The Federal Circuit overturned a nearly $14 million infringement verdict against three LED manufacturers on Wednesday, finding that the claim in Boston University’s patent that they allegedly infringed describes something physically impossible, making it ineligible for patent protection.
The claimatissue in U.S. Patent Number 5,686,738, which covers a certain way of growing layers on a semiconductor — in this case an LED — doesn’t meet enablement requirements, the threejudge panel said. Someone reading the patent would have to rely on “undue experimentation” to create the described layer, and the companies successfully proved that actually reaching the desired effect would be “impossible,” the court wrote.
More specifically, the claim in the ‘738 patent describes growing a monocrystalline layer directly on an amorphous layer, or in layman’s terms, growing a singlecrystalline structure onto a noncrystal region, using a process called epitaxy, the opinion said. That process involves depositing molecules of the semiconductor material onto the noncrystal surface, which then try to copy the underlying crystal lattice structure as they grow, the court wrote. Read more