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A collocation comprises a number of known integers, process steps, or the association of materials or substances in such a way that no working interrelationship or potential working interrelationship exists between its various constituent parts. That is, each part performs its normal function, and is not functionally dependent on any other part.

A collocation is only unpatentable if all its integers are known.  In this context, "known" means publicly available. This situation relies on a "collocation" of items of prior art, rather than a "mosaic" thereof in the patent law sense (see Ramset Fasteners (Aust) Pty Ltd v Advanced Building Systems Pty Ltd and Anor (1996) 34 IPR 256 (1996) 34 IPR 256. This meaning was not challenged in the appeal to the High Court).  If an integer is disclosed only in a P, X or E document, then a manner of manufacture objection should not be taken as the integer was not “known” at the priority date of the claim(s).

Where one of the integers or steps is new and otherwise patentable, the inclusion of such an integer or step in a collocation is not objectionable under sec 18(1)(a). In B.U.S.M. v. Fussel 25 RPC 631 at page 649, Fletcher-Moulton LJ stated:

"......if a patentee could rightly claim a general grant, but he limits that grant in any way - limits it, not extends it - no such limitation can destroy the validity of his grant. Supposing the Patentee was entitled to claim this first group by itself, i.e., generally, and he chose only to claim it when used in combination with a special operating mechanism, his so claiming it has limited, and not extended, his grant; and no such limitation which amounts to a present to the public of his invention, excepting when used under such circumstances, can possibly injure the validity of the grant, though it may prevent doubts arising as to the validity of the grant."

On this basis, a claim was allowed to a shaving kit including amongst other items a novel razor, even though the other components of the kit did not co-operate to form a patentable combination. The applicant was entitled to claim the razor by itself, however the fact that the claim was limited to an environment defined by the kit did not detract from his right to a patent.

Examples of cases where the alleged invention merely comprised a collocation (all of which were refused) are:

  • Williams v Nye 7 RPC 62 (the sausage machine case.  The alleged invention consisted of a well known mincing machine which fed meat to a well known filling machine, such as to include in one apparatus two machines which had formerly been used separately.  The mincing part performed no more than its already well known functions and similarly with the filling part).
  • Battig's Application 49 RPC 415 (sequence of three known steps in the treatment of coke furnace gases to maximise the yield of hydrogen).
  • Young's Application (1966) AOJP 1028 (bottle with a spoon detachably secured thereto).
  • W.R.'s Application 41 RPC 216 (gramophone record plus a chart for physical exercises).
  • F.M.C. Corporation's Application (1974) AOJP 1060 (warehousing system).
  • Huntington Hartford's Application (1975) AOJP 3869 (two tables and a net for playing a ball game).
  • Unilever Ltd.'s Application (1976) AOJP 531 (container and contents).
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