Liquid cooling specialist Asetek has been granted three patents on its integrated sealed-loop technology by the US Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) - and has immediately turned around and sued rival CoolIT for alleged infringement.
'Asetek is an innovation company by DNA,
' claimed André Sloth Eriksen, founder and chief executive of Asetek, in a statement to press regarding the newly-granted patents. 'These patents, some of which have priority back to 2003, spring out of our rich PC enthusiast heritage and our dedication to solving painful problems for our customers.
'Our successful innovations have attracted several imitators,
' Eriksen added in his statement, without naming names. 'Although competition is a keen motivator for continuous innovation and operational excellence, innovation is expensive and as such we take out patents to protect our investments.
The target of Eriksen's barbs appears to be rival sealed-unit cooling company CoolIT, now the recipient of a lawsuit alleging infringement of one of Asetek's freshly-granted patents.
The patent in question, publication number US 2012/0061058
(PDF warning), describes 'a cooling system for a computer system [...] comprising a reservoir having an amount of cooling liquid, said cooling liquid intended for accumulating and transferring the thermal energy dissipated from the processing unit to the cooling liquid. The cooling system has a heat exchange interface for providing thermal contact between the processing unit and the cooling liquid for dissipating heat from the processing unit to the cooling liquid.
If that sounds a little general, that's because it is: as granted, Asetek's patent, which is held in Eriksen's name rather than the company name, basically covers any liquid cooling system including sealed-unit all-in-one systems and those with separate pumps and reservoirs. Although selected areas of the patent application attempt to limit its scope - there's specific mention of the design being for 'a small and compact liquid-cooling solution which is more efficient than existing air-cooling arrangements and which can be produced at a low cost enabling high production volumes
' - these are still general enough to cover a large swathe of the market.
CoolIT, for its part, has been producing watercooling systems for quite some time - witness our review of the Domino ALC from 2009
- but despite the latest patent being filed in 2011 Asetek could still have prior claim thanks to the latest patent being a continuation of a filing made way back in 2005. As a result, Asetek is claiming that CoolIT's integrated watercooling systems fall foul of the patent, and that the Canadian company owes some serious cash.
CoolIT isn't the only company in Asetek's sights, with a licensing agreement giving an unnamed third-party seller of sealed-loop watercooling systems - most likely Antec, which sells rebadged Asetek units under its own name - immunity from a similar lawsuit.
Thus far, CoolIT has not commented on the suit, or whether it plans to capitulate and licence Asetek's patent or fight to have the patent withdrawn on the basis of prior art.