Microchip Wins Second Reexamination Victory at Board

Scott Daniels | September 2, 2010

Microchip Technology won today its second victory at the PTO Board of Appeals in less than a month.

Microchip’s U.S. Patent No. 6,483,183 claimed an integrated circuit package with an IC chip including a microcontroller having an n-bit data bus and up to n pins electrically coupled to the microcontroller.  The examiner had determined that the claimed IC package was obvious over the prior art.  Significantly, the examiner found that the “microcomputer” disclosed in the primary reference corresponded to the “microcontroller” recited in the pending claims.

The Board has now reversed the examiner, holding that one skilled in the art would construe “microcontroller” as having all the functions of a complete computer, essentially, a computer-on-a-chip that includes a central processing unit, a memory, and input/output interfaces.  Since the microcomputer of the primary reference did not include a memory, it was not a complete computer and the prior art did not render Microchip’s claimed IC package obvious.

On August 11, the Board issued a very similar decision, reversing the rejection of the claims of Microchip’s U.S. Patent No. 5,847,450.

A third Microchip patent – U.S. Patent No. 6,696,316 – is related to the ‘183 and ‘450 patents and is also in reexamination.  There, Microchip has appealed a final rejection of the claims, but briefs have not yet been filed.  The ‘316 appeal raises a different issue from that considered in the ‘183 and ‘450 appeals: whether the claim term “microcontroller” may be construed as covering both a single-chip device and a multi-chip device.

Microchip sued Zilog in Arizona in 2005 for infringement of the three patents, and later filed a similar case against Luminary Micro in 2006.  Both cases were stayed in 2006 pending completion of the reexaminations.   The parties are obligated to report the completion of the reexaminations to the court.  Since the ‘316 claims that remain in reexamination have a clearly different scope from the ‘183 and ‘450 claims, the court may wish to resume the litigation without waiting for a final decision regarding the ‘316 claims.

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