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The Semiconductor Chip Industry – The History, Present and Future of Its IP Law Framework


In spite of the economic and technological importance of semiconductors for the digital environment, the problem of an effective legal protection system for microchips still remains unsolved. The author examines the history of the semiconductor industry in the US, the EU and Japan to find the first traces of a protection regime. Then, he looks at the existing sui generis protection system as being inefficient and “dead”. At the end he tries to describe future alternative models for protecting the layout of chip design.

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  1. 1.

    Macher et al. (2008)

  2. 2.

    Cf. Hoeren (1988), p. 3. The technology described above describes the roots of semiconductor production until 1990. For some future trends see Part 5.

  3. 3.

    See for details Wolf and Tauber (1986).

  4. 4.

    Ballhaus et al. (2012)

  5. 5.

    Terman and Lanzerotti (2006), p. 20.

  6. 6.

    Braun and MacDonald (1982).

  7. 7.

    Lukasiak and Jakubowski (2010).

  8. 8.

    Brinkmann et al. (1997)

  9. 9.

    US Patent No. 1745175: Julius Edgar Lilienfeld, “Method and Apparatus for Controlling Electric Current” (first filed in Canada on October 22, 1925).

  10. 10.

    US Patent No. 1745175 for an FET-like transistor was granted on January 28, 1930.

  11. 11.

    Warren et al. (1978); Misa (1985).

  12. 12.

    For the role of Bell Labs see Jeremy Bernstein, Three Degrees above Zero: Bell Labs in the Information Age, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press (1984); Hornbeck (1985).

  13. 13.

    A special focus point was the US Army’s Signal Engineering Laboratory at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey; see Flamm (1996).

  14. 14.

    US Patent No. 2890395: Jay W. Lathrop and James R. Nall (both US Army’s Diamond Ordinance Fuze Laboratories in Maryland), “Semiconductor Construction” (June 9, 1959).

  15. 15.

    Morris (1990).

  16. 16.

    Motorola sued them for conspiracy, but lost the case; see Motorola, Inc. v. Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corp., 366 F. Supp. 1173 (D. Ariz. 1973).

  17. 17.

    This description is based on Semiconductor History Museum of Japan, “Trends in the Semiconductor Industry” (2011), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  18. 18.

    Berlin (2006).

  19. 19.

    US Patent No. 2981877.

  20. 20.

    He received the Nobel Prize in 2000 for that invention; see Christophe Lécuyer (2006).

  21. 21.

    However, the history of who invented the IC is much more controversial; see Lojek (2007); Saxena (2009).

  22. 22.

    That led to a long judicial litigation, decided by the United States Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. The Court decided in favour of Noyce on the basis the too-broad wording of the Kilby patent; see Noyce v. Kilby, 416 F.2d 1391 (C.C.P.A. 1969).

  23. 23.

    Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics, Economic Report on the Semiconductor Industry: Staff Report to the Federal Trade Commission (1977).

  24. 24.

    See Riordan (2005)

  25. 25.

    GB 439457: Oskar Heil, Improvements in or Relating to Electrical Amplifiers and other Control Arrangements and Devices (first filed in Germany, March 1934); see Arns (1998), pp. 233, 236.

  26. 26.

    Armand Van Dormael, The “French” Transistor (n.d.), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  27. 27.

    W.A.G. Dummer, “Electronic Components in Great Britain”, Symposium on Progress in Quality Electronic Components, IRE (1952); Green (2013) pp. 55–56.

  28. 28.

    Electronics Weekly, “50 Years of the UK Semiconductor Industry”, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  29. 29.

    Markoff (2003); see Van Dormael (2009), pp. 68–73 (2009); and Van Dormael, supra note 26.

  30. 30.

    Kai Christian Handel, Anfänge der Halbleiterforschung und -entwicklung: dargestellt an den Biographien von vier deutschen Halbleiterpionieren, PhD thesis RWTH Aachen (1999). Armand van Dormael called Mataré and Welker the real owner of the Nobel Prize for transistors; see Van Dormael (2012), p. 157; Dormael, supra note 26.

