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  • Intellectual property framework

    Overview

    Intellectual property is a right protected by the Constitution of the Republic of Angola. The fundamental intellectual property framework in Angola is provided in 2 main acts: the Legal Regime for the Protection of Copyright and Related Rights and the Industrial Property Law.

  • Commercial contract framework

    Overview

    Angolan law lays down a general principle of contractual freedom, which means that parties are mostly free to establish the terms and conditions to be observed by the contracts they enter into (exceptions are made to mandatory rules legally imposed which will depend on the specific contractual relationship) and are entitled to enter into contracts provided for in the law, but also into contracts that are not provided for in the law.

    Angolan law does not establish a unitary act or set of rules applicable to all commercial contracts. Depending on the specific contractual relationship, commercial contracts may be subject to the provisions of the Civil Code, Commercial Code, Copyright and Related Rights Law, and the Industrial Property Law as well as other specific legislation.

    The aforementioned set of rules changes according to the specific contract in question.

  • Copyrights

    Nature of right

    Copyright covers original literary, scientific and artistic intellectual creations, or works. Registration is not required for the acquisition or maintenance of copyright rights; however, there are certain specific copyright-related acts subject to registration in order to be valid.

    In Angola, copyright comprises economic and moral rights.

    In the scope of economic rights, copyright owners have the exclusive right to use, enjoy and dispose of their work, or to authorize the use of the work, wholly or in part, by third parties.

    Moral rights consist in the right to claim authorship of the work, as well as the right to ensure its genuineness and integrity.

    Legal framework

    Copyrights are governed by Law No. 15/14 of July 31, which introduced the Legal Regime for the Protection of Copyright and Related Rights.

    Duration of right

    As general rule, moral copyrights are unlimited in time and, therefore, are inalienable and imprescriptible. With respect to economic copyrights, copyright protection lasts for a term of 70 years, counted as of January 1 of the first year after the death of the author, as well as through the life of the author.

    In the case of works in collaboration, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the last surviving author. As per collective works or works originally assigned to a corporate person, copyright expires 70 years from the date of the first licit publication or disclosure, except if the individuals who create it were identified in the version of the work available to the public.

    For an anonymous work, or work that was legally published or disclosed without identifying the respective author, protection is for 70 years after publication or disclosure.

    Please note that, with respect to applied arts and photographic works, economic copyrights protection lasts for a term of 45 years, counted as of January 1 of the first year after the death of the author.

    Economic copyrights related to a broadcaster last up to 35th calendar year after the broadcast.

    Ownership / licenses

    Moral rights are inalienable.

    The copyright owner, as well as their successors or assignees, may authorize the use of the work by third parties or assign economic rights, wholly or partially.

    Granting an authorization to third parties in order for them to divulge, publish, use or explore the work does not imply the transfer of copyright rights.

    Authorization shall only be granted in writing, mandatorily including the parties involved, the title and type of the work, the rights concerned, the duration, place and price conditions.

    Please note that the assigns are only effective against third parties when registered.

    Remedies for infringement

    The copyright owner may request payment of compensation by the agent for damages and losses to repair the damage suffered as a result the infringement, as well as payment of expenses caused by that infringement, which may include legal expenses.

    The amount of the compensation is determined in accordance with the civil liability regime provided for by the Angolan Civil Code, taking into account the amount of material and moral damage suffered by the copyright owner, as well as the profit obtained by the offender.

    When it is proven that the infringing copies affect a right, the Court may order, ensuring that the penalty is proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and taking into account the legitimate interests of third parties, the destruction of those copies and their packaging or their elimination of trade channels by any other reasonable means, without compensation of any kind, in order to avoid any damage to the copyright owner.

  • Mask works / topographies

    Nature of right

    Mask works and topographies are not separately protected under Angolan law. They may be protected under patent law or by way of confidentiality.

    Legal framework

    Angolan has enacted no specific rules on protection of mask works or topographies. Although Angola is part of the WTO and has approved the TRIPS Agreement, it has not yet implemented any rules on mask works or topographies protection.

    Semiconductor technology, generally, and topographies, in particular, may be protected under the traditional intellectual property rules applicable to all types of technology, particularly patent law and the rules on confidential information. Therefore, matters such as the duration of the relevant rights, ownership and remedies depend on the type of protection used in connection with each specific mask work or topography.

    Duration of right

    Not applicable for this jurisdiction.

    Ownership / licenses

     Not applicable for this jurisdiction.

    Remedies for infringement

    Not applicable for this jurisdiction.

  • Patents

    Nature of right

    Patent rights cover new inventions, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are susceptible of industrial application.

    An invention shall be considered new if it does not form part of the state of the art, which comprises everything, inside or outside the country, made available to the public by means of a written or oral description, by use, or in any other way, before the date of filling of the patent application.

    An invention shall be considered involving an inventive step if it is not obvious to a person skilled in the art.

    An invention shall be considered susceptible of industrial application if it can be made or used in any kind of industry, including agriculture, fishing and handicraft.

    A national patent confers on its owner the exclusive right to exploit the patented invention in Angolan territory.

    Legal framework

    Patents are governed by the following:

    • Chapter II, the Industrial Property Law (Articles 2 to 14)
    • Membership of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), approved by Resolution No. 9/84 of July 20
    • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property – approved by Resolution No. 22/05 of August 19
    • Cooperation Treaty patent (PCT) approved by Resolution No. 22/05 of August 19 and
    • Membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), hence the TRIPS Agreement (Accession November 23, 1996).

