Eidos Display, LLC et al v. AU Optronics Corporation et al
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION, and ORDER granting in part and denying in part re 520 Opposed MOTION Seeking Construction of "Gate Wiring", and 521 SEALED MOTION re Gate Wiring. Signed by Magistrate Judge John D. Love on 2/18/2016. (gsg)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
EIDOS DISPLAY, LLC, and
EIDOS III, LLC
AU OPTRONICS CORPORATION, et al.,
No. 6:11cv201 JRG-JDL
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
On October 21, 2015, Defendant Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Ltd. (“CPT”) and Defendants
Hannstar Display Corporation and Hannspree North America, Inc. (“Hannstar”) (collectively,
“Defendants”) filed separate motions to construe the term “gate wiring.” (Doc. Nos. 520, 521.)
Plaintiffs Eidos Display, LLC and Eidos III, LLC (“Eidos”) filed a collective response (Doc. No.
538), to which Defendants filed separate replies (Doc. Nos. 549, 551), and Plaintiffs filed a
collective sur-reply (Doc. 560). On February 4, 2016, the Court held a claim construction hearing
on the term “gate wiring,” whereat the Court took in testimony from the parties’ experts.
Because the Court construes the term “gate wiring” as set forth herein, Defendants’ Motions
(Doc. Nos. 520, 521) are GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIED-IN-PART.
On April 12, 2013, this Court issued its claim construction opinion construing the
disputed terms of U.S. Patent No. 5,879,958 (“the ’958 Patent”). (Doc. No. 184.) During the
original claim construction hearing, the Court previously had proposed a construction for the
term “gate wiring” as “a patterned, electrically conductive material that conveys gate signals to
gate electrodes.” (Doc. No. 184, at 12.) However, for reasons explained during the claim
construction hearing, the Court declined to construe the term “gate wiring” in its original claim
construction opinion. (Doc. No. 184, at 12.)
Both sides’ experts have since provided expert
reports incorporating the Court’s proposed construction. In light of those reports, Defendants
have now asked the Court to construe the term “gate wiring” to resolve a dispute amongst the
experts regarding the interpretation of “gate wiring.”
CLAIM CONSTRUCTION PRINCIPLES
“It is a ‘bedrock principle’ of patent law that ‘the claims of a patent define the invention
to which the patentee is entitled the right to exclude.’” Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303,
1312 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (quoting Innova/Pure Water, Inc. v. Safari Water Filtration Sys., Inc., 381
F.3d 1111, 1115 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). The Court examines a patent’s intrinsic evidence to define
the patented invention’s scope.
Id. at 1313–14; Bell Atl. Network Servs., Inc. v. Covad
Commc’ns Group, Inc., 262 F.3d 1258, 1267 (Fed. Cir. 2001). Intrinsic evidence includes the
claims, the rest of the specification and the prosecution history. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312–13;
Bell Atl. Network Servs., 262 F.3d at 1267. The Court gives claim terms their ordinary and
customary meaning as understood by one of ordinary skill in the art at the time of the invention.
Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1312–13; Alloc, Inc. v. Int’l Trade Comm’n, 342 F.3d 1361, 1368 (Fed. Cir.
Claim language guides the Court’s construction of claim terms. Phillips, 415 F.3d at
1314. “[T]he context in which a term is used in the asserted claim can be highly instructive.” Id.
Other claims, asserted and unasserted, can provide additional instruction because “terms are
normally used consistently throughout the patent.” Id. “[C]laims ‘must be read in view of the
specification, of which they are a part.’” Id. (quoting Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52
F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995)). “[T]he specification ‘is always highly relevant to the claim
construction analysis. Usually, it is dispositive; it is the single best guide to the meaning of a
disputed term.’” Id. (quoting Vitronics Corp. v. Conceptronic, Inc., 90 F.3d 1576, 1582 (Fed.
Cir. 1996)); Teleflex. Inc. v. Ficosa N. Am. Corp., 299 F.3d 1313, 1325 (Fed. Cir. 2002).
