Title:
Flexible case for carrying small objects
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flexible purse or case for holding small objects within a user's pocket or handbag includes a flexible skin which forms a shaped body having enclosed space and a slot extending between the ends of the body for accessing the interior of the purse. A semi-rigid frame is engaged to the body and includes a downwardly curved bar extending between the ends of the body. Opposed rigid end caps cover the body ends and are engaged to opposed ends of the frame. Squeezing the first and second opposed ends together by squeezing the end caps flexes the frame and urges the slot open to allow access to the interior of the body. The skin and end caps form a visually unitary structure with a continuously curving exterior surface which may be in the shape of an ellipsoid.



Inventors:
Menceles, Andrew (Willowdale, CA)
Application Number:
10/231343
Publication Date:
03/04/2004
Filing Date:
08/29/2002
Assignee:
MENCELES ANDREW
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/38, 206/.8
International Classes:
A45C11/00; A45C13/04; (IPC1-7): A45C11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MOHANDESI, JILA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Ridout & Maybee LLP,Adrian Zahl (19th Floor, Ottawa, ON, K2P 1P1, CA)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A flexible case for holding small objects comprising: a flexible skin having sufficient rigidity to maintain a selected shape of a case body defining an enclosed space, said body having first and second opposed ends and a slot extending between said ends for accessing the interior of the body; a frame comprising an elongate, semi-rigid resilient downwardly curved bar engaged to said body and extending between said ends; and opposed rigid end caps separate from said skin and covering said first and second opposed ends of said body, said end caps being engaged to opposed ends of said frame; wherein upon squeezing said first and second opposed ends together, said bar is flexed and said slot is urged open allowing access to the interior of the body.

2. A case defined in claim 1, wherein said end caps and said body form a visually unitary structure with a continuously curving exterior surface.

3. A case as defined in claim 1, wherein said bar has opposed side edges which bow outwardly towards the middle of said bar.

4. A case as defined in claim 1, wherein said frame is disposed within the interior of said hollow body.

5. A case as defined in claim 1, comprising outwardly protruding lips along the borders of said slot.

6. A case as defined in claim 1, wherein a tab extends from one of said rigid end caps, said tab including an aperture for a key ring, chain, card or other member.

7. A case as defined in claim 1, wherein said end caps and said body together form a generally ellipsoidal structure.

8. A package comprising the case as defined in claim 6, a pocket including an optical cleaner and a manual of instructions; and a cord securing the case, the pocket, and the manual of instructions together.

9. A case for holding small objects comprising: a frame, said frame comprising an elongate semi-rigid arcuate spine joined with end caps on either end of said strip for finger contact by a user; and a flexible skin separate from and supported by said frame and extending longitudinally between said end caps, said skin having an elongate slot therein extending between said end caps for access into the interior of said case, wherein squeezing together of said end caps by a user urges said slot to an open position while flexing said strip, while release of said end caps causes said strip to revert to a relaxed position wherein said end caps are drawn apart for closing of said slot, said end caps and covering comprising a visually unitary and continuously curving ellipsoidal exterior surface.

10. A case as defined in claim 9, wherein said end caps each include a constricted throat region for engaging said skin with a friction fit and an annular groove for engaging respective ends of said skin.

11. A case as defined in claim 9, wherein said strip is retained within the interior of said case.

12. A case as defined in claim 9, wherein said spine opposed side edges which bow outwardly towards the middle of said spine.

13. A case as defined in claim 9, further comprising a pair of upstanding lips extending along the borders of said slot and opposed to each other, said lips being arranged for contact with each other when said case is closed.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The invention relates generally to cases or storage pouches and particularly to flexible cases for storing small articles such as a cloth eyeglass wipe or spare change and which may be easily carried in a user's pocket.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION AND PRIOR ART

[0002] There are many uses for small pouches or cases suitable for carrying in one's pocket or handbag. One such use is to carry a wipe for eyeglasses, to keep the wipe clean and readily available. Another common use is to carry spare change.