  31. 31.

    See S. Ran Kim, “The Korean System of Innovation and the Semiconductor Industry: A Governance Perspective” (1996), (accessed January 6, 2016); Morris, supra note 15, p. 106; Rundong Ke, “Comparison of China and Japan’s Economic Development in the Semiconductor Industry” (2012), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  32. 32.

    For the different perspectives of US and Japanese scholars in this matter see Uenohara et al. (1984).

  33. 33.

    See Japan Electronic Buyers Guide 1 (1965).

  34. 34.

    See Flamm, supra note 13, pp. 40–45 with references to a NHK documentary series.

  35. 35.

    Gee (1959), pp. 450–461.

  36. 36.

    OECD, General Report – Gaps in Technology, (1968), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  37. 37.

    For the surprising effect of banking see Hadley (1970), Chap. 11.

  38. 38.

    See Peter Robin Morris, surpra note 15, p. 98; Mackintosh (1973).

  39. 39.

    Morris, supra note 15, p. 99.

  40. 40.

    The companies were Hitachi, Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo Ltd., Mitsubishi Electric Mfg., Tokyo Shibaura Electric and Kote Kogyo.

  41. 41.

    E.g. Electronics Issue, January 6, 1961.

  42. 42.

    It is not true that semiconductors were an “American development”, as Intel stated in the copyright hearings.

  43. 43.

    Franco Malerba, Richard Nelson, Luigi Orsenigo and Sidney G. Winter, “Vertical Integration and Disintegration of Computer Firms: A History Friendly Model of the Co-Evolution of the Computer and Semiconductor Industries” (2006), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  44. 44.

    For Korea see Kim, supra note 31, p. 11.

  45. 45.

    See Nishizawa and Ouchi (1993)

  46. 46.

    US Patent No. 3058064: Thomas Donald E.

  47. 47.

    See Nakagawa (1985) pp. 22–31, Watanabe (1979), pp. 3–8

  48. 48.

    See Okimoto et al. (1984); Kurosawa (1997) pp. 73–75.

  49. 49.

    Ke, supra note 31.

  50. 50.

    Ke, supra note 31.

  51. 51.

    For the increasing number of US patents granted to Japanese companies starting in 1962 see Tilton (1971), p. 141 tbl. 6-2.

  52. 52.

    Chandler (2005).

  53. 53.

    Ballhaus, Pagella, Vogel and Wilmsmeier, supra note 4.

  54. 54.

    See Okimoto, Sugano and Weinstein supra note 48, p. 4 (1984).

  55. 55.

    Chandler, supra note 52, p. 83.

  56. 56.

    See the figures in Flamm, supra note 13, p. 34.

  57. 57.

    Levin (1982).

  58. 58.

    J. Kraus, An Economic Study of the US Semiconductor Industry, PhD thesis, New York, New York: The New School for Social Research (1973).

  59. 59.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 67.

  60. 60.

    Braun and MacDonald, supra note 6.

  61. 61.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 68.

  62. 62.

    This result is supported by the new publication of Mariana Mazzucato, The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Public vs. Private Sector Myths, New York: PublicAffairs, 2013.

  63. 63.

    See Levin, supra note 57, p. 59 tbl.2.16 (Richard R. Nelson (ed.), 1982); with reference to J. Kraus, An Economic Study of the US Semiconductor Industry, PhD thesis, New York, New York: The New School for Social Research (1973).

  64. 64.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 64.

  65. 65.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 47.

  66. 66.

    For this specific feature see Neus Palomeras, “Markets for Inventors: Examining Mobility Patterns of Engineers in the Semiconductor Industry” (2004), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  67. 67.

    U.S. v. Western Elec. Co., 1956 Trade Cas. (CCH) para. 68, 246 (D.N.J. Jan. 24, 1956).

