“Micro chips topography” & “web sites design” are protected as IP Rights

Claudio Iglesias Darriba

Micro chips topography & Web Sites can be protected as “Trade Dress”. TD is the IP Right that generally refers to characteristics of the visual appearance or design of a product or its packaging. In most countries, like trademarks, a product’s trade dress is legally protected by the TM Law. A trade dress must not be “functional.” That is, the configuration of shapes, designs, colors, or materials that make up the trade dress in question must not serve a utility or function outside of creating recognition in the consumer’s mind. For example, even though consumers associated a distinct spring design for wind resistant road signs with a particular company, the spring design is not protectable for trade dress purposes because the springs served the function of withstanding heavy wind conditions.

Semiconductors, also known as “silicon” or “micro” chips, are used to operate electronic equipment. This requires the designing of a “topography”, i.e. a three dimensional model of the electronic components for electric flows. Thetopography can be protected as “trade dress” or under any sui generis rights as a novel category of protected subject matter in various IP systems. The protected subject matter is the design of that product, not the product itself. Protection is granted for the topographical design, not its technical function or the technological arrangement of components.

About web sites, the protection is still uncertain. Most Courts are beginning to allow trade dress protection for the overall “look and feel” of a website. In general they are protected when the overall “look and feel” of plaintiff’s retail jewelry websites, (including the design of plaintiff’s search pages) have been copied. The trade dress protection requires to demonstrate that the website was “non-functional” or “distinctive”. This is the situation in the US and in Argentina.

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