A semiconductor is a substance, (silicon or germanium) that conducts electricity partially. This material is used in making of microchips. Microchips are used in a computer. A thin sheet of silicon dioxide is used as the base of the microchip. This is known as Wafer or slice.
The Semiconductor circuits are a vital part of computers and it enabled technology. Since the inception of the computer, the way circuits are designed has changed drastically. Nowadays large scale transistors are accommodated in a single chip it makes chip design a crucial issue and demands for protection of chip design. WTO passed an Act in accordance with TRIPS agreement called the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act (SICLDA) passed in the year 2000.
“Semiconductor Integrated circuits Layout- Design Act 2000” is a supplement act to designs. It fulfils the obligations of TRIPS agreement (Art.35 to 38) regarding the protection of semiconductor integrated circuits layout- designs.
SICLD Act defines
- “Semiconductor integrated circuit” a product that has transistors or other circuitry elements, which are exclusively formed on a semiconductor material or inside the semiconductor material and designed to perform an electronic circuitry function.
- “Layout-design” means a layout of transistors, and other circuitry elements and has lead wires connecting such elements and expressed in any way in a semiconductor integrated circuit.
- “Commercial exploitation” in relation to the SICLD means to sell, lease, offer or exhibit for sale or otherwise distribute such semiconductor integrated circuit for any commercial purpose.
Criteria for Registration of a Chip Layout Design
- The design should be original,
- It should be distinct i.e. should be different from other registered designs
Need For Sui Generis Protection:
Initially, there was no protection for a chip or its design. This gave way to chip piracy. Chip pirates could easily copy the design and sell it a very lower rate. This resulted in the huge economic loss for the companies who were engaged in chip designing and spending a huge amount of money in Research and Development (R& D). This gave rise to the need of protecting Chip design. The laws available for protecting IP (Patents, Copyright and Trade secret) were not sufficient for protecting the chip design so a sui generis form of protection was provided.
Economic importance and impact of this protection
The protection given to chip design or layout design not only protects the economic interest of the chip designing companies but also motivate them to put more efforts in designing of the chip. This directly affects the technological growth of the industry.
Who can apply?
The application for the protection of layout design can be made by the person who claims to be the creator of the layout design, his legal representative, a person registered in the prescribed manner as a layout-design agent or a person in the sole and regular employment of the principal, in writing to the registrar in the prescribed manner.
Procedure for registration
- Application: The creator can file the application in the prescribed format in writing to the registrar in the office of SICLD registry. 3 sets of drawings produced to the plotter which describes the layout design and 3 sets of a photograph of masks used for the fabrication of the semiconductor integrated circuits are also attached along with the application.
- Acceptance of the application. The application is said to be accepted when the registrar returns one copy of the application as an acknowledgement.
- Advertisement of Application: The application is advertised within 14 days of acceptance of layout design application. If any opposition is found to the registration, then a notice is sent to the registrar within 3 months from the date of advertisement. The registrar can call for evidence to be produced by both the parties and finally give his decision.
- If no one opposes the application then the registrar registers the design and also issues the certificate of registration.
Duration of Registration
The registration of the layout design shall be only for the period of 10 years counted from the date of filing an application for registration or from the date of first commercial exploitation anywhere in any country, whichever is earlier.
Exclusive Right to the Registered Proprietor
The registration of the layout design gives exclusive manufacturing and marketing rights to its proprietor and right to receive relief in case of infringement.
Assignment and Transmission
The registered design could be assigned or transferred to any other person by the registered proprietor only.
Protection against Infringement
The infringer shall be liable for punishment or fine or both. The term of punishment can be of a few days to 3 years and the amount of fine can be fifty thousand to ten lakhs.