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Shure Inc. v. Clearone, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

August 5, 2019

SHURE, INC., Plaintiff, Counter-Defendant,
v.
CLEARONE, INC., Defendant / Counter-Plaintiff.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Honorable Edmond E. Chang United States District Judge.

         This litigation concerns two patents on audio conferencing technology. Shure, Inc. sued its competitor ClearOne (the owner of the patents), seeking a declaration of invalidity and non-infringement at first on U.S. Patent No. 9, 635, 186.[1] R. 1, Compl. ¶ 1.[2] In response, ClearOne filed a counterclaim for infringement against Shure.[3]R. 28, Counterclaim. After expedited discovery, ClearOne moved for a preliminary injunction to halt Shure's alleged infringement of the '186 Patent. R. 81, Mot. Prelim. Inj. '186 Patent (redacted). The Court denied ClearOne's motion. R. 279, Mem. Op. and Order (redacted). During the pendency of the first preliminary-injunction motion, ClearOne was granted another audio conferencing patent, U.S. Patent No. 9, 813, 806, and asserted infringement on that patent too. R. 260, Second Am. Compl. ClearOne later also moved for a preliminary injunction to halt Shure's alleged infringement of the '806 Patent, also based on Shure's MXA910. R. 369, Mot. Prelim. Inj. '806 Patent (redacted). In November 2018, the Court held a hearing on that motion and took it under advisement.

         Meanwhile, the parties finished fact discovery and briefed their claim construction arguments on both the '186 and '806 Patents. See R. 508, Shure Claim Const. Br.; R. 520 ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. (redacted); R. 522, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. (sealed); R. 535, Shure Claim Const. Reply. The Court heard oral argument on claim construction on July 12, 2019. See R. 520, Minute Entry. Arguments and evidence presented for the first time at the claim construction stage are discussed below where they are relevant to issues that had already been raised in the preliminary injunction context.[4]

         After hearing arguments and reviewing the parties' evidence, the Court finds that ClearOne has met its burden of demonstrating entitlement to the extraordinary relief of a preliminary injunction on the '806 Patent. ClearOne has shown a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits: Shure is likely infringing the '806 Patent and has not raised a substantial question of the patent's validity. ClearOne has established that it will suffer irreparable harm without a preliminary injunction, and the balance of harms and public interest tip in its favor. As discussed in the Opinion's end, the Court sets a prompt litigation schedule on the appropriate bond amount so that it may be decided and posted in order to make the preliminary injunction operative.

         I. Background

         A. The '806 Patent

         The only patent at issue in this preliminary injunction motion is the '806 Patent (referred to by ClearOne as the “Graham Patent”). The '806 Patent claims an invention that combines a beamforming microphone array (commonly abbreviated in the industry as “BFMA”) with a ceiling tile so that the BFMA can pick up sound throughout a conference room while remaining somewhat hidden from view. As ClearOne's expert, Dan Schonfeld, has explained it, “The Graham Patent covers the integration of beamforming microphones into a ceiling tile, which delivers audio through an acoustically-transparent outer surface, but conceals the microphone array on its backside, so that it can be seamlessly integrated into the drop ceiling of a room.” R. 372, Schonfeld Decl. ¶ 25 (redacted).

         The benefit of integrating a beamforming microphone array with a ceiling tile is that it allows the technology to be out-of-sight. In the context of audio conferencing, the typical conference setup involves multiple attendees in one room, all communicating with attendees in another location. R. 372, Schonfeld Dec. ¶ 26 (redacted). The “conventional wisdom” has traditionally been that in such scenarios, microphones should be as close to the attendees as possible. Id.; R. 360, Graham Decl. ¶ 8 (“[T]he conventional wisdom was that closer is better regarding the distance between a talker and a microphone for audio conferencing.”); R. 367-1, Giza Exh. 22 at 1 (Shure blog explaining that “to an experienced audio engineer, the ceiling is the last place to mount a microphone. Why? Because it is far away from the desired audio source (the talker) …”). At the same time, popular demand from many audio conferencing users was that microphones not be on conference room tables, and that they be as close to out-of-sight as possible. R. 366, Mot. Prelim. Inj. '806 Patent at 22-23 (sealed).[5]

