UIC John Marshall Journal of Information Technology & Privacy Law


Thomas Hoeren


In the second half of the 20th century, semiconductor technology as integrated circuits (IC), commonly known as microchips, became more and more dominating in our lives. Microchips are the control center of simple things like toasters as well as of complex high-tech machines for medical use. Of course, they also define the hearts of each computer. With the invention of semiconductor technology, a whole new economic sector began its rise and soon played a major role in the economies of the large industrial countries like the U.S., Japan and the EC. Especially, it stands out for its innovational power and its readiness to in-vest. Microchips are a symbol for the modern industrial society.

In the following considerations, I will try to show how and why semiconductors became a major technical innovation (Part 1). Then, I will discuss some of the important features of the global “ecosystem” of the chip industry (Part 2). All these observations will lead to the main chapter discussing the existing sui generis protection for the layout of semiconductors (Part 3) and the economic and legal reasons for its collapse (Part 4), along with the continuing high value of the “classical” IP rights such as patents and copyright.