Patent application title: PORTABLE ELECTRONIC DEVICE PROTECTOR
Joseph Westrup (Vancouver, WA, US)
Kwong Chi Kei (Hong Kong, CN)
Lui Suen Yuen (Hong Kong, CN)
IPC8 Class: AA45C1302FI
Class name: Special receptacle or package book-type cover with attached article retainer
Publication date: 2014-03-06
Patent application number: 20140061084
A protector for portable electronic devices is disclosed comprising an
embossed, generally X-shaped frame, and including a portfolio-style
protective cover having a "kickstand" propping element built into it, the
cover also adapted to accommodate the embossed frame.
1. A protector for generally rectangular electronic devices comprising:
(a) a four-legged frame; (b) the four legs of said frame oriented in an
X-shaped configuration relative to each other; and (c) resilient
corner-engaging arcuate lugs integral with each of said four legs wherein
said frame has embossed thereon a pattern comprising multiples of at
least one regular geometric shape.
2. The protector of claim 1 wherein said frame is X-shaped with said legs intersecting each other.
3. The protector of claim 2 wherein said frame is webbed where said legs intersect with each other.
4. The protector of claim 1 wherein said frame is O-shaped with said legs oriented radially outwardly therefrom.
5. The protector of claim 4 wherein said O-shaped frame is generally rectangular
6. The protector of any of claims 2-5 incorporated into a foldable portfolio.
7. The protector of any of claims 2-5 secured to a resilient backing.
8. The protector of any of claims 2-5 wherein said regular geometric shape is selected from polygons, triangles, rectangles and circles.
9. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on its back side.
10. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on its front side.
11. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on both sides.
12. The protector of claim 8 wherein said polygon is a hexagon.
13. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on its back side.
14. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on its front side.
15. The protector of claim 8 wherein said frame is embossed on both sides.
16. The protector of any of claims 2-5 having one or more access ports in said lugs.
17. The protector of any of claims 2-5 wherein said frame is made of a thermoplastic polymer.
18. The protector of claim 17 wherein said polymer is thermoplastic polyurethane.
19. The protector of any of claims 2-5 secured to a resilient backing.
20. The protector of claim 1 incorporated into a foldable portfolio having a top, a bottom spine and a leading edge proximal to said spine, wherein said frame is secured to said bottom and said bottom has a longitudinal hinge at about its midpoint that permits said bottom to be folded back against itself and said leading edge to engage the inside of said top.
21. The protector of claim 20 having longitudinal grooves on the inside of said top, said grooves being situated so as to engage said leading edge.
22. The protector of claim 21 wherein said longitudinal grooves are in spaced apart discrete sets.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 The development of devices incorporating electronic devices has been explosive over the past decade, resulting in many new genres of battery-powered products such as so-called "smart phones," electronic readers, and, more recently, the Apple iPad®. All such devices are relatively lightweight and portable, owing to the miniaturization of electronic components and circuitry. One shortcoming of such small scale is that the circuitry is relatively fragile and so subject to damage by, for example, impact with a hard surface caused by dropping and/or exposure to moisture. There is therefore a need in the art for protection of such devices from such damage. This need is met by the present invention.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 According to the present invention, there is provided an improved protector for portable electronic devices that has a number of unique and useful features that protect such devices from damage and provide support for operating such devices from a desktop or similar flat surface.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a top perspective view of an exemplary cover of the invention opened to receive an electronic device P such as an Apple iPad®.
 FIG. 2 is a sectional taken through the plane 2-2 of FIG. 1.
 FIG. 3 is a top perspective view of the outside of the cover shown in FIG. 1.
 FIG. 4 is a top perspective view of the cover of FIG. 1 with the electronic device P inserted into the cover and the top of the cover partially open.
 FIG. 5 is a top perspective view of the cover of FIG. 1 closed and secured over the electronic device.
 FIG. 6 is a top perspective view of the cover of FIG. 1 with the electronic device P inserted into the cover and the top of the cover folded back and secured to the bottom of the cover.
 FIG. 7 is a bottom perspective view of the arrangement shown in FIG. 6 illustrating the utility of a hand strap secured to the inside of the top of the cover.
