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  • Intellectual property framework

    Overview

    Protection of intellectual property rights is required by the Federal Constitution and by several multilateral treaties. The main statutes in this area are federal statutes. However, in case of litigation, some matters are subject to federal jurisdiction, and others to provincial jurisdiction.

  • Commercial contract framework

    Overview

    Commercial contracts are governed by the Civil and Commercial Code. This code came into effect in 2015 and it replaces the previous separate Civil Code and Commercial Code. It is part of the federal legislation, but jurisdiction regarding its implementation and litigation resulting thereunder corresponds primarily to the provincial courts.

    The Civil and Commercial Code includes general provisions on contracts, which are applicable to all contractual transactions. These provisions govern matters such as the formation of contracts, offer and acceptance, possible subject matter of contracts, legal formalities, the legal effects of contracts, contract termination and others.

    In addition, the Civil and Commercial Code includes provisions applicable to specific types of contracts, such as sale agreements, leases, franchise agreements and agency agreements. More than 30 types of agreements are subject to specific provisions of this kind. These specially regulated agreements are thus subject to the general rules applicable to contracts –described above – and to the special rules applicable to the relevant type of agreement. Agreements that are not subject to special rules are nevertheless valid, and they are governed primarily by the general contract rules and – to the degree possible – by the rules applicable to analogous specially regulated contracts.

    Other laws include provisions on specific types of commercial contracts. For instance, the Copyright Law includes certain provisions of contracts related to software and to publishing; the Patent Law includes rules on license agreements; and the Insurance Law includes rules on insurance contracts. However, in all these specially regulated contracts, the general contract law rules included in the Civil and Commercial Code are also applicable.

    Commercial contracts with the federal or provincial governments or with other governmental entities are also governed by administrative law. Special rules on contracts with state entities have been included in federal or provincial laws, or have been developed by case law.

  • Copyrights

    Nature of right

    Copyright protects intellectual creations in all fields of science, art and literature. Article 1 of the Copyright Law includes a non-exhaustive list of possible intellectual works protected by copyright. These include, among others, literary and artistic works, music, architectural works and software.

    Copyright protects intellectual expressions, but not ideas. For example, the contents of a book in terms of sentences and other literary expressions are protected by copyright, but the creative idea underlying the book as a whole is not.

    Copyright results from the creation of an intellectual work. Registration is not necessary for copyright to exist, although it is necessary for the exercise of some rights by local authors. Upon creation of a protected work, copyright belongs to the original author or authors, who then may transfer their right, by contract or by the operation of certain legal rules.

    Copyright includes economic and moral rights. Economic rights consist, basically, in the exclusive right to use and exploit the protected work. The Copyright Law lists some of the elements of this exclusive right, such as the right to reproduce the relevant work, to market copies, to prepare derivative works or to have the work performed publicly.

    Moral rights include the so call "integrity right" – that is, the right to preserve the text, title and other contents of the work, even if property rights on such work have been assigned; the "paternity right," the author’s right to be named and identified as such together with the work; the "publication right," the right to decide whether the right will be published; and the "alteration right," the right to modify the work, even after it has been published. Moral rights belong to the author and they are generally non-assignable.

    Legal framework

    Copyright law is included in Law 11, 723, as amended. In addition, multiple laws and regulations govern matters such as related rights, publishers' rights and collective management societies.

    Argentina is part of the main multilateral international copyright agreements, such as the Trips Agreement, the Berne Convention and the Rome Convention. The provisions of these agreements are actively enforced by the courts.

    Duration of right

    The general rule is that copyright protection lasts for a term of seventy 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 work done through cooperation, the 70-year term is computed from the death of the last person who participated in the joint authorship of the work involved.

    In the case of posthumous works, the 70-year term is computed from the death of the author.

    The duration of protection of anonymous works whose copyright belongs to institutions, corporations or legal entities is 50 years from the date of publication of the work.

    Special rules on copyright duration apply to specific types of copyrightable works, such as photographs and cinematographic works.

    Ownership / licenses

    The basic rule is that ownership belongs to the author. Special rules have been developed in connection with special types of works, such as cinematographic works, derivative works and software.

    There are several types of joint ownership. It may apply to works done through cooperation, which imply a creative collaboration between different authors; to collective works, which are those created through the initiative or direction of one or more individuals, who coordinate or direct the efforts of several other individuals to achieve a joint result; and to composite works, which are the result of adding different separate works, each with a possible separate author and owner, into one final result.

    Works created by employees who have been hired for that purpose belong to the employer.