  68. 68.

    Tilton, supra note 51, p. 50.

  69. 69.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 49.

  70. 70.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 56.

  71. 71.

    Chandler, supra note 52, p. 124.

  72. 72.

    See also Richard N. Langlois and W. Edward Steinmueller, “Strategy and Circumstances: The Response of American Firms to Japanese Competition in Semiconductors, 1980–1995” (1999), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  73. 73.

    Irwin (1996) pp. 11, 22–24; Yoffe (1988), pp. 82–88.

  74. 74.

    See SEMATECH, Inc., Memorandum of Understanding (1998), (January 6, 2016).

  75. 75.

    Wunsch-Vincent (2008)

  76. 76.

    See the critical remarks in Byron (1993); Advisory Council on Federal Participation in SEMATECH, “SEMATECH – Progress and Prospects”, Washington, D.C.: Office of Economic Policy, U.S. Dept. of Commerce (1989), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  77. 77.

    See for example Dan W. Holladay, “Testimony before the Senate Committee in Energy and Natural Resources”, June 2012, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  78. 78.

    Okimoto (1989).

  79. 79.

    SeeTilton, supra note 51, p. 136.

  80. 80.

    See Japan Electronic Buyers Guide 1 (1965).

  81. 81.

    See the figures of US patents granted to Japanese companies starting in 1962 in Tilton, supra note 51, p. 141 tbl.6-2 showing that the patents were granted to the receiving tube firms.

  82. 82.

    Tilton, supra note 51, p. 36; Robert Skole, Government Electronic: Federal Outlets Tough for Foreigner, Vol. 41 Electronics pp. 119–24, December 1968.

  83. 83.

    Marie Anchordoguy, Mastering the Market: Japanese Government Targeting of the Computer Industry, p. 42 International Organization, No. 3, Cambridge: The MIT Press (1988).

  84. 84.

    See Abegglen (1973).

  85. 85.

    See Okimoto, Sugano and Weinstein, supra note 48, p. 5.

  86. 86.

    See Flaherty and Itami (1984).

  87. 87.

    See Okimoto, Sugano and Weinstein, supra note 48, p. 7.

  88. 88.

    See, however, the critical remarks of Miwa and Ramseyer (2001)

  89. 89.

    Okimoto, supra note 78; Johnson (1982), (who is, however, underestimating the importance of MITI in my view).

  90. 90.

    Flamm, supra note 13, p. 53.

  91. 91.

    Y. Wakumoto and K. Nakano, “License as Management Strategy”, Akamon Management Review pp. 1–44 (2005), retrieved from: (accessed January 6, 2016).

  92. 92.

    Okimoto, supra note 78, p. 13 (1989); Nakagawa, supra note 47, pp. 101–03.

  93. 93.

    Okimoto, supra note 78, p. 15.

  94. 94.

    Flamm (1988).

  95. 95.

    The effect of this consortium is disputed; see Gallon (1995).

  96. 96.

    Rauch (1993) pp. 403, 413–414.

  97. 97.

    Risberg (1990) pp. 241, 252; see also Lemberg (1987).

  98. 98.

    Kukkonen (1997), pp. 105, 107.

  99. 99.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 80.

  100. 100.

    Universal Furniture Int’l, Inc. v. Collezione Europa USA, Inc., 196 F. App’x 166, 171 (4th Cir. 2006) (finding that furniture design is not copyrightable when the design aspects serve a mainly functional purpose); see also Brandir Int’l, Inc. v. Cascade Pac. Lumber Co., 834 F.2d 1142, 1143, 1148 (2d Cir. 1987) (holding that a squiggle-designed “ribbon” bicycle rack was a useful article and thus not copyrightable); ConWest Res., Inc. v. Playtime novelties, Inc., 84 U.S.P.Q.2d 101, 1023–24 (N.D. Cal. 2006) (determining that design aspects of body part sculptures were not separable from their utilitarian functions). See Kasch (1992); Chesser (1985), p. 249. There are, however, court decisions for instance in the UK which held that mask works are protectable under copyright law in that chips may be considered "copies" of the technical drawings for the chips (L.B. (Plastics) Ltd. v. Swish Products Ltd. (1979)). The Swish doctrine is, however, very controversial even in the UK; see Green Paper on Reform of the Law Relating to Copyright, Design and Performers Protection (Cmnd 8302); Hart (1985), p. 260.