The specification may also resolve ambiguous claim terms “where the ordinary and
accustomed meaning of the words used in the claims lack sufficient clarity to permit the scope of
the claim to be ascertained from the words alone.” Teleflex, Inc., 299 F.3d at 1325. For
example, “[a] claim interpretation that excludes a preferred embodiment from the scope of the
claim ‘is rarely, if ever, correct.’” Globetrotter Software, Inc. v. Elam Computer Group Inc., 362
F.3d 1367, 1381 (Fed. Cir. 2004) (quoting Vitronics Corp., 90 F.3d at 1583). But, “[a]lthough
the specification may aid the court in interpreting the meaning of disputed language in the
claims, particular embodiments and examples appearing in the specification will not generally be
read into the claims.” Constant v. Advanced Micro-Devices, Inc., 848 F.2d 1560, 1571 (Fed. Cir.
1988); see also Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1323.
Although, “less significant than the intrinsic record in determining the legally operative
meaning of claim language,” the Court may rely on extrinsic evidence to “shed useful light on
the relevant art.” Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1317 (quotation omitted). Technical dictionaries and
treatises may help the Court understand the underlying technology and the manner in which one
skilled in the art might use claim terms, but such sources may also provide overly broad
definitions or may not be indicative of how terms are used in the patent. Id. at 1318. Similarly,
expert testimony may aid the Court in determining the particular meaning of a term in the
pertinent field, but “conclusory, unsupported assertions by experts as to the definition of a claim
term are not useful.” Id.
In patent construction, “subsidiary fact finding is sometimes necessary” and the court
“may have to make ‘credibility judgments’ about witnesses.” Teva v. Sandoz, 135 S.Ct. 831, 838
(2015). In some cases, “the district court will need to look beyond the patent’s intrinsic evidence
and to consult extrinsic evidence in order to understand, for example, the background science or
the meaning of a term in the relevant art during the relevant time period.” Id. at 841. “If a
district court resolves a dispute between experts and makes a factual finding that, in general, a
certain term of art had a particular meaning to a person of ordinary skill in the art at the time of
the invention, the district court must then conduct a legal analysis: whether a skilled artisan
would ascribe that same meaning to that term in the context of the specific patent claim under
review.” Id. (emphasis in original). When the court makes subsidiary factual findings about the
extrinsic evidence in consideration of the “evidentiary underpinnings” of claim construction,
those findings are reviewed for clear error on appeal. Id.
A. Overview of the Patent-in-Suit
U.S. Patent No. 5,879,958 (“the ’958 Patent”) is titled “Method of Producing an ElectroOptical Device” and relates to the process of forming circuitry used in controlling liquid crystal
displays (“LCD”). Specifically, the ’958 Patent relates to the process for forming an array of thin
film transistors (“TFT”) and pixel electrodes that are used to control the light emission of an
LCD. Notably, the ’958 Patent contains 17 embodiments (identified as A-S) providing various
manufacturing processes that reduce the number of photolithographic steps. See ’958 Patent at
4:50–14:18 (describing processes with four or five lithographic steps as opposed to seven).
Claim 1 is the only issued claim in the ’958 Patent. Claim 1 recites as follows:
1. A method for producing an electro-optical device
in which an electro-optical material is put between
a pair of substrates opposed to each other, at least
a portion of opposing surfaces of the substrates is
insulative, a plurality of source wirings and a
plurality of gate wirings are formed crossing each
other on the surface of one of said pair of
substrates and a transparent pixel electrode and a
thin film transistor are formed at each of the
crossing points between the source wirings and the
gate wirings, wherein the method comprises:
a step G1 of forming a first metal film on
the surface of said one substrate,
a first photolithographic step G2 of
patterning the first metal film to
form a gate electrode and a gate
a step G3 of forming a first insulator film,
a semiconductor film and an ohmic
contact film on the surface of said
one substrate after the first
a second photolithographic step G4 of
patterning the semiconductor active
film and the ohmic contact film to
form a semiconductor portion
above the gate electrode in a state
isolated from other portions,
a step G5 of forming a second metal film
on the surface of said one substrate
after the second photolithographic
a third photolithographic step G6 of
patterning the second metal film
and the ohmic contact film to form
a source electrode, a drain electrode
and a channel portion,
a step G7 of forming a passivation film on
the surface of said one substrate
after the third photolithographic
a fourth photolithographic step G8 of
patterning the passivation film to
form a contact hole reaching the
gate wiring, a contact hole reaching
the drain electrode and a contact
hole for source wiring and gate
wiring connection terminals,
a step G9 of forming a transparent
conductive film on the surface of
said one substrate after the fourth
photolithographic step, and
a fifth photolithographic step G10 of
patterning the transparent
conductive film to form a
transparent pixel electrode.
