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Integrated Circuits Guide

This section of our guide is a reprint of an Industry Canada publication. We are grateful to be the one Canadian web site given permission to reprint this material.


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On May 1, 1993, the Integrated Circuit Topography Act and Regulations came into force. The Act defines the protection available for integrated circuit topographies, the three dimensional configurations of the materials that form integrated circuits. Protection under this Act is extended to nationals of other countries on a reciprocal basis, thereby making protection in other countries available to Canadians.

In this section we will look at what it is, how it can benefit you, the advantages of registering, and how to go about it. Keep in mind that this guide offers general information only, and does not cover all the complex issues of Integrated Circuit Topography law. For exact definitions and details, consult the Integrated Circuit Topography Act, the Integrated Circuit Topography Rules, and decisions of the courts in specific cases. You can find these texts in many libraries. You can also buy a copy of the Act and Rules in any bookstore selling Federal government publications. 

Index to this chapter.

The Newest Kind of Intellectual Property
Purpose of this Guide

Definition and Use

Canadian Protection Under (ICTA)

The Integrated Circuit Topography Act



Protection for IC Topographies Abroad



Fee Schedule

Instructions for Completing An Application

The Newest Kind of Intellectual Property

Integrated circuit topographies are now considered a form of intellectual property. Recognizing the growing impact of integrated circuit technology in virtually all fields of industry, and the need to protect Canadian innovations in this technology both nationally and internationally, Canada has introduced protection for integrated circuit topographies. Topographies are innovative, three dimensional circuit designs used in many different products. Examples of such products are automobiles, industrial robots, cameras, spacecraft and computers.


Purpose of this Guide

In this section we look at what integrated circuit topographies are, how they can benefit you and how to register them. With a basic knowledge of the process, you can take steps to protect your integrated circuit topographies from copying by others. You may also develop a better understanding of the intellectual property rights of others. This may help you to avoid the costly and time consuming legal battles that could result from infringing those rights.

Keep in mind that this section offers general information and does not cover all the complex issues that may arise through the registration process. This guide does not provide authoritative definitions and explanations.

The Federal agency responsible for integrated circuit topographies in Canada is the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO), which is part of Industry Canada, the federal department responsible for industry and science in Canada. CIPO is responsible for other forms of intellectual property as well: patents, copyrights, trademarks and industrial designs.


Definition and Use

Semiconductor integrated circuits are at the heart of modern information, communications, entertainment, manufacturing, medical and space technologies, and are now finding their way into items as ordinary as house hold appliances. The Act and regulations refer to the microchips, which embody such integrated circuits, as integrated circuit products.

Today's integrated circuit products are constructed from a complex series of layers of semi-conductors, metals, insulators and other materials on a substrate. The Act and regulations refer to the three-dimensional configuration of these layers as an "integrated circuit topography". The Integrated Circuit Topography Act (ICTA) provides protection against copying of registered topographies, but does not prevent others from developing integrated circuit products which use other topographies to provide the same electronic functions.

Some integrated circuit products, such as Random Access Memories (RAMS) and Read Only Memories (ROMS) may be used to store sets of instructions for electronic processors. In addition to the protection available for integrated circuit topographies embodied in such integrated circuits, the sets of instructions they store may be subject to protection under the Copyright Act as literary works and may in some cases be patentable as industrial methods.

Other aspects of integrated circuit products may also be patentable, for example the structure and method of operation of electronic circuits embodied in integrated circuit products, or industrial processes used to manufacture integrated circuit products. Indeed, protection available under the Patent Act can be much broader than the protection available under the Integrated Circuit Topography Act, and should therefore, be considered in addition to protection under the Integrated Circuit Topography Act.

Protection in other countries should also be considered, particularly where significant market opportunities are expected, or where significant foreign competitors have manufacturing facilities.


Canadian Protection Under (ICTA)

Canada's legislation to protect integrated circuit topographies is comparable to that of some other countries. The protection is provided by the Integrated Circuit Topography Act.

