Semi-conductor protection law protects the specific design (topography) of chips or semiconductor products. A chip is an essential component of every electronic device and is programmed to execute a specific function. Chips are embedded in all sorts of consumer goods, not just in domestic appliances, but also in cars, computers, medical equipment and machines.
Chip law only applies to the fruit of intellectual endeavour and only when the design is not generally known in the semiconductor industry.
In the Netherlands, you can only claim rights to a chip after registering the rights. Registration is not a requirement in Belgium.
What does it entail?
Chip rights are comparable to copyright and give the creator the right to:
- reproduce the topography;
- make a semiconductor product that incorporates the topography;
- commercially exploit the topography or a semiconductor product comprising the topography.
Be aware that there may also be limitations to a chip owner's rights under the law, for instance it is permissible for the topography to be used to educate others about the topography.
The fact that the creator holds these rights means that nobody else may enjoy these rights, unless the creator and other party have agreed otherwise in writing.
How long are semi-conductor design rights valid?
Chip rights are valid for ten years, running from the end of the year in which the topography is first placed on sale, anywhere in the world. Rights to a topography that has not been utilised and for which no application has been filed, expire after fifteen years, running from the end of the calendar year in which the topography was coded or recorded.
Did you know that...?
- It is permissible to sell on the rights to a lawfully marketed chip within the EU/EEA.
- A topography may be reproduced, for private or educational purposes or for analysis, without permission from the owner.
- Someone who, in good faith, obtains a semiconductor product comprising a topography that has not been lawfully marketed, is not violating the owner's rights if they market that product without permission.
How do you obtain chip rights?
Chip rights arise automatically as soon as you code or record the topography (design) for a chip or semiconductor product. You can only claim rights to a semi-conductor design in the Netherlands if you have registered it. This requirement does not apply in Belgium.
Semi-conductor protection law in the Benelux
More information about chip law in Belgium is available on the FPS Economy, Intellectual Property Department website.
More information about chip law in the Netherlands is available on the RVO website.
More information about chip law in Luxembourg is available on the Gouvernement du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg website.
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Would you like some advice?
BOIP is an independent body. This means we can only provide you with information, and not personal advice. An external IP professional can advise you on the best way to protect your semi-conductor design rights.