 FIG. 8 is a top perspective view of the cover of FIG. 1 with the electronic device P inserted into the cover and the top folded back on itself to tuck into a flap on the outside of the bottom of the cover, so as to create a stand for the electronic device P.
 FIG. 9 is a top perspective view of another embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 10 is a top perspective view of another embodiment of the invention shown attached to the back side of electronic device P (shown in phantom).
 FIGS. 11-13 are partial perspective views of the back side of the four-legged frame of the invention showing its improved structure.
 FIGS. 14-15 are perspective views of lugs 24 providing access to a portable electronic device having, e.g., a port for a jack or an on/off switch.
 FIGS. 16-19 are various perspective views illustrating an additional built-in "kickstand" feature whereby an electronic device P incorporated into the protective cover of the invention may be propped up and supported at various angles relative to a tabletop or the like for ease in viewing the device's screen.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 Referring to the drawings, wherein the same numerals generally refer to the same elements, there is shown a cover 1 designed to accept an electronic device P, the cover comprising a foldable portfolio 10 having a top 10a, a bottom 10b, and a spine 10c. The top 10a and bottom 10b preferably comprise a three-ply lamination of a soft layer 11 such as felt on the inside of the portfolio that is in contact with the electronic device P, a durable outside layer 12 such as leather, and a stiff middle layer 13 to provide structural support to the top and bottom of the cover. Spine 10c preferably comprises only two plies 11 and 12 so as to maintain flexibility on opening and closing. Portfolio 10 is preferably provided with longitudinal creases 14, 15 and 16 to further facilitate flexing, with crease 16 being created by a discontinuity in middle layer 13.
 A prominent feature of cover 1 is a four-legged frame that may be in a variety of configurations such as in an O-shape 20 as seen in FIG. 1, an X-shape 30 as seen in FIG. 9, or a webbed X-shape 40 as seen in FIG. 10. With respect to the frames 20, 30 and 40 it should be understood that the same may be used free standing alone independently of any cover or portfolio, or may be incorporated into a cover or portfolio by securing the same to, for example, a bottom 10b, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 9.
 Frame 20, 30 or 40 is provided with four legs 22 integral with the frame extending radially outwardly and oriented in an X-shaped configuration relative to each other. Legs 22 terminate in four resilient lugs 24 with two pairs of lugs diametrically opposed to each other, the lugs being in an arcuate shape so as to capture the four corners of electronic device P. A preferred material for lugs 24 is silicone rubber. When frame 20, 30 or 40 is secured to a cover such as shown in FIG. 1, lugs 24 hold device P securely in place against bottom 10b. Lugs 24 also serve to absorb shock in the event the electronic device P is struck or dropped onto a hard surface, whether frame 20, 30 or 40 is incorporated into a portfolio or not.
 Top 10a is preferably provided at its corners with reversible elastic straps 40 that may be secured to bottom 10b at corresponding corners to secure cover 1 in a closed or open position, best seen in FIGS. 5 and 6, respectively. Preferably such reversible straps 40 are attached to bottom 10b by sewing their ends between layers 11 and 12. Top 10a is further provided with an elastic handle strap 30 on its inside surface 11, which may be deployed by the user to maintain a secure grip on the cover and device P so as to decrease the likelihood of dropping the same.
 Bottom 10b is preferably provided with a flap 50 designed to capture the outside edge of top 10a when the same is folded back on itself along crease 16 at an angle θ of about 90° so as to create an easel or stand for the entire arrangement, best seen in FIG. 8.
 Frame 20, 30 or 40 may also be secured to a resilient backing (not shown), such as silicone rubber, by, e.g., gluing or lamination, which combination may in turn be secured to a cover or portfolio.
 The preferred manufacturing technique of frame 20, 30 or 40 is injection molding of thermoplastic polymers, with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) most preferred. Such a technique has been discovered to have inherent drawbacks caused by uneven flow of the molten polymer, chief among which are flow line marks, corner deformations, discontinuities and warping, causing an average rejection or failure rate of about 20%. The inventors have discovered an improvement in the manufacturing process that results in a substantial improvement in the failure rate, on the order of 75%, which at the same time imparts a substantial improvement in tensile strength to the frame 20, 30 or 40, which in turn provides greater protection for the portable electronic device when the frame is applied to the device.
