Title:
Retractable leaning towing handle system for wheeled baggage
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A towing handle system for wheeled baggage includes first and second support posts, and a towing handle positionable between an upright position parallel to the support posts and a towing position at an angle with respect to the support posts. The towing handle includes a locking latch mechanism comprising an angle position element extending between the first and second posts, and the an angle position element has a ribbed outer surface. A locking element includes an inner surface received over the outer surface of the angle position element, and the inner surface lockingly engages the angle position element in a first orientation corresponding to the upright position and lockingly engages the angle position element in a second orientation defining the towing position.



Inventors:
Nordstrom, Mark (Brentwood, TN, US)
Gorga, Aaron (St. Louis, MO, US)
Gifford, Jason (St. Louis, MO, US)
Application Number:
10/882369
Publication Date:
05/05/2005
Filing Date:
07/01/2004
Assignee:
NORDSTROM MARK
GORGA AARON
GIFFORD JASON
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
16/113.1
International Classes:
A45C5/14; A45C13/26; B62B5/06; (IPC1-7): A45C13/26; A45C13/30
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Patrick W. Rasche (Armstrong Teasdale LLP Suite 2600 One Metropolitan Square, St. Louis, MO, 63102, US)
Claims:
1. A towing handle system for wheeled baggage comprising: first and second support posts; a towing handle positionable between an upright position parallel to said support posts and a towing position at an angle with respect to said support posts, said towing handle comprising a locking latch mechanism comprising: an angle position element extending between said first and second posts, said angle position element having a ribbed outer surface; and a locking element comprising an inner surface received over said outer surface of said angle position element, said inner surface lockingly engaging said angle position element in a first orientation corresponding to the upright position and lockingly engaging said angle position element in a second orientation defining the towing position.

2. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said towing position is oriented at substantially a 45° angle from the upright position.

3. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 further comprising a biasing element urging said locking element to one of a locked and unlocked position.

4. A handle system in accordance with claim 3 wherein said biasing element comprises a helical spring element.

5. A handle system in accordance with claim 3 wherein said biasing element comprises an elastomeric element.

6. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 further comprising a shell and a push button coupled to said shell, said push button unlocking said locking element from said angle position element.

7. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said angle position element comprises a cylindrical shaft.

8. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said locking element comprises a locking plate having ribs located thereon at predetermined increments.

9. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 wherein said locking element comprise a body defining an opening, said angle position element received in said opening wherein said body completely surrounds a circumference of said angle position element.

10. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 further comprising at least one locking pin interfacing with the angle position element.

11. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 1 further comprising a U-shaped handle shell extending above said first and second support posts.

12. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 11 further comprising first and second rocker arms pivotally mounted to said shell opposite said locking latch mechanism.

13. A baggage piece comprising: a body comprising at least one body panel and a pair of wheels; first and second telescoping support posts coupled to said body; and a retractable towing handle positionable between an upright position parallel to said support posts and a towing position at an angle with respect to said support posts, said handle extending away from said body panel in said towing position, said towing handle comprising: a handle shell; and a locking latch mechanism mounted to said shell, said locking latch mechanism comprising: an angle position element mounted stationary to one of said shell and said supports, said angle position element extending between said first and second posts and comprising a first engagement surface; and at least one locking element mounted stationary to the other of said shell and supports, said locking element comprising a second engagement surface received over said first engagement surface of said angle position element, said second engagement surface lockingly engaging said locking element in a first orientation corresponding to the upright position and lockingly engaging said locking element in a second orientation defining the towing position.

14. A baggage piece in accordance with claim 13 wherein said towing position is oriented at substantially a 45° angle from the upright position.

15. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 14 wherein said at least one locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, each of said locking elements slidably mounted to said angle position element.

16. A handle system in accordance with claim 14 wherein said at least one locking element comprises a pair of locking elements movable between locked and unlocked positions, said handle further comprising a pair of spring elements biasing said respective locking elements to one of the locked and unlocked positions.

17. A baggage piece in accordance with claim 13 wherein said first engagement surfaces comprises a first rib corresponding to the upright position and a second rib corresponding to the towing position.

