A Guide to Integrated Circuit Topographies
A Guide to Integrated Circuit Topographies
- The Basics
- Purpose of this guide
- Who we are
- Contact Us
- At the heart of modern technology
- What is an ICT?
- What can you register?
- Why should you register?
- Who can apply for registration?
- When to file an application
- How long does registration last?
- What to consider before filing an application
- Getting Started
- Beyond the Basics
- This electronic version of the guide is the official one.
- In the event of any inconsistency between this guide and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed.
- Copyright / Permission to Reproduce
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.
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:
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?
Semiconductor integrated circuits are at the heart of modern technology, communications, entertainment, manufacturing, medical and space technologies, and also 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 "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.
People occasionally confuse ICTs with patents, trade-marks, copyright, or industrial designs. Like ICTs, the latter are rights granted for intellectual creativity and are forms of IP.
- Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configurations of the electronic circuits in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
- Patents cover new inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter) or any new and useful improvement of existing inventions.
- Trade-marks are words, symbols or designs (or any combination of these) used to distinguish the wares 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 three other subject matter: performance, sound recording and communication signal.
- Industrial designs are the visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these) applied to a finished manufactured 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.
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.
Preparing an ICT registration application
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.
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.
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.
Our electronic service delivery allows you to:
- pay various fees; and
Beyond the Basics
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
1. What are integrated circuit topographies?
Integrated circuit topographies refer to the three-dimensional configurations of the electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products or layout designs.
2. What are the benefits of registering an integrated circuit topography?
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.
3. What are the requirements for obtaining an integrated circuit topography registration?
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.
4. Who can register an integrated circuit topography?
The creator of a topography or a successor in title may apply for the registration of a topography.
5. How long is registration effective?
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.
6. Is registration mandatory?
In order to protect an integrated circuit topography, you must apply for and receive a registration.
- 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.
- Literary, artistic, dramatic or musical works (including computer programs) and three other subject matters known as: performances, sound recordings and communication signals.
- A description is a basic requirement of an application for integrated circuit topography. It identifies the nature (structure type) or function of the topography.
- Industrial designs
- Visual features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornament (or any combination of these) applied to a manufactured article.
- 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.
- 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.
- New inventions (process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter) or any new and useful improvement to an existing invention.
- 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.
- Words, symbols or designs (or any combination of these) used to distinguish the wares or services of one person or organization from those of others in the marketplace.