Patent infringement and other matters

In manufactured products, infringement of structural, composition and process patents can often be revealed by microscopic examination of the material or device.  We look at the structure to see what it is (for comparison with a designed structure) and to see what it says about the process that formed the structure. The AFM is used to examine surfaces (either normal external surfaces or interior structures revealed by delamination, cutting, etc.) and near-surface forces. When 3-dimensional structures are involved, when roughness is an issue, when contaminants are suspected, when electric or magnetic fields are present, and in many other situations, Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) can provide unique insights.

A detailed look at material structure can be important when an accident has caused injury or death, when product tampering or counterfeiting is suspected, and in trade disputes.


  • Our casework experience relates to some of the following industries: Aerospace, Automotive, BioMedical, Chemicals, Data Storage, Electronics, Energy, Metals, Nanotechnology, New Materials, Optics, Paper, Pharmaceuticals, Photonics, Semiconductor, Telecommunications, and more.
  • Some confidential cases are not listed.
  • In a closed case involving optical discs, Don Chernoff (Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc.) was appointed as a neutral expert by the Federal district court judge to provide calibrated 3-dimensional AFM images showing the size and shape of data marks.  Length, width, height, and angles were measured as shown schematically here and were compared with the patent claims.  In 2003, the case was settled for $1.4 million. Optical Disc Corporation v. Del Mar Avionics, 208 F.3d 1324 (Fed. Cir. 2000).
  • In an ongoing case involving optical discs, Don Chernoff (Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc.) has provided calibrated measurements of the size, shape and position of 3-dimensional structures. Measurements were made with our proprietary DiscTrack Plus(TM) software.
  •  In a closed case involving the how an Atomic Force Microscope works, Don Chernoff (Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc.) reviewed documents and examined the device’s function, considering both hardware and software features. The case, Veeco Instruments Inc., et al. v. Asylum Research Corp., US District Court, Central District of California, Case No. CV-03-6682 SVW(EX), was settled in August 2008, before trial.
    Lexis-Nexis report:  Nanotechnology Companies Settle Patent Spat
  • In an antidumping proceeding in Mexico, several physical characteristics of ceramic products made in Mexico or imported into Mexico were compared. ASM provided AFM analysis of surface morphology and roughness and arranged for other measurements (density, porosity, elemental composition and crystalline phase composition) to be provided by additional independent analytical labs. ASM coordinated the work and provided a punctual, comprehensive report.


    • In the Veeco-Asylum AFM case mentioned above, Don Chernoff (Advanced Surface Microscopy, Inc.) testified as a fact witness at deposition. One of his early phase images was evidence in this matter.

      Height and Phase image of wood pulp fiber showing Cellulose and Lignin domains

    Other AFM Applications

    In addition to the casework examples above, there are literally hundreds of other established, well-accepted AFM applications, and more are waiting to be discovered.  Please see a partial list of materials and devices we have personally examined and please explore the rest of our web site.  Wondering whether we can help you win your case?  Just ask.

    We know our limits

    No analytical instrument has unlimited application. We know what AFM can and can’t do and when it is being misused.  When opposing parties have AFM experts of their own, it can’t hurt that we “helped write the book” on limitations of this technique.  Finally, we know when other techniques can be used to complement AFM and make a more complete picture.

    Communication is Important to us

    “Atomic Force Microscope” sounds exotic, doesn’t it?  It really isn’t. Working with hundreds of clients has taught us ways to express how AFM works and what AFM does in simple, concise terms, drawing appropriate analogies to everyday experiences.  We are skilled at organizing data and presenting images that accurately support and illustrate our conclusions.