Lian Li vs Phanteks: PC Brands Battle Over RGB Fan Connector Patent

Fan design dispute
(Image credit: Lian Li)

Lian Li has filed a patent suit in California requesting action against Phanteks (h/t OC3D). The Taiwanese aluminum case stalwart alleges that its Dutch rival has willfully infringed upon its patented fan design innovations. Specifically, Lian Li indicates that Phanteks D30 series fans infringe upon US patent 10,690,336 B1, which was awarded to Lian Li in June 2020. The patent describes a method of daisy chaining RGB fans using a simple, compact connector.

The UNI range of fans from Lian Li has been quite successful. Part of this product line’s appeal may be due to its “revolutionary” interlocking modular connectors, making them “cableless” and great for daisy chaining in systems while minimizing cable clutter.

Perhaps Phanteks was ‘inspired’ by the Lian Li fans, or at least the idea behind them. However, it is hard to believe the idea of minimizing cabling while maximizing RGB and airflow in a system is unique to Lian Li. Also, perhaps the Phanteks D30 series is too similar to Lian Li’s designs to have been truly independently originated. These and similar questions will probably be central to the upcoming deliberations in the US District Court for the Central District of California.

The court case was filed on September 8, 2023, and reportedly comes about three months after Lian Li sent a letter to Phanteks about what it thought were patent-infringing products. Phanteks has continued to market and sell its D30 fans since May, and it seems like a lack of acknowledgment of Lian Li’s claims has precipitated this lawsuit.

What Lian Li hopes to achieve with its legal action is a judgment confirming that Phanteks has infringed its US patent. If successful, Lian Li will seek damages to date, plus a sales injunction on infringing products sold without a license.

We aren’t patent experts, so it is hard to know whether Lian Li’s court action has a great chance of success. The overall idea shared by the rival fan daisy chain designs seems to be similar, but the execution might be different enough to save Phanteks. If Lian Li is successful here, it might also trigger further litigation involving products like the Thermaltake SWAFAN EX and Corsair iCUE Link systems.

Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer

Mark Tyson is a Freelance News Writer at Tom's Hardware US. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • bolweval
    I like these fans (Lian Li), I use 2 pairs of 3 on my radiators, they replaced the 120mm Noctua fans i had for years before them and I do see a small difference in performance. (I changed them for wire management purposes.) These fan blades are smaller than a standard fan blade because they need room to route the interconnects and conductors through the chassis of the fans. It appears Phanteks had to shrink their blades for the same reason, and i think that's the reason for the reduction in performance. I can live with it because I have more than enough head room, I'm only cooling my CPU with my loop...

    I hope Noctua finds a way to do this without sacrificing blade size. and without getting sued. ; )
  • hotaru251
    while I udnerstand patents should be upheld....but patenting soemthing liek these (basically contact pin/pad which have been used in cases & other tech for yrs) shoudlnt even be patentable...
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    hotaru251 said:
    while I udnerstand patents should be upheld....but patenting soemthing liek these (basically contact pin/pad which have been used in cases & other tech for yrs) shoudlnt even be patentable...
    Contact Pin/Pad is ancient, so it shouldn't be patent-able IMO.
  • wolfpapa
    Isn't Lian Li suing Thermaltake SWAFAN EX? :):unsure: