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Hynix Semiconductor Inc. v. Rambus Inc.

February 21, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald M. Whyte United States District Judge


On October 3, 2005 this court granted Hynix Semiconductor Inc., Hynix Semiconductor America Inc., Hynix Semiconductor U.K. LTD, and Hynix Semiconductor Deutschland GmbH (collectively "Hynix") leave to file a motion for reconsideration. Hynix urges the court to reconsider its (1) November 11, 2004 Claim Construction Order ("Claim Construction Order"), (2) January 4, 2005 Order Denying Hynix's Motion for Summary Judgment of Non-Infringement Under Hynix's Proposed Construction of the Term 'Device,' or, In the Alternative, Invalidity Under Rambus's Proposed Construction ("January 4, 2005 Order"), and (3) January 26, 2005 Clarified and Corrected Order On Rambus's Motion for Summary Judgment ("January 26, 2005 Order") in light of the Federal Circuit's decision in Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). For the reasons set forth below, the court denies Hynix's motion.


In Rambus, Inc. v. Infineon Techs. AG, 318 F.3d 1081 (Fed. Cir. 2003) ("Infineon II"), Rambus sued Infineon for infringement of the same family of patents that are at issue in this case.*fn1

The district court held that the patentees acted as their own lexicographer by redefining the term "bus" to mean a "multiplexed bus": a single set of signal lines that carries three different kinds of information. Id. at 1094. The Federal Circuit determined that the district court erred by not giving "bus" its ordinary meaning. Id. The court explained that the term "is very common in the electrical arts" and cited The New IEEE Standard Dictionary of Electrical and Electronic Terms 141 (5th ed. 1993) for the proposition that a "bus" is "a set of signal lines . . . to which a number of devices are connected, and over which information is transferred between devices." Id. The court admitted that it could plausibly interpret two uses of "bus" in the specification to mean a "multiplexed bus." Id. Nevertheless, the court held that the patentees did not "clearly disclaim or disavow" the full scope of the term "bus." Id. at 1095. The court noted that because the patent originally claimed that only some busses were multiplexed, the patentee must have understood the majority of the busses not to be multiplexed. Id. The court also explained that the PTO had divided Rambus' patents into two groups: a multiplexing group and a latency group. Id. Rambus had chosen to prosecute claims from the latency group, which "do[ ] not require [a] plurality of conductor[s to] be[ ] multiplexed to receive an address . . . ." Id. (alteration added). Thus, the court declined to read a multiplexing limitation into the term "bus."

Claim construction in this case focused on the word "device." Rambus argued that "device" does not warrant an independent construction. Instead, Rambus contended that the court must read "device" in conjunction with the other phrases with which it appears: "integrated circuit device," "memory device," "synchronous memory device," and "synchronous semiconductor memory device." Hynix, on the other hand, asserted that a "device" is "[e]lectronic circuits or components physically connected in a unit, with an interface to a bus having a multiplexed set of signal lines used to transmit substantially all address, data, and control information, and containing substantially fewer lines than the number of bits in a single address."

The court sided with Rambus. The court noted that Hynix's interpretation of "device" resembled its interpretation of "bus" in Infineon II. The court held that Infineon II's reasoning suggested that Hynix's proposed construction erroneously imports a multiplexing limitation:

Here, rather than applying a multiplexing limitation to the bus, Hynix asserts that multiplexing should limit the term "device." It remains unclear how "[e]lectronic circuits or components physically connected in a unit, with an interface to a bus having a multiplexed set of signal lines" is materially different from limiting the term "bus" to a "multiplexed bus." Although the focus is on the memory chip itself rather than its operational means of connection to the bus, the end result remains the same -- the bus upon which the devices reside in the patents at issue would necessarily be a multiplexed bus. This end result, a multiplexed bus as part of the claim limitations, was rejected by the Federal Circuit. *** Hynix relies on the Summary of the Invention, the Detailed Description, and the recitation of the objects of the invention in support of its contention that Rambus has acted as its own lexicographer in defining "device." This is largely the same material in the specification that the Federal Circuit found inadequate to support the multiplexing limitation on the term "bus." In addition, U.S. Patent No. 6,101,152 ("the '152 patent") descends from the same '580 patent that does not require a multiplexing bus. The court, therefore, does not read a multiplexed bus limitation into the term "device." "Device" must be construed in the context of "integrated circuit device," "memory device," or "synchronous memory device."