         The development of beamforming microphones did not immediately disrupt the traditional view. As the Court explained in its decision denying ClearOne's motion for a preliminary injunction on the '186 Patent,

Beamforming is a technology that combines signals from multiple microphones in a microphone array to generate combined audio signals (called “beams”) that pick up sounds from a particular location. … The advantage of a beamforming microphone is that it can focus in on the sounds that audio-conference participants want to hear (that is, people's voices), while filtering out unwanted sounds (like background noise and paper shuffling).

R. 279, Mem. Op. and Order at 3 (cleaned up)[6] (redacted). ClearOne's original beamforming microphone product, the BMA, responded to the traditional view requiring microphones located close to speakers. Because most conferencing users wanted their conferencing microphones off their conference tables, teams at ClearOne first focused on extending their ceiling-mounted beamforming microphone down into the room as far as possible, minimizing the distance between the attendees and the microphone. R. 360, Graham Decl. ¶¶ 8-10 (“ClearOne engineers … spent several months of engineering effort to design a new ceiling mount that would allow the beamforming array to be adjustably positioned as much as 24 inches down from the ceiling in order to be closer to the audio source-the talkers in a room.”).

         But in the course of product development, ClearOne engineers realized that mounting their BFMA on the ceiling-that is, increasing the distance between the BFMA and the speakers in the room-reduced the quality of the sound it produced less than the engineers thought it would. R. 360, Graham Decl. ¶ 9. Their beamforming technology made the audio quality better than the quality a non-beaming microphone would achieve when mounted on the ceiling. R. 477, Prelim. Inj. Hrg. Tr. at 76:1-9 (Graham testifying that the “actual test results indicated that the beamforming microphone array actually sounded better than the traditional ceiling microphones that were used at the time.”); R. 370, Giza Exh. 10 (sealed) (XXXXX). The next month, ClearOne engineers came up with the idea to integrate a BFMA with a ceiling tile. Prelim. Inj. Hrg. Tr. at 80:25-81:20; R. 360, Graham Decl. ¶ 10. And alas, the ‘806 Patent came into being.

         ClearOne has identified four representative claims of the '806 Patent: Claim 1 is the independent claim, and Claims 4, 5, and 6 depend on it. R. 326-1, ClearOne Am. Alleged Infring. Content. at 1. The preamble to Claim 1 disclosed a BFMA integrated with a ceiling tile as a “single unit where the ceiling tile is used in a drop ceiling mounting configuration.” R. 412-1, Patel Exh. 1, '806 Patent Col. 13:12-15. Limitation 1 of Claim 1 requires “a beamforming microphone array that includes a plurality of microphones that picks up audio input signals.” Id. Col. 13:16-17. Limitations 2 and 3 disclose an acoustically transparent outer surface to the tile through which the BFMA picks up audio input signals. Id. Col. 13:18-24. Limitation 4 requires using the integrated tile-BFMA in a “drop ceiling mounting configuration.” Id. Col. 13:25-26. And finally, Limitation 5 discloses that the BFMA is “coupled to the back side of said ceiling tile and all or part of said beamforming microphone array is in the drop space of the drop ceiling.” Id. Col. 13:27-30. Dependent Claims 4, 5, and 6 disclose, respectively, that the ceiling tile “comprises acoustic or vibration damping material” (Claim 4); that the “outer surface [of it] comprises a grille” (Claim 5); and that “said outer surface is coplanar with said ceiling tile” (Claim 6). Id. Col. 13:38-43.

