Shure, Inc. v. ClearOne, Inc., No. 17 C 3078, Slip Op. (N.D. Ill. Aug. 5, 2019) (Chang, J.).

Judge Chang granted declaratory judgment defendant ClearOne’s preliminary injunction and construed necessary terms of the patent, as the parties had already fully briefed claim construction, in this patent dispute related to in-ceiling beamforming microphone arrays.

Of particular note, the Court held as follows:

  • The Court held that the person of ordinary skill in the art need not necessarily have beamforming microphone array (BFMA) experience, but must have at least one year of work experience in the field of digital signal processing.
  • Declaratory judgment plaintiff Shure’s construction of BFMA – a plurality of microphones that produce audio signals to be used for a directional pick up pattern – was the correct one because it did not include related hardware that does the beamforming. The claim separately addressed that hardware.
  • The Court adopted ClearOne’s construction of “predetermined locations.” When the Court combined the two constructions, a BFMA is “a plurality of microphones positioned at predetermined locations that produce audio signals to be used to form a directional pick up pattern.”
  • The Court adopted ClearOne’s construction of “drop space.” The correct definition was “the space between the surface of the structural ceiling of the room and the lower surface of a suspended ceiling tile.”
  • It did not matter how the BFMA was integrated into a ceiling tile because the claims were not method claims. All that mattered was that the BFMA was integrated into a ceiling tile.
  • While there was a dispute regarding whether certain pads in the ceiling tile were sound dampening, as required by the claims, ClearOne had sufficiently met its burden of showing a likelihood of infringement.
  • Shure’s anticipatory invalidity argument failed because the BFMA was not integrated into a ceiling tile.
  • The Court held that it was not clear that one of ordinary skill in the art would have known to combine Shure’s obviousness references – microphones and ceiling-integrated speakers.
  • ClearOne showed irreparable harm based upon various lost sales because sales of integrated conferencing systems are not frequently made and are typically made not just for one location, but for all locations across a business.
  • ClearOne also showed a nexus between its harm and the patented features.
  • ClearOne’s harm was also difficult to quantify because a single lost sale likely had much further reaching impacts.
  • The Court ordered the parties to confer on an appropriate amount for the required bond.