Intellectual Property in the WTO Volume I
Research Handbooks on the WTO series
Edited by Carlos M. Correa
Chapter 20: The Protection of Semiconductor Chip Products in TRIPS
Thomas Hoeren 1. Introduction In the second half of the 20th century, semiconductor technology as integrated circuits (ic), commonly known as microchips, became more and more dominating in our lives. Microchips are the control center of simple things like toasters as well as of complex high-tech machines for medical use. Of course, they also depict the heart of each computer. With the invention of semiconductor technology, a whole new economic sector began to grow and soon played a major role in the economies of the big industrial countries like the USA, Japan and the EC. Especially, it stands out for its innovational power and its readiness to invest. Microchips are a symbol of modern industrial society. Inexplicably, this new economic sector was totally ignored by the legislators for a long time. The power of innovation mentioned earlier was not as well protected as it should have been. In particular, the danger of forging microchips did not occur to governments. It is technically very easy and rather cheap to copy these chips, while development causes high costs. So the producers of microchips were exposed to an increasing number of copyists. Existing national patent and trademark laws fail to give sufficient protection to this economic sector, because they require a very high standard of originality or inventiveness. At the beginning of the 1980s, the governments of the developed countries eventually realized the risks this posed for their local microchip industry. 1.1 Technical function of microchips1 In order to illustrate the regulations of...
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