Intellectual Property Rights and SEMI Standards
While the standards development process at SEMI has historically focused solely on technical aspects, intellectual property (IP) concerns have become prevalent in recent years, mirroring the industry’s increasing awareness of the value and handling of IP. Several instances of IP-related issues in the standards development process have been widely reported – notably the case involving Rambus and JEDEC. In 2002, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission alleged that Rambus violated antitrust laws by deliberately not disclosing key patent applications while it was a member of a JEDEC standards committee. This legal battle has had several twists and turns over the last seven years, but one point is clear - the cost, both in time and money, related to working through these sorts of problems via the legal system is significant. And, unfortunately, SEMI has not been immune to these difficulties.
In order to effectively address these problems, the International Standards Committee’s Subcommittee on the Regulations, which is responsible for developing and maintaining SEMI’s “rulebook”, the Regulations Governing SEMI Standards Committees, has been working with SEMI staff and SEMI legal advisors. The intent of this group is to update the Regulations to reflect the importance of IP protection in current Standards development. The goals of the upcoming Regulations revision, which is scheduled to be approved prior to SEMICON West, are to:
- Establish clear processes and guidance for Standards members to follow regarding the handling of IP, including IP owned by Standards members as well as IP owned by parties not involved in Standards development
- Increase awareness of IP and IP issues among Standards users as well as Standards members
- Reduce fears related to IP in the Standards development process and maintain member participation
- Reduce time and money spent on IP-related issues
While the Regulations advise that Standards should be written in such a way that makes the use of IP unnecessary, in some cases, the inclusion of IP in a Standard might be the best solution to an issue being addressed by the task force. After all, as the Regulations state, the Standards Program works to “….define current practices for, and to drive industry improvement in both quality and performance.”
Another change will be the introduction of a Standards Membership requirement to participate in Standards development. Membership will still be free and open to all interested parties, but Standards developers will now be much more confident that all participants are “playing by the same rules”, having agreed to abide by the policies stipulated in the Regulations. If you have not yet registered, please take a moment to do so at:
For over 35 years, the SEMI International Standards Program has contributed greatly to the growth of the semiconductor and other related industries by reducing costs, improving quality, and spurring innovation. The Program brings competitors together to discuss technical matters and find solutions that benefit the entire industry; the upcoming changes to the Regulations seek to ensure that the efforts of the Program’s over 2000 volunteers continue to result in vital Standards, and are not jeopardized for legal reasons.