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Aerielle Technologies, Inc v. Belkin Int'l

September 19, 2011

AERIELLE TECHNOLOGIES, INC.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
BELKIN INT'L, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lucy H. Koh United States District Judge

ORDER CONSTRUING DISPUTED CLAIM TERMS

Plaintiff Aerielle Technologies, Inc. ("Aerielle") brings suit against Defendants Belkin International, Inc., Best Buy Co., Inc., Bestbuy.com, LLC, Best Buy Stores, LP, and Radioshack 19 Corporation (collectively "Defendants") alleging infringement of two patents. The parties seek 20 construction of nine terms used in the claims of those patents. The Court held a tutorial on June 21 27, 2011, and a claim construction hearing on June 29, 2011. The Court has reviewed the claims, 22 specifications, and other relevant evidence, and considered the briefing, argument, and post-claim 23 construction supplemental authority submitted by the parties. The Court now construes the terms 24 at issue.

I.Background

This case concerns allegations of infringement of two United States patents: 1) U.S. Patent No. 5,777,441 ('441 patent), awarded on June 23, 1998; and 2) U.S. Patent No. 6,671,494 ('494 28 patent), awarded on December 30, 2003.

technology. Based on the five Defendants and the two patents at issue, Aerielle brings suit for ten 4 claims of patent infringement. Defendants have counterclaimed for declaratory relief of non-5 infringement and invalidity.

transmitters. Specifically, the '441 and '494 patents relate to Frequency Modulation (FM) 8 transmitter technology, which allows music on portable audio devices to be transmitted to a FM 9 radio system. In general, Aerielle's patents claim a FM transmitter that modulates an audio signal 10 for transmission and receipt by a FM receiver. According to the parties, traditionally, FM transmitters required a long antenna to allow sufficient transmission of audio signals -- the antenna, commonly a piece of wire protruding from the transmitter, acts as a conductor of the signal, and 13 thus, longer antennas (wires) would allow for greater radio efficiency.

"ground trace" (e.g., a strip of conducting metal on a circuit board) in the audio device as one part 16 of the antenna and the existing ground trace from the RF transmitter as the second part of the 17 antenna. This creates a dipole antenna with sufficient conductive material to convert RF signals to 18 electromagnetic waves for transmission to an FM receiver. Thus, Aerielle's invention is a creative 19 engineering fix using existing circuitry to allow one to play music from an audio device (e.g., a CD 20 player or an iPod) onto an FM radio system at a lower frequency of 40 megahertz (MHz), while 21 also allowing one to receive music broadcast from a radio station in the FM broadcast band of 87.5 22

MHz to 108 MHz.

Claim 13 of the '441 patent reads as follows, with terms to be construed in bold: 27

A.Parties and Technology

Aerielle was founded in 2001 in California, and markets itself as a leader in wireless audio

The technology at issue centers on Aerielle's patented wireless Radio Frequency (RF)

The key insight in the Aerielle patents is to avoid protruding wires by utilizing the existing

B.Representative Claims

The parties have identified representative claims from each of the '441 and '494 patents.

Specifically, Aerielle is asserting claim 13 of the '441 patent, and claims 11 and 22 of '494 patent. 26

13. A portable DC powered RF transmitter unit for use with an audio unit including an audio circuit which supplies as an output an audio signal and including an output jack having an audio output terminal for receiving the audio output signal and a ground terminal connected to a ground trace of the audio unit, the RF transmitter unit comprising:

a housing made of any material including metal;

an input plug having an audio input terminal and a ground terminal, the input plug being sized to mate with the output jack of the audio unit such that the audio output and ground terminals of the output jack contact the audio and input and ground terminals of the input plug, respectively, when the input plug and output jack are mated;

an RF transmitter having an input terminal and first and second RF output terminals and having a ground trace, the input terminal of the RF transmitter being connected to the audio input terminal of the input plug when the input plug and output jack are mated, said connection being via a frequency deviation control network comprised of a voltage divider which divides and presents the reduced voltage audio signal at a node and a preemphasis circuit comprising a resistor and capacitor in parallel couple to said node and functioning to limit excursions of said audio signal such that said input terminal of said RF transmitter receives an audio signal which has been suitably conditioned to limit the resulting deviation of the FM signal generated by said RF transmitter to the standard 75 kHz peak deviation used by FM broadcast receives so as to prevent distortion of the transmitted audio in a standard broadcast band FM receiver, the first RF output terminal of said transmitter being connected to the ground terminal of said input plug such that when said input plug and output jack are mated, the ground trace of the audio unit acts as one radiating element of an antenna, the second RF output terminal being connected to the ground trace of the RF transmitter unit, the ground trace of the RF transmitter acting as the other radiating elements of the antenna; and an RF choke connected so as to isolate the two radiating elements of the antenna from each other at the transmitting frequency of the RF transmitter but to act as a low impedance path between the ground traces at audio frequencies.