Claim Construction Order at 9:8-22 (internal citations omitted).

The Claim Construction Order and Infineon II factored heavily into the January 4, 2005 and January 26, 2005 Orders. First, Hynix moved for summary judgment of non-infringement based on the assumption that the court would adopt its interpretation of "device." Because the court did not do so, it denied Hynix's motion. January 4, 2005 Order at 1:6-7. In the alternative, Hynix argued that accepting Rambus' construction of "device" would render the patents invalid for failing to satisfy 35 U.S.C. § 112(1)'s written description requirement. Hynix asserted that a person of ordinary skill in the art would read the patent to cover only a multiplexed bus. However, Hynix noted, Rambus' interpretation did not limit the patent in this manner. The court disagreed. The court reasoned that Infineon II "tends to suggest that the specification supports inventions which do not include a multiplexed bus." Id. at 4:16-17. The court also noted that Rambus' expert opined "that one skilled in the art would understand that the patents could be used with any invention and are not limited to the multiplexed bus of the preferred embodiment." Id. at 4:22-25. Although the court did not accept Rambus' contentions wholesale, it nevertheless held that Hynix had failed to satisfy its burden of proving invalidity:

Notwithstanding Infineon [II]and Rambus's contentions, it remains unclear whether, at the time the of the '898 application, a person of ordinary skill in the art would have been able to recognize through the written description that a non-multiplexed bus was covered. The answer depends in large part upon what the relevant state of the art was at the time the application was first filed in 1990 and requires resolution of factual questions. The evidence currently before this court does not show by clear and convincing evidence that, at the time of the '898 application, a non-multiplexed bus was not supported by the specification. As Hynix has not overcome the statutory presumption of validity, this court does not find as a matter of law that Rambus's patents are invalid for failure to satisfy the written description requirement. Accordingly, Hynix's motion for summary judgment is denied.

Id. at 4:25-5:8. Second, Rambus moved for summary judgment of infringement on several Hynix patents. Partially because the Claim Construction Order determined that "there is not a separate 'device' limitation that Rambus must show is met by Hynix's accused products," January 26, 2005 Order at 4:7-8, the court granted Rambus' motion on claims (1) 1, 5-7, 12, 26, 28, 30, 33, 34, and 38 of U.S. Patent No. 6,378,020, (2) 14-16 of U.S. Patent No. 6,452,863, (3) 1, 3, 9, 12, 14, 26, 28, 31, 37 and 40 of U.S. Patent No. 6,426,916, and (4) 31, 32, 35, 36 and 38 of U.S. Patent No. 6,378,020. Id. at 8:2-10.

In Phillips, the Federal Circuit, sitting en banc, reaffirmed "basic principles of claim construction" with respect to the "[t]he role of the specification," but explained that "the use of dictionaries . . . requires clarification." Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312. The court began by reiterating the bedrock principle that a court must view claim terms through the eyes of one of ordinary skill in the art. Id. at 1313-14. The court explained that a court's choice of interpretative tools should depend on the nature of the claim at issue:

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. In such circumstances, general purpose dictionaries may be helpful. In many cases that give rise to litigation, however, determining the ordinary and customary meaning of the claim requires examination of terms that have a particular meaning in a field of art. Because the meaning of a claim term as understood by persons of skill in the art is often not immediately apparent, and because patentees frequently use terms idiosyncratically, the court looks to 'those sources available to the public that show what a person of skill in the art would have understood disputed claim language to mean.' Those sources ...

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