18. A baggage piece in accordance with claim 13, wherein said first engagement surfaces comprises pair of ribs, and wherein the at least one locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, said pair of ribs extending between said pair of locking elements.

19. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 13 further comprising a push button coupled to said shell, said push button unlocking said locking element from said angle position element.

20. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 13 wherein said angle position element comprises a cylindrical shaft mounted stationary to said shell.

21. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 13 wherein said locking element comprises a locking plate, said angle position element movable beneath said locking plate in an unlocked position.

22. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 13 wherein said shell is U-shaped.

23. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 13 further comprising first and second rocker arms pivotally mounted to said shell opposite said locking latch mechanism.

24. A piece of baggage comprising: a body defining a compartment for stowing an item for transport; wheels attached to said body; first and second telescoping support posts mounted to said body; and a towing handle system comprising: a U-shaped handle shell pivotally mounted to said first and second support posts; a push button coupled to said shell; first and second rocker arms pivotally mounted to said shell and responsive to movement of said push button; first and second release cables coupled to said respective first and second rocker arms; and a locking latch mechanism coupled to said release cables, said locking latch element extending transversely between said first and second support posts at a distal end of said U-shaped handle; said locking latch mechanism comprising: an angle position element having a ribbed engagement surface; and a locking element comprising a grooved engagement surface received over said ribbed engagement surface of said angle position element, said grooved engagement surface lockingly engaging said locking element in an upright position and lockingly engaging said locking element in a towing position wherein said handle shell is angled with respect said support posts.

25. A baggage piece in accordance with claim 24 wherein said towing position is oriented at substantially a 45° angle from the upright position in a direction away from said body.

26. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 wherein said at least one locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, each of said locking elements slidably mounted to said angle position element.

27. A handle system in accordance with claim 25 further comprising a pair of spring elements biasing said respective locking elements toward a locked position.

28. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 25 further comprising a push button coupled to said shell, said push button unlocking said locking element from said angle position element.

29. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 wherein said angle position element comprises a cylindrical shaft mounted stationary to said shell.

30. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 wherein said angle position element comprises a locking plate, said angle position element movable beneath said locking plate in an unlocked position.

31. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 further comprising first and second lock pins coupled to said first and second release wires, respectively.

32. A baggage piece in accordance with claim 24, wherein said angle position element comprises pair of ribs and wherein the locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, said pair of ribs extending between said pair of locking elements.

33. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 wherein said angle position element comprises a shaft mounted stationary to said shell, said shaft extending along a longitudinal axis, said locking element comprising a body receiving a circumference of said shaft, said locking element moving parallel to said longitudinal axis to latch and unlatch said locking element from said shaft.

34. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 33 wherein said locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, one of the pair of locking elements moving in a first direction, and the other of the pair of locking elements moving in a second direction opposite the first direction to latch and unlatch said locking element from said shaft.

35. A towing handle system in accordance with claim 24 wherein said locking element comprises a pair of locking elements, and further comprising a pair of resilient elements applying oppositely directed biasing forces to said pair of locking elements.

36. A handle assembly for a towable bag, said handle assembly comprising: a U-shaped shell; and a locking latch mechanism mounted to said U-shaped shell, said locking latch mechanism comprising a shaft mounted stationary to said shell and at least one rib extending from an outer surface of said shaft; and a pair of locking elements slidably mounted to said shaft and movable along an axis of said shaft between locked and unlocked positions, said locking elements moving in opposite directions from one another and said rib located between said locking elements in each of said locked and unlocked positions.

37. A handle assembly in accordance with claim 36 further comprising rocker arms pivotally mounted to said shell, said rocker arms coupled to said locking elements and moving said locking elements to said locked position when actuated.

38. A handle assembly for a towable bag, said handle assembly comprising: a U-shaped shell; and a locking latch mechanism mounted to said U-shaped shell, said locking latch mechanism comprising a position selector and locking plate, said position selector and said locking plate comprising engagement surfaces which mesh to position said shell relative to said locking plate, said position selector moving beneath said locking plate in an unlocked position.

