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2182    Scope of the Search and Identification of the Prior Art [R-2]

“[T]he ‘broadest reasonable interpretation’ that an examiner may give means-plus-function language is that statutorily mandated in paragraph six.” In re Donaldson, 16 F.3d 1189, 1194-95 (Fed. Cir. 1994) (en banc). In other words, in order to meet a “means plus function” limitation, the prior art must (1) perform the identical function recited in the means limitation and (2) perform that function using the structure disclosed in the specification or an equivalent structure. Cf. Carroll Touch Inc. v. Electro Mechanical Sys. Inc., 15 F.3d 1573, 1578 (Fed. Cir. 1994); Valmont Indus. Inc. v. Reinke Mfg. Co., 983 F.2d 1039, 1042 (Fed. Cir. 1993); Johnston v. IVAC Corp., 885 F.2d 1574, 1580 (Fed. Cir. 1989).

As explained in In re Donaldson, “the PTO may not disregard the structure disclosed in the specification corresponding to such language when rendering a patentability determination.” In re Donaldson Co., 16 F.3d 1189, 1195 (Fed. Cir. 1994). Rather, the PTO must look to the Specification and construe the “means” language recited in the claim as limited to the corresponding structure disclosed in the Specification and equivalents thereof. Id.


The first step in construing a means-plus-function claim limitation “is to define the particular function of the claim limitation.” In re Aoyama, 656 F.3d 1293, 1296 (Fed. Cir. 2011) (quoting Golight, Inc. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 355 F.3d 1327, 1333 (Fed. Cir. 2004)). The next step in construing a means-plus-function claim limitation “is to look to the specification and identify the corresponding structure for that function.” Id. at 1297 (quoting Golight, 355 F.3d at 1334).