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Date Published

If the specification under consideration contains statements of prior art and/or the problem to be overcome, these may be of assistance when ascertaining the essential features.

In Sebel Properties v Fagaleo Pty Ltd (1989) 14 IPR 524, claim 1 defined a writing tablet for a chair or other furniture which comprised a support bracket, a pivot on the support bracket making an angle of about 45° with the vertical, and a writing tablet pivoted on the pivot and making an angle of about 45° with the pivot. In use, the support bracket could be secured to a chair, or to the floor adjacent the chair, allowing the tablet to be rotated about the pivot from a horizontal (writing) position. The prior art disclosed a rotating writing tablet which operated in the same way, but which in use was secured directly to the chair without using a support bracket.

The court decided that the support bracket was an "immaterial variant" of the prior art device and was therefore inessential. However, the significance of this feature could also be deduced from the stated object of the invention, which was to simply provide a tablet which could be rotated in a single movement from a horizontal or writing position. No emphasis was placed on the means by which the writing tablet was secured to the chair or other furniture. On the basis of this statement it could be logically argued that the inclined pivot arrangement, and not the support bracket, was essential to the invention.

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