Topographies of Semiconductor Products

– European Communities (Protection of Topographies of Semiconductor Products) Regulations, 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1999.

General Remarks

Topography rights exist in Ireland without any requirement for deposit. The Regulations have been made as Statutory Instruments under the European Communities Act, 1972, drawing closely on the wording of the European Community Directive 87/54/EEC. The Regulations apply without prejudice to any other protection conferred by the Patents Act 1992 and the Copyright Act 1963. While the act of reproducing a three-dimensional functional article of commerce is no longer an infringement of copyright in drawings of that article, as a result of a change in Irish Copyright Law contained in the Copyright (Amendment) Act 1987, it appears that there may still be some possibility of protection under the Copyright Act also against unauthorized reproduction of a topography in two dimensions in the course of manufacture of a semiconductor product.

Conditions of Protection

Definition: topography means topography of a semiconductor product. There is no filing requirement. The topography is required to be the result of the creator’s own intellectual effort, and not commonplace in the semiconductor industry. 

Right to protection: the right to protection belongs to the creator or his assignee, or whoever first exploits commercially in a member State of the European Union, a topography which has not previously been exploited anywhere in the world or who has been exclusively authorized to exploit commercially the topography, throughout the member States of the European Union, by the person entitled to dispose of rights in that topography. The right to protection extends to nationals of countries listed in the 1993 Regulations and other countries approved by EC Council decisions. 

Duration: ten years from the end of the calendar year in which the topography is first commercially exploited anywhere in the world, or, where it has not been commercially exploited anywhere in the world, within a period of fifteen years from its first fixation or encoding.

Marking: a semiconductor product manufactured using a protective topography may be marked with the letter T*, but marking is not compulsory. 

Infringement: actions for infringement based on semiconductor topographies can be filed for all such relief, by way of damages, injunction, account of profits or otherwise, as is available to a plaintiff in corresponding proceedings in respect of infringement of other proprietary rights.