         B. Alleged Infringement

         The Shure MXA910 is a beamforming microphone array that “may be mounted to replace a ceiling tile.” R. 402, Shure Resp. at 16 (emphasis omitted) (redacted). The MXA910 includes XXXXX placed in a two-foot by two-foot housing. R. 417, Cerra Decl. ¶ 12 (sealed). The array is “sized to align with the grid of a drop ceiling.” R. 407, LeBlanc Decl. ¶ 28. ClearOne alleges that Shure's MXA910 practices all the elements of Claims 1, 4, 5, and 6 of the '806 Patent.

         II. Standard of Review: Preliminary Injunction Motions

         The Patent Act authorizes courts to grant injunctions to prevent violations of patent rights. 35 U.S.C. § 283. To obtain a preliminary injunction, the moving party must show: “(1) a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits; (2) irreparable harm if an injunction is not granted; (3) a balance of hardships tipping in its favor; and (4) the injunction's favorable impact on the public interest.” Amazon.com, Inc. v. Barnesandnoble.com, Inc., 239 F.3d 1343, 1350 (Fed. Cir. 2001). On likelihood of success, ClearOne must show that (1) it can likely prove that Shure is infringing the '806 Patent and (2) that the '806 Patent will likely withstand Shure's challenge to its validity. See Genentech, Inc. v. Novo Nordisk A/S, 108 F.3d 1361, 1364 (Fed. Cir. 1997). “[A] preliminary injunction is an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right.” Wind Tower Trade Coal. v. United States, 741 F.3d 89, 95 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (quoting Winter v. Nat. Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. 7, 24 (2008)).

         III. Analysis

         A. Claim Construction

         Before digging into the arguments on infringement and invalidity, the Court must decide what invention the '806 Patent actually claims. Claim construction requires that the Court determine how a person of ordinary skill in the art would understand the claim terms. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303, 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). The claim's own language is the starting point, but “[c]laims must be read in view of the specification, of which they are a part.” Markman v. Westview Instruments, Inc., 52 F.3d 967, 979 (Fed. Cir. 1995). Prosecution history is also “of primary significance” in determining how a claim should be understood. Id. at 980. Lastly, extrinsic evidence-that is, expert testimony or any other evidence outside of the patent and prosecution history-can also be considered, but carries less weight than intrinsic evidence. Id. at 980-982. Extrinsic evidence is mostly useful for helping the Court to understand the relevant art and to explain how the invention works. Phillips, 415 F.3d at 1318-19.

         At the preliminary injunction stage, the parties dispute the definition of a person of ordinary skill in the art, as well as the meaning of three terms in the patent's specification and claims: (1) “beamforming microphone array”; (2) “drop space”; and (3) “ceiling tile.” See '806 Patent Col. 13:12-43. As noted above, this Opinion also considers the additional arguments presented on “beamforming microphone array” and “drop space” in the claim construction briefing and the claim construction hearing held on July 12, 2019. The Court will take each of those three terms in turn.[7]

         1. Person of Ordinary Skill in the Art

         The Federal Circuit has set out several factors to help courts determine the level of ordinary skill in the art through which to view claim construction. Daiichi Sankyo Co., Ltd. v. Apotex, Inc., 501 F.3d 1254, 1256 (Fed. Cir. 2007). Those factors include “(1) the educational level of the inventor; (2) type of problems encountered in the art; (3) prior art solutions to those problems; (4) rapidity with which innovations are made; (5) sophistication of the technology; and (6) education level of active workers in the field.” Id. (cleaned up).

         Shure and ClearOne's disagreement in this arena largely comes down to whether a person of ordinary skill would have experience in beamforming, specifically digital signal processing. See R. 369, ClearOne Mot. Prelim. Injunction at 8 (“Here, a POSITA would have … at least one year of work experience in the field of digital signal processing.”) (redacted); R. 402, Shure Resp. at 9-10 (“The art involved in the '806 Patent is the attachment of a BFMA in a room, and the technology involves basic mechanical or electrical attachments. … One need not have experience in beamforming to accomplish this.”) (redacted). The parties' arguments on this point did not change substantively between the preliminary injunction and claim construction phases. See R. 508, Shure Claim Const. Br. at 22-23; R. 520, ClearOne Resp. at 21-22 (redacted).