39. A handle assembly in accordance with claim 38 further comprising locking pins received by said position selector in a locked position, and an elastomeric bias element biasing said locking pins to a predetermined position.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/517,771 filed Nov. 4, 2003, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to wheeled baggage items having towing handles for rolling the baggage along the ground, and more particularly, to retractable towing handles for wheeled baggage.

Various types of bags, from luggage items to briefcases and backpacks, now include wheels and a towing handle which allow the bags to be pulled along a surface rather than being carried above the ground. The towing handle is typically located on an end of the bag opposite the wheels, and the bag is pulled along the ground in an inclined position. Such handles can be very convenient and are now popular.

Typically, the towing handle is mounted to telescoping supports extending alongside a back panel of the bag, and the handle is extendible for towing or retractable into the bag in a generally flush position with an outer contour of the bag. Conventionally, the handles were rigidly mounted to the supports and when the supports were extended, the handle was in a fixed position relative to the supports. It has been found, however, that such handles can become uncomfortable to hold for an extended period of time. This is at least in part because a significant portion of the weight of the bag is supported by the user gripping the handle.

Various types of handle systems have been developed to reduce user fatigue in towing baggage. For example, pivoting or rotatable handles have been employed in an effort provide more comfortable pulling positions. While known handle systems have had varying degrees of success in addressing these issues, many of them tend to be quite complicated, expensive to implement, and not as reliable as desired.

Also, many known towing handle systems are positioned in-line with the telescoping supports in use, and therefore are positioned over the center of the bag as it is being towed. In such a position it is likely that the bag may undesirably strike the heel of the person towing it and interrupt the gait of the person.

It would be desirable to provide a towing handle for wheeled baggage which overcomes these and other disadvantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

According to an exemplary embodiment, a towing handle system for wheeled baggage is provided. The handle system comprises first and second support posts, and a towing handle positionable between an upright position parallel to the support posts and a towing position at an angle with respect to the support posts. The towing handle comprises a locking latch mechanism comprising an angle position element extending between the first and second posts, and the angle position element has a ribbed outer surface. A locking element comprises an inner surface received over the outer surface of the angle position element, and the inner surface lockingly engages the angle position element in a first orientation corresponding to the upright position and lockingly engages the angle position element in a second orientation defining the towing position.

Optionally, the towing position is oriented at substantially a 45° angle from the upright position, and a biasing element urges the locking element to one of a locked and unlocked position. A shell and a push button coupled to the shell may be provided, and the push button unlocks the locking element from the angle position element.

According to another exemplary embodiment, a baggage piece is provided. The baggage piece comprises a body comprising at least one body panel and a pair of wheels. First and second telescoping support posts are coupled to the body, and a retractable towing handle is positionable between an upright position parallel to the support posts and a towing position at an angle with respect to the support posts. The handle extends away from the body panel in the towing position, and the towing handle comprises a handle shell and a locking latch mechanism mounted to the shell. The locking latch mechanism comprises an angle position element mounted stationary to one of the shell and the supports, and the angle position element extends between the first and second posts and comprises a first engagement surface. At least one locking element is mounted stationary to the other of the shell and supports, and the locking element comprises a second engagement surface received over the first engagement surface of the angle position element. The second engagement surface lockingly engages the locking element in a first orientation corresponding to the upright position and lockingly engages the locking element in a second orientation defining the towing position.

According to another exemplary embodiment, a piece of baggage is provided. The baggage comprises a body defining a compartment for stowing an item for transport, wheels attached to the body, first and second telescoping support posts mounted to the body, and a towing handle system. The towing handle system comprises a U-shaped handle shell pivotally mounted to the first and second support posts, a push button coupled to the shell, first and second rocker arms pivotally mounted to the shell and responsive to movement of the push button, and first and second release cables coupled to the respective first and second rocker arms. A locking latch mechanism is coupled to the release cables and extends transversely between the first and second support posts at a distal end of the U-shaped handle, and the locking latch mechanism comprises an angle position element having a ribbed engagement surface, and a locking element comprising a grooved engagement surface received over the ribbed engagement surface of the angle position element. The grooved engagement surface lockingly engages the locking element in an upright position and lockingly engages the locking element in a towing position wherein the handle shell is angled with respect the support posts.

