EU directive provides for the protection of the topographies of semiconductors. These are the physical hardware at the lowest physical level within the computer. Semiconductors have properties of allowing for and “on” or “off” mode and they ultimately provide the very basic building block of hardware.
A semiconductor product is a final or intermediate form of product consisting of a body of material which includes a layer of semiconducting material and has one or more layers of conducting insulation or semiconducting materials. The layers are to be arranged in accordance with predetermined three dimensional patterns and intended to perform exclusively or together with others, an electronic function.
The topography is an image or a series of images whether fixed or coded, representing three dimensional patterns of layers of which the semiconductor product is composed and in which each image has the pattern of a surface of the semiconductor product, at any stage of its manufacture.
The Irish Regulations implementing the Directive provides a right in respect of the topography of semiconductor. This right belongs to the creator.
In order to enjoy the rights, conditions similar to patentability apply. The invention must be that of the creator’s own intellectual effort. It must not be common place in the industry. This implies a degree of originality.
The question is whether the development is obvious or common to a person skilled in the art. The topography as a whole must be viewed in the context of this assessment.
The holder of the topography right is generally the employer of the creator or the creator. The right confers the exclusive right to reproduce and commercially export the topography or to import it.
Scope of Rights
There are certain exceptions to the right of reproduction, similar to those for patent. The rights commence from the date on which the topography is created or in certain cases, from the date of first use anywhere in the world.
The right lasts 10 years from end of the year in which this first exploited or15 years from creation. The right for infringement is enforceable by the holder of the right in much of the same way as other intellectual property rights.