    Duration of right

    Patent protection is granted up to a maximum period of 15 years from the date of filling of the patent application.

    Ownership / licenses

    Patents can be transferred in writing, by means of public deed, whether or not for financial reward.

    Patents may also be licensed in writing, wholly or partially, whether or not for financial reward, on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.

    Transfer of ownership and licenses shall be recorded in the Angolan Institute of Industrial Property to be effective against third parties.

    Remedies for infringement

    Whenever there is violation of or justified fear that another party may cause serious and difficult-to-repair harm to an industrial property right, including patent rights, the court may, at request of the interested party, order the appropriate measures to prevent any imminent violation or to prohibit continuation of the violation.

    Whoever illegally violates the industrial property rights of another person with intent or by negligence shall be obliged to pay a compensation to the injured party for damages resulting from the violation.

    In determining the amount of compensation for losses and damages, the court shall take into account the profit obtained by the infringer and the resulting damages and lost profits suffered by the injured party. The costs borne out of protection of the right in question and the investigation and termination of the harmful conduct shall also be taken in consideration, as well as personal injury.

    Infringement of the exclusive right granted by a patent may be also punishable as crime with imprisonment up to 6 months or a fine.

  • Trademarks

    Nature of right

    A trademark is a sign that distinguishes a company's goods or services, from the goods and services provided by other companies. There are 3 types of trademarks, namely:

    • Nominative: when constituted by letter(s) or word(s)
    • Figurative: consisting of figures or images and
    • Mixed: when it includes a combination of figures and words or letters in its constitution.

    The registered trademark confers to the owner, the right to prevent third parties that do not have their consent from using in the course of trade any sign which is identical or similar to the trademark in relation to goods and/or services which are identical or similar to those for which the trademark is registered.

    Legal framework

    Trademarks are governed by the following:

    • Chapter II, the Industrial Property Law (Articles 29 to 40)
    • Membership of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), approved by Resolution No. 9/84 of July 20
    • Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property – approved by Resolution No. 22/05 of August 19 and
    • Membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), hence the TRIPS Agreement (Accession November 23, 1996).

    Angola is not a party to either the Madrid Agreement or the Madrid Protocol. As such, International Registrations (IRs) cannot be extended to Angola. Angola's accession to the Madrid Agreement and/or the Madrid Protocol is currently the subject of consultation, but the position is unlikely to change for a number of years to come.

    Duration of right

    National trademark registrations remain valid for 10 years starting from the date of filing of the application and may be indefinitely renewed for equal periods.

    Ownership / licenses

    Trademarks can be transferred in writing, wholly or partially, whether or not for financial reward. A transfer of the whole of the undertaking shall include the transfer of the trademark except where there is agreement to the contrary or circumstances clearly dictate otherwise.

    Trademarks may also be licensed in writing, wholly or partially, whether or not for financial reward, on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.

    Transfer of ownership and licenses must be recorded in the Angolan Institute of Industrial Property to be effective against third parties.

    Remedies for infringement

    Whenever there is violation of or justified fear that another party may cause serious and difficult-to-repair harm to an industrial property right, including trademarks, the court may, at request of the interested party, order appropriate measures to prevent any imminent violation or to prohibit continuation of the violation.

    Whoever illegally violates the industrial property rights of another person with intent or by negligence shall be obliged to pay a compensation to the injured party for the damages resulting from the violation.

    In determining the amount of compensation for losses and damages, the court shall take into account the profit obtained by the infringer and the resulting damages and lost profits suffered by the injured party. The costs borne out of protection of the right in question and the investigation and termination of the harmful conduct shall also be taken in consideration, as well as personal injury.

    Trademark infringement is punishable as crime with imprisonment up to 3 months or a fine.

  • Trade secrets

    Nature of right

    Trade secrets are not protected as property in Angola. However, the Angolan Industrial Property Law, in the chapter related to Crimes of Unfair Competition, characterizes as crimes certain conducts involving the unauthorized use of trade secrets. As a result, there is legal protection against the violation of trade secrets.

    Legal framework

    Trade secrets are addressed in article 73 of the Angolan Industrial Property Law.

    Duration of right

    Not applicable for this jurisdiction.

    Ownership / licenses

    Not applicable for this jurisdiction.

    Remedies for infringement

    Remedies available for infringement of trade secrets can include criminal remedies (imprisonment and monetary fine) and civil remedies (injunction to prevent the continuation of infringements and damages).

    Trade secret violation is punishable with a fine, if a more serious sanction does not apply by applying the provisions of the penal code and Law No. 9/89 (Law on Crimes Against the Economy).

  • Other key IP rights

    Nature of right

    Design

    Industrial design means any new arrangement or set of lines or colors that, for industrial or commercial purposes, can be applied to the ornamentation of a product by any manual, mechanical, chemical, simple or combined process.

    The registered design confers to the owner the right to prevent third parties that do not have their consent from using it. The aforementioned use shall cover, in particular, the making, offering, putting on the market, importing, exporting or using of a product in which the design is incorporated or to which it is applied, or stocking such a product for those purposes.

    Industrial designs

    Industrial designs

    Legal framework

    Design

    Designs are governed by Chapter III of the Industrial Property Law (Articles 15 to 28).