In another embodiment, a handle assembly for a towable bag is provided. The handle assembly comprises a U-shaped shell and a locking latch mechanism mounted to the U-shaped shell. The locking latch mechanism comprises a shaft mounted stationary to the shell and at least one rib extending from an outer surface of the shaft. A pair of locking elements are slidably mounted to the shaft and movable along an axis of the shaft between locked and unlocked positions. The locking elements move in opposite directions from one another and the rib is located between the locking elements in each of the locked and unlocked positions.

In still another embodiment, a handle assembly for a towable bag is provided. The handle assembly comprises a U-shaped shell, and a locking latch mechanism mounted to the U-shaped shell. The locking latch mechanism comprises a position selector and locking plate, and the position selector and the locking plate comprise engagement surfaces which mesh to position the shell relative to the locking plate. The position selector moves beneath the locking plate in an unlocked position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is perspective view of a wheeled bag including a towing handle system formed in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a partial plan view of the bag shown in FIG. 1 with the handle in an extended position.

FIG. 3 illustrates the bag shown in FIG. 1 with the handle in a towing position.

FIG. 4 illustrates the bag shown in FIG. 1 in a towing position.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the towing handle.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation view of the towing handle disconnected from the bag.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a positioning shaft for the towing handle shown in FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is an end view of the positioning shaft with a locking element coupled thereto.

FIG. 9 is a front elevational schematic view of the towing handle system shown in FIGS. 1-4 in a locked position.

FIG. 10 is a top plan view of a portion of the handle system.

FIG. 11 is a front elevational schematic view of the towing handle system shown in FIGS. 1-4 in an unlocked position.

FIG. 12 is a schematic assembly view of another embodiment of a towing handle system.

FIG. 13 is a further assembly view of the towing handle system shown in FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is an exploded view of a resilient biasing member for the handle system shown in FIG. 13.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of a latch lever for the handle system shown in FIG. 12.

FIG. 16 is a further assembly view of the towing handle system shown in FIGS. 12 and 13.

FIG. 17 is an assembled view of the towing handle system shown in FIGS. 12, 13, and 16.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is perspective view of a wheeled bag 100 including a retractable towing handle system 102 formed in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the invention. The bag 100 includes a body fabricated from known materials and having a back panel 104, side panels 106 and 108, top and bottom panels 110 and 112, and a front panel 114. The body panels 104, 106, 108, 110 and 114 collectively define a storage cavity within the body for storing and transporting desired items, such as clothing and personal items, therein for travel.

Wheels 116 are mounted to the lower end of the bag 100 in a known manner. While in the illustrated embodiment the bag 100 is a general purpose luggage bag, in alternative embodiments other types of wheeled bags may be employed, including but not limited to wheeled brief cases, duffel bags and the like as those in the art will appreciate. In FIG. 1, the towing handle system 102 is positioned within a recess 118 in the top and back panels 110 and 104, respectively.

FIG. 2 illustrates a portion of the bag 100 with the towing handle system 102 in an extended position. The towing handle system 102 includes a pair of telescoping support posts or poles 120 and a handle assembly 122 coupled to an end on the support posts 120. The support posts 120 extend generally alongside the back panel 104, and are fixedly mounted to the bag 100 within the recess 118. In accordance with known telescoping supports, the support posts 120 include sliding support members arranged in a concentric fashion, and the sliding members include spring loaded pins (not shown) which engage apertures (not shown) to lock the supports in an extended position (FIG. 2) and a retracted position (FIG. 1). The handle assembly 122 includes a push button 124 which, among other things, releases the pins from the apertures in the posts 120 and allows the posts 120 to telescope to the extended or retracted positions. The support posts 120 may be fabricated from, for example, aluminum, according to a known process.

As illustrated in FIG. 3, the pushbutton 124 also releases a locking latch mechanism (not shown in FIG. 3) which allows the handle assembly 122 to move between an upright position (shown in phantom in FIG. 4) substantially parallel to the support posts 120, and a towing position at a predetermined angle α with respect to the axis of the support posts 120. Thus, in the towing position, the handle assembly 122 leans at the angle α with respect to the bag, and further, the handle assembly 122 leans in a direction away from an axis 130 of the bag 100 and extends away from and beyond the back panel 104 of the bag 100.

