Asetek Sends Cease and Desist for Water-Cooled GPUs

Subject: Graphics Cards | December 6, 2015 - 11:29 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, cooler master, asetek, amd

AMD and Gigabyte have each received cease and desist letters from Asetek, regarding the Radeon Fury X and GeForce GTX 980 Water Force, respectively, for using a Cooler Master-based liquid cooling solution. The Cooler Master Seiden 120M is a self-contained block and water pump, which courts have ruled that it infringes on one of Asetek's patents. Asetek has been awarded 25.375% of Cooler Master's revenue from all affected products since January 1st, 2015.

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This issue obviously affects NVIDIA less than AMD, since it applies to a single product from just one AIB partner. On AMD's side, however, it affects all Fury X products, but obviously not the air-cooled Fury and Fury Nano cards. It's also possible that future SKUs could be affected as well, especially since upcoming, top end GPUs will probably be in small packages adjacent HBM 2.0 memory. This dense form-factor lends itself well to direct cooling techniques, like closed-loop water.

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Even more interesting is that we believe Asetek was expecting to get the Fury X contract. We reported on an Asetek press release that claimed they received their “Largest Ever Design Win” with an undisclosed OEM. We expected it to be the follow-up to the 290X, which we assumed was called 390X because, I mean, AMD just chose that branding, right? Then the Fury X launched and it contained a Cooler Master pump. I was confused. No other candidate for “Largest Ever Design Win” popped up from Asetek, either. I guess we were right? Question mark? The press release of Asetek's design win came out in August 2014 while Asetek won the patent case in December of that year.

Regardless, this patent war has been ongoing for several months now. If it even affects any future products, I'd hope that they'd have enough warning at this point.

Source: GamersNexus

December 7, 2015 | 12:53 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

So, they patented cooling a GPU with an integrated water cooling system? That seems a bit excessive.

December 7, 2015 | 01:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

who ever smelt it, dealt it baby!!! welcome to the US patent system... tap to collect royalties!

December 7, 2015 | 08:01 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

As much as I dislike patent trolls, it's not as simple as you said. If Asetek has a patent on an integrated pump/block for PC components, they undoubtedly used language to cover all PC implementations. It's not like they're claiming to have invented watercooled gpus or even clc's, but ones that use this design...and like it or not the courts have upheld their claim. AMD using a product known to be infringing is the real bone headed move. I'm sure CM offered them a great deal and AMD being cash strapped couldn't help themselves, but its very poor risk management

December 7, 2015 | 09:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It wasn't exactly "known to be infringing" actually. When the courts ruled against CMI and in favor of Asetek, the Fury X was already out on the market. Most of the stories that covered the court ruling included something about whether AMD's Fury X would be affected.

Like you, I'm sure CM offered them a great deal and half-broke AMD took them up on it, but when that happened, the court hadn't ruled yet.

December 7, 2015 | 12:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The design came from swiftech, who very openly chose to cease and desist when challenged by asetek. Now, I'm sure CMI had resources to mount a legal defense that was well outside swiftechs means and they were willing to fight, but as an outside entity it still should have told AMD something about the potential risks of using that design. Even if it wasn't 100% known to be infringing, there was still a darn good chance it would be found so... I just hope this came up in a meeting at AMD somewhere.

December 7, 2015 | 01:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Honestly, it's AMD's own fault. The fact that swiftech was being sued and CMI were being sued for the same thing were public knowledge, we knew about it, thus AMD should have known about it. Their decision to continue with it regardless of the fact means that either a) they were inept and didn't notice it, b) they knew about it and thought CMI could beat them (highly unlikely) c) they knew about it and didn't care/would rather go through with it at launch to move units while they worked on another solution (more likely). That being said, the fact that Asetek thought they had won a big OEM contract throws a wrench into things. IF that was the AMD contract for these, AMD really boned up going this route.

December 7, 2015 | 01:22 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

speaking from a position of complete ignorance, but i can see asetek being upset, if it were the case that AMD decided to go with CoolerMaster at the very last minute, in order to cut costs, even though they, AMD and Asetek, had already laid substantial ground work in forming their own relationship. especially if CoolerMaster was using their (asetek) own patented design. rofl...talk about adding insult to injury hahaha wow.

but who knows...things are very rarely so straightforward. like apple and samsung for instance. those two are suing AND cooperating with each other simultaneously. awesome! XD

December 7, 2015 | 02:52 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

be funny as shit and wont ever happen but. In the news today "AMD and nvida stop selling GPU to america and only sell to the rest of the world."