    Duration of right

    Design

    Designs registrations remain valid for 5 years starting from the date of filing of the application and may be renewed for 2 consecutive times of 5 years each.

    Ownership / licenses

    Design

    Designs may be licensed in writing, wholly or partially, whether or not for financial reward, on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis.

    Transfer of ownership and licenses must be recorded in the Angolan Institute of Industrial Property to be effective against third parties.

    Remedies for infringement

    Design

    Whenever there is violation of or justified fear that another party may cause serious and difficult-to-repair harm to an industrial property right, including designs, the court may, at request of the interested party, order appropriate measures to prevent any imminent violation or to prohibit continuation of the violation.

    Whoever illegally violates the industrial property rights of another person with intent or by negligence shall be obliged to pay a compensation to the injured party for the damages resulting from the violation.

    In determining the amount of compensation for losses and damages, the court shall take into account the profit obtained by the infringer and the resulting damages and lost profits suffered by the injured party. The costs borne out of protection of the right in question and the investigation and termination of the harmful conduct shall also be taken in consideration, as well as personal injury.

    Infringement of the exclusive right granted by a registered design may be punishable with a fine.

  • Intellectual property in employment context

    Employees

    As a general rule, the copyright over a work made under a labor agreement or in compliance with functional obligations is determined by agreement between the parties. In case no agreement exists, it is presumed that the ownership over the work belongs to the respective intellectual creator. In cases where there is a service provision contract, the property rights over the work are transferred to the contractor or entity represented by it.

    The right to patent shall belong to the inventor or their successors in title. Notwithstanding, if an invention was made during the performance of an employment contract in which inventive activity is provided for, the right to the patent belongs to the employer.

    Consultants / contractors

    In principle, consultants and contractors will retain ownership of the intellectual property developed by them, unless otherwise agreed by the parties or provided for in the law.

  • Key commercial contract considerations

    Registration of commercial agreements

    There are no general registration requirements for commercial contracts under Angolan law; however, certain exceptions may arise. Furthermore, Industrial Property Rights licenses are subject to registration within the Angolan Industrial Property Institute (IAPI) in order to be enforceable against third parties.

    Recognized language of commercial agreements

    There are no general requirements under Angolan law that provide that contracts must be written in Portuguese. However, in certain cases – for instance, contracts with consumers – the Portuguese language is mandatory, and, if the contract is to be used in specific situations – for example, for purposes of evidence in court or used with public authorities – translation to Portuguese is required.

    Country-specific issues for online content

    Electronic contracts are regulated under Presidential Decree No. 202/11 of July 22.

    Enforceability of online/clickwrap/shrinkwrap terms

    Contracts may be concluded electronically, provided that it does not affect its validity or effectiveness due to the use of this medium. Please note that general contractual clauses requiring electronic conclusion of consumer contracts are prohibited.

    The provider shall make available to the recipients, before the conclusion, unambiguous minimum information including (i) the contract conclusion process, (ii) whether or not the contract is stored by the service provider and accessibility by the recipient, (iii) the language or languages in which the contract may be concluded, (iv) the technical means which the provider makes available so that errors of introduction which may be contained in the order form may be identified and corrected, (v) the contractual terms and general clauses of the contract to be concluded, (vi) the codes of conduct subscribed and information on how to consult them electronically  and (vii) the effective technical means which allows the recipient to identify and correct inserted errors.

    Governing law

    The interpretation and enforceability of contracts is a matter of governing law. The choice of law by the parties is accepted as a general principle, except when otherwise provided for by law; please, however, note that, in certain cases, there are rules of mandatory application – for instance, in the scope of contracts concluded with consumers.

  • Key commercial contract terms

    Enforceability of warranty disclaimers

    This will depend on the specific warranty. Notwithstanding, the law may provide some restrictions on the enforceability of warranty disclaimers (eg, for reasons of consumer protection).

    Enforceability of exclusions/limitations of liability indemnification

    As general rule, the enforceability of exclusions or limitation of liability is limited under Angolan law. According to civil law, limitation of liability or exclusion of liability concerns the grounds of liability itself and the damages and losses. The law is not absolutely clear when dealing with the matter; therefore, some hold the opinion that the law does not prevent clauses limiting or excluding liability for acts of mere negligence, while others suggest that all clauses of exclusion or limitation are completely null and void.

    Indemnification

    Indemnification clauses in contracts are, in principle, enforceable, but may be subject to restrictions provided for in the law. It is relatively common to stipulate in commercial agreements that the indemnifying party will indemnify and hold harmless the other party against claims of third parties related to the subject matter of the agreement.

    Electronic signatures

    According to Angolan law, a qualified electronic signature is equivalent to an autographic signature in paper documents. An electronic document shall only be deemed to be signed for purposes of evidence where it meets the requirements set by the law on electronic signature and certification.

  • Key contacts
    Murillo Costa Sanches
    Murillo Costa Sanches
    Of Counsel DLA Piper [email protected] T +351 213 583 659 View bio
    Joni Garcia
    Joni Garcia
    Associate DLA Piper ADCA Angola [email protected] T +244 926 612 525

Mask works / topographies

Nature of right

Angola

Mask works and topographies are not separately protected under Angolan law. They may be protected under patent law or by way of confidentiality.

Argentina

Mask works and topographies are not separately protected under Argentine law. They may be protected under patent law or by way of confidentiality.

