Like most of the other forms of intellectual property, IC layout designs are creations of the human mind. They are usually the result of an enormous investment, both in terms of the time of highly qualified experts, and financially. There is a continuing need for the creation of new layout-designs which reduce the dimensions of existing integrated circuits and simultaneously increase their functions. The smaller an integrated circuit, the less the material needed for its manufacture, and the smaller the space needed to accommodate it. Integrated circuits are utilized in a large range of products, including articles of everyday use, such as watches, television sets, washing machines, automobiles, etc., as well as sophisticated data processing equipment.
The possibility of copying by photographing each layer of an integrated circuit and preparing masks for its production on the basis of the photographs obtained is the main reason for the introduction of legislation for the protection of layout-designs.
In United States intellectual property law, a mask work is a two or three-dimensional layout or topography of an integrated circuit (IC or "chip"), i.e. the arrangement on a chip of semiconductor devices such as transistors and passive electronic components such as resistors and interconnections. The layout is called a mask work because, in photolithographic processes, the multiple etched layers within actual ICs are each created using a mask, called the photomask, to permit or block the light at specific locations, sometimes for hundreds of chips on a wafer simultaneously.
Because of the functional nature of the mask geometry, the designs cannot be effectively protected under copyright law (except perhaps as decorative art). Similarly, because individual lithographic mask works are not clearly protectable subject matter, they also cannot be effectively protected under patent law, although any processes implemented in the work may be patentable. So since the 1990s, national governments have been granting copyright-like intellectual property rights conferring time-limited exclusivity to reproduction of a particular layout.
Other articles related to "mask work":
... In Canada these rights are protected under the ... In the European Union, a sui generis design right protecting the design of materials was introduced by the Directive 87/54/EEC which is transposed in all member states. ...
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