FIG. 4 illustrates the bag 100 in a towing position with the bag 100 inclined on a support surface 140 such as a floor and with the wheels 116 in rolling contact with the support surface 140. In such a position, a user may grip the handle assembly 122 to tow the bag 100 in a direction of arrow A with the wheels 116 rolling on the support surface 140. Because the handle assembly 122 is leaned at the predetermined angle α in the towing position, an angle of inclination β of the bag 100 with respect to the support surface 140 is greater than it would otherwise be if the handle assembly were located in the upright position (FIGS. 2 and 3). The increased angle of inclination β places the bag in more of an upright position as it is towed in the direction of arrow A, and consequently more of the weight of the bag 100 is supported by the wheels 116 on the support surface 140 and less of the weight is supported by the user at the handle assembly 122. Thus, the leaning handle assembly 122 in the towing position reduces the effective weight of the bag 100 experienced by the user and accordingly reduces fatigue when towing the bag 100.

Additionally, the leaning handle assembly 122 displaces the carrying position of the handle assembly 122 farther away from the axis 130 of the bag 100. The bag 100 is therefore less likely to encroach upon and interrupt the gait pattern of a user when towing the bag 100.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the towing handle system 102 illustrating the handle assembly 122 coupled to an end of the support posts 120. The handle system 102 includes a handle retainer housing 150 which is mounted stationary to the support posts 120 with known fasteners 152, such as rivets. The handle retainer housing 150 extends between and connects the support posts 120 to one another, thereby maintaining the support posts 120 in a spaced apart relation to one another. In an exemplary embodiment, the handle retainer housing 150 is fabricated in two halves (only one of which is shown in FIG. 1) and is fabricated from, for example, plastic according to known techniques. The halves of the retainer housing 150 encase a locking latch mechanism (not shown in FIG. 5 but described below) which permits the handle assembly 122 to move between the upright and towing positions.

The handle assembly 122 includes a U-shaped frame or shell 154 which is pivotally mounted to the handle retaining housing 150. The shell 154 is movable relative to the handle retainer housing 150, and is selectively positionable between the upright and towing positions in the manner described below. Thumb rests 156 are provided in the shell 154 and the push button 124 extends through an outer surface 158 of the shell 154. The shell 154 may be fabricated from, for example, plastic according to a known molding operation.

FIG. 6 illustrates the handle assembly 122 removed from the handle retainer housing 150 (shown in FIG. 5). The shell 154 includes an inner portion 160 and an outer portion 162 mating with the inner portion 160. Each of the inner and outer portions 160, 162 of the shell 152 include opposite leg members 164, 166 respectively, and a cross member 168, 170, respectively, extending between and interconnecting the respective leg members 164 and 166.

The inner portion 164 of the shell 154 includes contoured grip surfaces 172. In an exemplary embodiment, the grip surfaces 172 are fabricated from a resilient material such as rubber and are attached to the inner portion 164 of the shell 154 to provide a firm, yet comfortable gripping surface on the interior surfaces of the shell 154. In an alternative embodiment, grip surfaces 172 may be formed into the inner and outer portions 160 and 162 of the shell 154, or still further, the grip surfaces 172 may be omitted in the handle assembly construction.

The legs 166 of the outer shell portion 162 include mounting feet 174 located opposite the cross member 170, and the mounting feet 174 extend inwardly toward one another from the legs 166 of the U-shaped outer shell 162. The shell inner portion 160 nests within the outer shell portion 162 with the legs 164 of the inner shell portion 160 resting upon the mounting feet 174 of the outer shell portion 162. In an exemplary embodiment, each of the mounting feet 174 includes a pivot base 175, an alignment face 176 extending from the pivot base 175, a neck 177 extending axially from the alignment face 176, and a cradle disk 178 extending axially from the neck 177. The pivot base 175, the neck 177 and the cradle disk 178 are substantially aligned with one another along a transverse axis 180. The neck 177 has a reduced cross sectional area relative to the pivot base 175, and the cradle disk 178 has a greater cross sectional area than the neck 177. In an exemplary embodiment, the neck 177 and the cradle disk 178 are substantially cylindrical in shape, while the pivot bases 175 are relatively square to match the contours of the handle shell 154. The pivot bases 175 are further rounded on a bottom surface 180 thereof to provide clearance above the handle retainer housing 150 (FIG. 5) as the handle assembly 122 is moved relative thereto.

