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August Technology Corporation v. Camtek, Ltd.

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 31, 2014

AUGUST TECHNOLOGY CORPORATION and RUDOLPH TECHNOLOGIES, INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
CAMTEK, LTD, Defendant.

William D. Schultz and Daniel W. McDonald, MERCHANT & GOULD PC, 80 South Eighth Street, Suite 3200, Minneapolis, MN 55402, for plaintiff August Technology Corporation.

Daniel W. McDonald, MERCHANT & GOULD PC, 80 South Eighth Street, Suite 3200, Minneapolis, MN 55402, for plaintiff Rudolph Technologies, Inc.

Wayne O. Stacy, COOLEY LLP, 380 Interlocken Crescent, Suite 900, Broomfield, CO 80021; and William F. Mohrman, MOHRMAN & KAARDAL, 33 South Sixth Street, Suite 4100, Minneapolis, MN 55402, for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

JOHN R. TUNHEIM, District Judge.

Plaintiffs August Technology Corporation and Rudolph Technologies, Inc. brought this patent infringement action against Defendant Camtek, Ltd. ("Camtek") in 2005 alleging infringement of claims 1 through 5 of United States Patent No. 6, 826, 298 (the "6, 298 patent"). The 6, 298 patent is a system that inspects semiconductor wafers, the structures upon which microchips are manufactured. In 2009, a jury found that Camtek had infringed claims 1 and 3, which are the independent claims of the 6, 298 patent. Camtek appealed the jury's determination arguing, among other things, that the Court had erred when it construed "wafer" to mean "[a] thin part of semiconductor material with circuitry thereon that is ready for electrical testing, or any part thereof." Camtek argued that the 6, 298 patent requires that a system perform a variety of operations on multiple wafers, and that the Court's construction of the term wafer impermissibly allowed the jury to find infringement, even though Camtek's product allegedly only performs the operations on multiple portions of a single, physically discrete wafer.

The Federal Circuit agreed with Camtek, and construed the term "wafer" to mean "a thin, discrete slice of semiconductor material with circuitry thereon that is ready for electrical testing having one or more dies. A plurality of wafers means more than one physically distinct wafer." August Tech. Corp. v. Camtek, Ltd., 655 F.3d 1278, 1286 (Fed. Cir. 2011). The Federal Circuit therefore vacated the verdict of infringement, and remanded "for a limited trial on infringement with respect to this claim element." Id.

The case is now before the Court on Camtek's motion for claim construction, cross-motions for summary judgment on the issue of infringement, and three motions to exclude expert reports and testimony. Because the Court finds that Camtek's request for claim construction and certain elements of its summary judgment motion fall outside the scope of the Federal Circuit's remand, it will deny those motions. The Court will grant Rudolph's motion for summary judgment with respect to the training elements of claims 1 and 3, as no material issues of fact remain as to whether Camtek's product was capable of practicing the infringing method and did, in fact, practice such a method. Finally, the Court will deny the motions to exclude the expert reports and testimony, as the issues raised in the motions go primarily to the weight, not the admissibility, of the expert reports and testimony.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff August Technology Corporation developed the inventions resulting in the 6, 298 patent which forms the basis of this action. (Thirty-Second Decl. of Joseph E. Lee, Ex. A, July 2, 2012, Docket No. 835.) Rudolph Technologies, Inc. purchased August Technology and Rudolph and August Technology (collectively, "Rudolph") are now co-owners of the 6, 298 patent. Rudolph makes and sells automated visual inspection systems for the microelectronics industry, including systems for secondary inspection of semiconductor wafers.

Rudolph and Camtek are direct competitors in the market for automated wafer inspection systems. (Mem. Op. & Order (" Markman Order") at 2, Jan. 3, 2008, Docket No. 268.) In 2005, Rudolph sued Camtek for infringing claims 1 through 5 of the 6, 298 patent with Camtek's device, the Falcon. (Compl., July 14, 2005, Docket No. 1.) Claims 1 and 3 are independent claims.