Canada's IC topography legislation protects the original design of a registered topography, whether it has been embodied in an IC product or not. Topographies which define only part of the structure needed to perform an electronic function may be registered. For example, topographies which define generic layers of gate array integrated circuit products, and topographies that define interconnection layers which customize gate array integrated circuit products to perform specific electronic functions, may be registered separately.

A topography will qualify as original if it is developed through the application of intellectual effort, and if it is not produced by the mere reproduction of all, or a substantial part, of another topography. The Act does not protect pre-existing topographies which are common place among topography designers of IC product manufacturers.


The Integrated Circuit Topography Act

- Provides protection by giving owners of registered topographies exclusive statutory rights to control certain actions. The legislation permits owners of registered topographies to exclude others from:
- Reproducing a protected topography or any substantial part of one;
- Manufacturing an IC product incorporating the topography or a substantial part of one;
- Importing or commercially exploiting (which includes the sale, lease, offering or exhibiting for sale or lease, or other commercial distribution) a topography or a substantial part of one, or of an IC product that embodies a protected topography, or a substantial part of one.

The Act protects registered integrated circuit topographies for up to ten years. The term begins on the filing date of the application for registration. The term ends on December 31 of the tenth year after the year of the first commercial exploitation or the year of the filing date, which ever is earlier.



The exclusive rights listed above are subject to some exceptions, three of which are:


  1. One exception relates to the exhaustion of rights applying to IC products legitimately put on the market anywhere in the world with the authorization of the owner of the rights. After the first legitimate sale of such a product, the topography owner has no statutory right to control its use, rental, resale or redistribution.
  2. Another exception allows the unauthorized copying of a protected topography for the sole purpose of analysis or evaluation, or for the sole purpose of research or teaching with respect to topographies,
  3. The Act also permits reverse engineering, which is a process of taking apart an integrated circuit to design a new and original topography. The topography created by such a procedure must meet the originality requirements of the Act if it is to be exploited commercially without the authorization of the original owner of the rights. With this exception, the legislation provides for the suppression of piracy without creating unnecessary obstacles to a free market in semiconductor chips or to the spread of chip technology.



The Act provides for the full range of civil remedies including injunctions, damages and punitive damages. It also provides a defense to innocent infringers, i.e., persons dealing commercially with an infringing IC product, but unaware, or having no reasonable grounds to believe, that it has been manufactured without authority. After having been notified of the infringement, their liability is limited to the payment of a reasonable royalty with respect to the disposal of IC products in inventory.

When a court concludes that there has been importation of IC products in contravention of the Act, Revenue Canada Customs may be required by the court to stop the entry of such products and of articles which incorporate them, and to arrange disposal of them according to a court order.


Protection for IC Topographies Abroad

Some twenty countries extend intellectual property protection for semiconductor chips. Rights exist for Canadians in the United States, Switzerland, Japan and Australia. Reciprocal rights are being negotiated with other countries. The intent is to arrange protection for nationals and residents of Canada in countries which offer comparable protection to that provided in Canada.

The Minister of Industry Canada announces, by a notice in the Canada Gazette, the names of countries in which reciprocal rights have been secured. Protection in other countries should be considered, particularly where significant market opportunities are expected or where significant foreign competitors have manufacturing facilities.



For the owner of a topography to have rights under the Act, the topography must be registered. The creator of the topography (the owner) or the successor in title, may apply for registration of the topography. The Registrar of Topographies will not examine a topography to determine originality or compliance with the requirements of the Act. However, the Registrar has authority to reject an application if the creator does not meet the nationality requirements; or, if an application for an "exploited" topography is received more than two years after the date of first commercial exploitation anywhere.

