Coax connectors go to court

When most broadcast engineers and cable technicians think of coaxial cable, they usually think of RG-59 or RG-6 type cables. The RG prefix was originally the military specification for coaxial cable, and the designation stands for radio guide or radio grade depending on who you ask. RG-6 type is more often found in CATV and professional SDI and HD-SDI connections. RG-59 type is better suited for short runs of baseband video and TV receiving antennas. RG-6 type cable has double shielding. RG-59 type cable has single shielding. Typically, these cable types are connected to their destinations by male BNC or male type F connectors.

Connectors for these coaxial cable types may seem to be a commodity, but the best are highly engineered to minimize weather and signal leakage, and optimal mechanical strength and integrity. As anyone who has bought and used a type F-connector from Lowes or Radio Shack knows, there’s a big difference between DIY consumer connectors and professional connectors.

Highly engineered professional type F and other connectors are protected by patents and often imported into the United States. Earlier this month, The Court of International Trade ruled that certain type F coaxial connectors imported by Corning Gilbert Inc. were improperly excluded from entry in the U.S., saying the products don’t infringe a rival’s patent. The case was Corning Gilbert Inc. v. The United States of America et al., case number 1:11-cv-00511.

The judge granted Corning Gilbert’s motion for summary judgment, saying the connectors fall outside the scope of a patent held by John Mezzalingua Associates Inc., doing business as PPC. Corning Gilbert argued that the government improperly denied the importation of more than 20 million type F cable connectors. The case is over U.S. Patent Number6,558,194, issued in 2003 titled “Connector and method of operation.”

The exclusion order was a result of PPC’s 2008 International Trade commission ruling based on a petition that requested an investigation into allegations that various U.S. coaxial cable connector companies were importing connectors that infringed on a PPC patent, according to attorney Joseph P. Lavelle of DLA Piper, who represented Corning Gilbert.

The case and question centered on the “cylindrical body member” of the connectors. The primary difference between the parties’ proposed constructions for the claim term “cylindrical body member” is Corning Gilbert’s emphasis on, and the Government’s omission of, the requirement that the body surround the post to create a bore to receive the cable jacket. The requirement that the body create a bore about the post features prominently in the claim language, which describes the cylindrical body member as “having a first end and a second end, the first end of said cylindrical body member including a cylindrical sleeve having an outer wall of a first diameter and an inner wall, the inner wall bounding a first central bore extending about said tubular post ...”