Australia

Protection is given to the layout of integrated circuits (or semiconductor chips, commonly known as computer chips) under the Circuit Layouts Act 1989 (CLA), if the following requirements are met:

  • The circuit layout is a representation fixed in any material form of the three-dimensional location of the active and passive elements and interconnections making up an integrated circuit
  • The circuit layout is original
  • The circuit layout is either made by an eligible person or first commercially exploited in Australia or another eligible country

The owner of an original circuit layout has exclusive Eligible Layout Rights (EL Rights), which include the exclusive rights to:

  • Copy the layout, directly or indirectly, in a material form
  • Make integrated circuits from the layout
  • Exploit it commercially in Australia
  • Authorize another person to do any of the above acts. Authorization is usually given in the form of a license. Registration is not required for layout rights and protection is automatic

Austria

Protection is available for three-dimensional structures of a micro-electric semiconductor product (topographies as well as gate arrays), which are results of its creator's own intellectual effort and are not commonplace in the semiconductor industry.

A "semiconductor product" is the final or an intermediate form of any product:

  • Consisting of a body of material which includes a layer of semiconducting material
  • Having one or more other layers composed of conducting, insulating or semiconducting material, the layers being arranged in accordance with a predetermined three-dimensional pattern
  • Intended to perform, exclusively or together with other functions, an electronic function

The "topography" of a semiconductor product is a series of related images, however fixed or encoded, representing the three-dimensional pattern of the layers of which a semiconductor product is composed and in which series each image has the pattern or part of the pattern of a surface of the semiconductor product at any stage of its manufacture.

The owner of the semiconductor protection right may exclude any person in business traffic from reproducing the topography or its separately exploitable parts, producing images of and instructions for production of topography, as well as from offering, putting into circulation or importing such images and instructions.

Belgium

The topography of a semiconductor product shall be protected insofar as it satisfies the conditions that it is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry. Where the topography of a semiconductor product consists of elements that are commonplace in the semiconductor industry, it shall be protected only to the extent that the combination of such elements, taken as a whole, fulfils the above-mentioned conditions. The protection shall apply solely to the topography to the exclusion of any concept, process, system, technique or encoded information embodied in the topography.

The rights holder shall have the exclusive and temporary right to reproduce and commercially exploit the topography. The rights holder may, however, not assert this exclusive right in respect of:

  • Reproduction solely for the purposes of analysis, evaluation or teaching of the topography or the concepts, processes, systems or techniques embodied in the topography
  • A topography resulting from the analysis and evaluation of another topography carried out in accordance with item 1 at least insofar as the new topography is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry

The terms topography, semiconductor product and commercial exploitation shall be understood in the meaning defined in Council Directive 87/54/EEC of December 16, 1986 on the legal protection of topographies of semiconductor products. As a result, a "semiconductor product" shall mean the final or an intermediate form of any product:

  • Consisting of a body of material which includes a layer of semiconducting material
  • Having one or more other layers composed of conducting, insulating or semiconducting material, the layers being arranged in accordance with a predetermined three-dimensional pattern
  • Intended to perform, exclusively or together with other functions, an electronic function

The "topography" of a semiconductor product shall mean a series of related images, however fixed or encoded:

  • Representing the three-dimensional pattern of the layers of which a semiconductor product is composed
  • In which series, each image has the pattern or part of the pattern of a surface of the semiconductor product at any stage of its manufacture

Brazil

Brazil provides protection for original mask works (topografia de circuitos integrados), in the sense that they result from intellectual effort of their author and are not common or vulgar for technicians, specialists or manufacturers of chip products.

Mask works are defined as "a series of related images, however constructed or encoded, which represent the three-dimensional pattern of the layers that form a chip, and in which each image represents, in whole or in part, the geometrical disposition or arrangement of the surface of the chip in any stage of its conception or manufacture."

"Chip" (circuito integrado) is defined as a product, in final or intermediate form, with elements of which at least one is active and with some or all the interconnections completely formed over one piece of material or in its interior, and which purpose is to perform an electronic function.

Mask work registration owners have the exclusive right to exploit the mask work, and any third party depends on the owners' authorization to:

  • Reproduce the mask work in whole or in part, by any means, including incorporating it into another chip
  • Import, sell or otherwise distribute for commercial purposes a protected mask work or a chip in which a protected mask work is incorporated or
  • Import, sell or otherwise distribute for commercial purposes a product that incorporates a chip in which a protected mask work is incorporated, only to the extent that such chip continues to include an illegal reproduction of a mask work.

Canada

Protection for integrated circuit topographies used in integrated circuit products gives exclusive right to reproduce, manufacture, import or commercially exploit the topography or any substantial part. Commercially exploit means to sell, lease, offer or exhibit for sale or lease, or otherwise distribute for a commercial purpose.

A topography means the design, however expressed, of the disposition of:

  • The interconnections, if any, and the elements for the making of an integrated circuit product, and 
  • The elements, if any, and the interconnections for the making of a customization layer or layers to be added to an integrated circuit product in an intermediate form.

Chile

Mask works are called layout-designs or topographies of integrated circuits in Chile. According to Law 19,039 on Industrial Property, integrated circuits shall be understood as a product, in its final or intermediate form, intended to perform an electronic function, in which the elements, at least one of which must be active, and some or all of the interconnections, are part of the body or surface of a piece of material. The law further defines them as three-dimensional arrangement of its elements, expressed in any shape, designed for its manufacture.

