IPR Resources

Light in the Darkness

The IPR- Helpdesk, a project of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Enterprise, offers help with intellectual property (IP) issues for Framework Programme research contractors. Advising them on research contracts, consortium agreements, and patent applications, it helps researchers and companies to protect and exploit the results of their work.

Online assistance

Researchers can usually find a great deal of relevant information among the extensive resources available on the IPR-Helpdesk's Web site. Model contracts, consortium agreements, briefing papers and the latest RTD news are all available, while online tutorials clarify many aspects of IP issues. The esp@cenet database contains some 30 million patents, which can be scanned for potential overlap with planned research. There is also practical information on IP for each individual EU Member State.

Alex Weir, the IPR- Helpdesk's public relations manager, indicates the extent of the impact the Web site had already achieved . "The site had around 800,000 hits during December," he says. "People look mainly at the RTD information and briefing papers, but the tutorials for model contracts and consortium agreements are also proving very popular , and users have given us very positive feedback."

Seminars and training days

The Helpdesk also organises regular training days and seminars. Over 60 delegates from both SMEs and academic institutions attended the first seminar in Brussels at the end of November 2000. Forthcoming seminars, also in Brussels, are scheduled for 9 April and 21 May. Although access is free, strong demand means that places are allotted on a first-come, first-served basis. In the case of the first seminar, there were 250 applications for 60 places , and demand is expected to rise. Slides of the full programme from the first seminar can be viewed in the Web site.

Training days are held in Luxembourg and are limited to ten people. The first was held on 22 January 2001, with the next two planned for 19 March 2001and 11 June 2001. Again, these sessions are likely to be heavily oversubscribed. The training days are organised with a more personal, problem-solving approach than the seminars, offering assistance with very specific RTD and IP problems.

Pleasant surprise

"The very brief yet clear overview of all the services on offer was extremely useful," says Lizzie Jesperson of the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, who attended the first IPR- Helpdesk seminar in Brussels. "I had no idea that so much personal assistance was available from the IPR-Helpdesk."

Jesperson found out that draft agreements could be sent to the lawyers who gave the presentation for consultation, and plans to seek their advice on the drafting of a consortium agreement in the near future. `This is a very tedious procedure, but as experts in these matters I think they might really save us time," she says.

-- Reproduced from Innovation & Technology Transfer 2001, 2(1), 19

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000

Ever since the invention of integrated circuits (IC)in late fifties, the number of transistors in an IC has grown quite rapidly; a commercial chip can now have more than six million transistors integrated into it. "From about $550,000 twenty-five years ago, the price of a megabyte of semiconductor memory has declined to $38 today. Bur over the same period, the cost of building a factory to manufacture such memory chips has risen from less than $4 million to a little more than $1.2 billion,".[Technology and Economics in the Semiconductor Industry, Scientific American, January 1996]. Such high investments are required to achieve technical breakthroughs and it is quite imperative to ensure that the intellectual property associated with designing of ICs should be adequately protected. There would be many aspects of an IC protectable through different forms of IPR; the mask design of IC is something which requires a separate protection mechanism.

Many discussions were held internationally to evolve a suitable protection system, as a result Washington Treaty was signed in 1980. India is also a member of this Treaty. Curiously, USA is not a member but it does have its own laws in this regard. Later, TRIPS Agreement also made it obligatory on its members to give protection to layout designs of IC and have suitable laws in place satisfying the basic features of the Washington Treaty. This form of protection is quite different from patents, industrial design and copyright although the principles of protection and enforcement have their roots in industrial design and copyright. One of the differentiating features is that protection for IC layout design can be obtained even if the IC has been commercialized by the owner for not more than two years. India has enacted its laws on protection of IC layout design. India emerges as one of the first developing countries to have its own laws in this area.

The Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000 received the consent of the President on 4 September 2000, after it was approved by the Parliament. Salient features of this Act follow in the succeeding paragraphs; however, one may refer to the Gazette of India dated 4 September 2000 issued by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs for more details on the Act.

The Act has defined the layout-design and the semiconductor IC. The definitions follow as under:

Layout-Design: According to this Act, layout-design means a layout of transistors and other circuitry elements and includes lead wires connecting such elements and expressed in any manner in a semiconductor integrated circuit.

Semiconductor Integrated Circuit: As per the Act a semiconductor integrated circuit means a product having transistors and other circuitry elements which are inseparably formed on a semiconductor material or an insulating material or inside the semiconductor material and designed to perform an electronic circuitry function.