Claim 11 of the '494 patent reads as follows, with terms to be construed in bold: 11. A system for use with an audio source for supplying audio signals at an output jack, said output jack having a least first and second terminals, said audio source having a signal ground conductor coupled to said first terminal, said audio signals couple to said second terminal, comprising:

(a) an FM stereo RF transmitter having an RF output at which said RF transmitter supplies as an output a modulated RF carrier and having an audio plug sized to mate with said output jack, said RF transmitter having a signal ground conductor and having left and right stereo audio inputs coupled to left and right stereo audio outputs of said audio source by RF chokes and terminals of said audio plug and said output jack when said audio plug is mated with said output jack, said audio plug having a first terminal which makes electrical contact with said first terminal of said output jack when said audio plug is mated with said output jack, said first terminal of said audio plug coupled to said RF output;

(b) a dipole antenna comprising said signal ground conductor of said audio source as one element of said dipole and said signal ground conductor of said RF transmitter as another element of said dipole antenna, said dipole antenna having a complex impedance which has a real component and an imaginary component;

(c) isolation means coupled between said first terminal of said audio plug of said RF transmitter and said signal ground conductor of said RF transmitter for electrically isolating the signal ground conductors of said RF transmitter and said audio source from each other at the frequency of said RF carrier but for electrically coupling said signal ground conductors of said RF transmitter and said audio source via a low impedance path at audio frequencies, and for canceling at least part of said reactive component of said antenna impedance so as to transform the impedance of said dipole antenna closer to a purely real impedance with a smaller reactive component;

(d) impedance transformation means coupled to said RF output for transforming said impedance of said dipole antenna, as modified by said isolation means, to an impedance which is a closer match to the complex conjugate of the output impedance of said RF transmitter at said RF output; and

(e)means for locking the frequency of transmission in the approximate middle of a stereo transmission band using a crystal controlled reference frequency such that enough of the energy in the Fourier spectrum of the FM stereo modulated carrier generated by the transmitter is within the IF filter passband of any receiver being used to receive the signal so as to reduce distortion to negligible levels.

Claim 22 of the '494 patent reads as follows, with terms to be construed in bold: 22. A portable DC powered RF transmitter unit for use with an audio unit including an audio circuit which supplies as an output an audio signal and an output jack having an output terminal for receiving said audio signal and a ground terminal connected to a ground trace of said audio unit, said RF transmitter unit comprising:

(a) a housing;

(b) an input plug attached to said housing and having an input terminal and a ground terminal, said input plug being sized to mate with the output jack of the audio unit such that said output terminal and said ground terminals of said output jack contact with said input and said ground terminals of said input plug, respectively, when the input plug and output jack are mated;

(c) a printed circuit board within said housing;

(d) an RF transmitter mounted on said printed circuit board and having an input terminal and a first and a second RF output terminal, said input terminal of said

RF transmitter being connected to said input terminal of said input plug for receiving said audio signal when said input plug and said output jack are mated;

(i) said first RF output terminal being connected to said ground terminal of said input jack are mated with the ground trace of said audio unit acts as a radiating element of an antenna;

(ii) said second RF output terminal being connected to a ground trace of the RF transmitter unit, the ground trace of said RF transmitter acting as the other radiating elements of the antenna, said RF transmitter including a phase lock loop for controlling the frequency of the transmitted signal so as to remain in the approximate center of a channel of limited bandwidth in which said transmitter transmits; and

(e) an RF choke connected between said first and said second Rf output terminals

and operable to isolate said two radiating elements of said antenna from each other at the transmitting frequency of said RF transmitter.

terms: 9

briefing, informed the Court that they agreed upon a construction for the term "connected" as "in electrical contact."

Case No.: 10-CV-01301-LHK

ORDER CONSTRUING DISPUTED CLAIM TERMS

C.Agreed-Upon Constructions

The parties have agreed upon constructions for the following five terms:

(1) "output jack:" a connector having at least one audio signal terminal and at least one ground terminal

(2) "coupled:" joined to allow electric current to flow

(3) "ground trace:" a printed circuit board conductor that acts as a ground

(4) "voltage divider:" two or more impedances connected in series, to which a voltage is applied, and from which one or more voltages reduced by a known factor can be obtained

(5) "connected:" in electrical contact.

D.Disputed Constructions

The case is currently before the Court for construction of the following nine*fn1 disputed claim

(1) "RF transmitter/RF transmitter unit" -- '441 patent, claim 13 and '494 patent, claims 11

and 22

(2) "input plug" -- '441 patent, claim 13

(3) "antenna" -- '441 patent, claim 13 and '494 patent, claim 22

(4) "dipole antenna" -- '494 patent, claim 11

"Ultimately, the interpretation to be given a term can only be determined and confirmed with a full 27 understanding of what the inventors actually invented and intended to envelop with the claim." 28

(5) "the ground trace of the audio unit acts as one radiating element of an antenna" and "the ground trace of said audio unit acts as a radiating element of an antenna" -- '441 patent, claim 13 and '494 patent, claim 22

(6) "said signal ground conductor of said audio source as one [radiating] element of said dipole [antenna]" -- '494 patent, claim 11

(7) "isolation means coupled between said first terminal of said audio plug of said audio transmitter and said signal ground conductor of said RF transmitter for electrically isolating the signal ground conductors of said RF transmitter and said audio source from each other at the frequency of said RF carrier but for electrically coupling said signal ground conductors of said RF transmitter and said audio source via a low impedance path at audio frequencies, and for canceling at least a part of said reactive component of said antenna impedance so as to transform the impedance of said dipole antenna closer to a purely real impedance with a smaller reactive component" -- '494 patent, claim 11

(8) "means for locking the frequency of transmission in the approximate middle of a stereo transmission band using a crystal controlled reference frequency such that enough of the energy in the Fourier spectrum of the FM stereo modulated carrier generated by the transmitter is within the IF filter passband of any receiver being used to receive ...


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