December 7, 2015 | 04:11 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Maybe Coolermaster should have designed their own pump unit.

Too bad AMD decided to build it´s top cards with this copied crap.

December 7, 2015 | 05:37 AM - Posted by Justin150 (not verified)

Whilst I do have my doubts about the patents mostly on the grounds of obviousness, the court has upheld them and they do appear to be rather old patents (priority date is 2003 for one and 2005 for the other) so they may well have a valid patent on a combined pump and water cooling block for computer components.

The good news is that this should stop AIO systems in their tracks - they are rarely a good idea and air cooling is just as effective with, nowadays, no real difference in noise levels. But moving onto a water cooling loop which cools both GPU and CPU can make a dramatic difference to noise levels

December 7, 2015 | 01:24 PM - Posted by jim cherry (not verified)

This patent has been used against other water cooling companies and the only result was said companies sale product in canada and americans who want said product either buy from there or find a asetek licensed alternative. This could make amd/nvidia think twice about using closed system coolers but then again they could just sign a deal with asetek.

December 7, 2015 | 03:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I took a quick look at the patent. I am not an expert, but it looks like a very basic design. It would seem like almost any combined pump + water block would be considered infringing. It also seems like the "patent the well known idea, but it is a new patent when applied to computers, even though it is obvious" practice. Patenting such a basic idea is kind of ridiculous, but this is how the US patent system basically works. They seem to grant just about anything, and if it is disputed, the courts have to determine the validity. This makes a lot of money for the lawyers I guess.

The AIO water coolers seem like a good idea to me, especially if you want to move your system around. If you need high end cooling, you are looking at a very large heat pipe air cooler. These can be difficult to install, and apparently can apply a large torque to the socket; the was just a story about the socket or Skylake CPUs being damaged by some of these large air coolers. With water cooling, it is a small, easy to mount wate block.

Most people do not want to mess with a custom loop, so the AIO coolers are a good solution. I haven't heard of these having too much pump noise, except for the occasional whine. It is still usually the fan noise people complain about, and this isn't really related to whether it is an AIO or a custom loop. It is about the radiator design and fan design.

December 7, 2015 | 06:01 AM - Posted by JohnGR

A new monopoly is under way.

December 7, 2015 | 09:19 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Ahahaha.

December 7, 2015 | 08:13 AM - Posted by Bri (not verified)

Yeah not too smart of AMD to award a contract to a product that was under patent litigation.

December 7, 2015 | 08:24 AM - Posted by Steve Jobs (not verified)

Meh, I'll have my company invent an AIO cooler for our next GPU product and then show Asetek how this shit is done.

December 7, 2015 | 09:14 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

IT'S OVER, AMD IS FINISHED & BANKRUPT

December 7, 2015 | 09:37 AM - Posted by Pholostan

Bah patent law. Coolemaster should have won that fight with Asetek. Was kinda weird that CM couldn't convince the court to re-examine the Asetek patent provided that CM themselves have a similar, earlier patent.

December 7, 2015 | 10:31 AM - Posted by Justin150 (not verified)

There is a trivial way around the patent. Attach the pump to the radiator rather than the GPU/CPU waterblock. Something Swiftec did years ago (maybe Swiftec have patents on that??)

But as currently manufactured it does seem that Fury etc or breaching the Asetek patent claim as it relates to directly attaching the pump to the waterblock. On that basis not only are Asetek entitled to protect their patents - it is a good thing that they are because that encourages innovation.

These are not (wholly) nonsense patents, whilst it seems obvious to combine the pump and the waterblock back in 2003 I suspect it was not

December 7, 2015 | 03:58 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It is a pretty obvious idea though. There is also a lot of prior art; most mechanical devices with a water pump obviously have them integrated into the device. Placing the pump on top of a water block is, in my opinion, just to simple. It reminds me of the way suitcases used to be. They were just a rectangular case with a handle on the side. At some point, they started putting wheels on the bottom. It is amazing that it took so long to put wheels on a suitcase, but in the past, many people didn't travel, didn't have much stuff to take with them, or just didn't carry the luggage themselves. I don't know if anyone ever attempted to patent that since it would have been a long time ago. Also, patenting placing wheels on something is ridiculous. The only way some of these patents increase innovation is by forcing companies to work around obvious ideas in creative ways. What if putting wheels on a suitcase was patented? How would you work around that?

