Thursday, November 21, 2019

The CAFC in Fiber, LLC determines that the word "control" in a claim an invoke "means-plus-function" status

The word "control" in a claim can be interpreted as "means" in a "means plus function" claim:

We agree with the district court that “control” is a
means-plus-function limitation. The limitation does not include the word
“means,” so there is a rebuttable presumption that § 112, ¶ 6 does not apply. However, the
presumption has been overcome in this case. We agree
with the district court that the term “control,” which is
used in relation to the function of positioning the beam directing device, is a means-plus-function term.


For these reasons, we conclude that with respect to the
“control” limitation, the presumption against means-plus-function claiming has been overcome. We therefore agree
with the district court that this limitation is subject to the
provisions of § 112, ¶ 6.

An important legal point as to "structure" supporting a "means-plus-function" claim:

On appeal, Fiber fails to identify a structure in the
’917 patent corresponding to the function. Fiber argues
that the ’348 patent incorporated by reference in the specification
provides sufficient corresponding structure. Appellant’s Br. 39.3
As an initial matter, “material
incorporated by reference cannot provide the corresponding structure necessary
to satisfy the definiteness requirement for a means-plus-function clause.” Default Proof
Credit Card Sys., Inc. v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 412 F.3d
1291, 1301 (Fed. Cir. 2005).
Even if incorporating corresponding structure by reference was permissible, we agree
with the district court that the ’348 patent does not impart
structure for the “control.” See Fiber, 2017 WL 3896443,
at *15.

The outcome:

Our holding on the “control” limitations described
above is sufficient to resolve this appeal. The parties
agreed that if we affirmed the district court’s holding that
“control” was a means-plus-function limitation and that it
was invalid as indefinite, all of the asserted claims of the
’917 patent would be invalid and the entire case would be
resolved. See Oral Argument at 3:57–4:15 (Fiber), 12:01–
12:23 (Appellees), Fiber, LLC v. Ciena Corp. (No. 2019-
Because we agree that the district court correctly construed “control” and found it invalid as indefinite, we do
not reach the district court’s construction of the terms
“data gathering and transmission element” and “positioning.”


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