: (1) "defining an intensity distribution of the Page 15 illumination light on the Fourier transform plane in the illumination optical system with respect to a pattern on the mask to have increased intensity portions apart from an optical axis"; and (2) `'determining the position of the increased intensity portions."*fn19

  1. "defining an intensity distribution of the illumination light on the Fourier transform plane in the illumination optical system with respect to a pattern on the mask to have increased intensity portions apart from an optical axis"

  Distilled to its essence, the parties' disagreement over this prolix claim term centers on two words: "defining" and "on." ASML reads "on" to modify "defining" such that the phrase "defining an intensity distribution of the illumination light on the Fourier transform plane" necessarily places the act of defining "on" the Fourier transform plane itself; for its part, Nikon argues that the claim language demands no such placement, connoting only the existence of "an intensity distribution of the illumination light on the Fourier transform plane in the illumination optical system."

  At least in part, basic principles of grammar*fn20 contradict Nikon's parsing of the claim text. The claim language's use of a gerund-form verb (viz., "defining") unequivocally implies an act. See Anhydrides & Chemicals. Inc. v. United States. 130 F.3d 1481, 1483 (Fed. Cir. 1997) (applying the basic rules of grammar when evaluating a statute); Gen. Foods Corp. v. Studiengesellschaft Kohle mbH. 972 F.2d 1272, 1274 (Fed. Cir. 1992) ("[E]ach claim is an entity that must be considered as a whole."). When claim 12 uses the word "defining," it denotes the act of assigning a definition to an intensity distribution of an illumination light; Nikon cannot construe the claim such that this act does not occur.

  Yet precisely where this act of "defining" occurs presents a substantially more difficult question. In its proposed construction, ASML asks the court to place the act of "defining" directly on the "Fourier " transform plane," arguing that the location of a particular prepositional phrase (viz., "on the Fourier. . . .") in the claim text compels the court to place the act on the relative position of the plane between the pattern and the light source. As the court reads claim 12, however, the pivotal prepositional phrase could be read to modify the act of "defining" (as ASML suggests), or it could be read to modify the occurrence of the illumination light, but not necessarily one, the other, or both. See `041 Patent at 19:14-20:3 (". . . defining [] an intensity distribution of the illumination light on the Fourier transform plane"). It is simply not clear that the act must occur where ASML says it does, nor that it ever does.

  In fact, intrinsic evidence and the core technology suggest that it does not, i.e., that the prepositional phrase modifies the illumination light, not the act of defining alone. Indeed, much in the intrinsic record suggests that the Fourier transform plane functions as a location at which light may exhibit particular Page 16 characteristics, not that it is where the "defining" must take place. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 3:30-40 & 4:20-5:11. And to say as much does not exclude the embodiment in figure 2; the disclosed embodiment is sufficiently incorporated through a definition denoting the core act itself. Consistent with the claim text and the lessons of the intrinsic record, the court construes "defining an intensity distribution of the illumination light on the Fourier transform plane in the illumination optical system with respect to a pattern on the mask to have increased intensity portions apart from an optical axis" to mean "quantifying or shaping of increased intensity portions of the illumination light, as those portions appear on the Fourier transform plane, in the illumination optical system"

  2. "determining positions of the increased intensity portions"

  Much of the foregoing explication of the "defining . . . axis" term applies to this claim term as well. Like "defining," "determining" connotes an act; like "defining," "determining" must occur at some location; and like "defining," "determining" is not hitched to a particular physical location, including the Fourier transform plane. The plain language of claim 12 requires only that positions of increased intensity portions be determined in accordance with the mask pattern such that a first- and second-diffracted light passes through a common area of the projection optical system. In this, claim 12's focus is largely spatial, articulating, inter alia, a general structure of planes and portions and patterns. But the claim does not demand that the "determining" occur at any particular location. See, e.g., `041 Patent at 3:52-4:17; id. at 13:55-14:43; see also id. at figs. 2-4. Where no limitations exist in the claim language, and where no limitations are otherwise required to construe a claim properly, the court is reluctant to import claim-text limits. For this reason, the court will not import the "on the Fourier transform plane" language ASML sets forth. Instead, adhering to the plain meaning of the claim term, the court construes "determining the position of the increased intensity portions" to mean "setting or ascertaining the spatial arrangement of increased intensity portions of light."

  D. Dependent Claim 13: "substantially conjugated"*fn21

  The parties seem to agree that "substantially conjugated" possesses meaning customary to those of ordinary skilled in the art, viz., the near-complete mapping of the points of one plane in an optical system to a second plane. As the court reads their proposed constructions, moreover, the parties generally agree that, in the context of claim 13, "substantially conjugated" denotes the relation of a given plane to the first or Page 17 second portion of increased light intensity. All that remains, then, is semantics, with ASML asserting that "substantially conjugated" should be read in one detailed manner, Nikon arguing that the term should be read in another, equally detailed manner.

  Despite the parties' attempts to fill "substantially conjugated" with overflowing detail, neither party offers a construction that readily fits the context in which the term is used. In the relevant claim context, "substantially" denotes the degree to which two locations or positions are conjugated; that is, as claim 13 uses the term, to be "substantially conjugated" is to be conjugated to a significant degree. Cf. Cordis Corp. v. Medtronic Ave, Inc., 339 F.3d 1352, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (discussing the meaning of "substantially"); Epcon Gas Sys., Inc. v. Bauer Compressors. Inc., 279 F.3d 1022, 1031 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (same). In the relevant claim context, in turn, "conjugated" describes any pair of locations positioned such that points of the first map — or are amenable to mapping or imaging — to the neighboring points of the second. The teachings of the specification language are in accord. See `041 Patent at 11:60-12:11. Under the terms of claim 13, it is an "area" that to be "substantially conjugated," so "conjugated" denotes an "area" positioned such that its points map the neighboring points of "one of . . . the increased in intensity portions." Taking the definitions of "substantially" and "conjugated" together, the term "substantially conjugated" means "positioned such that the area's points map or image to a significant degree to the corresponding points of another area or plane,"*fn22 Nikon's proposed appendix concerning "all light rays" is simply extraneous to the relevant term.

 II. The `336 Patent

  As with the `041 patent, the parties dispute the meaning of a myriad of terms used in the `336 patent claims. The court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.