Semiconductor Integrated Circuit-Prevent Chip Pirates
The memory and processing units of a modern digital computer comprises of Chips. These chips are also famously known as Integrated Circuits. A crystalline or an amorphous solid chemical element or a compound of high resistance that can conduct and make a good medium for the control of electricity under some conditions is known as a Semiconductor. An integrated silicon or monolithic circuit also referred to as IC Chip or Mono Chip is a set of electronic circuit on one small plate known as a substrate or a wafer of semiconductor material or insulator, normally made up of silicon or germanium. These computer chips can be made from independent components and are now –a-days developed much smaller than a discrete circuit, which can perform useful functions in electronic apparatus and solid state research.
A Layout Design is equivalent with Topography and is defined as the three-dimensional arrangement of transistors and other interconnection of active circuit elements expressed in any manner in semiconductor integrated circuits.
This article expresses the types of semiconductor integrated circuits topographies and the need for legal protection of such developments.
A simple integrated circuit comprises of three layers, one of which is made from a semiconductor material known as a wafer or a substrate. This is a thin, highly polished silicon crystal disk coated with layers of silicon oxide – an insulator and the electronic components fabricated with other micro components by a process of diffusion. Subsequently, the semiconductor materials are manipulated by addition of impurities through holes etched by the oxides, this process is known as Doping. Finally an aluminum coating is applied which is partly evaporated using a mask, leaving behind the interconnections between components formed in that semiconductor layer. A mask is transparent except for the opaque patterns for the mask which equates to the circuit patterns to be etched into the wafer.
In a complex circuit, another layer of silicon is placed on top of the etched wafer and the same process of etching is repeated.
A chip has eight to twelve layers, each layer having a unique mask creating the required circuits. These layers of masks collectively called Mask Work or Layout Design evidently create the three dimensional layout of the chip. A Mask Work is a two or three dimensional layout design or topography of a semiconductor integrated circuit comprising of transistors and passive electronic components such as resistors and interconnections. The layout is called as Mask Work because in photolithographic process, the multiple etched layers within actual integrated circuits are each produced using a mask known as a Photo Mask to permit or prohibit the light – a controlled light beam at specific locations, sometimes simultaneously for hundreds of chips on a wafer.
Layout Design Topographies of Integrated Circuits is crucial field in protection of the intellectual property. We understand that the information assembled is paved with the semiconductor on this topography. Thus the three dimensional development and micro-processing of the integrated circuit requires intellectual and legal protection.
The Layout Design of an Integrated Circuit is creation of a human mind. The development of successful topographies takes enormous capital, time and effort. A person who replicates a developed integrated layout and sells to gain unlawful profits is known as a CHIP PIRATE. In this Digital Age, piracy of industrial chips is an effortless technique. A chip pirate can easily imitate the layout design; remove the plastic or ceramic casing and photograph each layer of the translucent silicon material, then easily sell at a market at the original cost. An integrated circuit is a concealed component of a device. A counterfeited component which is sold at an original cost is a threat not limited to the developer but extends to every consumer as well.
The legal enforcement granted under the intellectual property rights of copyright, patent and industrial design were not adequate protection for a developer and to the Layout-Designs. The Copyright Act was not able to protect the ideas of a scientific creation. The Act categorized the same protection to a scientific work as of an artistic work. Just as in copyright a protected architectural plan does not prevent anyone from building the house represented in that plan, copyright in the technical drawings that signifies a two or three dimensional chip design does not protect against unauthorized duplication of the chip illustrated.
The work involved in a chip manufacturing is a developmental nature rather than an inventive nature and may not qualify for patent.
The Layout-Design of an Integrated Circuit will determine the physical location within the integrated circuits of each element having an electronic function. Thus, a Sui-Generis protection was mandatory.
The Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout-Design Act, 2000 (SICLD Act 2000)
was introduced, a sui-generis (unique) security especially meant for protecting Intellectual Property Right relating to the Layout-Design (Topographies) of Semiconductor Integrated Circuits. The SICLD Act 2000 allows a joint registration for two or more proprietors of a Layout Design.
The criteria for registering a Layout Design is
1. Inherently Distinctive
2. Not commercially exploited anywhere in India or Convention / Reciprocal Country.
3. Inherently capable of being distinguishable from any other
4. Registered Layout Design
This Act empowered every registered proprietor of the Layout Design an inherent right to use the Layout Design, grant commercial exploitation and obtain relief in case of any infringement for a period of ten years. Commercial exploitation under the SICLD Act 2000 implies the lawful sale, lease, offer or exhibit or otherwise distribution of such semiconductor integrated circuit for commercial purpose.
From the Lawyer’s Desk
The introduction of the SICLD Act 2000 has been beneficial to the FAB Industry. In the Microelectronics Industry, a semiconductor fabrication plant is famously known as FAB is a factory where devices such as integrated circuits are manufactured. The intellectual property rights have strengthened the developers as well as the consumers against the fabrication by Unlawful Foundry, Chip Pirates of the Fabless Semiconductor Industry. India has progressed massively since the development of Cat Whiskers Detectors (Schottky Diode) and has also created new age organic semiconductors and topographies. We encourage our readers to seek legal advice for an accurate registration procedure on the Layout-Design under the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout-Design Act and also protect every component under the Intellectual Property Rights. The Author endeavors to articulate the Layout – Design in an effortless manner, promote precise knowledge and liberal protection offered by the Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout Design Act.