Update: EU Policy Developments Impact SEMI Members

Update: EU Policy Developments Impact SEMI Members

By Heinz Kundert, president, SEMI Europe

Being able to quickly identify and seize the potential offered by new technologies and new markets is critical in the semiconductor industry.  Keeping track of public policy developments is equally important.

Decisions made in a national Ministry or an EU institution can have a direct impact on our industry. A new EU patent procedure, to be introduced by mid-2014, will significantly reduce the cost and time for your company to obtain a patent valid across 25 European states. The outcomes of the current review of substances under European EHS rules, for example, may have an impact on industry’s research priorities or its access to the EU market. This article covers these topics: 7th SEMI Brussels Forum; EU Patent Protection; GaAs and InP under Review (REACH); RoHS Exemptions Expiring; Banned Substances under RoHS; EU Conflict Minerals Debate.

7th  SEMI Brussels Forum on 24 May 2013

The SEMI Brussels Forum is Europe’s leading policy event for semiconductor equipment and materials, providing a unique platform for top-level executives and EU representatives to exchange views and debate how to reinforce Europe’s competitiveness in the global market. The 7th SEMI Brussels Forum will discuss how Europe’s industry and policy-makers can increase their impact — both individually and jointly to reinforce Europe’s position. How can industry build on its leading positions and expertise and optimize synergies? How can Europe balance its values and rules on free competition on one hand, with the need to provide for a global level playing field on the other? 

This is the only event that brings together top-level management and EU representatives to exchange views on how to reinforce Europe’s competitiveness. For more information, please visit: www.semi.org/eu/brusselsforum.

New EU Patent Procedure Offers Aautomatic Protection in 25 Countries and Brings Down Costs

The new ‘EU Unitary Patent’, to be made available by April 2014, is expected to reduce the administrative and financial burden of patent protection across the EU. Companies will be able to fill out a single application to the European Patent Office — once granted, the patent is automatically valid across 25 countries (all EU member states except for Italy and Spain). A single court will be created (Unified Patent Court) with jurisdiction over infringement proceedings in any of these countries.

Companies will no longer need to apply before each national body for their patent to have effect in that territory, nor satisfy local language and administrative requirements or pay local fees. Nor will they need to defend their patents in different jurisdictions and receive different, sometimes conflicting, rulings.

This new system is also expected to significantly bring down the costs of obtaining a patent. The European Commission estimates that today, a ‘classic’ European patent (that needs to be validated individually in 27 Member States) costs 36 000 EUR. The new unitary patent system will bring the costs down dramatically to around 5 000 EUR, or one-seventh of today’s cost. Further information available: here.

GaAs and InP under Review for a Possible Restriction under REACH

A recent EU study collected information on the production, import and use of 44 substances, including GaAs and InP, in articles, as a first step towards assessing the need for a possible restriction on their use in the EU. Such a restriction (under Art. 68 REACH) could have an impact not only on European manufacturing but also on imports.

In a joint response with other industry associations, SEMI listed the applications where these compounds are used and the lack of risk to consumers when they are completely encapsulated. SEMI further highlighted the strategic importance of these compounds for micro- and nano-electronics. Their restriction would have a negative impact not only on industry, but on Europe as a whole.  It would curb the global competitiveness of the European semiconductor manufacturing supply chain and it would deprive the EU of the industry base and products Europe needs to achieve its strategic goals for the global digital market. 

GaAs and InP are the first III-V compounds being examined under the REACH microscope and SEMI is actively monitoring developments. In our upcoming advocacy activities, we will collect information on risk management measures the industry has in place to avoid exposure to workers and the environment – if your company can contribute, please contact gourania@semi.org.

EU RoHS Update: Exemptions are Expiring; More Substances to be Banned under RoHS

The EU RoHS directive currently bans six substances from being used in electric and electronic equipment. Certain products of SEMI members are not covered by the Directive, such as PV panels going into fixed installations, large-scale stationary industrial tools (LSIT) and large-scale fixed installations. SEMI members also benefit from exemptions to the Directive, which allow for specific uses of the banned substances in specified quantities and for a limited period of time.

  • A number of exemptions for specific applications will expire in July 2016. These exemptions can be renewed but applications for renewal need to be submitted by end of 2014. Now is therefore the time for industry to review the list of exempted applications, determine which ones are still needed and start pooling resources to draft the renewal application.
  • Additional substances will be banned under RoHS by 22 July 2014. An EU-funded study is currently underway to develop a methodology for evaluating the risk posed by hazardous substances and to determine whether they should be banned. By the end of 2013, this study will also propose additional substances that should be restricted. The European Commission will then decide on banning these substances under RoHS, the transition periods allowed for the manufacturing supply chain to adjust and start considering necessary exemptions.

The SEMI RoHS working is actively contributing to the drafting of the review methodology.  For further information and to contribute to this work, please contact Sanjay Baliga at sbaliga@semi.org

EU Conflict Minerals Debate is Launched – Potential Impact on Industry’s Sourcing of Raw Materials from Conflict Zones

The EU is now also considering whether it needs to adopt EU measures to support responsible sourcing from conflict-affected or high-risk areas.  It is yet not clear what minerals or what countries a possible EU initiative would focus on, nor whether its nature would be voluntary or binding. The question is also raised whether EU measures should address specific end-products or downstream industry sectors.

A number of initiatives on conflict minerals already exist, including the OECD guidelines on due diligence and the EU is looking to build on these and reinforce transparency through the supply chain. In the U.S., the Dodd-Frank act requires companies to report annually whether they or their suppliers are using conflict minerals (tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo or an adjoining country) and the EU is seeking feedback on how these provisions are working in practice.

The adoption of an EU legislative measure would have significant implications for SEMI members, creating a traceability requirement across the entire manufacturing supply chain. The consultation is available online heredeadline for submissions is 26 June 2013. For further information, please contact gourania@semi.org

SEMI Advocacy Supporters

We thank our SEMI Europe Advocacy Partners for their support: 

SEMI Advocacy Supporters

For further information on SEMI advocacy activities in Europe and on the SEMI Europe Advocacy Partners program, please contact Rania Georgoutsakou (gourania@semi.org; +32 2 609 5334) or Heinz Kundert (hkundert@semi.org).

 

May 8, 2013