December 7, 2015 | 04:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

While the idea was around, actual implementations were not.
An idea by itself does not count as prior art when there is no implementation of the idea.
If you do know about prior art that applies to this case however, feel free to contact CM and AMD about it. You could help them save a lot of money.

December 7, 2015 | 10:35 AM - Posted by sensacion7

It just seems like AMD is constantly around some trouble rcently...

December 8, 2015 | 05:33 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah since those chinese/indian takeover in management....

December 7, 2015 | 10:37 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I remember when Asetek made interesting phase change coolers, now it's just shitty AIOs and patent trolling

December 7, 2015 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

In my opinion, this just solidifies Asetek's role as an extortionist and patent troll. They already won their battle with CMI and are getting a nice hefty royalty payment (which admittedly was deserved, at least by law) and now they're trying to double-dip - trying to extort a second royalty payment from AMD on coolers whose royalties were already paid for by CMI.

December 7, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

WRONG. They are receiving royalties on the INFRINGING Coolers, they are NOT receiving royalties on these new coolers. There is a difference, what CM did is create what appears to be to Asetek another product of which infringes on their patents yet again, without giving Asetek anything. That should not, and can not stand.

December 7, 2015 | 01:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This statement lowers my opinion of humanity.

December 7, 2015 | 01:59 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Except, no, you're wrong. The INFRINGING coolers that Asetek sued over (and won) are pretty much all of CMI's closed-loop coolers, including the Seidon series - which is what is cooling the Fury X.

Asetek is receiving royalties on all of the CM Seidon closed-loop cooling units sold, period. That includes the Seidon units used on the Fury X. CM sold those units to AMD, and CM is now being forced to pay royalties to Asetek for those units.

December 7, 2015 | 12:44 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

WRONG. They are receiving royalties on the INFRINGING Coolers, they are NOT receiving royalties on these new coolers. There is a difference, what CM did is create what appears to be to Asetek another product of which infringes on their patents yet again, without giving Asetek anything. That should not, and can not stand.

December 7, 2015 | 04:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

That was my opinion also. If AMD is just buying these coolers from CMI, then it falls on CMI to pay the royalties. This would be like Apple trying to sue Samsung smart phone customers for royalties.

December 7, 2015 | 11:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"Asetek has been awarded 25.375% of Cooler Master's revenue from all affected products since January 1st, 2015"

So Asetek is getting money off the Fury X and whatever Nvidia products, it's just that the money is coming from Cooler Master's pockets. AMD will be forced to go with Asetek coolers or switch to another technology, but I don't see Asetek going after AMD or Nvidia for any damages yet. AMD and Nvidia will have to negotiate a deal with Asetek but they may not have much choice now that Asetek has its patent/s enforced. I do not see Asetek trying to overcharge AMD or Nvidia for their product, or both AMD and Nvidia would go for a non integrated in the block pump solution, and cost Asetek too much future business for other Asetek products from business with both AMD and Nvidia. These types of lawsuits are the normal way for companies to settle their IP and other disputes, and Asetek does not want to burn any bridges with AMD or Nvidia/others.

December 7, 2015 | 12:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You know, it just occurred to me - if they really wanted to, AMD could possibly pull out a really nice PR win over this. Imagine, for a moment:

8 Dec 2015 - AMD is announcing a temporary suspension of sales of their R9 Fury X graphics cards, after a Cease and Desist order was filed against them by Asetek, alleging that the closed-loop water cooling unit on the Fury X infringes on Asetek's patents.

"Effective immediately, AMD is freezing sales of Fury X graphics card products until a suitable replacement liquid cooler is found," said an AMD spokesman. "We feel this is better for us, anyway - the Asetek-designed units were terrible. They were loud and high-pitched, as most of the initial reviews noted when the Fury X lineup originally released. It's a problem we'd been fighting ever since, and it's a problem we can't fix, due entirely to the really poor design of the pump. Now that Asetek is forcing us to stop using it, we have a chance to toss their terrible and noisy and unreliable pumps and put in something that actually works."

Added the AMD spokesman, "Screw Asetek."

My god that would be hilarious.

