The Integrated Circuits Layout Designs or Topographies are protected like an Intellectual Property in different countries. The Integrated Circuits Layout Designs are the outcome of huge efforts by extremely skilled experts along with financial inputs. The main reason for the legal protection granted to these designs is due to the chance of duplicating the design by obtaining photograph and arranging masks for its fabrication on the basis of the taken photographs.
In India, these designs are protected by the Central legislation, the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Designs Act, 2000. The Act was passed to give effect to provisions of Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) concluded under the auspices of United Nations.
The Act defines the term layout-design as the outline of transistors and other circuitry components and also consists of lead wires that attach the components articulated in whichever mode in a semiconductor integrated circuit. The Act further describe semiconductor integrated circuit as an invention with transistors and circuitry components, unbreakable formation on a semiconductor matter or an insulating matter or interior to the semiconductor matter and is designed to carry out an electronic circuitry task.
The Central Government shall appoint a Registrar by notifying in the Gazette of India and appoint such other officials for fulfilling the functions prescribed under the Act. The officers shall abide by the stipulations of the Act under the guidance and instructions of the Registrar. The Act provides for the establishment of Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry, the main task of which is to assist registration of layout designs. A register shall be kept at the head office of the Registry in which the details of the proprietor of the registered design shall be included as specified under the Act. The register shall be maintained under the direction and administration of the Registrar.
The Act prohibits the registration of certain designs which are not novel, has been utilized for business purposes wherever in India or abroad, not fundamentally unique and not differentiable from other designs registered. Where the design has been created by the intellectual labors of the inventor and is distinctive, such designs shall be considered original under the Act. For the purpose of registering the layout design in the manner specified under the Act, the inventor of the design shall file an application in writing in the registry where the business is carried on and when the application is acknowledged, such acceptance shall be published in the specified terms. The layout design shall get legal protection against exploitation under the Act for a term of ten years starting from the date of submitting the application or on the date when the design was first utilized for commercial purposes, either is in advance.
The Act specifically provides that an action for breach is not allowed for an unregistered design. The registered owner of the design will acquire exclusive right to utilize the layout-design and to acquire relief in case of breach in the mode specified by the Act. The Act confers power on the registered owner to consign the right on the layout design and to furnish receipt for every consideration for such transfer.
The Act empowers the Central Government to constitute a Layout Design Appellate Board to implement the jurisdiction, influence and right as specified under the legislation. The Appellate Tribunal shall entertain appeals against orders made by the registrar within three months from the date of order. The Tribunal shall be guided by the principles of natural justice and not bound to follow the procedure laid down under the Civil Procedure Code. An aggrieved person by the order of the Tribunal shall appeal before the concerned High Court as per the procedure stipulated under the Act. The Act also provides for penalty in case of breach of layout designs.
The Act confers power on the Central Government to formulate rules to execute the provisions of the legislation. This Act is a novel legislation to grant protection for the scientific and technological inventions and to prevent from exploitation of such works by unauthorized user.