[0003] The use of cloth wipe, such as a piece of microfibrous fabric for cleaning the lenses of eyeglasses is recommended by the optometrists. A fabric wipe is also convenient for use with a variety of equipment including cameras, computer screens and binoculars. Such fabrics provide a quick, effective and scratch-free cleaning of a lense or other surface. Needless to mention a fabric wipe should be kept clean for better efficiency. Generally, eyeglass wearers carry a wipe in the eyeglass protective case, with the risk of not having the wipe at hand when the case has been forgotten elsewhere. Combined eyeglass case and cleaning kits are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,170,651 to Taormina; 6,164,452 to Ellis; and 5,803,244 to Shefler et al.

[0004] U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,366,072 to Goldenberg and 6,131,202 to Thayer et al. attempt to solve this problem by providing a protective case which can be secured to the arms of the eyeglass by straps or attached to a belt. An optical cleaner can be carried within such a case, but this solution can be aesthetically unappealing as well as inconvenient, the case can hamper the back of the wear's head, or the user may not be dressed adequately to wear a belt.

[0005] In further efforts to make an optical cloth cleaner conveniently available to eyeglass wearers, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,115,841 to Thompson II et al. and 6,233,741 to Loree IV et al. disclose a necktie having attached thereto an optical cloth cleaner ready to be used at any time by the wearer of the necktie. Obviously, this invention is suitable only when the user wears a tie.

[0006] A well known example of a flexible pouch which may be used to hold an object such as an optical wipe or spare change is the widely used colourful plastic change purse, having an oval shape with generally flat top and bottom surfaces and a slit extending along the top surface. The plastic is semi-rigid, such that it retains its shape while held in a pocket or handbag, but intentionally squeezing the ends of the purse together bends the purse and forces the slit open for access to the interior. While inexpensive and ubiquitous, there are several disadvantages to this item. For example, the slit may inadvertently open, releasing the contents at the wrong time. Constant flexing of the semi-rigid plastic can cause it to crack, particularly in cold weather. Similarly, the resiliency of the plastic will vary with temperature, becoming more flexible at high temperatures resulting in greater likelihood of unwanted opening, while being too stiff for convenient use in cold temperatures. Further, the item is often associated with childhood and adults may be reluctant to be seen to carry it; there is thus a need for a more sophisticated-appearing and versatile pouch.

[0007] The prior art discloses several purses, pouches and containers specifically adapted for eyeglass wipes. U.S. Pat. No. 5,083,661 to Burwell discloses an elongated storage container for optical cloth. A retaining cord is attached near the centre of the cloth and extends through the main aperture of the storage container. The cord then passes through a small hole at the end of the container opposite the aperture, and terminates with a stopper bead. The cloth is removed from the container by pulling on the cord. The stopper bead can be a cap for the aperture or act to latch a hinged lid for the aperture. U.S. Pat. No. 5,000,204 to Smith discloses a plastic portable storage case for a chemically treated pig skin chamois. The case consists of an annular snap-on lid attached to a short tubular housing by a living hinge. The case comprises a detachable chain which enables the unit to serve as a key chain or be attachable to one.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] It is an object of the invention to provide a flexible protective pouch or purse for storing objects such as an optical cloth cleaner, which is compact, portable and easily operable.

[0009] The invention comprises, in one aspect, a flexible purse for holding small objects, comprising:

[0010] a flexible skin which has sufficient rigidity to maintain a selected shape of a hollow purse body i.e. while during normal use, resting in a users pocket or handbag, having first and second opposed ends and a slot for accessing the interior of the body extending between said ends;

[0011] a frame comprising an elongate, semi-rigid resilient downwardly curved bar engaged to said skin and extending between said opposed ends; and

[0012] opposed rigid end caps separate from said skin and covering the opposed ends of said body, said end caps being engaged to opposed ends of said frame.

[0013] Upon squeezing the first and second opposed ends together, the bar is flexed and the slot is thereby urged open to allow access to the interior of the body.

[0014] The end caps and body preferably form a visually unitary structure with a continuously curving exterior surface. The skin is possessed of sufficient rigidity to maintain a given selected shape such as an ellipsoid during normal use, i.e. while resting in a user's pocket or handbag, until compressed or manipulated by a user. The purse body defines an interior space for holding objects, such as an optical wipe cloth.

