A Guide to Integrated Circuit Topographies

Important Notices:

  1. This electronic version of the guide is the official one.
  2. In the event of any inconsistency between this guide and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed.
  3. Copyright / Permission to Reproduce

The Basics

Purpose of this guide

This guide looks at what integrated circuit topographies (ICTs) are and how to register them. It is designed to give you the basic information necessary to protect your ICTs from being copied by others.

For more detailed information, consult the Integrated Circuit Topography Act and the Integrated Circuit Topography Regulations. The CIPO Client Service Centre can also provide further information.

The glossary provides definitions of terms used in this guide.

Who we are

The Office of the Registrar of Topographies is responsible for registering ICTs in Canada, and is part of CIPO, an agency of Industry Canada. CIPO is also responsible for most other intellectual property (IP) rights, including patents, trade-marks, copyright and industrial designs.

The main functions of the Office of the Registrar of Topographies are to:

  • receive applications for registration of ICTs;
  • grant registrations to qualifying applications;
  • receive and record assignments of ICTs; and
  • provide general information to the public about ICT registrations.

Visit the Integrated Circuit Topographies section of the website for the following:

Contact Us

CIPO's Client Service Centre (CSC) is the central point of contact for clients wishing to communicate with CIPO. The CSC supplies information on a variety of subjects, such as procedures for filing patent applications and for registering trade-marks, copyrights, industrial designs, and ICT's.

Intellectual property information officers deliver numerous services, including providing information, answering general enquiries, and guiding clients with searches through various databases.

At the heart of modern technology

The growing presence of integrated circuit technology in virtually all fields of industry has created the need to protect Canadian innovations in this technology both nationally and internationally.

On May l, 1993, the Integrated Circuit Topography Act and Integrated Circuit Topography Regulations came into force. The Act defines the protection available for ICTs, the three-dimensional configurations of the materials that form integrated circuits. Protection under this Act is extended to people of other countries on a reciprocal basis, making protection in other countries available to Canadians.

What is an ICT?

Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.

They are at the heart of modern technology, communications, entertainment, manufacturing, medical and space technologies, and are now found in items as ordinary as household appliances. The Integrated Circuit Topography Act and Integrated Circuit Topography Regulations refer to "microchips," a form of integrated circuit, as "integrated circuit products."

Today’s integrated circuit products are constructed from a complex series of layers of semiconductors, metals, dielectrics (insulators) and other materials on a substrate. The Act and Regulations refer to the three-dimensional configurations of these layers as an "integrated circuit topography." The Act provides protection against copying of registered topographies but does not prevent others from developing integrated circuit products that use other topographies to provide the same electronic functions.

However:

  • Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
  • Patents cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
  • Trade-marks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.
  • Copyright provides protection for literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and other subject-matter known as performer's performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
  • Industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features, applied to a finished article.

What can you register?

The protection provided by the Integrated Circuit Topography Act protects the original design of a registered topography whether it is represented in an integrated circuit product or not. Topographies that define only part of the structure needed to perform an electronic function may also be registered. For example, topographies that define generic layers of gate array integrated circuit products, and topographies that define interconnection layers that customize gate array integrated circuit products to perform specific electronic functions, may be registered separately.

A topography is considered original if it is developed through intellectual effort, and is not just a reproduction of all, or a large part, of another topography. The Act does not protect pre-existing topographies that are commonplace among topography designers or integrated circuit product manufacturers.

Why should you register?

The Integrated Circuit Topography Act gives owners of registered topographies exclusive legal rights to control certain actions. Owners of registered topographies can exclude others from:

  • reproducing a protected topography or any substantial part of one;
  • manufacturing an integrated circuit product incorporating a protected topography or a substantial part of one;
  • importing or commercially exploiting (i.e., selling, leasing, offering or exhibiting for sale or lease, or other commercial distribution) a protected topography or a substantial part of one, or an integrated circuit product that embodies a protected topography or a substantial part of one; and
  • importing or commercially exploiting an industrial article that incorporates an integrated circuit product that embodies a protected topography or a substantial part of one.

Exceptions

There are exceptions where the exclusive rights to a registered topography are not infringed. For example, it is not an infringement when a person reproduces the topography for the sole purpose of analyzing, researching, or teaching about ICT. Other exceptions are described in subsection 6(2) of the Integrated Circuit Topography Act.

Other forms of protection

Some integrated circuit products, such as random access memories (RAMs) and read-only memories (ROMs), may be used to store sets of instructions for electronic processors. In addition to the protection available for ICTs in such integrated circuits, the sets of instructions they store may be subject to protection under the Copyright Act as literary works, and may in some cases be patentable as industrial methods.

Other aspects of integrated circuit products may also be patentable, for example, the structure and method of operation of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products, or industrial processes used to manufacture integrated circuit products.

Who can apply for registration?

Only the current owner of the topography (who may be the creator or, where the topography has been transferred, the successor in title) may apply for registration of the topography.

When to file an application

The application must be filed within two years of the first commercial exploitation (i.e., sale, lease, offer or exhibit for sale or lease, or other form of distribution for a commercial purpose) of the topography.

How long does registration last?

The Act protects registered ICTs for up to ten years from the filing date of the application for registration. The term ends on December 31 of the tenth year after the year of the first commercial exploitation, or the year of the filing date, whichever came first.

What to consider before filing an application

The Office of the Registrar of Topographies will give you the basic information you need in order to file your own application for ICT registration; however, the Office will not prepare your application.

The Office does not examine a topography to determine originality or compliance with the requirements of the Act. The Registrar of Topographies has authority to reject an application that is incomplete or filed more than two years after the first commercial exploitation, or where the creator does not meet the nationality requirements. For more information on the specifics of nationality requirements, please refer to the Integrated Circuit Topography Act, or consult a legal professional with knowledge in the field.

