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Avx Corp. v. Presidio Components, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

May 13, 2019

AVX CORPORATION, Appellant
v.
PRESIDIO COMPONENTS, INC., Appellee

          Appeal from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in No. IPR2016-00636.

          George Ellsworth Quillin, Foley & Lardner LLP, Washington, DC, argued for appellant. Also represented by Ruben Jose Rodrigues, Boston, MA; Michael Robert Houston, Richard Spencer Montei, Chicago, IL.

          Gregory F. Ahrens, Wood, Herron & Evans, LLP, Cincinnati, OH, argued for appellee. Also represented by Brett A. Schatz.

          Before Newman, O'Malley, and Taranto, Circuit Judges.

          Taranto, Circuit Judge.

         Presidio Components, Inc., which manufactures and sells a variety of ceramic capacitors, owns U.S. Patent No. 6, 661, 639, which describes and claims single-layer ceramic capacitors with certain features. Competitor AVX Corporation manufactures and sells a variety of electronic components, including capacitors. AVX petitioned the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for an inter partes review (IPR), under 35 U.S.C. §§ 311-319, of all 21 claims of the ʼ639 patent, asserting several grounds for unpatentability based on obviousness under 35 U.S.C. § 103. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board, acting pursuant to delegated authority, see 37 C.F.R. §§ 42.4, 42.108, instituted a review of all claims under 35 U.S.C. § 314. In August 2017, the Board issued a final written decision under 35 U.S.C. § 318. Although it held claims 13-16 and 18 unpatentable, the Board held that AVX had failed to establish unpatent-ability of all other claims, i.e., claims 1-12, 17, and 19-21 (the "upheld claims").

         Presidio does not appeal the Board's decision as to the unpatentable claims, but AVX appeals the Board's decision as to the upheld claims. Presidio responds to AVX on the merits but also argues that AVX, though it has a statutory right to appeal, see 35 U.S.C. §§ 141, 319, lacks the standing required by Article III of the Constitution to appeal the Board's decision. Because we conclude that AVX lacks standing, we dismiss the appeal and do not reach the merits of the Board's ruling on the upheld claims.

         I

         The specification of the ʼ639 patent describes the relevant features of the claimed capacitors. Each capacitor has a dielectric layer sandwiched between two "end blocks," which are made from "composite material" that is either conductive or covered by a conductive coating. ʼ639 patent, col. 3, lines 9-23. In some embodiments described in the specification, and in all claims in dispute on appeal, each capacitor has a "buried metallization" in the dielectric layer, which is connected to the end blocks by at least one conductive, metal-filled "via." Id., col. 7, lines 46-60. The buried metallization varies the capacitance of the device. Id., col. 7, lines 60-61. The dielectric and composite-material layers are laminated together, cut into chips, and sintered to produce monolithic capacitors that are structurally sound. Id., col. 3, lines 2-9. The capacitors are cheap and easy to produce, and the thin dielectric layers give them high capacitances. Id.

         Claim 1 is illustrative for present purposes:

1. A capacitor comprising:
an essentially monolithic structure comprising at least one composite portion sintered with a ceramic dielectric portion,
a buried metallization in the dielectric portion and at least one conductive metal-filled via extending from the buried metallization to the composite portion,
wherein the composite portion includes a ceramic and a conductive metal, the capacitor further characterized by a feature selected from the group consisting of:
(a)the composite portion comprises the conductive metal in an amount sufficient to render the composite portion conductive, wherein the composite portion provides an electrical lead for attaching the capacitor to a metallic surface trace on a printed circuit board; and
(b) a metallization area partially between the composite portion and the ceramic dielectric portion, and a conductive metal coating on faces of the composite portion not sintered to the ceramic dielectric portion, whereby the conductive metal coating provides an electrical lead for attaching ...

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