The Patent Reexaminiation and Invalidation Department (PRID) of the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) on July 14 handed down a decision invalidating a patent owned by Chinese patent-holding company Shenzhen CN-iMX Technology Co., Ltd. (深圳市爱码芯科技有限公司) and challenged by Chinese consumer electronics company Xiaomi Corp. and South Korean multinational manufacturing conglomerate Samsung as the first and second petitioners. The PRID had two separate oral hearings of the two petitions in May.
CN-iMX, also known as Aimaxin (the pinyin of “爱码芯” in its Chinese-language company name), in 2016 was granted the lately invalidated Chinese Patent No. 201210335618.4 covering a kind of portable electric application wireless mobile charging device and wireless mobile charging method. Inductive charging (also known as wireless charging or cordless charging) is a type of wireless power transfer. It uses electromagnetic induction to provide electricity to portable devices. CN-iMX claimed to be an owner of China’s first patent for wireless mobile chargers and the licensor in a licensing agreement over the patent with U.S. tech giant Apple, Inc.
Wireless charging has been around since the late 19th century, but its large-scale inclusion into consumer devices began around 2015. Professor Don Otto of the University of Auckland in 1972 proposed a vehicle powered by induction using transmitters in the road and a receiver on the vehicle. John E. Trombly in 1977 was granted a patent for an electromagnetically coupled battery charger. The U.S. Patent No. 4,031,449 describes an application to charge headlamp batteries for miners.
iPhone introduced the wireless charging feature into its smartphones with the release of iPhone X, iPhone 8, and iPhone 8 Plus in 2017. Apple dubbed its phones and their accompanying chargers Qi-certified. Qi is an open interface standard that defines wireless power transfer using inductive charging over distances of up to 4 cm (1.6 inches). It is developed by the Wireless Power Consortium. As of February 2020, there are 488 manufacturers working with the standard including Apple, Asus, Google, Huawei, LG Electronics, Samsung, Xiaomi, and Sony.
CN-iMX in August 2019 sued Apple, Inc.’s Chinese unit Apple Electronics Products Commerce (Beijing) Co., Ltd. (苹果电子产品商贸（北京）有限公司) and the morphie battery’s manufacturer, U.S. protective coverings manufacturer Zagg, Inc.’s Chinese unit Zagg (Shenzhen) Technology Development Co., Ltd. (自格（深圳）科技开发有限公司), in the Shenzhen Intermediate People’s Court, accusing the companies of manufacturing and distributing the mophie powerstation wireless XL portable battery (10,000 mAh) infringing Chinese Patent No. 201210335618.4. Zagg Shenzhen in September 2019 filed a petition before the PRID of the CNIPA to invalidate the asserted patent. According to two press releases still available on its official website, CN-iMX managed to cut licensing deals over the patent, challenged yet survived, with Zagg Shenzhen and Apple Beijing in May and June 2020 separately.
CN-iMX began to lodge several complaints against domestic consumer electronics companies, mostly based in Shenzhen city, as well for infringement of the patent in 2019. It sued Shenzhen-based Ugreen Group Ltd. (深圳市绿联科技股份有限公司) and its distributor JD.com, Inc. in May 2019 and settled with the two companies less than two months later. It also sued Shenzhen Miku Electronics Co., Ltd. (深圳市米酷电子有限公司) and Shenzhen Xinchuangfu Technology Co., Ltd. (深圳市鑫创富科技有限公司) the same day and voluntarily withdrew the case in August 2019.
It sued consumer electronics company Shenzhen Ruixun Tiancheng E-Commerce Co., Ltd. (深圳市锐讯天成科技有限公司) and its subsidiary Shenzhen Yoobao Technology Co., Ltd. (深圳市羽博电子商务有限公司) in July 2019 and voluntarily dropped the case two weeks later. Its latest lawsuit was filed against Shenzhen Divi Electronics Co., Ltd. (深圳市第一卫电子有限公司) in 2021.
It is estimated that Xiaomi’s and Samsung’s invalidation bids were triggered by CN-iMX’s threat of patent lawsuits since it made a public claim about Xiaomi’s infringement when it filed the lawsuit against Apple Beijing back in 2019.