I.C. Protection Overview
GENERAL INFORMATION ON PROTECTION IN CANADA FOR INTEGRATED CIRCUIT TOPOGRAPHIES
The manufacture of integrated circuits is big business. In recent years, the Canadian Electronic Parts and Components sector, of which integrated circuit manufacturing comprises the largest portion, has grown at a compounded average rate of 29%. If these trends continue, total Canadian revenues in 1999 will approach CA$ 12 Billion for this sector. In the United States, the figures are even larger, with sales in 1997, the last year for which reliable estimates are currently available, exceeding US$ 56.8 Billion. Given the substantial profits at stake, competition in the industry is fierce. This competition, coupled with the tremendous intellectual resources necessary to design integrated circuits, and the high costs entailed in the construction of manufacturing facilities for their production, results in an industry characterized by very high levels of research and development spending; expenditures of eighteen to twenty percent of total revenues on research and development are not, for example, uncommon.
In such an environment, the temptation is great for competitors to limit their own research and development expenditures, and instead, copy or imitate the innovations of other players in the marketplace. The patent laws do play a role in controlling these activities, and for further information regarding patent protection, the reader is urged to consult the section on General Information on Obtaining Patent Protection in North America. However, a significant aspect of the integrated circuit industry, and one that is growing in importance, involves the creation of custom topographies, such as, for example, might be deployed in hearing aids. Since the creation of these custom topographies would often be considered a "routine" exercise for persons skilled in the art of topography design, patent protection would, in these cases, be unavailable, notwithstanding that the topography may very well represent a substantial investment in corporate resources, and notwithstanding that a substantial injustice would result if competitors were able to copy the topography with impunity. For this reason, in 1993, the Canadian government brought into force the Integrated Circuit Topographies Act, to protect the intellectual work products of integrated circuit topography designers.
The purpose of this treatment is to answer some common questions, and to clarify a few of the misconceptions surrounding this still relatively new form of protection for integrated circuit topographies. Further, we hope that the information provided will start you off in the right direction toward taking full advantage of the protections available under the law, so that you may maximize the protection of your integrated circuit products in the marketplace. If, after reading this treatment, you would like further clarification, we would be pleased to answer your general questions without charge. If the information you require involves providing an opinion on the registrability of your proposed topography, or requires a detailed discussion of your particular fact situation, then it will be necessary for you to arrange an initial consultation with one of our lawyers. A flat-rate charge will be levied for an initial one hour consultation, during which time you can obtain further detailed information about the topics covered in this treatment as they relate to your specific situation and receive specific information on how to proceed in protecting your topography.