December 7, 2015 | 01:01 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Um, you know the existing fury x uses a CM cooler, not an asetek one, so your hypothetical press release (which could possibly be considered libelous) makes absolutely no sense

December 7, 2015 | 02:03 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's a CM Seidon series unit, which Asetek alleges, and the courts agreed, is an Asetek design.

And as long as AMD didn't say anything factually untrue, they'd be perfectly fine with going public with every last little problem that the CM Seidon unit gave them (which, again, the law says is an Asetek design.)

Asetek would undoubtedly try to sue them for libel but they wouldn't win, because AMD wouldn't have said anything factually untrue - and in fact they could point to dozens of reviews that say the same thing.

December 7, 2015 | 04:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Copied from Asetek, implemented in lesser quality. That just gives Asetek even more fuel against CM.

December 7, 2015 | 03:13 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No AMD/others will have to follow the judgment, and Asetek is getting 25.375% from Cooler Master's pockets of every Fury X, Nvidia, AIB makers' sales with the patented IP inside. So Asetek will be trying to get a contract with AMD, Nvidia, AIB makers after the infringing product's sales are halted. There are plenty of Fury X's, Nvidia, and AIB products already in the supply chain, so Asetek will still be making money on the deal, and whatever Inventory AMD/others have will be returned to Cooler Master for a full refund. AMD has probably already been looking at alternatives to the Cooler Master parts in advance of the judgment being issued, and well before any cease and desist order was enforceable. AMD could probably make an advanced contract with any manufacturer licensing the Asetek IP or with Asetek directly. Also, as far as Cooler Master is concerned only the judge can punish Cooler Master, not Asetek, so if Asetek is licensing the pump IP to others they may still have to license the IP to Cooler Master.

Asetek can not play favorites with any IP that it is already licensing to others and forever not agree to license the same IP to Cooler Master. The only one who can do that is a judge, and the judgment already spells out the amount that Cooler Master has to pay to Asetek. So eventually Cooler Master could get rights to license the IP, especially IP that Asetek is already licensing to other cooler makers!

December 7, 2015 | 03:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

You have no idea what you're talking about. Good lord.

December 7, 2015 | 12:42 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Keep on going Asetek!!

December 7, 2015 | 04:28 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Some commenters give me a headache...
1) Asetek is getting paid for products already sold
2) Asetek doesn't want more of those copies to be sold, probably because the lower quality give Asetek a bad reputation
3) nVidia is not involved other than as a supplier of GPU's to one AIB partner that implemented their own custom watercooling solution based on the infringing product
4) AMD provided a reference design based on the infringing product knowing that there was a lawsuit pending, and a ruling issued in april (before Fury X released iirc)
5) Most other AIO closed loop coolers are Asetek-based designs (Corsair, NZXT, etc.)

December 8, 2015 | 05:54 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Just look at some companies history to clarify how the economy works in our times.

Asetek history: ....founded in the year 2000, produces AIO liquid cooling solutions...

CoolIT history: ....founded in the year 2001, produces AIO liquid cooling solutions...

Judging from just those 2 facts i can only conclude that in todays economy it takes less than 1 year until an idea you have is stolen or copied by someone.

December 8, 2015 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

One of these Anonymous posters is going out of his/her way to stick up for Asetek to a surprising degree. It's almost like they're getting paid for it...

December 8, 2015 | 11:57 AM - Posted by jimecherry

All you anonymous posters look alike to me does that make me racist;}

December 9, 2015 | 04:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I like Asetek. They invented the AIO Cooling. Others just stole the idea. He got the patent first others are obliged to pay. If they do not pay, Asetek sues.

Personally i own 2 Asetek units. They perform great since i bought them. One unit is the Corsair H50 and is 6 years in my possesion now and cools my cpu the other one is the Antec H2O 620 and is about 3 years in my computer and cools my gpu. I used several different types of air coolers before and i must say that those units are really great inventions and i think that Asetek deserves all the honours and royalties.

Coolermaster on the othe side is an american-chinese craptastic company. I once bought their top-of-the-line aluminium case Stacker 830 and it was a total mess. Paid about 400 dollar for a heap of junk. That was my first and last Coolermaster product i ever bought.

When i saw in the reviews that AMD chose Coolermaster over Asetek on their new high end gpu i thought that this could only mean a lot of trouble. Now several months later it proves that i was right.

And no, i am not getting paid for my opinion on those 2 companies.

December 9, 2015 | 06:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

After reading my above statement maybe now you can make an excact guess WHO got paid for my opinion.

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