’958 Patent at 58: 5–47.
B. “gate wiring”
In the briefing, the parties proposed constructions for the term “gate wiring” as set forth
terminal to the
that connects and
conveys gate signals
from a gate wiring
connection terminal to
a gate electrode”2
As an initial matter, the parties agree that the “gate wiring” is “electrically conductive”
and that it “conveys gate signals.” The parties’ dispute is really focused on what it means to
“convey gate signals,” i.e., whether “gate wiring” merely “conveys gate signals” or whether it
must “convey gate signals from a gate wiring connection terminal to a gate electrode.” The
In its opening motion, CPT requested that the Court could adopt its previously proposed construction with the
“clarification that the function of a specific structure, not merely that it is electrically connected to other structures,
defines whether a structure is ‘gate wiring.’” (Doc. No. 521, at 4.) In its reply brief, CPT still requested such
clarification, but suggested that the appropriate construction should include “(1) ‘an electrically-conductive pathway
that conveys gate signals’ (2) ‘from gate wiring connection terminals’ (i.e., from gate drivers) (3) ‘to gate
electrodes.’” (Doc. No. 551, at 2.) Accordingly, CPT’s proposed construction is set forth as such above.
Defendant Hannstar originally proposed the term gate wiring mean “an electrically-conductive pathway directly
connecting and conveying gate signals between a gate wiring connection terminal and a gate electrode” in its
opening brief. (Doc. No. 520, at 2.) However, in its reply brief, it modified its proposed construction to the
construction set forth herein. (Doc. No. 549, at 1.)
intrinsic record being entirely devoid of ascribing meaning to the “conveyance of gate signals,”
the Court took in extrinsic evidence in the form of expert testimony regarding the meaning of the
term “gate wiring” as it would have been understood in the art at the relevant time. For the
reasons explained herein, the Court is unable to resolve the ultimate factual dispute between the
experts regarding “conveying gate signals,” but, in view of the intrinsic record and the testimony
of the experts, rejects the Defendants’ proposed construction as too limiting.
In the briefing, Defendants first argued that claim 1 recites that “gate wiring” and “gate
electrodes” as two different structures and therefore asked the Court to resolve whether the “gate
wiring” is a separate structure from the “gate electrode.” (Doc. No. 520, at 4.) However, based
on the testimony received from the experts at the hearing, it became apparent that there was in
fact no dispute in this regard.
First, the intrinsic record discloses the gate electrode 192 and the gate wiring 193 as part
of the same continuous structure formed over the substrate 190 in a single patterning step:
(’958 Patent, Fig. 55; 35:49-51 (“the photoresist is peeled off to form a gate electrode 192 and a
gate wiring 193 shown in FIG. 55 on the substrate 190.”).)3 Similarly, the specification discloses
relevant prior art where the gate wiring and the gate electrode are a part of the same structure. In
Figure 171, for example, the gate wiring 8b is a subcomponent of the gate electrode 8:
The Court notes that, taken at face value, Figure 55 appears to show separate structures for the gate electrode 192
and the gate wiring 193. However, to reach the conclusion that these are separate structures based on this figure
alone would be in error. Plaintiffs’ expert provided uncontested testimony that Figure 55 shows just one angled
slice of the circuit, and that at other points on the circuit these structures connect and are one in the same. (Tr. at
24:19-25:25.) As discussed further below, Defendants’ expert agreed that these structures could be and often were
the same. (Tr. at 50:19–52:4; 58:1–16.) Moreover, as discussed above, the intrinsic record makes clear that the gate
electrode and gate wiring depicted in Figure 55 are formed of the same continuous metal in the same patterning step.