IC Layout-designs not Registrable in India

There are certain layout-designs, which cannot be registered in India. A layout- design:-

(a) which is not original; or

(b) which has been commercially exploited anywhere in India or in a convention country, or

(c) which is not inherently distinctive; or

(d) which is not inherently capable of being distinguishable from any other registered layout-design, shall not be registered as a layout-design.

It is important to note here that a layout design which has been commercially exploited for not more than two years from the date on which an application for its registration has been filed either in India or a convention country shall be treated as not having been commercially exploited for the purposes of this Act.

Regarding the originality of the design, it may be noted that a design which results out of creator's own intellectual efforts and is not commonly known to other creators of layout-design and manufacturers of ICs shall be treated original. Also, if a layout-design consisting of combination of elements and interconnections commonly known to creators of layout-design and ICs shall be treated novel if such a combination as a whole is novel.

Registration of layout-designs

The application for registration has to be filed with the Semiconductor Integrated Circuits Layout-Design Registry. The Central Government shall define territorial limits within which a Registry Office shall exercise its functions. A Register of Layout-Designs shall be kept at the head office and branch offices containing information about all registered layout designs with the names, addresses and descriptions of the proprietor and such other matters.

Any one claiming to be the creator of a layout-design can apply in writing to the Registrar in the prescribed manner at the Registry Office of appropriate jurisdiction. After acceptance, the application shall be advertised within 14 days after the date of acceptance and in case of no opposition the layout-design shall be registered.

Opposition to Registration of Layout-designs

In case, anyone wants to file an opposition to the layout-design , he can do so within three months from the date of advertisement of the accepted design; this period can be extended by one month.

Rights Conferred to the Registered Proprietor

The registration gives to the registered proprietor of layout-designs the exclusive right to the use of layout-design and to obtain relief in respect of infringement. But for unregistered layout-designs, no damages, whatsoever can be recovered in case of infringement. In this way it is different from copyright where, even if you don't register your copyright, you can still claim damages under the Berne Convention.

Date of Registration

The date of registration is the date of filing the application for the layout-design.

Term of Registration

The registration of a layout-design shall be for a period of 10 years from the date of filing an application for registration or from the date of first commercial exploitation anywhere in India or in any country whichever is earlier.

Infringement of Layout-designs

Reproducing, importing, selling or distributing for commercial purposes a registered layout-design or a semiconductor integrated circuit incorporating such design shall constitute infringement. However, if reproduction of layout-design is for purposes of scientific evaluation, analysis, research or teaching, this shall not constitute infringement.

Penalty for Infringement

Any person found to be infringing a registered layout-design shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years or a fine which shall not be less than Rs.50,000 and may extend to Rs. 10 lakhs, or both.

-- Reproduced from Intellectual Property Rights 2001, 7(2), 4-5.

Course in IPR through Internet

The WIPO, one of the sixteen specialized agencies of the United Nations system of organizations, is dedicated to ensure that the rights of creators and owners of intellectual property are protected worldwide and that inventors and authors are thus recognized and rewarded for their ingenuity. This international protection spurs human creativity.

Introduction to Intellectual Property, a six part course, covers copyright related rights, patents, trademarks, geographical indications, and international registration systems. These substantive modules are complemented with a study guide, a general introduction to intellectual property , an essay on the economic value of intellectual property rights, and a glossary. The course requires approximately 40 hours of study time that can be spaced over a period of six weeks. It includes audio files, self assessment questions, a final exam, and mechanisms for student-teacher interaction through e-mail. Training is through WIPO Worldwide Academy's Web site: http://academy.wipo.int

A network of tutors worldwide supports students through their work. Students can interact with the teachers through e-mail as often as desired. Successful students get certificates.

Contact: WIPO, PO Box 18, Ch-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland.

-- WISTA IPR Biotechnology 2001, 2(8=Feb), 19

Patents from Independent India

During 1947 - 1966 period, Chemical Abstracts has reported 935 patents from India. Major organizations active in patent work in early years after India's independence were CSIR, Tata Iron and Steel, Alembic Chemicals, Shri Ram Institute of Industrial Research, Ahmedabad Textile Industries Research Association (ATIRA), Haffkine Institute, Sindri Fertilisers, Indian Institute of Science, Albert David, Hindustan Antibiotics, Forest Research Institute, Indian Oxygen, Karam Chand Prem Chand, and Bengal Immunity,

The oldest patent from India in this file is from East India Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. on Sulfonamide derivative assigned on 11 June 1947.

About 35,000 articles from literature published from India or by Indian authors appear during 1947 -1966 period.

-- Reported by Makaranand Waikar Chemical Abstracts Service Representative

Information Today & Tomorrow, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2001, p.21-p.23