  101. 101.

    Stern (1986), p. 297.

  102. 102.

    See International News Service v. Associated Press, 39 S.Ct. 68 (1918); Levin, supra note 57, p. 82.

  103. 103.

    Supreme Court Kewanee Oil Co. v. Bicron Corp., 94 S.Ct. 1879 (1974).

  104. 104.

    Fellner (1985).

  105. 105.

    Stern, supra note 101, p. 30.

  106. 106.

    The situation resembles the time of the early flight pioneers as David Mowery describes in his WIPO paper on the airplane industry.

  107. 107.

    Dormael, supra note 26.

  108. 108.

    It is misleading to state that the inventors of the Bell transistor did not recognize the potential of their ideas as especially Lemley (1997), p. 989; or in Lemley and Reese (2004), pp. 1345, 1345–1354, 1373–1426. Bell had a clear patent application strategy, but did not enforce the patents via litigation. Furthermore, the Bell “cookbook” demonstrates that Bell has clearly foreseen the usability of the transistors in radio, phone and TV.

  109. 109.

    Chandler, supra note 52, p. 122. The three symposia were attended by representatives of universities and delegates of European and US companies. Japanese experts were, however, not present. As a matter of fact, official lists of attendees did not exist – only a group of conference photos. For an analysis of the people attending the conferences see Smits, supra note 12, pp. 28–29; Flamm, supra note 13, p. 41 n. 7.

  110. 110.

    The attendees were, however, to a certain extent disappointed about the information policy of Bell. See for instance John Saby, inventor of the alloy junction transistor at General Electric: “In crystal growing, for example, Gordon Teal wrote papers on crystal growing, but never disclosed a lot of the details of the process to get the crystals to grow. People who grew crystals generally had to discover themselves, and people in academia were teed off by this because Bell would print all these things, but they didn’t really tell you how to make crystals that you could perform independent research on, unless you got down on your knees and ask them for a piece of crystal.” Cited after David Morton, John Saby, Electrical Engineer, An Oral History Conducted by David Morton, IEEE History Center (2000).

  111. 111.

    See Choi (2007).

  112. 112.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 80.

  113. 113.

    See Shapiro (2001), p. 119; Carl Shapiro, Technology Cross-Licensing Practices: FTC v. Intel (1999); Albert Galasso, Cross-License Agreements in the Semiconductor Industry: Waiting to Persuade? (2006), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  114. 114.

    The case was also part of a civil law litigation: Intergraph Corporation v. Intel Corporation, US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit, 98-1308, decided on November 5, 1999.

  115. 115.

    Levin, supra note 57, p, 75.

  116. 116.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 75.

  117. 117.

    McHugh (1949), pp. 1–4.

  118. 118.

    A.M. Golding, “The Semiconductor Industry in Britain and the United States: A case study in Innovation, Growth, and Diffusion of Technology”, PhD thesis University of Sussex, Sussex: Dept. of Economics, University of Sussex (1971).

  119. 119.

    Morton/Bell cited in Tilton, supra note 51.

  120. 120.

    Levin, supra note 57; Bronwyn H. Hall and Rosemarie Ham Ziedonis, An Empirical Analysis of Patent Litigation in the Semiconductor Industry, p. 7 (2007), (accessed January 6, 2016). AT&T applied this open strategy even in the 1970s; see Kerwin and DeFelice (2002)

  121. 121.