         On review of the competing arguments, the Court concludes that ClearOne is correct that a person of ordinary skill in the art of the '806 Patent should have experience in beamforming, likely by digital signal processing. Shure argues that “the '806 Patent does not disclose or deal with complex beamforming algorithms or teach the design of a BFMA.” R. 402, Shure Resp. at 10 (redacted). But the '806 Patent does disclose beamforming-and it discloses somehow integrating a beamforming microphone array with a ceiling tile. A person of ordinary skill looking to practice the '806 Patent would have to figure out how to make that combination work, and that in turn would require understanding digital signal processing.

         Practically speaking-and being able to practice the patent is important- ClearOne is correct that most of the current applications of beamforming rely on digital signal processing, and evidence that ClearOne offered in the context of its claim construction argument on “beamforming microphone array” (discussed further below) makes that clear. To resist this, Shure's expert, Wilfred LeBlanc, says that a digital signal processor is not the only “device capable of” performing the operations disclosed in the '806 Patent. R. 407, LeBlanc Decl. ¶ 25. But modern beamformers generally use digital signal processors: one of ClearOne's inventors, Derek Graham, credibly testified that he had never seen an application of beamforming without a digital signal processor, though it might be theoretically possible to create one. Prelim. Inj. Hrg. Tr. at 87:15-89:10. When asked for an example of a beamformer that does not use digital signal processing, Shure pointed to the Miki patent. Id. at 40:2-11. ClearOne argues that Miki does not teach beamforming at all.[8] R. 440, ClearOne Reply at 14-15 (redacted). But even if the Miki patent discloses some type of beamforming, there is no evidence that any product currently on the market performs beamforming without DSP.

         Given that a person of ordinary skill in the art disclosed in the '806 Patent would need a working understanding of digital signal processing, [9] the Court adopts ClearOne's definition of a person of ordinary skill in the art: the skilled artisan must have at least one year of work experience in the field of digital signal processing.

         2. Beamforming Microphone Array

         As discussed earlier, the '806 Patent teaches combining a beamforming microphone array (again, commonly referred to in the industry as “BFMA”) with a ceiling tile. But Shure and ClearOne disagree on exactly what comprises a “beamforming microphone array.” Shure argues that a BFMA is “a plurality of microphones that produce audio signals to be used to form a directional pick up pattern.” R. 419-1, Joint Claim Const. Chart. In contrast, ClearOne proposes that a BFMA consists of “microphones coupled together and positioned at predetermined locations that are used with digital signal processing algorithm to form a directional pickup pattern.” Id. At the preliminary injunction stage, Shure and ClearOne agreed that the relevant difference between their constructions is that ClearOne's, in addition to microphones, includes related hardware that accomplishes the beamforming, while Shure's does not. Id. At the claim construction stage, ClearOne highlighted that difference further by proposing to add the words “and related hardware capable of using a DSP algorithm to form a directional pickup pattern” to the end of its construction. R. 520, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. at 22 (redacted); R. 548, Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 44:4-5 (Shure pointing out ClearOne's addition).[10]

         The other point of dispute is whether the construction should include the requirement that the microphones in the array are “positioned at predetermined locations.” R. 520, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. at 26-27 (redacted); R. 535, Shure Claim Const. Reply at 11; Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 49:2-50:18. The Court will discuss each disagreement in turn.

