ISMI Publishes IP Protection, Semiconductor Equipment Security Guidelines

Looking to balance the necessity of R&D collaboration with the need for competitive advantage, the International SEMATECH Manufacturing Initiative (ISMI) has published the semiconductor industry’s first guidelines for protecting intellectual property (IP) within process equipment. The guidelines, developed for ISMI’s member companies as well as the industry, provide a security framework for protecting the integrity of proprietary information in tools used by semiconductor consortia and other collaborations. The IP targeted for protection includes both chip-maker and supplier data, such as processing recipes, run rates, and equipment diagnostic information.

“Collaboration is critical to the financial success of suppliers and manufacturers alike, but there’s been a question over how to strike a balance between sharing data for operations, and protecting IP investments,” said Scott Kramer, ISMI director. “ISMI’s answer is that IP protection must be more than a business process – it needs to be embedded in equipment software.”

ISMI produced the equipment security guidelines at the request of its member companies, who collaborated on the development of the IP protection requirements. These included the need for key software security technologies, such as role-based security; a limited scope targeted at specific objects and tools; and multiple use cases covering various combinations of chip-maker and supplier collaborations.

The ISMI security framework specifies the essential components of information security at the business level, defines the needed levels of IP protection capability, and outlines roles and responsibilities for IC makers, foundries, and tool suppliers. Specific requirements include:

  • Nondisclosure agreements that detail how technology and process data will be used in a collaboration
  • A system architecture with adequate controls for access, authentication, user credentials, and information removal
  • Identification by chip-makers of process-related IP, and by tool-makers of equipment IP
  • Purging of all IP from each tool at the end of its life

“Protecting IP is critical to the long-term financial success of the semiconductor industry, and it’s a shared responsibility involving chip-makers, tool suppliers, and foundries,” Kramer noted. “Intellectual property must be protected from the time information becomes valuable throughout its entire life cycle.”

The ISMI guidelines, Semiconductor Equipment Security Guidelines, Intellectual Property Protection, are available to the public and can be found in the Manufacturing Methods technical publications on the ISMI website.

ISMI is a global alliance of the world’s major semiconductor manufacturers, dedicated to reducing cost per wafer, and ultimately cost per die, through cooperative programs focused on manufacturing effectiveness. The consortium conducts programs in manufacturing infrastructure, methods, standards, and productivity, with the aim of reducing the costs of producing finished wafers and chips and driving solutions to major productivity challenges. ISMI is a wholly owned subsidiary of SEMATECH of Austin, TX.