Compendium of U.S. Copyright Practices, 3rd Edition

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1204.3 Protectable Expression

1204.3 Protectable Expression

A mask work must contain protectable expression. Protectable expression in a mask work extends to the three-dimensional images or patterns formed on or in the layers of metallic, insulating, or semiconductor material and fixed in a semiconductor chip product, i.e., the “topography” of the “chip.”

Although these images or patterns are purely functional features, they are nevertheless protected, provided that a mask work is neither dictated by a particular electronic function nor results from one of only a few available design choices that will accomplish that function.

Protection for mask works does not “extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery” associated with a mask work, “regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.” 17 U.S.C. § 902 (C).

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