PopSockets' Chinese invention patent declared invalid


PopSockets, a company that gained prominence for its introduction of phone grip accessories known as air pockets or cone-shaped expandable supports, faced a setback as its invention patents CN103703428B in China was declared invalid.


The flagship product of PopSockets, the PopGrip, initially invented by a professor at the University of Colorado, gained global attention for its multifunctional capabilities. It allows users to prop their phones up anywhere they go, enabling one-handed phone use and preventing accidental drops. Acting as a versatile cell phone holder, users can easily collapse it flat when not in use, ensuring convenience and portability.


PopSockets protects its intellectual property in numerous countries, including China and the US.


In China, PopSockets vigorously pursued legal actions against entities infringing on its patents, resulting in product takedowns on platforms like Taobao. Internationally, the company initiated Section 337 investigations with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), leading to sales bans for numerous Chinese factories. Additionally, PopSockets strategically utilized its American trademarks, copyrights, patents, and trade dress to address infringements on platforms like Amazon, where many Chinese sellers operate.


The Chinese invention patent (CN103703428B, filed on March 14, 2012, granted on December 1, 2017) faced multiple invalidation requests from Chinese manufacturers and sellers in 2018. The Chinese National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) issued an examination decision on request for invalidation in August 2019, declaring the patent right invalid in whole, citing two prior arts in combination with common knowledges.


PopSockets’ Chinese invention patent CN103703428B

Two crucial pieces of evidence contributed significantly to the invalidation decision:


1. Chinese patent application CN1010906617A: Filed by Foxconn and published on December 19, 2007, this patent application disclosed a mobile phone protective device with elastic and stretchable components behind the phone, which is similar to PopSockets’ invention, but it does not disclose conical stretchable feature.

2. UK patent application GB2316263A: Published on February 18, 1998, this patent discloses a collapsible sound conduit designed for attachment to a mobile phone. 


Evidence 1: CN1010906617A


Evidence 2: GB2316263A

Despite efforts by the patent owner to contest the decision, including legal proceeding and appeal, the Supreme People’s Court issued its final decision in the second instance on January 27, 2024, affirming the original judgment. Consequently, the patent CN103703428B shall be deemed to be non-existent from the beginning. The scope protected by the claims of the patent CN103703428B can no longer be protected.


As retrials after the second instance are accessible within China’s patent invalidation appeal procedure, the patent owner still has the right to file petitions for retrial regarding the case. In addition, PopSockets also has a divisional application (Application No. 201711405550.1) of this patent in China, which is still pending, and a design patent and other upgrade products patent protections. It also holds valid patents protecting this product in other counties. In the United States, it owns multiple patents to protect the grips, and two registered trade dress for both the overall and partial designs, actively enforced through multiple bulk enforcement actions each year.