    Copyright may be subject to licenses, generally as part of broader contractual arrangements such as publishing agreements.

    Remedies for infringement

    Damages may be claimed before civil courts for all types of copyright violation. Registration of works is not necessary, except for local authors, whose rights may be suspended until registration takes place.

    It is also possible to file civil action to prevent further copyright violation, and to obtain preliminary remedies, such as injunction, in the course of civil procedures.

    Criminal remedies, particularly fines, are possible, but are not frequently applied.

  • Mask works / topographies

    Nature of right

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

    Legal framework

    Argentina has enacted no specific rules on chip protection. Although Argentina is part of the WTO and has approved the Trips Agreement, it has not yet implemented any rules on chip protection.

    The provisions on chip protection included in the Trips Agreement have not been deemed immediately applicable under Argentine law. In addition, Argentina has not ratified or implemented other multilateral treaties on chip protection, in particular the Treaty of Washington of 1989.

    Semiconductor technology, generally, and topographies, in particular, may be protected under the traditional intellectual property rules applicable to all types of technology, specially 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

    Patents are a statutory right. The granting of patents is required by the Argentine Constitution and by different international documents, particularly the Trips Agreement. Patent rights imply an exclusive right to exploit a process or a product. The Argentine Patent Law defines the limits of these exclusive rights, on the basis of the provisions of the Trips Agreement.

    Legal framework

    Patents are governed by the Patent Law – Law 24,481, as amended. In addition, they are governed by the Trips Agreement and by the Paris Convention. Argentina is not a party to the Patent Cooperation Treaty.

    Duration of right

    The basic rule is that patents expire 20 years after the date in which the relevant patent application was filed. Argentina uses a "first to file" system, but it also applies the priority rules derived from the Paris Convention.

    Argentine law provides special rules on compulsory licenses and on patent termination due to lack of exploitation of the patented invention. Compulsory licenses may be granted in case of non-exploitation, competition law violations or sanitary emergencies, among other cases. Patent termination may result when, after a compulsory license was granted for lack of exploitation, no exploitation of the invention takes place for two years after the license was granted.

    Ownership / licenses

    Joint ownership is permissible. The Patent Law includes provisions on the exercise of patent rights by the joint owners. In addition the Civil and Commercial Code rules on joint property apply to patents.

    The Patent law includes rules on licenses. Licenses are not exclusive, unless the parties provide otherwise. Competition law rules are applicable to restrictive clauses included in license agreements.

    Remedies for infringement

    The Patent law provides both civil and criminal law remedies for cases of infringement.

    Civil remedies include the compensation of damages and termination of the infringing activities.

    A complex system of rules for preliminary remedies in patent cases is included in the Patent law. Generally, suspension of an alleged infringer's exploitation requires a preliminary procedure, with the participation of expert witnesses.

    Criminal procedures and sanctions are rare.

  • Trademarks

    Nature of right

    A trademark may consist of one or more words, with or without conceptual content, drawings, commercial symbols, monograms, engravings, prints, seals, images, stripes, color combinations, letter and number combinations, the special graphics of letters and numbers, advertisement phrases, reliefs, and any other sign with distinctive capacity.

    A trademark is normally protected by means of its registration. However, de facto trademarks, that is those that are used but not registered, are also protected in a more limited way.

    Legal framework

    Trademarks are governed by the Trademark Law – Law 22,362, as amended.

    In addition, trademarks are protected by the rules included in Trips Agreement and in the Paris Convention.

    Duration of right

    Registered trademarks are protected for a period of ten years, from the moment of registration. Trademark registration may be renewed indefinitely.

    Registration may be cancelled for lack of use during a period of five years. In addition, renewal of registration requires proof of the trademark's prior use.

    Ownership / licenses

    Ownership is acquired by means of registration. However, use of unregistered trademarks may result in certain rights for the user.

    Trademarks may be subject to joint ownership. The Trademark Law and the Civil and Commercial Code provide the rules applicable to these joint ownership relationships.

    Trademark licenses are possible. They are valid even if they are not registered with the trademark office.

    Remedies for infringement

    The Trademark Law provides both civil and criminal law remedies for cases of infringement.

    Civil remedies include the compensation of damages and the termination of the infringing activities.

    Special preliminary remedies are applicable in cases of trademark infringement. The trademark owner may obtain an injunction against the infringer, when the trademark is registered and its violation is immediately evident.

    Criminal law remedies are rarely used in practice.

  • Trade secrets

    Nature of right

    Argentine law provides protection for trade secrets and confidential information. A complex set of rules creates rights against conduct whereby access is gained illegally to confidential information, or which implies illegal use of trade secrets or confidential information or which results in the unauthorized and harmful disclosure of confidential or secret information.

