Three-dimensional structures of microelectronic semiconductor products (topographies) - in other words the "mask work" of microchips with a multi-layer structure - can be protected under the German Semiconductor Protection Act.

A condition of protection is that the topography applied for must exhibit a "peculiarity," which is generally the case if it is an independent creation that is not the result of routine intellectual work.

A topography is registered by the German Patent and Trademark Office if the formal requirements for protection are met.  There is no substantive examination to determine whether the requirement of "peculiarity" has been complied with. A topography may be applied for at the German Patent and Trademark Office within a period of two years after its first commercial use.

The duration of protection of a topography is a maximum of 10 years. If the topography is applied for after commercial use has begun, the duration of protection is reduced accordingly.

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