Integrated Circuits

All you need to know about Integrated Circuits


What is an Integrated Circuit?

Integrated circuits – commonly known as “chips” or “microchips” – are the electronic circuits in which all the components (transistors, diodes and resistors) have been assembled in a specific order on the surface of a thin semiconductor material (usually silicon). 

What are Integrated Circuits used for?

Integrated circuits are classified into microprocessors and memories. A microprocessor performs information-processing functions whereas memories enable storing and retrieval of data. These are respectively used by manufacturers and processors in equipment to improve production efficiency. In addition, microprocessors and memories are used in many familiar machines such as aircraft, cars, washing machines, radios and cellular telephones.

What are Layout Designs of Integrated Circuits?

Layout designs (topographies) of integrated circuits are a three-dimensional placement of elements that form an integrated circuit.

Why protect the Layout Designs of Integrated circuits?

Integrated circuits are manufactured in accordance with very detailed plans or layout designs. The high cost of creating layout designs and the relative ease of copying are the main reasons why layout designs need protection. This protection therefore seeks to foster sustainable investment and innovation in the field.

How can the Layout Design of an Integrated Circuit be protected?

Protection may be obtained for layout-designs to the extent that designs are original within the meaning of Section 4 of the Integrated Circuits Topography Act 2003.

A layout-design shall be considered original if it is the result of its creator’s own intellectual effort and is not commonplace among creators of lay-out designs or manufacturers of integrated circuits at the time of its creation. (Section 4. (1))

  • Registration may be applied for if the layout- design has not been commercially exploited or has been commercially exploited for not more than two years anywhere in the world. (Section 2)

What is the extent of the exclusive rights conferred?

The right holder has the exclusive right to prevent or stop others from commercially using the protected layout design. However, an act by a third party for private use or for the sole purpose of evaluation, analysis, research or teaching is not considered to require the authorization of the right holder. Therefore, “reverse engineering” of an integrated circuit for such purposes is not restricted.

Can a combination of existing Layout Designs be protected?

Yes. 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 within the meaning of Section 4, (1) of the 2003 Act.

When does protection of the Layout design begin?

Protection of a layout-design shall begin:

  1. On the date of the first commercial exploitation, anywhere in the world, of the layout-design by or with the consent of the right-holder. This is provided that the application has been filed by the right-holder with the Registrar within the time limit referred to in Section 3 (2) of the 2003 Act or
  2. On the filing date accorded to the application for the registration of the layout-design filed by the right holder if the layout-design has not been previously exploited commercially anywhere in the world.

How long does the protection of a Layout Design last?

A protection of a lay-out design shall terminate at the end of the tenth calendar year. 

How is Layout Design protection enforced?

Any person, without authorization, knowingly performs any unlawful act under Section 6 of the Act, shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00) and to imprisonment for five years. The Court may also order the seizure, forfeiture and destruction of the layout-designs.”