MUNICH, Germany Facing increasing threat for critical infrastructures and applications through counterfeit semiconductors, representatives of all major chip-making regions met for a workshop on anti-counterfeit measures. However besides demonstrating mutual consent, the measures to be taken remain rather vague.
During joint border operations in 2007 and 2008, 360.000 counterfeit ICs have been seized, writes the ESIA's anti-counterfeiting task force in an internal report. The number of undiscovered cases is probably much higher but apparently nobody is able to number the damage for industry and society. In any case, the industry is alarmed.
In order to discuss measures to stop the counterfeiting activities, delegations from Semiconductor Industry Associations in China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and the USA met for a workshop earlier this week.
On the topic list were items such as physical and electronic measures to spot counterfeit chips, anti-counterfeiting toolkits and the role of the customs in the anti-counterfeiting battle.
The sources for counterfeit chips remain largely in the dark; it proves difficult to get definitive information as to the agents of the illegal trade. However, the source of the devices is rather clear. "In many cases, the counterfeits are older chips taken from recycled scrap computers which have been remarked and resold as different brands or higher value chips," explained Martin Spaet, representative of the European Semiconductor Industry Association which co-chaired the workshop.
According to Spaet, shipment routes are sophisticated and quickly changing. Despite the high assumed damage, the quantities sold are typically rather low. And, clearly, there is no easy way to detect counterfeit or re-packaged chips. "They come in all shapes and sizes," Spaet said.
While however in a communique the workshop participants agreed to take enforcement measures on national, bilateral and multilateral level, they remained rather vague as to the nature of these measures. "Enforcement measures involve close cooperation between industry and customs officials as well as quick and efficient communication chains between industry and customs," Spaet revealed.
The expert declined to provide more detailed information. "Given the nature of anti-counterfeiting, detailed enforcement measures are not published," he said.
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