I. PATENT TECHNOLOGY BACKGROUND

The 6, 298 patent embodies an invention related to the manufacture of semiconductors, which are vital to the design of electronic components and circuitry, including memory and computer processing circuits. (Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex. A 1:15-16, 41-46.) The manufacture of semiconductors begins with a wafer, which is a thin layer of silicon crystal ranging from 4 to 12 inches in diameter. Through a number of processes, circuitry is deposited in layers upon the wafer. ( Id., Ex. A 1:65-67.) "The whole wafer with circuitry is then sawn into smaller pieces known in the industry as die, " which each contain an electronic circuit. ( Id., Ex. A 1:67-2:1.) Depending on the type of circuitry, anywhere from tens to thousands of individual die can be created on a single wafer. (First Decl. of Wayne Stacy, Ex. A 8:12-22, July 7, 2012, Docket No. 825.) A single die contains a complete electronic circuit, and is then removed from the wafer and packaged as an individual microchip. ( See Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex A 2:47-50.)

The 6, 298 patent is directed to a system and method for automatically inspecting the semiconductors printed on substrates such as wafers. August Tech. Corp., 655 F.3d at 1282; (Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex. A 1:15-26.) Systems have been developed for inspecting semiconductors at various stages of their production. (Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex. A 2:4-5.) For example, bare wafers are typically inspected for imperfections or irregularities before any circuitry has been deposited upon them. ( Id., Ex. A 2:5-11.) The next level of inspection occurs during circuitry creation and is known in the industry as the "first optical inspection." ( Id., Ex. A 2:12-29.) The 6, 298 patent involves a method and system designed to perform the second optical inspection which occurs during and after sawing of the wafer into individual dies, after the whole wafer has been fully processed and circuitry deposition is complete. ( Id., Ex. 2:30-46.) This second optical inspection examines the fully processed wafer for a number of defects, from scratches and corrosion to scribing errors. ( Id.; First Stacy Decl., Ex. C at 13.) Prior to Rudolph's invention resulting in the 6, 298 patent, the second optical inspection was typically done manually and was expensive as well as fraught with inaccuracies. (Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex. A 3:9-20.)

II. THE 6, 298 PATENT

The 6, 298 patent contains five claims, 1 and 3 being the independent claims that are at issue in the present motions.

A. Infringement Claim

1. Claim 1

Claim one of the 6, 298 patent recites:

An automated system for inspecting a substrate such as a wafer in any form including whole patterned wafers, sawn wafers, broken wafers, and wafers of any kind on film frames, dies, die in gel paks, die in waffle paks, multi-chip modules often called MCMs, JEDEC trays, Auer boats, and other wafer and die package configurations for defects, the system comprising:
a wafer test plate;
a wafer provider for providing a wafer to the test plate;
a visual inspection device for visual inputting of a plurality of known good quality wafers during training and for visual inspection of other unknown quality wafers during inspection;
at least one of a brightfield illuminator positioned approximately above, a darkfield illuminator positioned approximately above, and a darkfield laser positioned approximately about the periphery of the wafer test plate, all of which are for providing illumination to the unknown quality wafers during inspection and at least one of which strobes to provide short pulses of light during movement of a wafer under inspection based on a velocity of the wafer; and a microprocessor having processing and memory capabilities for developing a model of good quality wafer and comparing unknown quality wafers to the model.

( Id., Ex. A 20:55-21:9.)

2. Claim 3

Claim three of the 6, 298 patent provides:

An automated method of inspecting a semiconductor wafer in any form including whole patterned wafers, sawn wafers, broken wafers, and wafers of any kind of film frames, dies, die in gel paks, die in waffle paks, multichip modules often called MCMs, JEDEC trays, Auer boats, and other wafer and die package configurations for defects, the method comprising:
training a model as to parameters of a good wafer via optical viewing of multiple known good wafers;
illuminating unknown quality wafers using at least one of a brightfield illuminator positioned approximately above, a darkfield illuminator positioned approximately above, and a darkfield laser positioned approximately about the periphery of a wafer test plate on which the wafer is inspected, all of which are for providing illumination to the unknown quality wafers during inspection and at least one of which flashes on and off during movement of a wafer under inspection at a sequence correlating to a velocity of the wafer; and
inspecting unknown quality wafers using the model.