    Confidential information is characterized by the fact that it is kept in a reserved manner and that it is not generally available for technicians working in the relevant technical field. Trade secrets receive a special degree of protection, particularly under criminal law.

    Legal framework

    Confidential information is governed and protected by Law 24,766. It is also protected by the Trips Agreement and by the Paris Convention.

    In addition, multiple rules and statutes protect confidential information and trade secrets. Labor law protects the confidentiality and ownership of information used in employment relationships.

    Several criminal law rules apply to special types of violations of confidentiality. In particular, disclosure of trade secrets and unfair competition by means of the illegal use or appropriation of trade secrets are subject to criminal law penalties.

    Duration of right

    Confidential information and trade secrets is protected for as long as the relevant information is kept confidential. The degree of protection diminishes if the information ceases to be objectively a secret, due to its previous disclosure or because it has been obtained independently by other parties.

    Ownership / licenses

    Ownership results from the obtention of the information, accompanied by legal or practical measures aimed at restricting access to that information by third parties. No registration requirement is applicable.

    Joint ownership is possible.

    Trade secret or know-how licenses are common and enforceable.

    Remedies for infringement

    Argentine law provides civil and criminal law remedies for cases of trade secret infringement.

    Damages caused by these violations must be compensated. It is also possible to obtain court orders requiring termination of the violation.

    Preliminary remedies include injunctions against further exploitation or disclosure of trade secrets.

    Criminal remedies are applicable in cases of disclosure of trade secrets acquired in the course of employment and other professional relationship, as well as in cases in which the violation of the rights to confidential information or trade secrets results in unfair competition.

  • Other key IP rights

    Nature of right

    Industrial designs

    Industrial models and designs are protected by special industrial property rights. An industrial model or design consists in the forms embodied in or the aspect applied to an industrial or artisan product, which confer an ornamental character to such product.

    Exclusive rights on industrial models and designs result from registration of the relevant model or design.

    Industrial designs

    Industrial designs

    Legal framework

    Industrial designs

    Industrial models and designs are protected by Decree 6673/1963, as amended. They are also protected in accordance with the Trips Agreement and the Paris Convention.

    Duration of right

    Industrial designs

    The rights derived from the registration of an industrial model or design last for a five-year period, counted from the date of filing of the relevant application. The registration may be renewed for two successive five-year period, if the owner requests such renewal.

    Ownership / licenses

    Industrial designs

    Ownership belongs to the author. There is a rebuttable presumption to the effect that the first applicant of an industrial model or design registration is the author of such industrial model or design. Joint ownership is possible, and is governed by the Civil and Commercial Code and by Decree 6673/1963 as amended.

    Industrial models or designs may be the subject matter of license agreements. No registration is necessary for the validity of these agreements.

    Remedies for infringement

    Industrial designs

    Civil and criminal law remedies are applicable in case of infringement. Civil remedies include the compensation of damages and termination of the violation.

    Preliminary injunctions and remedies are possible in accordance with general procedural rules.

    Criminal sanctions have been recently reinforced, but they are rarely applied.

  • Intellectual property in employment context

    Employees

    Special rules on employee inventions are included in the Patent Law and in the Labor Contract Law.

    There are basically three types of invention, from the perspective of employer-employee relationships. First, inventions made in technological areas for which the employee was hired as a researcher or developer belong to the employer. The employee may be entitled to a special compensation if he or she develops a patented invention which exceeds the normal scope of the employee's work. Second, inventions related to the employee's work or related to the employer's know-how or activities belong to the employee, but allow the employer to exercise an option to acquire rights over the invention. If the option is exercised, the employee is entitled to a payment reflecting the value of the invention. Third, inventions that do not fall into the two previous categories belong to the employee.

    Similar rules are applicable in the case of other types of technology or intellectual property rights. In the case of software, the law applies the “work for hire” doctrine, but allows the parties to agree to different contractual rules.

    Consultants / contractors

    The law is not explicit about the rights of consultants and contractors, who do not qualify as employees, with regard to technology and other intellectual property they develop. Generally, the parties may agree as to the rules which will apply to such rights. In the absence of a contractual framework, the technology or intellectual property generated by a consultant or contractor who was hired with the purpose of developing such items that will belong to the person paying for such work.

