Connector for high-definition multimedia systems; Luxi Electronics Corp.; U.S. Pat. No. 8,002,572

U.S. Patent No. 8,002,572, issued on August 23, 2011 to Luxi Electronics Corp. of Irvine, CA, discloses an electrical connector for high definition multimedia interface (HDMI) systems.

    

According to the ‘572 patent, installation of HDMI cables with existing male cable connectors or plugs requires separating the many cable wires (e.g., 19) from one another and preparing each one for soldering or crimping to the corresponding terminal of the cable connector.  This labor-intensive installation results in reduced productivity and reliability.  Also, HDMI cables are relatively thick, so the forces and torques on an installed plug by its cable can be substantial, causing existing solder-free HDMI plugs to be prone to loosening over time from the female connector to which they are mated.  The ‘572 patent discloses an HDMI cable connector with strain-relief tabs and wire holder halves that compress and non-reversibly lock together onto the cable without adhesive, so that its termination pins make electrical contact with the cable wires.

According to its website, Luxi Electronics Corp. is “a manufacturer of audio video products for consumer and professional markets.”  The company’s website provides a white paper entitled “The Art (and Science) of HDMI Cables,” which explains the benefits of its DIY™ cable connectors, which appear to conform to the description in the ‘572 patent.  According to the USPTO database, th e’572 is Luxi Electronics’ first U.S. patent.

Each of the independent claims of the ‘572 patent (see, e.g., Claim 3, above) include a relatively long list of features, each of which must be in an accused device in order for the device to be infringing.  For example, to infringe Claim 3, a competitor’s product must have the top shell, bottom shell, insulating connector core, set of top and bottom terminal pins, top wire holder, and bottom wire holder, all with the attributes as recited in Claim 3.  If the accused product omits even just one of these features or attributes, then the product would not infringe Claim 3.

For this reason, generally, a claim with such a large number of features or attributes (i.e., a narrower claim) is thought to be less desirable than a claim with fewer features or attributes (i.e., a broader claim).  After all, to avoid infringement, all the competitor needs to do is to omit just one of the recited features in its product.

However, narrow claims can be an important component in a company’s overall patent portfolio.  For example, even a narrow claim that covers the competitor’s product can provide value by forcing the competitor to redesign its product and to retool its manufacturing process.  Also, if a narrow claim covers an industry standard, it may not be practical for competitors to sell or use non-infringing products.  A narrower claim can also be less susecptible to a challenge of invalidity.  Practically speaking, in some cases, while broader claims might be preferable, the crowdedness of the prior art makes such broader claims more difficult to get allowed by the USPTO, so an applicant may first seek out the “lower hanging fruit” of a narrower claim, opting to continue the pursuit of the broader claim in a continuation application.

Since the claims as originally filed had a relatively narrow scope (being fairly similar to the issued claims of the ‘572 patent), presumably Luxi Electronics was aware of the considerations regarding narrowness.  The company has filed a continuation application (U.S. Pat. Appl. Publ. No. 2011-0256756A1) to pursue additional claims, some of which currently have fewer features than do the independent claims of the ‘572 patent.

 

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