    Von Hippel (1982), pp 95–116 simply ignores imitation by infringement was a strategy. Reverse engineering was common. Bigger Japanese companies were also fond of cross-licensing models; see Motohashi (2008), pp. 1548–1555; Melissa (1996), pp. 137–154.

  122. 122.

    Shockley (1956).

  123. 123.

    W. F. Finance, “The International Transfer of Semiconductor Technology through US Based Firms”, NBER (National Bureau of Economic Research) Working Paper No. 118 (1975).

  124. 124.

    Computer History Museum, 1959 – Practical Monolithic Integrated Circuit Concept Patented, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  125. 125.

    However, companies like Bell Labs had a clear sense for the importance of secrecy requirements prior to a patent application; see Riordan and Hoddeson (1997).

  126. 126.

    See for technical details on reverse engineering, Florian Schweyer, Die rechtliche Bewertung des Reverse Engineering in Deutschland und den USA, p. 18, Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck (2012).

  127. 127.

    Raskind (1985).

  128. 128.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 81.

  129. 129.

    Hall and Rosemarie Ziedonis, supra note 120, p. 7.

  130. 130.

    So Congressman Norman Mineta at the Copyright hearings.

  131. 131.

    Tilton, supra note 51, p. 36; Skole, supra note 82, pp. 119–124.

  132. 132.

    Flamm, supra note 13, pp. 56–59. Further details can be found in the US based report of Mason (1992), pp. 176–187; for the Japanese perspective see Nakagawa, supra note 47, pp. 154–166.

  133. 133.

    Thomas C. Hayes, “Japan Grip Still Seen on Patents”, N.Y. Times, November 24, 1989, (accessed January 6, 2016). But even then, TI failed to enforce its patent rights in Japan. For instance in 1994, a Japanese court ruled that Fujitsu Ltd. had not violated the Kilby patent, because the patent described particular technical details that Fujitsu did not use in two of its recent computer chips, see Edmund L. Andrews, “Company News: Texas Instruments Loses in Japanese Ruling”, N.Y. Times, September 1, 1994, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  134. 134.

    H.R. 1007, 96th Congress, 1st Sess. (1979) adding to § 101 Copyright Act: “Such pictorial, graphic and sculptural works shall also include the photographic masks used to imprint patterns on integrated circuit chips and include the imprinted patterns themselves even though they are used in connection with the manufacture of, or, incorporated in a useful article”.

  135. 135.

    In a note to the author, Richard Stern (n.1) tracked back the opposition of the House against the copyright approach to Congressman Robert Kastenmeier, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s IP subcommittee. See Kastenmeier and Remington (1985).

  136. 136.

    The lobbyists used different figures and repeated to state that the development of a chip costs 100 million Dollars while the pirate only had to invest 10,000 Dollar (sometimes the amount is reduced to 50,000 Dollars). All these figures were never proven.

  137. 137.

    Levin, supra note 57, p. 79.

  138. 138.

    As a matter of fact, the Copyright Office had refused to register patterns on printed circuit boards and semiconductor chips because no separate artistic aspects had been demonstrated. Copyright Protection for Semiconductor Chips: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 98th Cong., 1st Sess., on H.R: 1028 77 (1983),,%20Subcomm.%20%28Aug.%203%20AND%20Dec.%201,%201983%29.pdf (accessed January 6, 2016).

  139. 139.

    Copyright Protection for Semiconductor Chips: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 98th Cong., 1st Sess., on H. R. 1028 7 (1983),,%20Subcomm.%20%28Aug.%203%20AND%20Dec.%201,%201983%29.pdf (accessed January 6, 2016) (Baumgarten).

  140. 140.

    Rauch, supra note 96, pp. 403, 407; Tierney (1987–1988), p. 363; Eugene Volokh, The Semiconductor Industry and Foreign Competition, Cato Policy Analysis No. 99, January 1988, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  141. 141.