Layout designs or topographies of integrated circuits are protected if they are original.

The owner of a layout design or topography of integrated circuits has the exclusive right to produce, sell or market in any form the layout design or topography.

China

In China, mask works are called "layout-design of integrated circuits."

Any layout-design of integrated circuits that is to be protected shall be original in the sense that the layout-design is the result of the creator's own intellectual effort, and it is not commonplace among creators of layout-designs and manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time of its creation.

The right of layout-design should be registered with the China National Intellectual Property Administration. Any unregistered layout-design shall not be protected under relevant regulations.

The owner of the right of layout-design has the exclusive right to reproduce the whole or a part of a protected layout-design and commercially exploit a protected layout-design, an integrated circuit incorporating a protected layout-design or an article incorporating such an integrated circuit.

Colombia

According to Article 86 of the Decision 486, an integrated circuit is

"(…) a product, in its final or an intermediate form, in which the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and some or all of interconnections are an integral part of the body or surface of a piece of material, and which is intended to perform an electronic function." Layout-design, in turns, "(…) is three-dimensional disposition, however expressed, of the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and the interconnections of an integrated circuit, or such a three-dimensional disposition prepared for an integrated circuit intended for manufacture."

Mask works, also called layout-designs of integrated circuits, may be protected by each state if they are original, which means they are a result of an intellectual effort of the creator and are not commonplace in the integrated circuit industry. For this purpose, a designer or an entitled person must register the layout-design of integrated circuits with the Superintendence of Commerce (SIC).

Registration of layout-designs of integrated circuits grants a designer/creator the right to prohibit third parties from reproducing, commercializing or importing them. However, the protection conferred extends only to the layout-design itself and not to any concept, process, system or technique that is incorporated in the layout-design.

Rights granted by the registration may only be asserted against acts that have industrial or commercial purpose. Nonetheless, a third party may engage commercial or industrial acts to exploit a layout-design of integrated circuits if it is a result of the evaluation or analysis of the protected layout-design and meets the originality requirement.

 

Czech Republic

Protection for original masks works fixed in semiconductor chip products.

Mask works are defined as a series of related images, no matter in what manner fixed or encoded mutually connected, representing the three-dimensional permanent pattern of the layers of a semiconductor chip product.

Denmark

The right to semiconductor topographies under Danish law requires that an application be sent to the Danish Patent and Trademark Authority within two years from the day of first commercial exploitation.

Owners are granted an exclusive right to reproduce, import and make topographies available to the public by sale, rent or lending, or the like.

Finland

Topography right is given to an independent and original topography (similar to copyright).

The exclusive right to a topography includes the right to produce integrated circuit or piece of circuit design of the topography, the right to distribute the topography by making it available to the public for sale, hire, lend or otherwise, and to import the topography for purposes of such distribution. As the distribution right is not limited to physical components, the exclusive right includes also the right to distribute the topography via information network.

In practice, very few circuit topographies have been registered in Finland.

France

Mask works are protectable as an industrial property title relating to a final or intermediary semiconductor product topography and grants to its owner an exclusive right of exploitation/ reproduction.

There are two main conditions for the protection of a semiconductor product's final or intermediary topography: it must result from its creator's own intellectual effort and it must not be commonplace in the semiconductor industry.

The exclusive rights shall not come into existence or shall no longer apply to the topography of a semiconductor product if an application for registration in due form has not been filed with the INPI within 2 years of the first commercial exploitation or more than 15 years after it has been fixed or coded for the first time – in case it has never been exploited.

The exclusive rights on the semiconductor product topography shall include the rights to authorize or prohibit the reproduction, commercial exploitation or importation of a topography or of a semiconductor product manufactured by using the topography.

These exclusive rights shall not apply to reproduction for the purpose of analyzing, evaluating or teaching and shall not extend to the creation of a semiconductor product topography on the basis of an analysis and evaluation of another topography.

Germany

Three-dimensional structures of semiconductors (topographies) can enjoy protection if they are considered distinctive. Distinctiveness is given if the topography is new and not trivial. Protection is also available for individual parts of topographies and illustrations for the production of topographies.

The protection of a topography must be applied for with the German Patent and Trademark Office. The Patent Office will register the right without examining the topography itself, so the validity of this right can be challenged by third parties (comparable to a German utility model).

Rights owners have the exclusive right to reproduce the topography and to commercialize either the topography or the semiconductor containing the topography, meaning to offer, put on the German market, distribute or import such topographies or semiconductor chips.

Hong Kong, SAR

An "integrated circuit" is defined as a product, in its intermediate or final form, in which the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and some or all of the interconnections are integrally formed in or on, a piece of material and which is intended to perform an electronic function.

The Ordinance (referred to below) protects a lay-out design (topography) that is owned by a qualified owner and is original. A qualified owner has the exclusive right to reproduce all or part of or to commercially exploit his protected layout-design (topography).

Subject to certain exceptions, the owner is able to take civil action to prohibit others from reproducing or distributing his or her layout-design (topography) without his or her consent or without payment of royalties. There is no need to register the layout-design right and protection will be automatic.

Hungary

Microelectronic semiconductor topographies qualify for legal protection if they are original.

A topography is original if it is a result of an independent and intellectual creative effort and at the time of its creation it is not a commonplace in the industry. A topography consisting of standard elements may be registered if the combination of such elements is original.

A registration is required.