 The improvement lies in the discovery that superimposition of an embossed grid pattern on one or both sides of frame 20, 30 or 40 both reduces failure rate and imparts much greater tensile strength to the frame, which leads to greater protection of the portable electronic device.
 The embossed grid pattern may be multiples of virtually any regular geometric shape, such as a polygon, triangle, circle or rectangle as illustrated in FIGS. 11-13, and is preferably imparted to the frame by injection molding. Specifically, an injection mold is cast of high temperature material such as steel having multiples of the selected geometric shape in relief, resulting in a raised design from about 0.3 to about 0.6, preferably about 0.5 mm. The grid pattern may be cut into the mold by conventional tooling, by laser or by etching, preferably by etching. The thermoplastic polymer for the frame is then simply heated to its melting point and injected into the injection mold by conventional injection molding techniques, cooled to its set point, and removed from the mold.
 A lot of 30 frames 20 were made according to the above procedure with TPU and having a honeycomb-like grid embossed on their back sides comprising multiple hexagons, each approximately 0.5 mm high and 5 mm wide. The failure rate was reduced to 5%, an improvement of approximately 75% from the failure rate norm of about 20%. Several frames from this lot were selected at random, sewn onto portfolios 10 fitted to Apple iPads®, and subjected to the standard Transit Drop Test (MIL-STD-810G, Method 516.6, Procedure VI). The parameters and protocol for this test were as follows: the drop surface was concrete with a 1/2'' steel plate over the concrete and 2'' thick plywood over the steel plate; three series of 10 drops each were conducted from heights of 4, 5 and 6 feet; each series of 10 drops was onto the four corners, four edges and both faces of the combined folio/iPad®; following each of the 30 drops, the device was inspected and its function checked by booting up a Windows® software program. The results after all drops were that the device retained its function and the device's screen did not break or crack, but the device's corners had scratches in the paint and minor dents after the 6 foot drops.
 Referring to FIGS. 11-15, an additional improvement in the design of frame 20, 30 or 40 is one or more access ports in lugs 24, comprising either an aperture 60 or 61 in lug 24, or a discontinuity to form a split or claw-like lug 62, that permits access to a portable electronic device having, for example, port(s) for jack(s) and/or an on/off switch. It is to be understood that this includes the frame being provided with at least any of one or two apertures 60 or 61; one or two claw-like lugs 62; or one aperture 60 or 61 and one claw-like lug 62.
 Referring to FIGS. 16-19, there is shown in FIG. 16 another embodiment of the invention in perspective from the bottom, the bottom 10b being provided with a foldable crease 70 to create a hinge whereby the bottom may be hinged backward sufficiently to allow leading edge 10d of bottom 10b to "kick out" and come into contact with the inside of top 10a, preferably with any of a series of longitudinal grooves 80 that serve to prevent slippage. FIG. 17 is a plan perspective view of the cover shown in FIG. 16, with the cover open and securing an electronic device P, with the arrows showing the direction in which bottom 10b is moved upwardly toward a closed position of the cover, while at the same time leading edge 10d is moved outwardly as a door would be opened. FIG. 18 is a front perspective view showing the cover fully opened to a supported "kickstand" position, with leading edge 10d of bottom 10b engaging one of a set of grooves 80. FIG. 19 is a back perspective view of the same configuration of the cover shown in FIG. 18.
 Thus, the protector of the invention may be secured to any of a wide variety of portable, generally rectangular electronic devices, including, without limitation, "smart phones," e-readers, e-planners, e-calendars, and e-tablets such as the Apple iPad® to protect the device while maintaining easy access to the device by the user.
 The terms and expressions which have been employed in this specification are used therein as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention in the use of such terms and expressions to exclude equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, it being recognized that the scope of the invention is defined and limited only by the claims which follow.
Patent applications by Joseph Westrup, Vancouver, WA US
Patent applications in class BOOK-TYPE COVER WITH ATTACHED ARTICLE RETAINER
Patent applications in all subclasses BOOK-TYPE COVER WITH ATTACHED ARTICLE RETAINER