Hastings Business Law Journal


Dan Callaway


The semiconductor industry comprises organizations of all sizes, from single engineers contracting their work to companies as large and powerful as have ever existed. The rapid advancement of technology in the semiconductor field makes it a crucible for theories about the patent system as a whole. It is arguably desirable that as new technologies come to market, patents should be issued with appropriate scope so that other inventors retain incentive to innovate. But it is not only the Patent Office which can offer or hinder incentives for inventors. The semiconductor industry is subjected to various incentives, both negative and positive, from Congress, the courts, and from within. This paper surveys the semiconductor industry and the incentives for patenting integrated circuits. It also looks at disincentives, and problems that have arisen in the industry. Finally, it focuses particularly on patent issues relating to "interface circuits"-those circuits that directly connect a chip to the outside world.