To register a topography, you should obtain the appropriate forms from CIPO, put the appropriate information on the forms, including title or titles or topography, date and location of first commercial exploitation, name and address of applicant, and applicant's interest in the topography, and submit the completed forms to the Copyright and Industrial Design Branch of CIPO. In addition, you must submit a complete set of overlay sheets, drawings or photographs of the topography and a description of the nature or function of the topography. Under certain conditions, some confidential information can be omitted from the drawings or photographs of the topography. PLEASE NOTE!! The application must be filed within two years of the first commercial exploitation of the topography.



While marking of IC products is not obligatory, it is advisable to mark a product with a title corresponding to the registered title or titles. Failure to do so may constitute a valid defense in an infringement action if a defendant can prove having had no knowledge of the registration of the topography.

Further information - For further information on IC Topography Protection, please contact:

Integrated Circuit Topographies Office
Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO)
Industry Canada
50 Victoria Street, Place du Portage I Hull, Quebec
Tel.: (819) 9971936 Fax : (819) 9537620

Any correspondence sent to the Integrated Circuit Topography Office through the priority courier service of Canada Post Corporation will be considered received by the Office on the date stamped on the envelope by the priority courier service.


Fee Schedule

Integrated Circuit Topography Fee Schedule - Last Modified, July 28, 2004

Filing an application: $200.00

Amending an application in accordance with a request made pursuant to subsection 20(1) of these regulations: $75.00

Entering in the register particulars of a transfer of an interest or grant of a license affecting a registered topography pursuant to subsection 21(l) of the Act: $75.00

Amending an entry in the register or making a new entry therein pursuant to subsection 21(2) of the Act.: $75.00

Amending a certificate or registration or issuing a new certificate, pursuant to subsection 19(4) of the Act, for the purpose of correcting a typographical or clerical error made as a result of incorrect information supplied by the applicant.: $75.00

Transmitting material on file to the Federal Court pursuant to section 27: $100.00

Providing a copy of a document, of entries in or extracts from the register, or of any material referred to in section 26 of these Regulations, for each page measuring 21.5 cm x 28 cm (8 1/2 inches x I 1 inches) or less.: $5.00

Providing a certified copy of a document referred to in subsection 15(2) of the Act.: $50.00


Instructions for Completing An Application for
Registration of An Integrated Circuit Topography.

Applicant - Individuals should first write their surnames followed by a comma, and then their first names. Addresses should include the complete postal address; street name and number, where applicable and postal code. Applicants who deal with the office on a regular basis will be given a client number at a later date.

Title - The title (or titles) consisting of words and/or code is essential for identifying the topography. Only alpha-numeric characters as appear on standard North American keyboards can be entered in the Register.

Nature - Insert a brief description of the nature (structure type) or function of the topography. An example of the function would be "operational amplifier", while examples of the nature would be "bipolar, CMOS, or linear".

Interest - Please indicate if the applicant is the creator of the topography or a successor in title.

Eligibility - If the topography has not been commercially exploited, registration in Canada may be dependent upon the citizenship or residency of the creator at the time of creation of the topography or at the time of filing of the application. A topography may also be eligible for protection in Canada if the creator, at the time of creation or at the time of filing has, in Canada, a real and effective establishment for the creation of topographies or the manufacture of integrated circuit products.

First commercial exploitation - To exploit commercially means to sell, lease, offer or exhibit for sale or lease, or otherwise distribute for a commercial purpose. The date (day, month and year) as well as the country must be indicated.

Material filed and other information - List of material being filed with the application and other information. you should indicate:

  • The number of layers of the topography;
  • The number of layers being deposited;
  • The number of layers containing confidential information for which design data is submitted;
  • The number of IC products deposited (for commercially exploited topographies, at least four IC products must be submitted if parts of the design data are blocked out).

Agent - The name of anyone appointed to act on the applicant's behalf.

Representative for service - A Canadian address and the name of someone authorized to receive service on behalf of the applicant.

Signature - The application must be signed and dated by either the applicant or the applicant's agent.

Fees - The fee for filing an application must be attached to the application.

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