         a. Digital Signal Processing Hardware

         On the issue of the “related hardware, ” ClearOne essentially argues that the BFMA cannot be “beamforming” without a digital signal processor to do the beamforming. See R. 440, ClearOne Reply at 5 (“Shure proposes a construction … which effectively strips the word ‘beamforming' out of this claim term.”) (redacted); Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 54:3-5 (“The term ‘beamforming' is used in this claim over and over again. Shure's claim construction would mean that word just disappeared to no end.”). Shure responds by pointing to language in the specification that suggests that a “beamforming microphone” should be construed “in the context of its broadest definition” and that references to the BFMA in the patent refer to “any and/or all devices capable of performing respective operations in the applicable context.” R. 402, Shure Resp. at 12 (quoting '806 Patent Col. 4:12-13, 4:25-29) (redacted); R. 407, LeBlanc Dec. ¶ 25 (“While a digital signal processing algorithm might be used to [perform the operations of the '806 Patent], it is not the only ‘device capable of' doing so, and should not be read into the claims as a requirement.”); Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 48:9-11 (“Shure's construction allows for the communication device to be located remotely or also to be contained within the array, because the communication device is not part of the array.”).

         Shure also argues that beamforming need not even involve digital signal processing. LeBlanc points out that “beamforming does not need to be complicated signal processing, two microphones mounted planar (horizontal) to the ceiling can be used in a broadside delay and sum array, and two microphones placed vertically can be used in an endfire differential array (cardioid or other simple configuration).” R. 407, LeBlanc Decl. ¶ 22; see also Id. ¶¶ 21-27 (“Any microphone inherently (e.g., physically) designed to have directional pickup pattern can be described as a beamforming microphone.”). Given that the patent requires a broad construction of beamforming, Shure argues, it would be inappropriate to read in a requirement of a digital signal processor or any other hardware at all.

         Based on the text and context of the '806 Patent, Shure's construction of “beamforming microphone array” makes more sense than ClearOne's. As noted above, modern applications of beamforming microphones generally rely on digital signal processing to form beams from audio input signals. But even if a person of ordinary skill would assume that the invention claimed in the '806 Patent requires DSP to function, the patent itself does not teach that the DSP is part of the BFMA, that it must be in the same location, or even that they must be near each other.

         Beginning in Column 4 of the '806 Patent, Graham and the other inventors describe a “first environment, ” pertaining to Fig. 1A. '806 Patent Col. 4:35. According to the patent itself, that environment could involve “audio conferencing, video conferencing, etc.”-essentially, communication “between multiple users located within one or more substantially enclosed areas. Id. Col. 4:35-38. That is the embodiment relevant for this motion. The patent describes two different components relevant to how the communication between the different sets of users works: the “beamforming microphone array” (Array), and a “first communication device.” Id. Col. 5:9-12 (“The first environment 100 may also include a beamforming microphone array 116 (hereinafter referred to as Array 116) interfacing between the first set of users 104 and the first communication device 110 over the network 114.”). At this point, the patent describes the Array as including various microphones, possibly a “combination of beamforming microphones … and non-beamforming microphones.” Id. Col. 5:17-19. Both sets of microphones, unsurprisingly, “capture [] audio input signals.” Id. Col. 5:20-23.

         But in the environment described in Columns 4-6, the Array itself does not process those audio signals. Instead, the Array “may transmit the captured audio input signals to the first communication device 110 for processing and transmitting the processed, captured audio input signals to the second communication device 112.” '806 Patent Col. 5:24-27. Not only that, the first communication device performs the beamforming: “In one embodiment, the first communication device 110 may be configured to perform augmented beamforming … using a combination of the [beamforming microphones] and one or more [non-beamforming microphones].” Id. Col. 5:27-31; Col. 6:3-8 (“[T]he first communication device 110, which is configured to perform beamforming, may be implemented in hardware or a suitable combination of hardware and software, and may include one or more software systems operating on a digital signal processing platform.”).