( Id., Ex. A 21:17-22:15.)

III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case has extensive procedural history some of which provides useful background for the factual issues relevant to the current motions. This Order therefore addresses the relevant procedural history first, before discussing the facts regarding Camtek's allegedly infringing product, the Falcon, in the context of the parties' various motions.

A. Markman Hearing

In a January 3, 2008 Markman order, the Court construed a number of terms in the 6, 298 patent which are relevant to the current motions, including:

Wafer. The Court construed "wafer" to mean "[a] thin slice of semiconductor material with circuitry thereon that is ready for electrical testing, or any part thereof." ( Markman Order at 8, 11.)

Training. The Court construed training to mean "[e]xamining wafers to develop a model of a good quality wafer." ( Id. at 20.) In adopting this construction, the Court rejected Rudolph's construction which incorporated "telling the system what a good die' comprises, and viewing good die to form a model based on common characteristics, elements, and ranges. The model is then used to inspect die to locate defects." ( Id. at 19-20 (internal citation omitted).) Instead, the Court found that "Plaintiffs['] reliance on the step in which the model is used to inspect die to locate defects is a step separate from training, and need not be used to define training." ( Id. at 20.)

Unknown Quality Wafer. The Court construed "unknown quality wafer" to mean "[w]afers for which the location of one or more defects, if any, is not identified or ascertained prior to inspection." ( Id. at 13-14.)

Plurality of Known Good Quality Wafers/Multiple Known Good Wafers. The Court construed this term to mean "[m]ultiple wafers' that are recognized individually or as a whole to be sufficiently free of defects for training purposes (e.g. die that have been inspected, tested, or otherwise reviewed prior to or during training)." ( Id. at 11-12.) The Court noted that its construction was consistent with the 6, 298 patent's specifications which state that the system "conducts die inspection by studying a user provided set of known good die" and that "the definition of a good die depends on user provided information." ( Id. at 12 (citing Thirty-Second Lee Decl., Ex. A 12:13-15, 12:67-13:4).)

B. Trial

An eighteen-day jury trial was held from February 2, 2009, through March 5, 2009. ( See Court Minutes, Feb. 2, 2009, Docket No. 406; Court Minutes, Mar. 5, 2009, Docket No. 465.) At trial, Camtek disputed infringement, arguing that three elements of claim 1 were absent from the Falcon:

(1) a visual inspection device for visual inputting of a plurality of known good quality wafers during training and visual inspection of other unknown quality wafers during inspection; (2) an illuminator that strobes to provide short pulses of light during movement of a wafer under inspection based on a velocity of the wafer; and (3) a microprocessor for developing a model of a good quality wafer and comparing unknown quality wafers to the model

(Final Jury Instruction 13, Mar. 3, 2009, Docket No. 463.) Camtek did "not dispute that the Falcon includes the other features of claim 1, which includes the wafer test plate, wafer provider, and brightfield and darkfield illuminators." ( Id. ) Camtek also disputed that it practiced the following steps of the claimed inspection method for purposes of claim 3:

(1) training a model as to parameters of a good wafer via optical viewing of multiple known good wafers; (2) illuminating unknown quality wafers with an illuminator that flashes on and off during movement of a wafer under inspection at a sequence correlating to a velocity of the wafer; and (3) inspecting unknown quality wafers using the model.

( Id. ) Camtek did "not dispute that Camtek practices the other steps of claim 3." ( Id. ) For the remainder of this Order, the Court will refer to disputed element one as the "training element, " disputed element two as the "strobing element, " and disputed element three as the ...


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