  • Key commercial contract considerations

    Registration of commercial agreements

    The general rule is that commercial agreements are not registered, and that their validity and effect is not subject to registration requirements. However, certain types of agreement must be registered to be effective or to have full effects against third parties. Agreements subject to registration include business association agreements, certain publishing agreements, certain chattel mortgages and certain agreements related to real estate. International transfer of technology agreements are subject to registration for tax purposes.

    Recognized language of commercial agreements

    Agreements are generally entered in Spanish. However, it is legally possible to enter agreements written in other languages. These agreements must be translated when presented in court. Spanish language may be necessary in consumer transactions.

    Country-specific issues for online content

    Argentina has ratified the WIPO conventions applicable online content and practices. However, enforcement of these conventions is weak.

    Enforceability of online/clickwrap/shrinkwrap terms

    The general rule is that acceptance of terms included in online, click wrap or shrink wrap elements is valid and effective, provided such acceptance is clearly stated and applies to terms that were known to the person giving the acceptance. However, several rules may limit the effects of agreements entered by these mechanisms, particularly consumer protection rules and rules on adhesion contracts.

    Governing law

    The basic rule is that the parties may agree as to the law that will govern their contractual rights and as to the applicable jurisdiction in case of dispute. This freedom of election is subject to several limitations. Non-Argentine law will not be enforced in Argentine courts if it  is contrary to Argentine public policy. Also, certain matters are necessarily governed by Argentine law. For example, if a business association is created in Argentina, its organization and other corporate aspects will be governed by Argentine law. Decisions made by non-Argentine courts or arbitration tribunals are enforceable in Argentina only after going through a special procedure before the Argentine courts, in the context of which the decision will only be enforced if it complies with certain rules, particularly not violating Argentine public policy. In addition, certain matters – ie, deciding the validity of a patent issued in Argentina – are necessarily subject to Argentine jurisdiction.

  • Key commercial contract terms

    Enforceability of warranty disclaimers

    Argentine law provides certain warranties, generally applicable to all types of contracts implying the transfer of rights. These warranties apply, in particular, to the validity of the rights being transferred and to the fitness of the goods regarding which rights are transferred.

    The general rule is that these warranties may be limited or eliminated by agreement between the parties. However, these disclaimers are totally or partially invalid in several types of cases: if the transferor had prior knowledge of the invalidity of the transferred rights or of the deficiency of the goods involved; if the transferor is a merchant and the parties waiving his or her rights are not; and if the warranty disclaimer is included in a consumer or adhesion contract.

    Enforceability of exclusions/limitations of liability indemnification

    Exclusions or limitations of liability indemnification are valid if they meet the general conditions applicable to contractual. However, they may be unenforceable in the following cases: when they extend to willful violations or defaults, or to violations or defaults resulting from gross negligence; when they are imposed in adhesion or consumer contracts; or when they result in the violation or annulment of rights that may not be removed or limited contractually.

    Indemnification

    The basic rule under Argentine law if full indemnification of economic or moral damages caused by illegal conduct, whether that conduct constitutes a contractual or a tort violation.

    The parties are free to include contractual rules as to the extent of their indemnification obligations.

    Penalty clauses and liquidated damages clauses are acceptable, but they may be limited or amended by the courts if their terms are deemed abusive.

    In the absence of contractual provisions, the indemnification's extent will depend on circumstances such as the willful or negligent nature of the violation, foreseeability of the damages caused and the comparative fault of the parties.

    Electronic signatures

    Electronic signatures are valid and effective under Argentine law. However, certain legal effects require that the signature comply with a special certification regime.

  • Key contacts
    Guillermo Cabanellas
    Guillermo Cabanellas
    Senior Partner DLA Piper (Argentina) [email protected] T +5411 41145500 View bio

Mask works / topographies

Nature of right

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
  • 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

Law 19,039 of Industrial Property provides legal protection for integrated circuits topography.

Integrated circuit 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.

Three-dimensional elements, expressed in any shape, designed for its manufacture shall be understood as tracing schemes or topography of integrated circuits.

Layout designs or topographies of integrated circuits shall be protected as long as they are original.

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 has to register the layout-design of integrate 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 it. However, the protection conferred extends just 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 meet 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 in other similar ways.

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

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 three-dimensional pattern of the layers that a semiconductor product is made up of 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 one or more layers of conductor, insulating or semiconductor material arranged in a particular three-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 import 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.

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

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 integrated circuit 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 (copying) of another topography, has characteristics that ensure new peculiarities 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. A topography of integral circuit shall be considered original until proof to the contrary is provided.

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 such use by third parties and assign or license the right to topography. Use shall mean the reproduction, import and distribution of the topography or integrated circuits produced with the use of such topography.

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.