    Copyright Protection for Imprinted Design Patterns on Semiconductor Chips: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 96th Cong, 1st Sess., on H. R. 1007 59 (1979) (Dr. Andrew S. Grove).

  142. 142.

    Years later, a second case was argued in the US press where NEC was held to have copied the famous INTEL 8086 and 8088 microprocessor in their V20 and V30; see Morgan (1983). In 1986, Intel sued against NEC for copyright infringement regarding their microcode. In September 1986, Judge Ingram ruled that the electronic instructions known as microcode are eligible for protection under the copyright laws; see Hinckley (1987), p. 23. This case, however, only dealt with software piracy, not with the layout of ICs.

  143. 143.

    See Kasch, supra note 100, pp. 79–80.

  144. 144.

    This approach was taken in S. 1201, 98th Cong., 1st Sess., 130 Cong. Rec. S5833-38 (daily ed. May 16, 1984).

  145. 145.

    This model was used in H. R. 5525, 98th Cong., 2nd Sess., 130 Cong. Rec. H5524-25 (daily ed. June 11, 1984).

  146. 146.

    H. R. Rep Number 781, 7–8.

  147. 147.

    H. R. Rep Number 781, 7.

  148. 148.

    Tide III of Public Law 98-620 of November 8, 1984, now 17. U.S.C. Sec. 901 et. seq.; Industrial Property Laws and Treaties, United States of America – Text 1-001. First enthusiastic descriptions of this Act can be found in Jay Erstling, “The Semiconductor Chip Protection Act and its Impact on the International Protection of Chip Designs”, Vol. 15 Rutgers University Computer & Technology Law Journal (1989), (accessed January 6, 2016); Benz (1986), pp. 229, 229.

  149. 149.

    Stern, supra note 101; Ladd et al (1986); Quinn (1987), p. 95; Woodson and Safreno (1985).

  150. 150.

    Richard Stern (n.1) sent the author his comments on an earlier draft of this paper and noted here: “The Senate bill had ‘mask work’ in it because Copr. Office General Counsel Dorothy Schrader objected to an early draft of the Senate bill, saying “where’s the ‘work’ to be protected as the scheme of the 1976 Copr. Act requires?” At that point, I said: “She wants a ‘work’? OK, she can have a ‘mask work’ if that will satisfy her.” So that “work” went into the next draft of the Senate bill. The mask work concept had nothing to do with sui generis. It was an attempt to assimilate the chip protection sought to the copyright pattern of literary works, pictorial works, musical works, etc. But once in the Senate bill it stayed in and was carried over to the subsequent House bill.

  151. 151.

    Copyright Protection for Imprinted Design Patterns on Semiconductor Chips: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Courts, Civil Liberties, and the Administration of Justice of the Committee on the Judiciary House of Representatives, 96th Cong, 1st Sess., on H. R. 1007 40 (1979) (Andre Grove, Intel).

  152. 152.

    The following considerations on the SCPA and the international rules on chip protection are based upon Hoeren (2010).

  153. 153.

    Section 902(a)(l)(2).

  154. 154.

    Act concerning the circuit layout of a semiconductor integrated circuit (law number 60-43 of 1985).

  155. 155.

    Such as the UK; see Hoeren (1992). Several states like the Netherlands, the UK and Australia informed the US that they will simply apply their existing copyright legislation to microchips. Australia advised the US of such intention in a communication described in 50 Fed. Reg. 24, 665 (1985); see also 50 Fed. Reg. 26, 818 (1985). The Netherlands advised the US in a communication reprinted in 50 Fed. Reg. 24, 795, 796–800 (1985). The US advised the US in a communication described in 50 Fed. Reg. 24, 666–68 (1985).

  156. 156.

    The first Interim Order was issued on September 12, 1985 (51 Fed. Reg. 30, 690).

  157. 157.

    OJ, L 24/36, January 27, 1987.

  158. 158.

    Article 1(i) Council Directive 87/54/EEC of December 16, 1986 on the legal protection of topographies of semiconductor products.

