SAN FRANCISCO—The U.S. International Trade Commission issued an exclusion order Tuesday (May 10), barring further importation into the U.S. of MEMS microphones sold by Knowles Electronics Inc. that were found to infringe patents held by Analog Devices Inc. The exclusion order is effective July 11.
The exclusion order was issued after the ITC ruled that Knowles infringed an ADI patent covering the coating of wafer anti-stiction application in MEMS manufacturing. The patent at issue is U.S. patent No. 7,364,942.
Knowles (Itasca, Ill.) said it no longer uses the processes at issue in the ITC case.
The ITC's order prohibits the unlicensed entry of MEMS devices or products that contain MEMS devices which infringe claims two through six of the patent No. 7,364,942 that are manufactured by or on behalf of Knowles or Mouser Electronics Inc. (Mansfield, Texas), according to the order.
The ITC’s decision confirms an initial ruling by an ITC administrative law judge issued on Dec. 23, 2010, which found that Knowles infringed ADI's patent. The ruling did reverse part of the administrative law judge's December ruling pertaining to some other patents at issue.
"We are very pleased that the ITC ruled in our favor," said Mark Martin, vice president of ADI's MEMS/Sensor Technology Group, in a statement.
"While we are gratified that the ITC has granted our request and issued an exclusion order barring importation of Knowles microphones into the United States, our dispute with Knowles is not over," said Margaret Seif, ADI vice president and general counsel. Seif said ADI expects to recover "significant financial damages for Knowles' past sales of infringing MEMS microphones," through a pending lawsuit against Knowles in Delaware.
"In addition, we will do what we can to insure that Knowles does not import infringing products into the United States, either directly or indirectly," Seif said.
Knowles said the ITC's ruling clears the way for the company to continue selling and importing its MEMS microphones. The company previously transitioned all of its production to a manufacturing process that ADI did not claim infringed its patents during the ITC ITC investigation.
"The ITC has now expressly affirmed an earlier ruling that products manufactured under Knowles’s current process would not be subject to any exclusion order issued by the ITC," Knowles said in a statement. The ITC’s decision makes clear that imports by Knowles’s customers who incorporate Knowles’ microphones into their products may continue without interruption, regardless of the process used to manufacture those microphones, Knowles said.
In January, the ITC confirmed an earlier ruling by the administrative law judge in the case, which found that two of Knowles' patents were invalid, and that ADI was not restricted from selling its own MEMS microphones.
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