         The description above makes clear that the device performing the beamforming (the “first communication device”) is conceptually different from the BFMA. That alone is enough to establish that under the terms of the patent the hardware that applies the beamforming algorithm is distinct from the beamforming microphone array itself. But the patent makes the case even clearer by implying that the “first communication device” could be in an entirely different location from the beamforming microphone array. The patent states that, “[i]n another embodiment, the functionality of the communication device 110 may be incorporated into Array 116.” '806 Patent Col. 5:44-46 (emphasis added). Similarly, it later states that “[i]n some embodiments, the Array 116 may be integrated with the first communication device 110 to form a communication system.” Id. Col. 6:1-3 (emphasis added). This language implies that the communication device could be totally separate from the Array itself-they need not be incorporated or even located together.[11]

         The language in the patent describing the processor as distinct and possibly even distanced from the BFMA fits well with a few different references to digital signal processing in the parties' testimony and exhibits. XXXXX R. 421, Patel Exh. 70, Braithwaite Dep. Tr. at 70:6-72:4 (sealed). Now that digital signal processing requires smaller equipment that can be controlled remotely, it makes sense that processors are more frequently located near the beamforming microphone arrays that they receive inputs from. See id.; see also R. 409, Cerra Decl. ¶ 14. (“The need for a remotely-located separate processor box would have driven the cost of the product up significantly over today's model.”) (redacted). But it was not long ago that processors had to be located at a distance from microphone arrays. Id. ¶ 14. (“[T]he required processors in 2006 would have generated enough heat to require a separate, remotely-positioned processor box”) (redacted). And there is no reason to suppose that the '806 Patent assumes that the BFMA and DSP will be located in the same place. Even one of ClearOne's experts, Paul Waadevig, stated-in the present tense-that “[d]igital signal processing, which includes acoustic echo cancellation, is done in specialized units, usually in a cabinet or otherwise not visible to the end user.” R. 362, Waadevig Rep. ¶ 27 (redacted).

         At the claim construction stage, ClearOne also argued that that the Court should take a clue from the definition of “array system” in the '524 provisional application. Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 54:20-55:4. The relevant excerpt from the provisional is this: “The system includes the following: a beamforming microphone array system; a beamforming array algorithm that uses the beamforming microphone array system; and a mounting method for the beamforming microphone array system.” R. 508-11, Claim Const. Exh. B-103, '524 Provisional ¶ 11. ClearOne argues that because “array system” in the '524 provisional includes “the algorithm, ” the BFMA in the '806 Patent must also include the hardware that implements whatever algorithm is used to do the beamforming. Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 54:20-55:4 (“It makes clear that the beamforming microphone array system includes the beamforming microphone array and the algorithm that uses that array system … So in the 524 provisional, at least, it's clear that the claimed system incorporates the algorithms and itself does the beamforming.”). But the language in the provisional is somewhat circular, because it says that the “system includes … a … system.” R. 508-11, Claim Const. Exh. B-103, '524 Provisional ¶ 11 (emphasis added). Even setting aside that ambiguity, a “system”-which is what the '524 provisional is describing- is not analogous to a “beamforming microphone array.” Indeed, it seems that the “beamforming microphone array” is just part of the “system.” The “algorithm, ” in turn, is a separate part. If so, the definition of “system” from the '524 provisional is simply further evidence that the algorithm need not be built into the array.[12]

         Shure's definition of BFMA recognizes that the processing-digital or otherwise-that accomplishes the beamforming itself need not take place next to or even near the microphones. According to the terms of the patent, as well as the realities of digital signal processing, the array and the processor are two different devices. So Shure's construction of “beamforming microphone array” is the correct one on that issue.

         b. Predetermined Locations

         The other dispute is whether the microphones in the BFMA are required to be at “predetermined locations.” R. 508, Shure Claim Const. Br. at 26-27; Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 49:22-50:18. Shure argues that including “predetermined locations” in the construction would improperly import a term from Claim 2 into Claim 1, making Claim 2 essentially meaningless. R. 508, Shure Claim Const. Br. at 26-27 (citing '806 Patent at 13:31-33). In response ClearOne argues that using “predetermined locations” in the construction of BFMA would not render Claim 2 meaningless, because what Claim 2 really adds is not predetermined locations but instead that the microphones be located “on or in [the] ceiling tile, ” as opposed to just above it. R. 520, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. at 26-27 (“Claim 1-as construed by ClearOne-does not require that the microphones are ‘on or in' the ceiling tile; the mics could be recessed further into the drop space beyond the ceiling tile.”) (redacted). ClearOne explains that the language stipulating that the microphones will be positioned at “predetermined locations” in the array is consistent with other language in the '806 Patent that describes the microphones as “arranged in a specific pattern that facilitates maximum directional coverage, ” Col. 11:21-23, or “selectively placed at known locations to design a set of desired audio pick-up patterns, ” Col. 9:53-55. See R. 520, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. at 26 (redacted).

