Circuit Layout Rights
Circuit layout rights automatically protect original layout designs for integrated circuits, and computer chips.
In Australia circuit layouts are protected under the Circuit Layouts Act 1989. While the rights provided under the Act are based on copyright law principles they are a separate, unique form of protection.
In Australia it is not necessary to apply for circuit layout protection – circuit layout protection exists automatically from the moment the layout design is created.
Circuit layouts are usually highly complex and the intellectual effort in creating an original layout may be considerable and of great value. An integrated circuit or chip made from the plans is the key to the operation of all kinds of electronic devices, from heart pacemakers to personal computers.
The owner of an original circuit layout has exclusive right to copy the layout in a material form, make integrated circuits from the layout and exploit it commercially in Australia.
Commercial exploitation may occur by importation, sale, hire or distribution of a layout or an integrated circuit made according to the layout.
The maximum possible duration of circuit layout protection is 20 years. Rights in an original layout subsist for 10 years from the first commercial exploitation – provided this occurs within 10 years from creation of the layout – or 10 years from the year in which it was made, if not commercially exploited.