Semiconductor Integrated Circuit Layout Design (SICLD)…… Unused Potential IP

When we indulge in conversations related to Intellectual Property, what typically comes to our mind are Patents or Trade Marks or Copyrights, or maybe Geographical Indication (GI). Other Intellectual Property Protection Acts such as Industrial Designs and Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout Design Act (“SICLD” hereinafter) rarely attract our attention, hardly discussed, and to utter surprise of all, being zero practiced so far.

Integrated circuits (ICs) form an integral part of every electronic device. To generate the desired output from a given input, the electric signal has to pass through hundreds or even thousands of electrical/electronic components. A layout is created to arrange these components in the smallest possible area meeting the circuit requirement to gain some specific electrical output. With the introduction of technologies such as very large scale integration (VLSI), and ultra large scale integration (ULSI), these circuits are getting further miniaturized day by day. To reduce power consumption and to enhance processing speed, new layouts designs are rolled out frequently, thanks to continuous research in the field.

An integrated circuit is an arrangement/pattern of transistors and other circuit elements on a semiconductor chip in accordance with a circuit that provides a logical electrical output. The SICLD was introduced to protect the layout of said unique arrangements of electrical components. Under this act “Layout-Design”, which essentially is the mask layout or floor planning of the integrated circuits, can be registered and protected. Information such as a procedure, process, system, program, and method of operation among others are exempted from protection.

India heavily depends on semiconductors imports to meet industry needs. Until the last decade, 80-90% of semiconductors were imported from countries such as China, Japan, Korea among others. With initiatives like “Make in India”, “Digital India” and other efforts by the newly formed government, the promotion of local semiconductor manufacturing is logical. If statistics are to be believed, it is quite interesting to note that semiconductor import has come down to 65-70% during the fiscal year 2014-15. According to Mr. Ashok Chandak, chairman of Indian electronics and semiconductor Association (IESA), imports may further come down to 50% during the current fiscal year itself.

Prime Minister’s recent business tours, to countries such as China, Korea, Japan among others that are the world’s leading semiconductor producers have attracted investment worth billions to India. With the increase in the number of companies that are willing to invest and set up their manufacturing units in India, the semiconductor industry is going to see “Acche Din”.

Despite ever-increasing research in the electronics and semiconductors industry, it is hard to swallow the truth that there is little or zero awareness of SICLD. The fact is that the Indian SICLD Registry is still looking for the first applicant to file an application. It is indeed depressing to see that the official gazette published by the SICLD registry says “No Application Received” month after month, ever since it was first introduced.

With the revival of semiconductor manufacturing in India, it is high time the SICLD registry also gets revived and makes way for “Acche Din” for itself. The registry with the support of renowned law houses can ensure something fabulous to attract layout design applications. Creating awareness through conferences, workshops, seminars, and webinars can simply do wonders. Layout designs hold some unused and unturned potential. Who knows it may turn out to be the best bet among all the intellectual properties during the years to come.

About the Author: Lalit Suryavansi, Patent Associate at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorneys and can be reached at lalit@khuranaandkhurana.com

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