Unexplored Species of Intellectual Property: Semiconductor and Layout Design
In compliance with the TRIPS, Agreement India has enacted Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Designs Act 2000 to provide protection to creator’s of layout design. As per the data available on Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Registry, only 2 layout design has been registered so far titled “50-60 GHz Sub Harmonic IQ Mixer” and “8 port Micro-controller (BE.80501)”. This two layout-design has too comes after the 15 years of the enactment of the Act in the year 2015. The lack of knowledge amongst the Hardware Companies regarding their Intellectual Properties might be the reason for such a low number of registrations. It is high time for policymakers to review the Act so as to increase the interest of the creator’s in the field of layout design. Through this short article, an attempt was made to ensure that readers must know about the unexplored species of Intellectual Property. What is a Layout Design of Integrated Circuit and Integrated Circuit? Section 2 (h) of the Act defines layout design as a layout of transistors and other circuitry elements and includes lead wires connecting such elements and expressed in any manner in a semiconductor integrated circuit. They are also called topographies. In simple term, it can be defined as a 3-D placement of all the elements that make an integrated circuit. Section 2 (r) of the act defines a semiconductor integrated circuit as a product having transistors and other circuitry elements which are inseparably formed on a semiconductor material or an insulating material or inside the semiconductor material and designed to perform an electronic circuitry function. Generally, they are used as computer memory circuits and microprocessors. They are used in aircraft, cars, washing machines, radios, and cellular telephones. Application for Registration of layout-designs: Section 8 of the Act provides that any person who is the creator of the layout-design can apply for the registration of layout-design before the Registrar of the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry. The Registrar may refuse or accept the application in its original form or subject to any modification and amendment as he deems fit. For the registration of the layout-design it must be original, distinctive and capable of distinguishing from any other registered layout design. Prohibition of registration of certain layout-designs: Section 7 of the Act provides specific requirements that prohibit certain layout-design to get registered. They are as follows: A layout-design is not entitled to get registration if: • it is not original; • it has been commercially exploited anywhere in India or in a convention country; • is not inherently distinctive • is not inherently capable of being distinguishable from any other registered layout-design, The term “Commercially Exploited” under section 7 to layout-design means it has been commercially exploited for more than 2 years. If the layout-design is not commercially exploited for more than 2 years it is entitled to get registration under the act. Further, any layout design is considered to be original if it is the result of its creator’s own intellectual efforts and at the time of creation it is not commonly known to the creator’s and manufacturer of the semiconductor integrated circuits layout-design. However, any combination of commonly known elements and interconnections are considered as original if such combination when taken as a whole is the result of its creator’s own intellectual efforts. Advertisement and Opposition of the Application Section 10 of the Act provides that, after the acceptance of the Application the Registrar shall within 14 days from the date of the acceptance, advertise the application as accepted in a prescribed manner. Further, section 11 of the Act provides that, the application advertised can be opposed by any person within the 3-months from the date of the advertisement. It further provides that the applicant can file a counter-statement within 2 months from the date of receipt of the notice of opposition. The Registrar can also allow applicants and opponents to submit evidence upon which they rely their submission in a prescribed manner and time. After considering the submission made by the parties and evidence produced the registrar may make his final decision. Registration and Duration After the acceptance of the application if either- the application has not be opposed within the prescribed time period or the application has been opposed and the opposition has been decided in the favor of the applicant, the Registrar shall register the said layout-design in the register. On the registration of layout-design, the Registrar shall issue a certificate of registration in the prescribed manner to the applicant. Section 17 of the Act provides that the registration of a layout-design shall be only for a period of 10- years from the filing date or from the date of first commercial exploitation anywhere in India or in any country whichever is earlier. Effect of Registration Section 16 of the Act provides that no person shall be entitled to institute any proceeding to prevent, or to recover damages for, the infringement of an unregistered layout-design. The registration of the lay-out design gives exclusive right to the use of the layout-design. Any unauthorized use of the layout-design by the unregistered proprietor shall be considered as an infringement of the layout-design. Concluding Remark In compliance with the TRIPS Agreement India has enacted Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Designs Act 2000. Though in this techno-savvy world Intellectual Properties are important elements, but somewhere, due to lack of knowledge or ignorance of intellectual properties only two lay-out designs have been registered till date. There is a need to make awareness about this intellectual property and we have to talk about it as much as we discuss design, trademarks, patents, and geographical indications. This can either be done through an awareness program amongst hardware companies in India to make them aware of their Intellectual Properties lies in the layout-design or to review the act so as to increase the interest of the creator’s in the field of layout-design.