Federal Circuit claims "Control Means" deciding factor in Summary Judgement

October 27, 2017
Post by Gregory Lars Gunnerson

On Thursday, October 19, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided Lufthansa Technik Ag v. Astronics Advanced Electronic Systems Corp., an appeal which arose from a patent infringement suit brought in the Western District of Washington. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant—Astronics Corp., finding all claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,016,016 (the ‘016 patent) to be invalid. Because the Federal Circuit concluded that the claim term control means is indefinite, it affirmed the district court decision on alternative grounds.

The Federal Circuit and the district court agreed control means is a mean-plus-function limitation. The district court found the term control means was not indefinite, asserting “logic elements to receive and transmit internal and external signals and configured to activate switches based upon these signals” served as the associated structure of control means.

To reverse the district court’s finding and support its conclusion that control means is indefinite, the Federal Circuit relied on its decision in Ergo Licensing, LLC v. CareFusion 303, Inc., where it held the failure to specify the corresponding structure in the specification amounts to impermissible functional claiming.

Every claim in the ‘016 patent requires a control means that is responsive to plug detection and renders the voltage supply means operative when two contact pins are detected within a predetermined time value. The problem for Lufthansa, however, is that the text and figures of the specification (namely col. 5, lines 5–14 and Fig. 3) do not disclose any components or logic elements to perform logic functions. Thus, because the ‘016 patent does not call out a specific, well-known component to perform the claimed function, the specification provides no more structure than the term control means itself, and control means is indefinite.

Post Categories

Comments (0)
Post a Comment

Captcha Image
Return to the Filewrapper Blog

Search Posts


The attorneys of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. designed this blog as an informational and educational resource about intellectual property law for our clients, other attorneys, and the public as a whole. Our goal is to provide cutting-edge information about recent developments in intellectual property law, including relevant case law updates, proposed legislation, and intellectual property law in the news.


McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. provides this blog for general informational purposes only. By using this blog, you agree that the information on this blog does not constitute legal or other professional advice and no attorney-client or other relationship is created between you and McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C. Do not consider this blog to be a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a qualified, licensed attorney. While we try to revise this blog on a regular basis, it may not reflect the most current legal developments. We consciously refrain from expressing opinions on this blog and instead, offer it as a form of information and education, however if there appears an expression of opinion, realize that those views are indicative of the individual and not of the firm as a whole.

Connect with MVS

Enter your name and email address to recieve the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Subscribe to: MVS Newsletter

Subscribe to: Filewrapper® Blog Updates

  I have read and agree to the terms and conditions of McKee, Voorhees & Sease, P.L.C.