On the German Qualcomm v. Apple patent litigation front, next week (the first week of October) will have the same schedule as last week: a Mannheim trial on Tuesday followed by a Munich trial on Thursday.
Last week's Mannheim patent--a switch patent--may not even be infringed, but at any rate it's rather unlikely to be valid. The opinion by the Swedish patent office--perfectly independent because Apple's lawyers couldn't communicate with the examiner and only got to submit two prior art references without any further explanation or documentation--that I mentioned last week is a clear thumbs-down for that patent. At last week's trial its key finding was summarized by counsel for Apple, and a German patent litigator who is not involved with those cases (last time I saw him, he was suing Apple over a SEP) told me that those opinions are private and don't appear in any patent register. However, someone in Sweden appears to have an inside track. My web traffic stats showed an inbound link from a Swedish-language website previously unknown to me, Feber. They obtained and published the opinion by the Swedish patent office (PRV = "Patent- och registreringsverket"), which was apparently written in English.
In order to make it easier for my readers, I've added the text to this blog post, and you can find it below (I didn't make any stylistic or punctuation corrections to the original text). That opinion is crystal clear. However, I wish to point out that Judge Dr. Holger Kircher and his Mannheim panel have to perform their own analysis and apply German law, which doesn't make it too easy for courts to stay patent infringement cases over validity concerns. Even in case they philosophically tend to agree with the conclusions of the Swedish patent examiner (and given their technical expertise, I even venture to guess they probably do), German courts stay patent infringement cases over novelty concerns (if a patent is more likely than not to be deemed anticipated by a single prior art reference) most of the time, and not too often on the basis of likely invalidation for lack of an inventive step. The Swedish patent examiner basically just looked at it as if someone had made a reexamination request.
That said, I still think this persuasive authority ups the ante for Qualcomm in that case. As I reported after the trial, the court came up with a very interesting approach to claim construction that might just result in a non-infringement holding. And then it's obvious that the patent has an obviousness issue, too. If Qualcomm prevailed and prematurely enforced an injunction, but if Apple won in the end, Apple would be entitled to wrongful-enforcement damages. Qualcomm's German counsel has his own experience with wrongful enforcement because Apple enforced injunctions against his client over patents that later died, and Motorola enforced a push notification patent that was later narrowed--but they settled prior to any litigation over wrongful-enforcement damages.
Here's the plain text of the opinion handed down by the Swedish patent office:
Patent examiner: Jenny Wallner
Our ref: 1001510
Date: 23 August 2018
Your ref: A2379-037-DEIEPPr
Enclosed you will find a written opinion based on relevant citations and made with regard to novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability.
The report has been established in view of Swedish and European patent practice, and where applicable the problem-solution approach has been used.
Statement with regard to novelty, inventive step and industrial applicability
Novelty - Yes
Inventive step - No
Industrial applicability - Yes
Citations and explanations
The invention concerns a switch used in a wireless communication device. The invention solves the problem of providing a switch with better isolation and reliability. The problem is solved by using a plurality of transistors coupled in a stacked configuration and a plurality of resistors connected to the gates of the transistors. An additional resistor, arranged to receive the control signal for the transistors, is coupled to the plurality of resistors. Further, a second set of plurality of resistors are coupled to the bulk nodes of the transistors and a second additional resistor is coupled to the second set of plurality of resistors and the bulk voltage.
D1: A. Poh, Y. P. Zhang, "Design and Analysis of Transmit/Receive Switch in Triple-Well CMOS for MIMO Wireless Systems", IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory and Techniques, Vol. 55, No. 3, March 2007
D1 (see Section III, lines 1 - 56 and figure 3) describes the design and analysis of a switch for wireless systems where the insertion loss is reduced and the power handling is improved by using the techniques body floating and series connection of transistors. Series-connected transistors, i.e. transistors coupled in a stacked configuration, are used to increase the power handlng and, both the gate nodes the body nodes are biased using individual large resistors (RG, RB) which is necessary to prevent signal coupling between the series-connected transistors. Further, the individual body resistors (RB) serve to reduce the insertion loss by diminishing capacitive coupling losses through the body contact.
D2 (paragraphs , - and figures 6a-c) describes an improved switch with the aim to control a current output at lower control voltages while providing the optimum balance of insertion loss, isolation, maximum power handling, harmonic generation suppression and leakage current in the control signal. The switch (500, 501, 502) comprises several series-connected transistors (510-535) where resistors (572-582) are introduced between each gate and the control voltage (545) to minimize the effect of leakage current. A second resistor (584) is included in series with each of the resistors (572-582) to increase the overall resistance, i.e. boost the resistance, between the control voltage input (545) and the gates (510-535) and thus reduce the control current applied to the gate.
Document D1 is considered as the closest prior art.
The invention according to claim 1 differs from the device disclosed by D1 in that a first additional resistor is arranged between the control signal input and the plurality of resistors coupled to the gates of the stacked transistors, and further, a second additional resistor is arranged between the bulk voltage node and the plurality of resistors coupled to the bulks of the stacked transistors.
Due to the feature of using the first additional resistor together with the plurality of the resistors coupled to the gates, a switch with better isolation and lower insertion loss is achieved since the impedance is boosted with the value of the first additional resistor. Further, the features of using the second additional resistor together with the plurality of the resistors coupled to the bulks provides similar benefits as those obtained by the resistors coupled to the gates.
With the background of D1, the skilled person is posed with the problem to design a device which achieves high isolation and low insertion loss.
A person skilled in the art would find a solution in D2, since D2 describes a switch where parameters as insertion loss and isolation are improved by using an additional resistor together with the plurality of resistors coupled to the gates (paragraphs - and figure 6c).
With the background of D1, the person skilled in the art posed with the problem of designing a switch with high isolation and low insertion loss would use an additional resistor coupled between the plurality of resistors coupled to the gates and the control input in order to increase the impedance as in D2. Further, a person skilled in the art of circuit design would, from his common knowledge, see the possibility of improving the switch performance by adding the same feature for the bulks, i.e. using a second additional resistor coupled to the plurality of resistors arranged at the bulks to also increase this impedance, and thereby arrive at the invention as in claim 1.
Therefore, the subject matter of claim 1 is not considered to differ significantly from what is known from D1 and D2. Accordingly, the invention according to claim 1 does not involve an inventive step.
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