         ClearOne has the better argument. The language in support of ClearOne's interpretation comes from the specification, reflects details about the BFMA found throughout the '806 Patent, and is consistent with what a skilled artisan would understand a microphone array to be. Because the language “positioned at predetermined locations” will likely assist the jury in understanding what the BFMA is and how it works, the Court includes it in its construction.

         Ultimately, then, the Court uses most of Shure's construction, leaving the digital signal processor out of the BFMA, but adding that the microphones in the array must be “positioned at predetermined locations.” The Court thus arrives at the following construction: a beamforming microphone array is “a plurality of microphones positioned at predetermined locations that produce audio signals to be used to form a directional pick up pattern.”

         3. Drop Space

         The '806 Patent claims an invention that puts a beamforming microphone array in the ceiling. In a room with a dropped ceiling, the claimed ceiling tile fits into the drop ceiling grid, and at least some of the array is hidden behind the drop ceiling in what is called the “drop space.” The parties disagree on the meaning of “drop space.” Although the term is used throughout Claim 1 of the '806 Patent, the parties' dispute centers on its use in Limitation 5, which specifies that the “beamforming microphone array is coupled to the back side of said ceiling tile and all or part of said beamforming microphone array is in the drop space of the drop ceiling.” '806 Patent Col. 13:27-30 (emphasis added).

         The parties' disagreement on the proper construction of “drop space” comes down to whether the lower boundary of the space is at the back or top of the ceiling tiles that make up the ceiling, or whether it extends to the tiles' lower surface-that is, the surface facing down into the room. Shure's proposed construction is that the drop space is “the space between the lower surface of the true ceiling of the room and the upper surface (back surface) of the drop ceiling tile.” R. 419-1, Claim Const. Chart. Shure argues that the ceiling tiles in a drop ceiling cannot be part of the drop space because the tiles themselves are not “space, ” and because ceiling tiles are not conventionally understood to be part of the “plenum” (an industry term used to refer to the “open air space from the back surface of the ceiling tiles to the true ceiling above”).[13] R. 402, Shure Resp. at 14 (redacted). Initially, ClearOne's proposed construction was that the drop space is “the space between the surface of the structural ceiling of the room and the lower surface of a suspended ceiling tile.” R. 419, Claim Const. Chart. In other words, ClearOne believed the drop space should “include[] the space in which a drop ceiling tile rests.” R. 440, ClearOne Reply at 7 (redacted). At the claim construction hearing, ClearOne revised its construction slightly to: “the space between the surface of the structural ceiling of the room and a plane defined by the support beams for the drop ceiling.” Claim Const. Hrg. Tr. at 74:13-16; see also R. 520, ClearOne Claim Const. Resp. at 29 (“Put another way, a 'drop ceiling' should be defined by a 'plane,' even when the ceiling tiles have not yet been placed onto the support beanis. The ceiling tiles are paced into the drop space formed by the support beanis; they do not themselves define it.") (redacted).

         Based on the text and the context of the '806 Patent, ClearOne's revised construction is correct for the reasons detailed below. For the purposes of this litigation, the Court construes the drop space as the space between the structural ceiling of the room and the plane defined by the drop-ceiling support beams. In a drop ceiling supported by a T-bar ceiling support grid, the drop space will end at the plane of the horizontal bars used in the grid-specifically, in ...


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