The new JEDEC standard marks an important step forward, but it is just the latest step in a long march toward eliminating counterfeit semiconductors.
Semiconductor manufacturers recently reached agreement on a set of requirements, practices, and methods to reduce the risk of counterfeit parts entering the supply chain. The JEDEC standard (JESD243) marks an important step forward in the battle against counterfeit semiconductors, which pose a clear and immediate threat to public health and safety. JEDEC is the global leader in developing open standards for the microelectronics industry.
Counterfeit semiconductors can end up in critical consumer, industrial, medical and military devices, with potentially catastrophic consequences. In one particularly alarming example, a man named Peter Picone admitted to sending counterfeit semiconductors to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Connecticut, where the semiconductors were intended for use in nuclear submarines. Fortunately, in the Picone case, the counterfeits were identified before they found their way into critical military systems. Next time, we might not be so fortunate.
The new standard marks an important step forward, but it is just the latest step in a long march toward eliminating counterfeit semiconductors. The U.S. semiconductor industry—led by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA)—has undertaken a comprehensive, multi-pronged effort in recent years to root out counterfeits and assist in the enforcement of anti-counterfeiting measures. SIA’s Anti-counterfeiting Task Force released a whitepaper in 2013 outlining the threats counterfeits pose and recommending steps to reduce them. That paper was subsequently embraced by the World Semiconductor Council, an organization that represents the U.S. and the other five top chip producing regions in the world—China, Europe, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. The document’s chief recommendation was for customers to buy semiconductor products either directly from Original Component Manufacturers (OCMs, the chip companies) or their authorized distributors or resellers.
SIA continues its focus on a range of additional anti-counterfeiting measures. The SIA Anti-counterfeiting Task Force engages regularly with U.S. and international officials who combat counterfeiting, providing training and support for their efforts to ensure national and consumer security. And thanks in large part to this effective collaboration between industry and law enforcement, there has been a marked increase in the prosecution of semiconductor counterfeiters and a record number of seizures of counterfeit products in recent years.
SIA successfully worked with the Department of Defense (DoD) in 2014 to finalize a rule that implements some needed safeguards in military procurement of semiconductors and other electronic parts. SIA has also conveyed its support of a new rule under consideration that would expand these safeguards.
Besides working to educate customers (including military customers) and law enforcement of the dangers of counterfeits, semiconductor manufacturers go to great lengths to ensure the integrity of their distribution chain. The JEDEC standard enhances those efforts by establishing clear practices, requirements and methods for additional mitigation of the risk of counterfeit parts entering the supply chain. It addresses issues such as handling of customer returns, and suspect and counterfeit parts.
The JEDEC standard is an important milestone. The semiconductor industry welcomes it and the role it will play in supporting the industry’s existing ongoing efforts to stop counterfeits.
This progress is encouraging, but more work remains. Together, we can advance the battle against counterfeit semiconductor products, mitigate their risk of entering the supply chain and help ensure the safety and security of critical technologies that are vital to consumers and to economy.
—Lisa Maestas is Chair of the Semiconductor Industry Association’s Anti-counterfeiting Task Force and serves as Quality Services & Anti-Counterfeit Program Manager at Texas Instruments.