  159. 159.

    Halbleiterschutzgesetz, Bundesgesetzblatt, Part I, 2294 (1987),*%255B@attr_id=%27bgbl187s2294.pdf%27%255D#__bgbl__%2F%2F*[%40attr_id%3D%27bgbl187s2294.pdf%27]__1427108083407 (accessed January 6, 2016).

  160. 160.

    E.g. Hoeren (1988).

  161. 161.

    See Dreier (1989), pp. 63, 70; Jehoram (1988–1989), p. 295.

  162. 162.

    See Dreier, supra note 161, pp. 63, 70. As Richard Stern (n.1) explained in his comments on a former draft of this text, after the House’s decision to implement a sui generis right, “it became necessary to put in provisions about international comity.

  163. 163.

    Directive 96/9/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of March 11, 1996 on the legal protection of databases; OJ, L 77 20–28, March 27, 1996.

  164. 164.

    For more details see von Lewinski (2001).

  165. 165.

    U.S. Copyright Office, “Report on Legal Protection for Databases” (2001), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  166. 166.

    See Commission of the European Communities, “DG Internal Market and Services Working Paper. First evaluation of Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases” (2005), (accessed January 6, 2016) discussing some of the critical features of this approach.

  167. 167.

    WIPO, Doc. IPIC/DC/46, under 8.

  168. 168.

    Cf. Staehelin (1997), p. 100.

  169. 169.

    Cf. Hoeren (1989), pp. 2605, 2606.

  170. 170.

    Article 6(2) lit. a IPIC Treaty.

  171. 171.

    Article 6(2) lit. b IPIC Treaty.

  172. 172.

    Article 6(4) IPIC Treaty.

  173. 173.

    Article 4 IPIC Treaty. Cf. Hoeren, supra note 169, at pp. 2605, 2606.

  174. 174.

    That might be one of the reasons why Japan and the US have not even modified their semiconductor chip protection since the TRIPS Agreement came into effect, ten and 11 years after their initial semiconductor legislation.

  175. 175.

    Article 35 TRIPS Agreement.

  176. 176.

    Article 3(2) lit. a of the IPIC Treaty.

  177. 177.

    See for technical details on reverse engineering Schweyer, supra note 126.

  178. 178.

    Cf. 17 U.S.C. § 906(a)(2).

  179. 179.

    Samuelson and Scotchmer (2001), p. 1575; Hsu (1996), p. 249; Brown (1990); Raskind, supra note 127; Stern (1985), p. 271.

  180. 180.

    “(…) shall not end before the expiration of a period of (…)”, cf. Art. 33 TRIPS Agreement.

  181. 181.

    Brooktree Corp. v. Advanced Micro Devices, Inc., 977 F.2d 155 (Fed. Cir. 1992), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  182. 182.

    Altera v. Clear Logic, Case Nos. 03-17323, 03-17334 (9th Cir. September 15, 2005).

  183. 183.

    See also Avel Pty Limited v. Wells [1991] FCA 590; (1992) AIPC 90-846 (1991); 22 IPR p. 305; 105 ALR 635 (December 2, 1991).

  184. 184.

    [1991] FCA 791; (1992) AIPC 90-854; 23 IPR 119.

  185. 185.

    Publications by the DPA.

  186. 186.

    Cf. Karnell (2001a), p. 648. He says, that the protection is “not only a ‘lame’ but rather ‘dead duck’”. See Risberg, surpa note 97, pp. 241, 252.

  187. 187.

    See the former economist for the Semiconductor Industry Association Benz (n.1) in an email to the author on January 20, 2015: “As an antitrust litigator, I have been disappointed that there have not been more litigation to enforce mask work designs. The wave of SCPA litigation we predicted never materialized”.

  188. 188.

