Cooler Master responds to Asetek infringement case against AMD

Two weeks ago, we covered news that the liquid cooler manufacturer Asetek had sent cease-and-desist letters to both Gigabyte and AMD, seeking to prevent sales of both Gigabyte’s WaterForce line of water-cooled GTX 980s and AMD’s top-end Fury X. At the time, AMD noted that it did not believe its own products were in violation of Asetek’s patents. Now, Cooler Master, which supplies the Fury X cooler, has spoken up as well.

Gamernexus has been going back and forth with Cooler Master for several weeks to suss out the company’s position. After a lengthy discussion of which arm of Cooler Master was impacted (this question is irrelevant for US readers, since Asetek’s lawsuit was against Cooler Master USA), the company provided the following statement:

“[The] Cooler Master heat sink used with the Radeon Fury X was not accused in the litigation, was not found by the jury to infringe, and was not included in the judgment. The heat sink’s structural design (with physically separable chambers, for example) is also fundamentally different from the accused devices in the litigation.”

It’s the little things…

Will the use of separate chambers be sufficient to dodge a patent injunction? Quite possibly, yes. Patent lawsuits can turn on small differences in implementation or design, and the question of what is or isn’t innovative can turn as much on gut feeling as empirical evidence.

Asetek’s decisions to send C&D letters to AMD and Gigabyte probably aren’t an attempt to actually prevent sales of hardware, especially since AMD could argue that killing sales of its flagship product would cause far more harm to it than to Asetek. In many cases, judges accept this reasoning, and rule that the harm caused to the plaintiff can be remedied by payments by the defendant if the case is decided in the plaintiff’s favor.

RadeonFury1

AMD’s Fury X uses a CoolerMaster rather than an Asetek cooler.

The entire affair may be a high-profile exercise in sour grapes. As GamerNexus details, Asetek was originally favored as the cooler provider for the Fury X and even put out press statements implying it had won the contract. When Asetek’s lawsuits against Cooler Master predate its evaluation as a provider for Fury X, it’s easy to see the connection between the two: Asetek may well believe it lost out on business unfairly, and winning the contract to supply a top-tier GPU’s cooling hardware would have been a significant feather in its cap. For what it’s worth, after the cooler-noise issues AMD had with Cooler Master and the Fury X, it might have been wishing it had opted for a different supplier as well.

Either way, it’s unlikely that Asetek could win an injunction against Fury X, and the firm isn’t likely to try. The C&D letters are almost certainly an attempt to either force AMD to the table to pay patent royalties for patents Chimpzilla doesn’t think it infringes, or an attempt to win future business contracts in exchange for dropping any threat to sue.

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