3.8 What are circuit layouts

Circuit layouts are novel, two-dimensional layout designs or plans (topographies) of three-dimensional integrated circuits used in computers and equipment that relies on computers (e.g. modern cars, televisions, washing machines, medical devices, etc).

Circuit layouts have automatic legal IP protection (like copyright) that does not require registration or fees.

Circuit layouts are sometimes referred to as computer chip or semi-conductor chip designs.

Under Australian law, owners of this IP have exclusive rights to copy the layout in a material form, make integrated circuits from the layout, and exploit it commercially. Owners’ rights are also automatically protected under an international agreement administered by the World Trade Organisation, in member countries. In Australia, from the first commercial exploitation, circuit layout rights continue for 10 years. The first commercial exploitation must occur within 10 years of the creation of the layout or its integrated circuit. Therefore the maximum protection period is 20 years. As with copyright, in Australia, the Department of Communications and the Arts is responsible for management and policy regarding circuit layouts, not IP Australia.