Consider consulting a legal professional

Drafting an ICT application requires careful attention to detail and knowledge of the regulations. For this reason, you are advised to consult a legal professional who specializes in IP.

Getting Started

Preparing an ICT registration application

Application form

Instructions for completing an application form.

When filling out the application, you must include the following information:

  • title(s) of topography;
  • date and location of first commercial exploitation;
  • name and street address of applicant;
  • applicant's interest in the topography;
  • a description of the nature or function of the topography; and
  • where the applicant has no office or place of business in Canada, the name and address of a representative for service.

In addition, you must submit a complete set of overlay sheets, drawings or photographs of the topography. Under certain conditions, some confidential information can be omitted from the drawings or photographs of the topography.

Fees

A fee must accompany your application to register an ICT. Payment may be made by credit card (VISA, MasterCard or American Express), direct payment, deposit account, postal money order, or cheque payable in Canadian dollars to the Receiver General for Canada. Do not add federal and provincial taxes.

You may find details about fees or contact the Client Service Centre.

Completed applications

Please contact our Client Service Centre for a copy of the ICT application form

Corresponding with the Office of the Registrar of Topographies

Business with the Office of the Registrar of Topographies is normally done in writing. Address all correspondence to:

  • Office of the Registrar of Topographies
  • Canadian Intellectual Property Office
  • Industry Canada
  • Place du Portage I
  • Room C-114
  • 50 Victoria Street
  • Gatineau QC K1A 0C9
  • Fax: 819-953-CIPO (2476)

More information about CIPO's official correspondence procedures.

If you are enquiring about the status of your pending registration application, include the application number, your name and the title of the topography. If you have hired an agent, you should conduct all correspondence through that agent.

Applicants and agents are welcome to meet with CIPO officers to discuss their applications; however, the latter will discuss only the formal requirements related to the application at hand — legal advice and related rights in ICTs must be discussed with legal professionals.

The Office of the Registrar of Topographies will respond to all general enquiries, but cannot:

  • advise you whether to file an application;
  • tell you whether your design meets registration criteria prior to your filing an application;
  • advise you about possible infringement of an ICT; or
  • act in any way as an interpreter of ICT law or as an adviser, other than in matters directly related to the processing of your application.

Electronic Services

Our electronic service delivery allows you to:

  • pay various fees; and

Beyond the Basics

Protection abroad

Owners of ICTs should consider protection in other countries, particularly those where significant market opportunities are expected or where significant foreign competitors have manufacturing facilities.

Some twenty countries have explicit intellectual property protection for semiconductor chips. A list of countries granting reciprocal rights may be found in the Integrated Circuit Topography Act.

Marking a product

While marking of integrated circuit products is not obligatory, it is advisable to mark a product with a title corresponding to the registered title or titles. Failure to do so may constitute a valid defence in an infringement legal action if a defendant can prove having had no knowledge of the registration of the topography.


Appendix I — Frequently Asked Questions


Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.

Generally, the Integrated Circuit Topography Act gives owners of registered topographies the exclusive legal rights to the following:

  • reproduce the topography;
  • manufacture an ICT product incorporating the topography; or
  • import or commercially exploit (i.e., sell, lease, exhibit for sale or lease, or otherwise distribute for a commercial purpose) the topography or an ICT product incorporating the topography.

You can apply by submitting the following:

  • an application form with the prescribed fee; and
  • overlay sheets, drawings or photographs of the topography.

The Office of the Registrar of Topographies will not carry out substantive examination. However, the application will be refused if the topography was commercially exploited more than two years before the filing date, or if the eligibility requirements are not met.

The creator of a topography or a successor in title may apply for the registration of a topography.

Protection lasts until December 31 of the 10th year:

  • from the date of filing; or
  • from the date of first commercial exploitation of the topography, whichever is earlier.

In order to protect an integrated circuit topography, you must apply for and receive a registration.

Glossary

  • C
  • D
  • I
  • L
  • P
  • R
  • T

C

Certificate of registration
A certificate issued by the Registrar of Topographies stating that the topography has been registered in accordance with the Integrated Circuit Topography Act.
Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
An agency of Industry Canada that administers Canada's intellectual property legislation and regulations regarding patents, trade-marks, copyright, industrial designs and integrated circuit topographies.
Copyright
In general, the sole right to produce or reproduce a work or a substantial part of it in any form. It includes the right to perform the work or any substantial part of it or, in the case of a lecture, to deliver it. If the work is unpublished, copyright includes the right to publish the work or any substantial part of it.

D

Description
A description is a basic requirement of an application for integrated circuit topography. It identifies the nature (structure type) or function of the topography.

I

Industrial designs
Visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament, or any combination of these features, applied to a finished article.
Infringement
Violation of integrated circuit topography rights through the unauthorized use of an integrated circuit topography.
Integrated circuit topographies
Three-dimensional configurations of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
Integrated Circuit Topography Act
Federal legislation governing integrated circuit topographies in Canada.
Intellectual property
The right to ownership and control over the form of creative endeavour that can be protected through a trade-mark, patent, copyright, industrial design or integrated circuit topography.

L

Licence
An agreement granting someone permission to use a topography for certain purposes or under certain conditions. A licence does not constitute a change in ownership of the topography.

P

Patents
A government grant giving the right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. A Canadian patent applies within Canada for 20 years from the date of filing of a patent application. The patent application is available to the public 18 months after filing. Patents cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter), or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.

R

Registration
The granting of exclusive rights to an integrated circuit topography by the Registrar of Topographies. This provides protection against imitation and unauthorized use of the topography.

T

Trade-marks
Trade-marks may be one or a combination of words, sounds or designs used to distinguish the goods or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.