A topography shall mean the three dimensional combination in any form of the elements (of which at least one is active), and connections or parts thereof of a microelectronic semiconductor product, or such a three dimensional combination created for a semiconductor product to be manufactured.

The right owners have the exclusive right to exploit the topography and to authorize the exploitation thereof. Exploitation shall mean the reproduction, importation and distribution of the topography for commercial purposes.

The moral rights of the right holder are stipulated in the Hungarian Patent Act (see Patents).

India

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits-Layout Design Act 2000 (SICLD) protects the intellectual property of the creator in an original "layout design." Layout design is defined under the SICLD 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. A validly registered layout-design will give to the registered proprietor the exclusive right to the use of the layout-design and to obtain relief in respect of infringement.

Indonesia

Layout design is a creation in the form of a three dimensional layout design formed by various elements, at least one of which is active, of which parts of or all of the interconnections in an integrated circuit and the three dimensional layout is meant for the preparation of making an integrated circuit. Integrated circuit is a finished or half-finished product that contains various elements, at least one of which is active, which are partly or entirely interconnected and integrated in a semiconductor to produce electronic functions.

A right to layout design of integrated circuits is an exclusive right granted by the Government to a designer for his creation, for a given period to personally exploit his or her creation, or to give permission to other parties to exploit the right.

Ireland

Irish law recognises the concept of a "topography right" which protects the integrated circuit layout of electrical circuits used in semiconductor products. As with copyright law generally, there is no registration pre-condition or system in Ireland in relation to such rights.

Israel

The right protects designs of integrated circuits used in semiconductor chips and related electronic applications.

An integrated circuit is a product in its final or intermediate form, in which both of the following exist:

  • Its elements, at least one of which is an active element, and some or all of the interconnections are integrally formed in or on a layer or layers of material
  • The product is intended to perform an electronic function

The provisions of the Integrated Circuits (Protection) Law 1999, apply to an original layout-design (topography) in respect of which one of the following applies:

  • Its creator, on the date of creation, is a citizen or a resident of Israel
  • Its creator is a person or corporation with an active factory for the creation of layout-designs (topographies) or for the manufacture of integrated circuits in Israel on the date of creation

A layout-design (topography) is defined as the three-dimensional disposition of an integrated circuit or such three-dimensional disposition prepared for the manufacture of an integrated circuit, however expressed.

Italy

The topography of a semiconductor product is a series of fixed or encoded correlated designs, representing the 3-dimensional pattern of the layers of which a semiconductor product is composed, and in which series each image, entirely or partly, reproduces a surface of the semiconductor product at any stage of the manufacture thereof.

A semiconductor product is a finished or intermediate product containing 1 or more layers of conductor, insulating or semiconductor material arranged in a particular 3-dimensional pattern and intended to perform, whether exclusively or not, electronic circuitry functions.

Mask work owners have the exclusive right to totally or partly reproduce the topography in any method or shape and commercially exploit the mask work – in particular, keeping or distributing for commercial purposes or importing a topography or a semiconductor product in which the topography is fixed.

Japan

The layout-design of semiconductor integrated circuits is protected.

A semiconductor integrated circuit means a product having transistors or other circuitry elements inseparably formed on the surface of a semiconductor material or an insulating material, or within a semiconductor material and designed to perform electronic circuitry functions.

Layout-design means a layout of circuitry elements in semiconductor integrated circuits and the lead wires connecting such elements.

Registration with the Software Information Center is required.

Owners have the exclusive right to manufacture, transfer, lease, display or import a semiconductor in which mask work is embodied for business.

An owner cannot assert its right against the same mask work that was independently developed.

Luxembourg

The topography of a semiconductor product is protected if it is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry. Where the topography of a semiconductor product consists of elements that are commonplace in the semiconductor industry, it shall be protected only to the extent that the combination of such elements, taken as a whole, is the result of the creator's own intellectual effort and the combination is not commonplace in the industry. The protection extends solely to the topography and not to any concept, process, system, technique or encoded information embodied in the topography.

The rights holder has the exclusive and temporary right to reproduce and commercially exploit the topography (or import it to this end). The rights holder may, however, not assert this exclusive right: (i) to prohibit reproductions of the topography that serve the sole purpose of analyzing or evaluating its techniques (reverse engineering) and (ii) to act against any topography resulting from such analysis to the extent that it is the result of the creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry.

Mexico

Mask works protect the titleholder of any reproduction, total or partial, as well as from the import, sell or distribution for commercial purposes.

Netherlands

Pursuant to the Dutch Act on the Legal Protection of Topographies of Semiconductor Products, the topography of a semiconductor product is protected if it is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry. Where the topography of a semiconductor product consists of elements that are commonplace in the semiconductor industry, it is protected only to the extent that the combination of such elements, taken as a whole, fulfills the above-mentioned conditions. The protection applies solely to the topography and excludes any concept, process, system, technique or encoded information embodied in the topography.

The rights holder shall have the exclusive and temporary right to reproduce and commercially exploit the topography. The rights holder may, however, not assert this exclusive right of:

  • Reproduction solely for the purposes of analysis, evaluation or teaching of the topography or the concepts, processes, systems or techniques embodied in the topography
  • A topography resulting from the analysis and evaluation of another topography carried out in accordance with item 1, at least insofar as the new topography is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry

New Zealand

The Layout Designs Act 1994 provides protection for the original three-dimensional disposition, however expressed, of the elements of an integrated circuit (a layout design) where this layout design was produced by an eligible person (such as a New Zealand citizen), or first commercially exploited in New Zealand.

