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Ericsson v. TCL Corp.

United States Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit

November 7, 2019


          Appeals from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Patent Trial and Appeal Board in Nos. IPR2015-01584, IPR2015-01600.

          Debra Janece McComas, Haynes & Boone, LLP, Dallas, TX, argued for appellant. Also represented by J. Andrew Lowes, Clint S. Wilkins, Richardson, TX.

          Julie S. Goldemberg, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, Philadelphia, PA, argued for appellees. Also represented by William R. Peterson, Houston, TX; Nathan W. McCutcheon, Bradford Cangro, Washington, DC.

          Before Newman, Lourie, and Clevenger, Circuit Judges.

          Newman, Circuit Judge.

         Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson ("Ericsson") is the owner of United States Patent No. 6, 029, 052 ("the '052 patent"). TCL Corporation, TCL Communication Technology Holdings, Ltd., TCT Mobile Limited, TCT Mobile Inc., and TCT Mobile (US), Inc., (collectively "TCL") filed two petitions for inter partes review ("IPR") of claims 13, 15, 16, and 18 of the '052 patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board ("PTAB" or "Board") instituted review, consolidated the petitions, and ruled that all of the challenged claims are unpatentable on the ground of obviousness.[1]

         The '052 patent describes and claims a "direct conversion receiver" for wireless communication systems that may receive signals from systems that operate at different frequency bands. The primary issue on appeal is whether a specific foreign publication is an available reference against the '052 patent. We affirm the Board's decision that the specified publication is an available reference, and based on this publication in combination with other prior art we affirm the Board's decision of invalidity of the challenged claim.

         The Ericsson '052 Patent

         The method claimed in the '052 patent is stated to be an improvement over conventional modes of receiving and processing wireless signals from communication systems that operate at differing frequencies. Such systems previously required separate receiver components to process signals arriving at differing frequencies. The '052 patent claims a method whereby receivers "can receive signals at multiple frequency bands without requiring significant hardware duplication." '052 patent, col. 2, ll. 3-28.

         Claim 18 is at issue on appeal, shown with claim 13 from which it depends:

13. A method for receiving a communication signal, comprising the steps of:
receiving a communication signal in any one of a plurality of frequency bands, the communication signal having a bandwidth;
band-pass filtering the received communication signal;
amplifying the band-pass filtered signal;
mixing the band-pass filtered signal with in-phase and quadrature oscillator signals to generate an in-phase and a quadrature received signal; and
low pass filtering the in-phase received signal and the quadrature received signal in a low pass in-phase filter and a low pass quadrature filter, respectively,
wherein direct conversion is used for converting all received communication signals in any one of the plurality of frequency bands.
18. The method of claim 13, further comprising the steps of generating a first oscillator signal and frequency-dividing the first oscillator signal to generate the in-phase and quadrature oscillator signals prior to the step of mixing.

         Patent Figure 3 depicts the method of the '052 patent:

(Image Omitted)

          The specification explains that wireless signals are received at antenna 10, and bandsplitter 30 splits the signals into two frequency bands. The split signals are filtered by band pass filters (BPF), shown at 12a and 12b, to remove out-of-band unwanted components that are frequency band specific. The filtered signals are amplified by low-noise amplifiers (LNA) shown at 34a and 34b. The signals proceed to a mixing circuit that includes a voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) 36 for generating an oscillator signal. A quadrature[2] generator 38 separates the oscillator signal into in-phase (I) and quadrature (Q) components.

         Frequency phase shifting is conducted by either the quadrature generator 38 or a frequency divider that generates quadrature local oscillator signals. The phase shifter receives the signal from a local oscillator and outputs two signals separated by 90 degrees. These divided signals are sent to mixers 40 and 41, which compare the divided signals against the received signal. The signals are filtered in an in-phase low pass filter 42a and a quadrature low pass filter 42b, and the filtered signals are passed to conventional baseband processing circuitry. '052 patent, col. 3, 11. 9-28; col. 4, 11. 10-23.

          The principal reference presented by petitioner TCL and relied on by the PTAB is an article entitled "Multi-modale Funktelefone" (translation: Multimodal Wireless Telephones), authored by Professor Hans-Joachim Jentschel et al. and published in the German technical journal "Ingenieur der Kommunikationstechnik" (translation: Engineer of Communications Technology). The initial question is whether this article is available as prior art.


         The ...

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