(’958 Patent, Fig. 171; 1:54–56 (“the gate electrode 8 has a double structure comprising a gate
insulator film 8a of an upper layer and a gate wiring 8b of a lower layer…”).)
Second, both experts provided testimony that a person of ordinary skill in the art at the
time would have understood that the gate wiring and the gate electrode could be part of the same
structure. Plaintiffs’ expert testified that the gate electrode and gate wiring are commonly
understood to be part of a connected structure and testified regarding Figure 55 that the ’958
Patent discloses the gate electrode and gate wiring as the same structure. (Tr. at 24:19–25:25.)
Defendants’ expert also testified that the gate wiring and the gate electrode can be part of the
same structure and further testified that circuits are oftentimes purposely designed that way to
achieve a brighter picture. (Tr. at 50:19–52:4; 58:1–16.) While Defendants’ expert also testified
that Claim 1 distinguishes the “gate wiring” and “gate electrode” by function, he did not explain
how. (Tr. at 44:16–24.) Nor did he sufficiently explain why a person of ordinary skill in the art
would consider the “gate wiring” and “gate electrode” to be distinct structures, but instead
described how a designer might think of the structures according to function. (Tr. at 59:16–
60:20.) Yet, Defendants’ expert did not describe the distinct functions in detail or explain why a
person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the structures must be separate, as
Defendants’ propose. The Court finds this testimony conclusory and ultimately inconsistent with
the specification and with his own testimony regarding examples of circuits where the gate
electrode and the gate wiring were a part of the same structure. (Tr. at 50:19–52:4.)
Accordingly, the Court finds that both the intrinsic and extrinsic record make clear that
the “gate wiring” and “gate electrode” can be a part of the same structure.
As emphasized by the expert testimony provided at the hearing, the parties’ dispute really
surrounds the function of gate wiring and what it means to “convey gate signals,” i.e., whether
“gate wiring” merely “conveys gate signals” or whether it must “convey gate signals from a gate
wiring connection terminal to a gate electrode.” (Tr. at 58:1–59:15.) But Claim 1 does not claim
“gate wiring” in a functional manner; it claims “gate wiring” as a structure that is patterned in
photolithographic step G2. (’958 Patent at 58:17-18 (“a first photolithographic step G2 of
patterning the first metal film to form a gate electrode and a gate wiring”).) Not surprisingly,
nowhere in the intrinsic record does the ’958 Patent discuss gate wiring as conveying a gate
signal, let alone describe what it means to convey a gate signal. That function is simply not the
focus of the ’958 Patent, which is aimed at reducing production costs for electro-optical devices
by reducing the number of photolithographic steps involved on the processing end. (’958 Patent
at 4:26-36.) It was for this reason the Court found it necessary to receive testimony from the
experts regarding how a person of ordinary skill in the art would have understood the term “gate
wiring” at the time of invention.
The Court cannot resolve the parties’ underlying factual dispute as a matter of law.
However, based on the intrinsic record and the testimony provided, the Court rejects Defendants’
proposed limitation that the gate wiring conveys gate signals “from a gate wiring connection
terminal to a gate electrode.”
For the reasons explained herein, Defendants’ proposed
construction is too limiting and excludes an embodiment disclosed in the ’958 Patent that was
known in the art.
