IP rights and semiconductors
Produced in partnership with Paul Joseph, Sophie Tuson and Greg Burke of RPC
IP rights and semiconductors

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with Paul Joseph, Sophie Tuson and Greg Burke of RPC provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • IP rights and semiconductors
  • Background to semiconductors
  • Semiconductor topography rights
  • What is protected?
  • Protection of a layer
  • Qualification
  • Ownership
  • Term of protection
  • Infringement
  • Other forms of protection

As of exit day (31 January 2020) the UK is no longer an EU Member State. However, in accordance with the Withdrawal Agreement, the UK has entered an implementation period, during which it continues to be subject to EU law. This has an impact on this Practice Note. For further guidance, see Practice Note: Brexit—IP rights.

Background to semiconductors

A semiconductor is essentially any material which has electrical conductivity and can thus either conduct, or conversely, block, the flow of electrical current.

Semiconductor chips, found, for example, in computers, mobile phones and microwave ovens, are generally made using circular wafers of silicon.

IP rights exist in order to protect the semiconductor industry, including electronic circuit boards and the component chips.

Semiconductor topography rights

The semiconductor topography right is an additional right to unregistered design law, intended to protect a specific industrial article, namely, as set out above, the electronic circuit board and the arrangement of semiconductors.

The right was implemented into English law under the Protection of Topography Directive (Directive 87/54/EC) and the Design Right (Semiconductor Topographies) Regulations 1989, SI 1989/1100. Where a design is a semiconductor topography (see below), under the Design Right (Semiconductor Topographies) Regulations 1989, the design right provisions under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988) apply subject to modifications made by the Design