[0015] The body may include outwardly protruding lips extending along the borders of said slot, to define and seal the opening. A tab may protrude from one of the rigid end caps, said tab including an aperture to receive a key ring, chain or other member.

[0016] Directional references within the present specification and claims refer to terms such as “upper”, “lower”, “up”, “down” and the like. These references are for convenience of description only, as it will be understood that the present invention may be positioned in any orientation. Directional references refer to the object when positioned generally horizontally, with the access slit facing upwardly.

[0017] The term “semi-rigid” as used herein means sufficient rigidity to maintain a given position during normal use, but when given a firm and deliberate squeeze by hand by a user, the item will flex.

[0018] Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment of the invention with reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the protective case, in the normal, closed position;

[0020] FIG. 2 is a side view of the protective case;

[0021] FIG. 3 is the upper view of the protective case;

[0022] FIG. 4 is the bottom view of the protective case;

[0023] FIGS. 5 and 6 are respectively first and the second end views of the protective case;

[0024] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the protective case, in the opened position and showing the interior of the case;

[0025] FIG. 8 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 1a of FIG. 1;

[0026] FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 1b of FIG. 8;

[0027] FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 2a of FIG. 1;

[0028] FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view taken along line 7a of FIG. 7;

[0029] FIG. 12 is a perspective view of the protective case, in the opened position and showing a tissue or optical wipe cloth being removed or placed therein; and

[0030] FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a kit comprising the case of this invention, an envelope and an instruction manual.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0031] A perspective view of the purse or case 10 according to the invention is illustrated in FIG. 1. As seen in the figures, the case is of a generally ellipsoidal shape with a hollow interior. In general, the case comprises a flexible skin 12 supported by a resilient frame 13 (seen in its entirety in FIG. 11). The skin 12 has sufficient rigidity to maintain its shape during normal use, i.e. while held in a user's pocket, but will deform with a slight squeeze to the case. For example, the skin may comprise molded synthetic rubber having a thickness of about 0.5 mm. A suitable thickness range is about 0.1 mm. to 2.0 mm, with a preferred range being about 0.2 mm. to 1.0 mm. The skin forms a body having open ends, which are fully covered and plugged by rounded and contoured rigid end caps 14 and 16. The caps are visible from both the exterior and interior of the case. The end caps 14 and 16 are joined together by an elongate resilient spine 18 which resides within the interior of the case and is thus visible only when the case is open, as will be described below. The spine 18 rests along the lower side of the case, bearing in mind the note concerning directional references recited above. The upper side of the skin 12 has an elongate slit 20 which provides access to the interior of the case and extends longitudinally along a substantial portion of the skin 12, i.e. extending almost to each end cap.

[0032] The overall configuration of the case is relatively elongate, in relation to its width and thickness. In transverse and elongate cross sections, the case is oval. The preferred overall dimensions of the case are about 8.0 cm×2.5 cm×3.5 cm (length, height, width). The relatively long, narrow rounded shape of the case makes it convenient to carry in a pocket and attractive in appearance. The forgoing dimensions represent a convenient size for the present invention but it will be seen that these dimensions are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention which may be manufactured in any convenient size. By way of a non-limiting example, the length of the case may range between 4 and 12 cm, the height may range between 1 and 4 cm and the width may range between 2 and 6 cm. It will be seen that a larger-sized version of the invention may be suitable for carrying in a handbag, briefcase or the like, and would be suitable for carrying larger objects such as spare batteries or even pens or pencils if the invention is scaled accordingly.

[0033] The body and end caps together form an integral, visually unitary structure with a continuously curving exterior surface. That is, apart from possible differences in colour and surface texture, there is minimal visible junction between the end caps and the body. The curvature of the body is continued in the exterior surface of the end caps. Preferably the end caps are molded steel with coated surfaces for corrosion resistance. The exposed exterior surface of the caps has a smooth rounded surface. A tab 24 protrudes outwardly from one of caps 14 or 16, comprising an integrally molded horizontal platelike member. An opening 40 extends through the tab for a key chain, a cord 50 or the like, for example securing the case to a package 60 which may hold a folded optional wiping cloth, and an instructional booklet 62, as illustrated in FIG. 13.