The owner of the layout design rights has the exclusive right to copy the layout design, produce an integrated circuit in accordance with the layout design or copy, and commercially exploit the layout design in New Zealand.

The protection is automatic and registration is not required in New Zealand.

Norway

The creator of an integrated circuit/layout design has the exclusive right to enforce the design. The owner is granted the exclusive right to reproduce, import and make the layout design available to the public by sale, renting/lending, or other public distribution.

The layout design has to be the result of the creator's own intellectual effort, and it cannot be standard in the industry.

The protection of the layout design does not include any information, systems or techniques that the circuit is based on or represents.

Philippines

The IPC likewise protects layout-designs of integrated circuits. Integrated circuits means a product in its final form, or an intermediate form, in which the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and some or all of the interconnections are integrally formed in and/or on a piece of material, and which is intended to perform an electronic function. “Layout-design” is synonymous with topography and refers to the 3-dimensional disposition, however expressed, of the elements, at least 1 of which is an active element, and of some or all of the interconnections of an integrated circuit, or such a three-dimensional disposition prepared for an integrated circuit intended for manufacture.

Only layout-designs that are original benefit from the protection of the IPC. A layout-design is considered original if it is the result of the creator’s intellectual effort and is not commonplace among creators of layout-designs and manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time of its creation. A layout-design consisting of a combination of elements and interconnections that are commonplace shall be protected only if the combination, taken as a whole, is original.

The owner of a layout-design registration enjoys the exclusive right to (i) reproduce, whether by incorporation in an integrated circuit or otherwise, the registered layout-design in its entirety or any part thereof, except the act of reproducing any part that does not comply with the requirement of originality and (ii) to sell or otherwise distribute for commercial purposes the registered layout-design, an article or an integrated circuit in which the registered layout-design is incorporated.

Poland

A topography of an integrated circuit is a three-dimensional arrangement of elements presented in any form, where at least one of them is an active element, and all or part of the connections of the integrated circuit.

The registration right to a topography may be granted for a topography which is original. A topography is original if it is the result of the creator's own intellectual effort and its design is not commonly known at the moment of its creation. For a topography consisting of commonly known elements, a registration right is granted only if the combination of the elements is original.

The protection of a topography is granted by the Polish Patent Office (Urząd Patentowy RP). From the moment the right is registered, the right owners have the exclusive right to exploit the topography for profit or for professional purposes.

The Polish Patent Office issues a decision on granting a right if the application is properly filed and no impediments to the granting are found. However, the granting of the right may be challenged by third parties.

Portugal

The topography of a semiconductor product is a set of related fixed or encoded images that represent the three-dimensional layout of the layers making up the product, in which each image shows the layout or part of the layout of a surface of the same product in any stage of its manufacture.

Only topographies of semiconductor products that result from the intellectual efforts of their creator and are not known in the semiconductor industry may be protected.

Topographies consisting of elements known in the semiconductor industry may also be protected, provided that the combination of these elements, as a whole, fulfills the conditions in the previous paragraph.

Protection granted to topographies of semiconductor products applies only to the topographies themselves and not to any concept, process, system, technique or encoded information incorporated in them. Any creator of a final or intermediate topography of a semiconductor product has the exclusive right to use this topography, provided that the creator meets legal requirements, such as those regarding registration.

Romania

Owners of original topographies have exclusive rights in relation to the topography of semiconductor products following their registration.

Topographies of semiconductor products are defined as a series of related images, however fixed or encoded, representing the three-dimensional configuration of the layers that make up a semiconductor product and in which each image reproduces the design or part of the drawing of a semiconductor surface at any stage of its manufacture.

Semiconductor products are defined as (i) the final or intermediate form of any product composed of a substrate that has a layer of semiconductor material, (ii) consisting of one or more layers of conductive, insulating or semiconducting materials, the layers being arranged according to a predetermined three-dimensional configuration, and (iii) such configuration is intended to perform, whether exclusively or not, an electronic function.

Subject to certain exceptions, owners of registered topographies have the exclusive rights to exploit the topography and to authorize or forbid the reproduction of the said topography and the commercial exploitation or import for this purpose of a topography or a semiconductor product made based on the said topography.

Russia

The topography of a semiconductor product is a series of fixed or encoded correlated designs, representing the three-dimensional pattern of the layers that make up a semiconductor product.

Mask work owners have the exclusive right to totally or partly reproduce the topography in any method or shape and commercially exploit the mask work, in particular, keeping or distributing for commercial purposes or importing a topography or a semiconductor product in which the topography is fixed.

Saudi Arabia

In the KSA, protection is available for layout designs of integrated circuits.

Any layout design of integrated circuits that is to be protected must be "original" in the sense that it must be the result of its creator's own intellectual effort, and is not commonplace among creators of layout designs and manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time of its creation.

Applications for registration of a layout design of an integrated circuit are made to the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

Singapore

An original layout-design is one which is both the result of the creator's own academic effort and which is not commonplace among creators and manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time it is created.

It is not necessary to file an application to protect the layout-design or file the layout-design with the IPOS. A citizen or resident of Singapore, or of a country which is a member of the WTO or a country designated by the Singapore government as a qualifying country, who owns a layout-design, gains automatic protection for the layout-design if it qualifies for protection under Singapore law.

