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Integrated Circuit Topography

Computer technology has and will continue to have a significant impact on our society and the way in which we interact. At the heart of a computer are one or more semiconductor chips containing an elaborate and complex three dimensional set of electronic connections. These connections provide the logic, performance, functions and capability of the computer. Considerable investment is made in the design of faster and more efficient semiconductor chips to drive the demand for greater performance of computer systems.

Canada passed the Integrated Circuit Topography Act in 1990. The Act excludes integrated circuit topography - essentially layout designs embedded in computer semiconductor chips or circuit boards - from copyright protection, except for any computer program contained in a topography. Integrated circuit topographies registered under the Act are protected for ten years against copying or independent creation. Time runs from the earlier of the date when the application was first filed or when the topography was first commercially exploited. The work must be "original", which in this context means (a) it must not be copied, (b) be the result of an "intellectual effort", and (c) not be "commonplace" among integrated circuit topography designers or manufacturers.

Additionally, the application must be filed within two years of the date that the topography was first commercially exploited. Even if the creator does not qualify, the topography still may be registered if it was first commercially exploited in Canada. Registration lasts from the application filing date through the end of the 10th calendar year following the earlier of the calendar year that the topography was first commercially exploited and the calendar year that the application was filed. In an action for infringement of the exclusive right in a registered topography, courts may provide a range of remedies including granting injunctions, awarding payment of royalties, profits, damages and punitive damages, and ordering the disposal of infringing products. To avoid possible restrictions on remedies in an infringement case, integrated cicuit products incorporating a registered topography (or their containers) should be marked visibly with the topography's title.

Failure to file an application within two years of any commercial sale of  product using the topography may result in loss of rights. Protection of a topography requires registration in each country in which protection is sought. An international treaty provides a basis for mutual recognition of such rights. The owner of the registered topography has the sole right to manufacture an integrated circuit product incorporating the topography or any substantial part thereof. An integrated circuit product is a product that is integrated to perform an electronic function and in which the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and some of all of the interconnections are integrally formed in, on or both in or on a piece of material. The integrated circuit product may be either a final form or an intermediate form. The owner of the registered topography has the sole right to import or commercially exploit the topography or any substantial part thereof or an integrated circuit product that incorporates the topography or any substantial part thereof. The exploitation right permits the owner of the registered topography to seek to control the market for integrated circuit products using the protected topography.