[0034] As best illustrated in FIG. 11, the spine 18 has a generally boat-shaped configuration in plan view, i.e., the opposed side edges thereof bow outwardly to reach a maximum width at the midpoint of the spine. The spine 18 contacts the bottom surface 28 of the interior of the case and is arcuate (downwardly curved) along its length within a vertical plane to conform to the curvature of the body 12 and contact the inside surface of the skin for substantially the length of the case. The spine 18 joins at its ends 30 and 32 respectively with the end caps 14 and 16. The spine 18 is composed of a highly resilient and moderately flexible material, such as steel or a semi-rigid and highly resilient plastic. The spine is not required to be glued to the skin, as the skin is fitted tightly over the frame composed of the spine and end caps, although if desired, the skin may be glued or otherwise fastened to the spine. The spine 18 has sufficient rigidity to adequately support the case in the fully extended, closed position under ordinary conditions of use such as being held in a person's pocket without flexing. At the same time, the spine 18 must have sufficient flexibility to permit a user to intentionally bend the spine into a more pronounced arc, in order to open the case as will be described below. In the example described herein, this is accomplished by providing a spine fabricated from steel, having a length of about 6 mm, a thickness of about 1 mm and a maximum width of about 1 cm at its middle tapering at either end to a width of about 3 mm. The forgoing dimensions are intended to be non-limiting of the scope of the invention. For example, the spine may have any length which is slightly shorter than the length of the case, a thickness ranging from 0.2 to 3.0 mm, and a maximum width of 0.3 to 3.0 cm, with the foregoing dimensions intended to serve as a non-limiting range of possible dimensions. The selected dimensions of the spine will also depend on the nature of the material selected for the spine.

[0035] The spine 18 is integral with the end caps 14 and 16 which each have a hollow interior to reduce weight and material costs. The caps 14 and 16 are rigid and have an eye-pleasing and ergonomic exterior shape which permits a user to easily squeeze them towards each other in order to flex the spine and thereby open the case.

[0036] The end caps may comprise molded metal such as steel. The end caps 14, 16 and the body 12 together form an ellipsoidal (egg-shaped) structure with a minimally visible junction between the body and end caps, i.e. only a minimally narrow space where the components join.

[0037] As best seen in FIGS. 8(b) and 11, each of the caps 14 and 16 includes an inwardly stepped throat 34 surrounded by an annular groove 36. The throats 34 each receive an open end of the skin 12 with a tight friction fit, while the groove 36 receives a rib 37 protruding inwardly from the skin 12 adjacent each open end, for securing the skin 12 to the caps 14 and 16.

[0038] The skin 12 includes integrally formed lips 21a and 21b, which extend longitudinally for substantially the full length of the skin on opposed sides of the slit 20. The lips 21 provide a ready visual identification of the location of the slit 20. As well, since the lips join together when the case is closed, they provide a sealing function.

[0039] When the ends of the case are squeezed together, as illustrated in FIG. 12, this urges the slit 20 open allowing access to the interior of the case, so that a small object 35 can be placed therein or removed therefrom. This is accomplished by pressing together the end caps 14, 16 in directly opposed directions. The slit 20 closes firmly when the ends are relaxed.

[0040] The slit 20 resists opening unless the ends of the case are squeezed firmly together. Hence, inadvertent opening is not likely to occur in the ordinary course of use unless the user intentionally squeezes the end caps together.

[0041] The body 12 of the case can be made of a range of flexible materials having a degree of stiffness for holding the body shape. A non-limiting list of examples includes natural or synthetic rubber, a fabric impregnated or coated with a stiffening agent, leather or a suitable plastic.

[0042] Variations within the scope of this invention will be apparent from the described embodiment and it is intended that the present description is merely illustrative of the inventive features encompassed by the appended claims.