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Intellectual Property Protection of Layout Designs on Printed Circuit Boards – From Comparative and Chinese Perspectives

Abstract

This article reviews the positions in some key jurisdictions whether layout designs on printed circuit boards (PCBs) can be effectively protected under the regimes of copyright, patent and design as well as unfair competition law. The survey indicates a loophole in intellectual property (IP) laws that fails to offer sufficient protection to layout designs on PCBs. Accordingly, there may be good reasons for conferring IP protection in the layout designs on PCBs as a form of sui generis IP right.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    [1999] RPC 717.

  2. 2.

    17 USCA (1927) Sec. 53.

  3. 3.

    German Federal Supreme Court, 22 June 1995, 28 IIC 140 (1997) – "Silberdistel"; German Federal Supreme Court, 27 January 1983, [1983] GRUR 377 – "Brombeer-Muster".

  4. 4.

    German Federal Supreme Court, 22 June 1995, 28 IIC 140 (1997) – "Silberdistel"; German Federal Supreme Court, 27 January 1983, [1983] GRUR 377 – "Brombeer-Muster".

  5. 5.

    German Copyright Act, Art. 2.

  6. 6.

    Teramoto (1997).

  7. 7.

    Osaka High Court, 29 September 2004, 37 IIC, 235 (2006) – “Good Design Award” comment by C. Heath.

  8. 8.

    Tokyo High Court, 17 December 1991, 26 IIC 805 (1995) “Decorative Veneer” comment by C. Heath.

  9. 9.

    PRC Copyright Law, Art. 3(7).

  10. 10.

    People’s Court Cases Collection (People’s Court Publisher 2008) p. 327.

  11. 11.

    Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 98 L.Ed. 630, 74 S.Ct. 460 (1954). In the UK, however, copyright protection had been given to utilitarian works of designs before the law of designs gained ground.

  12. 12.

    British Leyland Motor Corporation Ltd & Anor v. Armstrong Patents Co Ltd & Anor, [1986] A.C. 577.

  13. 13.

    UK Patents Act 1977, Sec. 3.

  14. 14.

    See the EU’s amended proposal of 25 June 1999 COM (99) 309.

  15. 15.

    EU does not have a Europe-wide system of protection and the UK, Luxembourg and Sweden do not at present have a system of utility model protection. See Suthersanen (1998).

  16. 16.

    PRC Patent Law, Art. 22.

  17. 17.

    European Designs Directive, Arts. 5–7.

  18. 18.

    Community Designs Regulations, Sec. 1C(1) and Arts. 9–10.

  19. 19.

    Valeo Vision Societe Anonyme & Anor v. Flexible Lamps Limited, (Patents Court, 24 June 1994).

  20. 20.

    Cornish and Llewellyn (2003), paras. 14–30.

  21. 21.

    CDPA, Part III.

  22. 22.

    Spavin (2000).

  23. 23.

    Ocular Sciences Ltd v. Aspen Vision Care Ltd [1997] RPC 289; and Parker v. Tidball [1997] FSR 680.

  24. 24.

    C&H Engineering v. Klucznik [1992] FSR 421; Guild v. Eskander [2003] FSR 23.

  25. 25.

    IPIC Treaty, Art. 4.

  26. 26.

    Sanders (1997), p. 24.

  27. 27.

    Frassi (2002).

  28. 28.

    LaFrance (2011), 1413, 1429; Decision of the Supreme Court (Oberster Gerichtshof) 15 September 2005 – Case No. 4 Ob 113/05d, for details see 38 IIC 749 (2007).

  29. 29.

    Heath (2005), p. 494.

  30. 30.

    Japan Unfair Competition Prevention Act, Sec 2(1)(iii).

  31. 31.

    Japan Unfair Competition Prevention Act, Sec 2(1)(iii).

  32. 32.

    Tokyo District Court, 26 April 2006, 39 IIC 627 (2008) – “Shoulder Hip Belt” comment by C. Heath.

  33. 33.

    Steckler (1996).

  34. 34.

    de Very (2006), pp. 180–181.

  35. 35.

    Carty (2007).

  36. 36.

    The Gowers Review, available at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk (1 December 2006).

  37. 37.

    Cornish (2006), pp. 469–480.

  38. 38.

    L’Oreal S.A. & ors. v. Bellure & ors, [2006] EWHC 2355 (Ch), available at www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Ch/2006/2355.html.

  39. 39.

    Carty (2003).

  40. 40.

    PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Art. 2.

  41. 41.

    PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Art. 2.

  42. 42.

    Paris Convention, Art. 10bis.

  43. 43.

    PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Art. 10.

  44. 44.

    PRC Anti-Unfair Competition Law, Art. 12(2).

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Acknowledgments

The author thanks the anonymous referees for valuable comments on an earlier draft of this text. The author also thanks the Shanghai Education Commission for a research grant under the Eastern Scholarship Scheme, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University for a research grant under the International Cooperation Program (Grant No.: 2012-1.5.3.22).

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Correspondence to Wei Shen.

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Shen, W. Intellectual Property Protection of Layout Designs on Printed Circuit Boards – From Comparative and Chinese Perspectives. IIC 45, 6–17 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40319-013-0147-x

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Keywords

  • PCBs
  • Layout designs
  • IP protection
  • Comparative study