Will patents help India to become a Semiconductor superpower?

Will patents help India to become a Semiconductor superpower?

April 30, 2022 By Khyati Dave

The digital era has seized control of practically every aspect of our life in the last few years. However, when we learn more about the era, we can see that it has grown to encompass an electronic revolution. Semiconductors are not a sudden invention, but their popularity and importance have grown in recent years because today's digital lives are primarily dependent on the operation of semiconductor-based devices. This raises questions as to India’s involvement in this development and whether adequate patent protection would possibly allow the country to take over as a semiconductor superpower.

The semiconductor chip, a device that is perennially shrinking in size by the day, is so significant to our livelihoods that it has prompted rivalries between the global superpowers. These "silicon wafers" are a crucial element of today's society since they fuel work, entertainment, communication, defense, medical research, and many other applications. Protecting semiconductors through patent registration can be quite challenging and financially taxing. Due to this reason, patent applications and claims for infringement on your patents should be drafted by patent lawyers who are experienced with the technology and more likely to grasp the finer details when certain features in infringing devices are identified.

Semiconductors can be simplified as a device that lies somewhere in between the concept of insulators and conductors. Gallium arsenide, germanium, and silicon are some of the most frequently used semiconductors. They are essential components in electronic devices that further communication and support our everyday lives.

The reason semiconductors have become such a key point of discussion today is due to their lack of availability owing to the US-China tussle over attaining dominance in this advancement of technology coupled with the effects of the pandemic. The Indian government has strategically placed itself in the heart of this technological conflict in the hopes of becoming the next semiconductor giant. The Cabinet announced a Rs 76,000 crores (approximately $10 billion) incentive package in December 2021 to entice foreign semiconductor and display firms to position India as a worldwide chip production powerhouse.

Patents and Semiconductors interplay

With its distinct properties between conductor and insulator, semiconductor, which is the foundation of modern electronics and has unique properties, has revolutionized almost every field, including mobile phones, computers, and even the fastest ballistic missiles.

The issue of patent registration for these semiconductors is crucial, as it could determine the country's future semiconductor industry. Semiconductors and their designs are unique in their own right, requiring high-quality engineering and a significant investment, they also require legal protection from piracy. However, Semiconductors and ICs can be protected under The Semiconductor Integrated circuits Layout-Design Act, 2000. The legislative rules ensure such protection based on originality and distinctiveness while also including measures for reverse engineering copying with specified limitations. A point to ponder upon is whether the idea of distinctiveness and the doctrine of equivalents can be used as a tool to prevent patent registration.

The patent registration & IC registration process for semiconductors involves a long and detailed claim, as a narrow one would do no justice to the intricate elements involved in the patentability of these chips. Integrated circuits are made up of many different building components, each of which is patentable. A claim to an integrated circuit would have to cover hundreds or thousands of individual elements because an integrated circuit has multiple semiconductor devices.

Will Patent protection help the growth of Semiconductors?

Software is becoming increasingly important in all economic sectors as a means of leveraging growth. Intellectual property (IP) rules will be affected significantly due to this.

Since technology is evolving from hardware to software at a faster pace, the security of this software is a major concern for us. Many legal regimes across the world are debating whether patent protection for semiconductors is sufficient to give comprehensive protection.

Historically, we have seen that such strong IP protection incentivises manufacturers to constantly enhance and bring about new innovations to grasp a larger market value. Out of the various IP regimes available to inventors, including trade secrets, copyright laws, and patents, patents offer the most effective protection to semiconductors’ functionality. Patent protection & IC protection will help boost the innovation of these chips on a massive scale. Going by the general rule for patents, if any invention satisfies the NUN criteria (Novel (New), useful (Industrial applicability), and non-obviousness (Inventive step)), it instantly attracts most facets of patent law.

Advancing patent & IC protection to semiconductors would automatically ensure a reasonable commercial return for domestic manufacturers in the nation, adding to the growing hub that semiconductors are forming in India. Further, the amount of investment that would go into innovating and protecting the semiconductors through patents in the country would allow it to create a larger foothold in the Indian market, both domestically and internationally, making India one of the largest semiconductor superpowers.

Further, patenting semiconductors and ICs in the country would also encourage the development of a highly advanced R&D infrastructure, which would lead to improvements in existing technologies as well as increased efficiency for future advancements in the same field. As the world's need for semiconductors continues to expand, this would not only make India a superpower in the field of semiconductors but also an intellectual hub for research and design, as well as an exporting behemoth.

Way ahead for India

Patent & IC protection laws will have a promising future for the Indian semiconductor market. It would help elevate the level of protection that these highly integrated circuits require. As India gears up to increase its domestic semiconductor production and become one of the largest markets globally, there is a high expectation of a rise in patenting activity and general growth of the semiconductor intellectual property sector to assure a significant competitive advantage over other well-established markets. Furthermore, patents and Intellectual property rights are one of the primary methods in which domestic manufacturers could even negotiate a foothold amongst the giants.

The patentability of semiconductors & IC’s in India paves a promising roadmap for the country to take over and become a superpower in the field, adding to the government’s scheme that has been introduced for the very same purpose. These intellectual property rights are vital in protecting and enhancing the unique qualities of semiconductors in the country; thus, improving the legal framework for them is a wise move.

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