    Hall and Ziedonis (1999). That has the consequence that the courts are now dealing with the patent rights of semiconductor producers, for instance the applicability of the first sale doctrine to chips see the US Supreme Court decision Quanta Computer, Inc. v. LG Electronics., Inc., No. 06-937, 2008 U.S. LEXIS 4702 (U.S. June 9, 2008).See as an example for a important patent granted recently for semiconductors the US Patent granted in February 2012 for an integrated circuit and driving method therefor US 8934204 B2 with further references; (accessed January 6, 2016).

  189. 189.

    Mansfield et al. (1981); Roin (2014).

  190. 190.

    See as leading case South Corp. v. United States, 690 F.2d 1368 (Fed. Cir. 1982).

  191. 191.

    Hall and Ziedonis (2001).

  192. 192.

    Wesley Cohen et al., R & D Spillovers, Patents and the Incentives to Innovate in Japan and the United States (2001), (accessed January 6, 2016); Wesley Cohen, Richard R. Nelson and John P. Walsh, Protecting Their Intellectual Assets: Appropriability Conditions and Why U.S. Manufacturing Firms Patent (or Not) (2000), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  193. 193.

    Hall and Ziedonis, supra note 191, p. 32; Merges and Nelson (1990), p. 839.

  194. 194.

    Radomsky (2000), p. 1049; Lewis (1995), pp. 555, 605–606; Ansari (2007), pp. 137, 138 (who states that leading semiconductor manufacturers have used broad cross-licensing agreements to provide “patent peace and allow development of parallel technology”); Callaway (2008), pp. 135, 137 (“[L]arge semiconductor companies encourage their rivals to enter cross-licensing agreements.”).

  195. 195.

    See Terry Ludlow, “Sign of the Times: Trends in Technology IP Licensing”, Intellectual Asset Management, No. 66, pp. 31–38, July–August 2014 describing that trend as “mega-licensing”.

  196. 196.

    Special thanks to Roger J Burt (former IBM patent attorney) for co-reading my study and giving me some very valuable advice as the future of semiconductor industry especially concerning the importance of the IP system in the semiconductor business.

  197. 197.

    Roger Burt has been co-reading this paper; the wording above has been used in an email to the author of February 25, 2015.

  198. 198.

    Karnell (2001b), p. 652

  199. 199.

    Cf. Karnell, supra note 198, at p. 654. Radomsky (2000), p. 1049.

  200. 200.

    Rahul Kapoor, Barney Silver and Eric Larson, Managing Complexity and Change in the Semiconductor Ecosystem p. 5 (2012), (accessed January 6, 2016): “The average time-to-market, defined as the period from design art to mass production, is about 11 months for a revision of an existing product design. It increases to about 17 months for a new product design”.

  201. 201.

    See Ikka Tuomi, The Future of Semiconductor Intellectual Property Architectural Blocks in Europe, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities (2009).

  202. 202.

    Greenbaum (2011).

  203. 203.

    See figures on IC Insights, “Top 13 Foundries Account for 91 % of Total Foundry Sales in 2013” (2014), (accessed January 6, 2016).

  204. 204.

    They can as well be protected via encryption and watermarking; see Moritz Schmid, Daniel Ziener and Jürgen Teich, Netlist-Level IP Protection by Watermarking for LUT-Based FPGAs, (accessed January 6, 2016).

  205. 205.

    The SCPA was the starting point of similar sui generis regulations in the United States. For instance, there is clear evidence that it is the model behind the Vessel Hulls Protection Design Act.

    It is thus amazing that the most recent article on the semiconductor protection (after a long silence of 30 years) held that the US Act might be a model for regulating the protection of stem cells; see Rose (2012).

  206. 206.

    Commission of the European Communities, DG Internal Market and Services Working Paper (2005), (accessed January 6, 2016).


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Hoeren, T. The Semiconductor Chip Industry – The History, Present and Future of Its IP Law Framework. IIC 47, 763–796 (2016).

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  • Microchips
  • Chip protection
  • Semiconductors
  • SCPA