While the intrinsic record is silent regarding the function and path of “gate wiring,”
Figure 169 shows known prior art where the gate wiring (G1, G2, ---, Gn) continues beyond the
last electrode (e.g., Sn):
(’958 Patent, Fig. 169; 1:19-28 (“In FIG. 169, a plurality of gate wirings GI, G2, - - - , Gn
electrode and a plurality of source wirings S1, S2, - - - , Sn are wired in a matrix…”).) The Court
acknowledges that this is just a patent drawing of prior art that is not necessarily intended to be
drawn with precision to scale or depiction. See Hockerson-Halberstadt, Inc. v. Avia Group Int’l,
Inc., 222 F.3d 951, 956 (Fed. Circ. 2000) (“it is well established that patent drawings do not
define the precise proportions of the elements and may not be relied on to show particular sizes if
the specification is completely silent on the issue.”). While the precise nature of scaled
dimensions is not at issue here, what is at issue is whether the gate wiring can continue beyond
the terminal gate electrode, as it is depicted in Figure 169. Although Figure 169 depicts a
drawing that would support Plaintiffs’ position, the specification is otherwise entirely silent on
this issue. The specification does not discuss the pathway of gate wiring, describe the gate
wiring in Figure 169 in detail, or discuss the conveyance of gate signals in the circuit.
Accordingly, due to the lack of description in the specification, the Court found it appropriate to
solicit testimony from the experts regarding what would have been known to a person of
ordinary skill in the art at the time.
Plaintiffs’ expert testified that a circuit design, such as that shown in Figure 169, was
commonly known in the art as an “active matrix.” (Tr. at 15:10–17:9.) Plaintiffs’ expert further
explained that once voltage is put on the wire it appears everywhere on the individual wire to
which it is applied. (Id.) In other words, the gate signal is conveyed beyond the last electrode.
Defendants’ expert agreed that the gate wiring, as labeled in Figure 169 of the ’958 Patent,
continues beyond the last gate electrode in this disclosure, and agreed that for practical purposes
the wiring often continues beyond the gate electrode for circuit design purposes. (Tr. at 40:13–
19; 56:11–58:3.) What Defendants’ expert ultimately disputes is whether the wire continuing
beyond the last electrode conveys gate signals. (Tr. at 61:3–62:1.) That factual dispute between
the experts is one the Court cannot resolve as a matter of law from the intrinsic record.4
Nothing in the intrinsic record provides any support to resolve the dispute regarding where the gate signal is
conveyed. Indeed, as discussed above, whether gate signals are conveyed beyond the last electrode has little to do
with the claimed subject matter of the ’958 Patent, which is aimed at reducing the number of photolithographic steps
in processing TFT arrays. (’958 Patent at 4:26-36.) As such, the ’958 Patent makes no mention of gate signals and is
entirely devoid of any description of the meaning of “convey.”
However, based on the intrinsic record, which was further clarified by the testimony of the
experts, the Court must reject Defendants’ proposed construction as a matter of law.
The Court finds that adopting Defendants’ proposal “a patterned electrically-conductive
material that connects and conveys gate signals from a gate wiring connection terminal to a gate
electrode” is too limiting.
This construction would potentially read out the disclosed
embodiment in Figure 169 that was indisputably well known in the art at the time. Here, the
nature of this disclosure, on which the specification was otherwise silent, was confirmed by the
testimony of the experts. Plaintiffs’ expert provided credible testimony that a person of ordinary
skill in the art would have understood the continuation of gate wiring in a commonly known
design, wherein the gate signal can be carried beyond the gate electrode. (Tr. at 15:10–17:9.) For
these reasons, the Court finds the record supports the rejection of Defendants’ construction,
which requires termination of the gate signal at a gate electrode.
Accordingly, the Court rejects Defendants’ proposal and adopts the following as the
meaning of “gate wiring”: “a patterned, electrically conductive material that conveys gate
For the foregoing reasons, the Court adopts the construction of “gate wiring” set forth
above. Defendants’ Motions (Docs. No. 520, 521) are GRANTED-IN-PART and DENIEDIN-PART as directed herein.
So ORDERED and SIGNED this 18th day of February, 2016.
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