Memo: Protection of Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits in Pakistan

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Pakistan as a member of WTO and signatory to the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (“TRIPs Agreement”) undertook at Morocco in 1995 to make laws to incorporate, inter alia, Sections 35 to 38 of TRIPs Agreement which required Pakistan to make provisions to protect Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits in accordance with the Treaty on Intellectual Property in Respect of Integrated Circuits (“IPIC Treaty”) and TRIPs Agreement.

On September 12, 2000 the President of Pakistan promulgated the Registered Layout-Designs of Integrated Circuits Ordinance, 2000 which complies with TRIPs’ and IPIC Treaty’s requirements. Provisions of this legislation deal with, inter alia, the definitions of “integrated circuit” and “layout-design”, requirements for protection, exclusive rights, remedies in case of infringement, as well as exploitation and registration. When a layout-design is registered under the Ordinance, its right-holder acquires an exclusive monopoly of reproducing the registered layout-design in its entirety or any part thereof in Pakistan and acquires a right to restricts any unauthorized persons from importing, selling or otherwise distributing for commercial purpose the registered layout-design, or an integrated circuit in which the registered layout-design is incorporated or an article incorporating such an integrated circuit in so far as it continues to contain an unlawfully reproduced layout-design.

Definitions: Section 2(c) of the Ordinance defines integrated circuit to mean “a product in its final form or an intermediate form, in which the elements, at least one of which is an active element, and of some or all of the interconnections are integrally formed in or on a piece of material which is intended to perform an electronic function”. Section 2(d) of the Ordinance defines layout-design to mean a “three dimensional disposition, howsoever expressed, of the elements, at least one of which is an active element and of some or all of the interconnections of an integrated circuit or such a three dimensional disposition prepared for an integrated circuit intended for manufacture. Both of these definitions are close to the definition prescribed by Article 2(i) of IPIC Treaty.

Registration:

The Ordinance requires mandatory registration before any protection is granted to the right-holder. Section 7 of the Ordinance describes process of obtaining such registration. It requires an application for registration of a layout-design to be filed at the Patent Office. It provides that an application for registration of a layout-design may be filed only if the layout design has not been commercially exploited or has been commercially exploited any where in the world for not more than two years. The Ordinance requires an application for registration to contain,-

(i) a request for registration of the layout design and a brief and precise designation thereof;

(ii) the name, address, nationality and if different from the address, the habitual residence of the applicant.

All applications are required to be accompanied by,-

(i) a power of attorney, appointing the representative of the applicant, if any (non-resident applicants are required to be represented by a legal practitioner resident and practicing in Pakistan);

(ii) a copy of the drawing of the layout design and a sample of the integrated circuit along with information defining the electronic function which the integrated circuit is intended to perform, however, the applicant may omit such parts of the copy or drawing related to the manner of manufacture of the integrated circuit, provided that the parts submitted are sufficient to allow the identification of the layout-design;

(iii) payment of the prescribed fee to the Patent Office;

(iv) specify the date of the first commercial exploitation of the layout-design somewhere in the world (if so); and

(v) provide particulars that establish the right of the applicant.

Effect of Protection:

The new Ordinance provides that the following acts shall be unlawful if performed without the authorization of the right-holder, namely;

(i) reproducing, whether by incorporation in an integrated circuit or otherwise, the registered layout design in its entirety or any part thereof, except the acts of reproducing any part that does not comply with the requirement of originality; and

(ii) importing, selling or otherwise distributing for commercial purpose the registered layout design, or an integrated circuit in which the registered layout-design is incorporated or an article incorporating such an integrated circuit in so far as it continues to contain an unlawfully reproduced layout-design.

Infringement and Enforcement of Rights:

The Ordinance prescribed civil as well as criminal remedies against infringement of the exclusive rights of the right-holder. It provides that infringement shall consist of the performance of any act which could only be performed by the right-holder (see “Effect of Protection” above) . The Ordinance provides that on the request of the right-holder, or of his licensee if the later has requested the right-holder to institute court proceedings for a specific relief and the right holder has refused or failed to do so within a reasonable period, the District Court may grant an injunction to prevent an infringement or an imminent infringement and award damages and grant any other remedy provided for in the relevant law in force.

Offences and Penalties:

The Ordinance provides that any person who, without authorization, knowingly performs any act which is unlawful under the said Ordinance, he shall be guilty of an offence punishable for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which shall not be less than two hundred thousand rupees (approx. US$2,000), or with both. The court may also order the seizure, forfeiture and destruction of the layout designs of integrated circuits or articles and if any materials or implements having been predominantly used in the commission of the offence.

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