Slovak Republic

Topography shall mean a series of fixed or coded mutually related images representing the three-dimensional layers which the semiconductor product is composed of with each scheme representing the pattern or the part of the pattern of the surface of a semiconductor product in any stage of its production.

Semiconductor product shall mean a microelectronic product in the final form or in the intermediate form which is exclusively or in combination with other functions determined to fulfill an electronic function. It consists of a body containing a layer of semiconducting material and has one or more layers composed of conductive, insulating or semiconducting material in a predetermined three-dimensional arrangement.

The right to protection of the topography belongs to its inventor unless otherwise specified. The inventor is the person who created the topography by its own creative intellectual activity.

South Korea

The SCA defines a protectable layout-design as a plane or three-dimensional design of circuit elements and wires connecting those elements such that the design could be used in manufacturing an integrated circuit topography. Registration is necessary for protection under the SCA. If the registered layout-design lacks creativity, it may be cancelled.

Spain

The topographies of semiconductor products, in other words the three-dimensional design-layout and connections of integrated circuits, are protected by the grant of exclusive rights insofar as it is the result of its creator's own intellectual effort and is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry.

Sweden

The right to topographies under Swedish Law requires that the topography is the result of a personal intellectual effort of the creator and that the circuit design is not commonplace in the semiconductor industry. Topographies made up of elements which are commonly used in the semiconductor industry are only protected if the combination of such elements fulfils the conditions for protection.

Owners are granted an exclusive right to reproduce, import and make topographies available to the public by sale, rent or lending, or other public distribution.

Switzerland

This right provides protection for original topographies of semiconductor products, regardless of their definition or coding. The object of protection is the design of the three-dimensional structure of the connected layers on which the semiconductor product (integrated circuit) is based. The protection only concerns the external form of the topography and not the electronic function of the semiconductor product.

Protection in Switzerland is available if one of the following preconditions is fulfilled:

  • Production by a Swiss manufacturer or a person whose normal place of residence or place of business is in Switzerland
  • First publication in Switzerland
  • Protection in Switzerland based on an international treaty

Taiwan, China

Integrated circuit layouts are protected by the Integrated Circuit Layout Protection Act, which defines:

  • "Integrated circuit" as a finished or intermediate product having electronic circuitry functions and with transistors, capacitors, resistors, or other electronic components and their interconnections integrated onto or within a semiconducting material
  • "Circuit layout" as a two-dimensional or three-dimensional design of electronic components and interconnecting leads on an integrated circuit

Subject to certain exceptions set forth in the Integrated Circuit Layout Protection Act, an owner of circuit layout rights shall have the exclusive rights to preclude others from reproducing the circuit layout in whole or in part; or importing or distributing for commercial purpose the circuit layout or an article containing the circuit layout. 

Ukraine

Ukrainian law ensures protection of topographies if they are original. A topography is considered to be original if it is not created by direct reproduction (ie, copying) of another topography and had not been known in the field of microelectronics before the date of filing of an application to the Ukrainian IP Office or before the date of its first use.

Intellectual property rights to topographies are subject to registration with the Ukrainian IP Office.

An owner of a registered topography enjoys exclusive rights to use the topography, prohibit its commercial use or import by third parties without respective consent of the owner and assign or license the right to topography. Use shall mean the reproduction of topography, manufacture of semiconductor products produced with use of such topography, manufacture of any goods that contain such semiconductor products, import, offering for sale (including via internet), sale and storage of the semiconductor products produced with the use of such topography or goods that contain such semiconductor products.

United Arab Emirates

Mask works do not benefit from specific protection under the law in the UAE.

United Kingdom

The equivalent to a "mask work" right is a semiconductor topography right. However, this is rarely used. Integrated circuit layouts are protected through use of other intellectual property rights, eg, copyright.

The right protects a UK unregistered design (within the meaning of the Copyright Act) which is:

  • A pattern fixed or intended to be fixed in or upon
    • A layer of semiconductor product
    • A layer of material in the course of and purpose of the manufacture of a semiconductor product
  • The arrangement of patterns fixed, or intended to be fixed, in or upon layers of a semiconductor product in relation to one another.

A semiconductor product is defined as an article consisting of at least two layers, at least one composed of semiconducting material, and in or upon one or more of which a pattern is fixed. The article must have as a purpose the performance of an electronic function.

The right is infringed by reproducing the design, either by making articles based on the design, or by creating design documents for the purpose of making such articles.

United States

The Copyright Act provides legal protection for original mask works fixed in semiconductor chip products.

Mask works are defined as a series of related images, however fixed or encoded:

  • Having or representing the predetermined three-dimensional pattern of metallic, insulating, or semiconductor material present or removed from the layers of a semiconductor chip product
  • In which series the relation of the images to one another is that each image has the pattern of the surface of one form of the semiconductor chip product

Semiconductor chip products are defined as the final or intermediate form of any product

  • Having two or more layers of metallic, insulating, or semiconductor material, deposited or otherwise placed on, or etched away or otherwise removed from, a piece of semiconductor material in accordance with a predetermined pattern
  • Intended to perform electronic circuitry functions

Mask work owners have the exclusive right to reproduce the mask work by optical, electronic or other means, import or distribute the semiconductor chip product in which the mask work is embodied and induce or knowingly cause another person to do any of the foregoing acts.