Is AMD Wrong?

It seems that AMD has taken action against a few vendors in an attempt to stop the sales of overclocked Athlon processors. These vendors have received notices from the legal counsel of AMD indicating that the sale of such products violate trademark restrictions, accompanied by a ‘cease and desist’ order. Is this wrong?

The vendors in question certainly believe so, and have even started their own website to combat this issue. One of them has even posted a somewhat inflammatory and sensationalist page on their own website complaining of the action and presenting it as an action against overclocking itself.

My own opinion is that this is a classic case of some vendors getting their overzealous hands caught in the cookie jar, and trying to cloud the real issue in an attempt to exonerate themselves. There is absolutely no indication that AMD is trying to stop overclocking, nor the sale of ‘golden fingers’ devices. In fact, the action is completely consistent with standard trademark protections in this, and every other, industry, as far as I can tell.

Lest I be misunderstood, I must make my position perfectly clear. There should be absolutely no objection from AMD or anyone else regarding an individual’s right to overclock or modify his or her own processor. There should also be no objection or legal issues regarding a business that offers the service of modifying or overclocking an individuals own processor. In fact, there should be no problem with a company that purchases processors in quantity and sells them as Joe’s Souped-Up Processors.

On the other hand, there is a problem with a company that promotes itself as an ‘authorized AMD reseller’ and then proceeds to sell modified Athlon processors, without the authorization of AMD. This would be akin to an authorized Ford dealer selling modified Mustangs with non-Ford parts, without being a Factory Authorized Ford Technician. Authorization is given as a result of specific training and comes with specific restrictions – such as using only factory-authorized parts.

In other words, the issue at stake here is not that these companies are selling ‘overclockable’ processors, processors that have been ‘verified’ as overclockable, or even devices that allow processors to be overclocked. Note that in the case of those who have sold Intel processors under that label have not actually modified the processor itself. The issue is (as best I can tell) that these vendors have engaged in the act of actually modifying the processors, and then selling them as brand-new AMD Athlon processors.

If these vendors wanted to sell ‘factory authorized’ overclocked processors, there is already a precedent established for doing this – a process that Kryotech has gone through. In fact, it may be a legal requirement of the AMD-Kryotech contract that these actions must be officially frowned upon by AMD (pure speculation on my part). After the effort and cost by Kryotech to achieve ‘factory authorization’, where would their benefit be if any vendor can now sell a ‘new’ modified Athlon?

It seems to me that what we have are some vendors who want to have their cake and eat it too. If there is enough public pressure, they might even get it. It seems like what we have are some people engaging in unprofessional and possibly illegal actions who are now whining that they got caught. It is obvious that they never even considered having a lawyer look into the legal aspects, nor did they ask AMD if their actions would be frowned upon.

It would be quite a shame if AMD were to suffer a PR black-eye because of this situation. They have every right to protect their product and their trademark, and to protect their partners that have gone through the proper channels. Of course, this is just my opinion and you may have a different one…

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