Integrated Circuit Layouts and Designs – Intellectual Property
Author: Ayushi – a student of Dr. DY Patil Law College, intern at IIPRD.
An integrated circuit (IC) layout design is the three-dimensional arrangement of components and interconnects that make up the IC. An integrated circuit (IC) is an electronic circuit in which the circuit components are embedded in some sockets and act as a single unit. A solid semiconductor, usually silicon, is used as the carrier. The circuit can be embedded in a small piece of thin silicon that is as thin as a wafer thanks to the manufacturing process. A “silicon chip” is a piece of silicon like this. Since all commercial integrated circuits now accessible are made from semiconductors, primarily silicon, the words “semiconductor” and “silicon chip” have been used interchangeably with “integrated circuit”. Many devices use integrated circuits, including watches, televisions, traffic lights and, of course, computers. The original layout-designs are protected under the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout-Designs Act 2000 and the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout-Designs Rules 2001.
Terms “semiconductor integrated circuitand “layout design” are defined in the Act as follows:
A product with transistors and other circuit elements that are inseparably fabricated on semiconductor material, insulating material, or inside semiconductor material and designed to perform an electronic circuit function is called a semiconductor integrated circuit.
An arrangement of transistors and other circuit parts, including lead wires connecting these elements, represented in any way in a semiconductor integrated circuit is called layout design.
Configuration-design registrability criteria
Original, distinct and able to stand out from other layout designs.
A layout-design is unique if it is the result of the intellectual labor of the creator and is not widely used by layout designers and IC manufacturers at the time of its development. A layout-design which consists of a common combination of parts and interconnections between designers of layout-designs and manufacturers of semiconductor integrated circuits is considered original if the combination as a whole is the result of the intellectual work of the Creator.
The law prohibits the registration of layout designs that are not original; or which have been commercially exploited anywhere in India or a Convention Country; or which are not inherently distinctive; or which are inherently indistinguishable from any other registered layout-design.
However, for the purposes of this Act, a layout design which has been commercially exploited for not more than two years from the date on which an application for registration was filed either in India or in a Convention country, shall be treated as not having been commercially exploited.
A layout design can only be registered for ten years from the date of filing an application for registration or the date of first commercial exploitation anywhere in India or any country, as the first possibility.
The Indian Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry is now based in New Delhi and is administered by the Department of Information Technology (DIT) of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
Layout design violation
In India, a violation of a layout design is considered a criminal offense in addition to available legal remedies. Under the Semiconductor (Indian) Act 2000 for Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits, forgery of a registered layout design is punishable by up to three years in prison or a fine of 50,000 rupees (about 800 USD) up to a maximum of rupees. 10,00,000 (about $16,000), or both.
Status of Layout Designs in India
Although India has followed the regulations of TRIPS agreement regarding the protection of semiconductor integrated circuits and layout design and passed the law. But still, there is some lack of implementation as people are not aware of the concept. When an invention is made, it is clear that it must be patented when an artistic, cinematographic and literary composition is made, it is protected by copyright, but when integrated circuits are made, this puts the manufacturers in a dilemma between making a patent or registering an integrated circuit design. And here lack of awareness comes into play and people choose patents over IC designs. The way ordinary people can connect with other IP addresses such as trademarks, patents and copyrights is not the same with this IP address. This intellectual property fills the gap between patent and copyright. Any original and new object or particle falls under patent, while ICs are only meant to be original and need not be new, whereas comparatively copyright is too general.
Intellectual property protection for IC layout design is important worldwide, but particularly so in India, where there are no strict intellectual property protection laws in place for software. Even though more than 20 years have passed since the implementation of this law, there is not much progress to be seen in this particular niche of intellectual property. The IPO must take this fact into consideration and take steps to facilitate the process, formulate guidelines, they must take initiatives to explain why this intellectual property should be chosen over another and put the needs of the people at the instead of a simple mandatory promulgation.
IC layouts and designs
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide on the subject. Specialist advice should be sought regarding your particular situation.