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No Infringement Where Structural Difference Renders Claimed Function Impossible

Apr.17.2006

Despite affirming the district court's summary judgment of non-infringement in Semitool, Inc. v. Dynamic Micro Systems Semiconductor Equipment GmbH, (“DMS”) (No. 05-1299; April 6, 2006), the Federal Circuit finds the district court's claim construction flawed. The primary claim at issue relates to a semiconductor wafer carrier cleaning system and is directed to a process using “a processing chamber within the processing vessel” and furthermore “supplying drying gas to the processing chamber.” The district court granted a motion for summary judgment of non-infringement in favor of DMS, but concluded that it did not need to reach the issue of whether a “condensing unit” of the allegedly-infringing product was part of the process chamber or a separate unit. Instead, the district court focused on the function of whether the condenser supplied gas to the processing chamber. In contrast, the Federal Circuit reasons that, since the condenser of the allegedly-infringing product resides inside the processing chamber, it cannot supply the recited drying gas. Thus, the determinative claim language was the recited structure and not the function.

[http://fedcir.gov/opinions/05-1299.pdf]

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