Monday, May 05, 2014

Intellectual Ventures Wins Lawsuit Against Canon

Intellectual Ventures reports that the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware rendered a verdict finding two Intellectual Ventures’ (IV) image sensor patents valid and infringed by digital camera products of Canon Inc. and Canon USA. adds that "the jury held that Canon’s EOS 1DS Mark III, EOS 5D Mark II and Vixia Camcorders infringe at least one claim of U.S. Patent Number 6,023,081, which Canon failed to invalidate for obviousness."

The US 6,023,081 patent "Semiconductor image sensor" by Clifford Drowley, Jennifer Patterson, Shrinath Ramaswami, and Mark Swenson was originally filed by Motorola in 1997 and granted in 2000.


  1. Claim 3 of '081:

    “3. An image sensor comprising:

    a substrate;

    a pinned photodiode on the substrate;

    a dielectric layer overlying the pinned photodiode; and

    a silicide layer on a portion of the image sensor wherein an area overlying the pinned photodiode is devoid of the silicide layer.”

    The US PTO examiner in fact rejected Claim 3 twice because it was obvious, but the 3rd time around he allowed it without explanation or comment.

    This claim was not found to be obvious in this case despite my 1995 IEDM Plenary session paper from 2 years earlier on CMOS image sensors that included the following paragraph:

    “4. Impact of CMOS Scaling Trends
    The future prospects for CMOS image sensors are bright. The effect of predictable trends in CMOS technology, based on the industry standard technology roadmap, were examined by Fossum and Wong of JPL/IBM. To at least 0.25 pm minimum feature sizes, it appears that the standard CMOS process will permit the fabrication of high performance CMOS image sensors. The most obvious problem, but the easiest to correct, is the trend toward the use of silicides. Silicides are optically opaque and detrimental to image sensing. A silicide-blocking mask is available in some processes already. “

    It is an unfathomable and disappointing verdict by the jury.

  2. It's not a disappointment, it's a shame. How this kind of claim can be allowed ? They call EPI layer "an enhanced layer", it's meaningless !

    -yang ni

    1. Only claim 3 of '081, and claims 14 & 16 of '686 were considered at this trial. Claims involving the so-called enhanced layer were not considered at trial. But, I agree with you on that!

  3. Intellectual Ventures do not make any of these products, so there is no damage.

  4. It is a jury trial and anything can happen there, judging from the famous (or infamous) McDonald coffee spill verdict. These folks may not have any idea what an electron is and you tried to explain to them what a silicide layer is?

  5. For the second patent in the trial, claims 14 and 16 of '686 relate to implanting the pinned photodiode using two different implant angles (one for the N storage well and one for the P pinning layer). Such angles are well described in prior patents for CCD PPD fabrication. In the eyes of the jury, such prior art did not render the use of angled implants obvious for '686.

    There was a 2nd line of reasoning for invalidating '081 and '686 regarding inventorship. I am not sure if I can discuss it at this time but it is related to this article. The jury found both patents valid.

  6. Why do they allow juries to rule on these? Judge would be better, or a jury that has at least a basic understanding of some of the concepts, that would be being judged by peers.

    It seems like it is having inhabitants of one planet ruling in a case for another planet, where neither speak the same language or have the same customs.


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