Ergo Licensing, LLC v CareFusion 303, Inc.
Patents: Means-plus-function terms are required to point out the particular structure used to perform the function, lest it be deemed “indefinite.”
Ergo Licensing, LLC (“Ergo”) accused Carefusion 303, Inc. (“Carefusion”) of infringing its patent claims related to an infusion device. The claims described a system utilizing a control device to individually meter and simultaneously deliver multiple fluids from different sources at different rates to a patient. The District Court held that the device’s patent terms “control means” and “programmable control means” were indefinite, which Ergo appealed. Means-plus-function terms are required to point out the particular structure used to perform the function, lest it be deemed “indefinite.” Ergo argued that its disclosure of a “control device” was known to those skilled in the art as synonymous with a “general computer.” Ergo claimed that the specification described an additional structure of the “control device,” particularly that the device had processing capabilities, generated control commands, had memory, and had “programmable means… constituting control and monitoring functions.” The Court of Appeals found none of these specifications to be structural, noting that all Ergo did was replace “means” with “device.” Even if the Court of Appeals accepted “control device” as synonymous with computer, Ergo failed to disclose the algorithm required when a specification includes a general computer or microprocessor. The specification provided only functional language with no sequential process for control and adjustment. The Court of Appeals AFFIRMED the district court.