When assembled to the handle retainer housing 150 (FIG. 5), the pivot bases 175 of the mounting feet 174 extend exterior to the handle retainer housing 150 with the alignment face 176 adjacent outer edges of the handle retainer housing 150. The cradle disks 178 are received in cradle slots (not shown) formed in the handle retainer housing 150, and as such, the cradle disks 178 may rotate within the cradle slots about the transverse axis 180, but the cradle disks 178 are prevented from moving relative to the handle retainer housing in a direction parallel to the transverse axis 180.

A locking latch mechanism 182 extends between the mounting feet 174 and is generally aligned along the transverse axis 180 between the cradle disks 178. In an illustrative embodiment, the locking latch mechanism 182 includes a positioning shaft 184, stops 186 mounted to the shaft 184, a pair of locking elements 188, and bias elements 190 extending between the stops 186 and the locking elements 188. The positioning shaft 184 is mounted stationary to the mounting feet 174 of the shell 154, and the locking elements 188 are received in cavities (not shown) formed in the handle retainer housing 150. The locking elements 188 cooperate with positioning ribs 192, 194 on the shaft 184 to lock the handle assembly 122 in the upright position and the towing position as set forth below. The positioning ribs 192 and 194 extend between the locking elements 188, and the locking elements 188 are slidably mounted to the shaft 184 and are positionable toward and away from the ribs 192 and 194 as explained below.

In an exemplary embodiment the bias elements 190 are helical compression springs, although it is appreciated that other resilient elements and spring elements may be provided to provide a bias force on the locking elements 188 as described below. Also, in one embodiment, the stops 186 are metal washers which are maintained in a predetermined position by the handle retainer housing 150 when the handle assembly 122 is installed. It is contemplated, however, that stops 186 could be formed in the shaft 184 itself or otherwise provided in another known manner, including, for example, providing stop surfaces for the bias elements in the handle retainer housing 150.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an exemplary positioning shaft 184 including a substantially cylindrical outer surface 200 and the positioning ribs 194, 192 projecting radially outward from the outer surface 200. The ribs 194, 192 extend parallel to a longitudinal axis 206 of the shaft 184, and the ribs 192, 194 extend at an angular separation which is substantially equal to the angle α (FIG. 3) between the upright and towing positions of the handle assembly 122. In an exemplary embodiment, the angle α is approximately 45°, although it is understood that greater and lesser angles may be employed in alternative embodiments. The locking elements 188 extend over the outer surface 200 of the shaft, and when aligned with the positioning ribs 194 and 192 as explained below, the locking elements 188 latch the handle assembly 122 in the each of the upright and towing positions to position the handle assembly 122 with respect to the handle retainer housing 150 (FIG. 5) as desired.

FIG. 8 illustrates an end view of the positioning shaft 184 and its interaction with an exemplary locking element 188. The locking element 188 include a polygonal body 210 having an outer surface 212, an inner surface 214, and a release arm 216. The inner surface 214 is substantially cylindrical and is slidaby mounted over the outer circumference of the shaft 184 and therefore completely surrounds the surface 200 of the positioning shaft 184. Position slots 218, 220 and 222 extend radially outwardly from the inner surface 214, and the position slots 218, 220 and 222 are dimensioned to receive the positioning ribs 192 and 194 of the shaft 184.

When the locking elements 188 are released to an unlocked position as explained below, the shaft 184 is rotatable relative to and within the inner surface 214 of the locking elements 188, while the locking elements 188 remain in a predetermined alignment within the handle retainer housing 150 (FIG. 5). By rotating the shaft 184 relative to the locking elements 188, the relative positions of the positioning ribs 192 and 194 of the shaft 184 with respect to the positioning slots 218, 220, and 222 may be changed.

In an exemplary embodiment, the release arm 216 of each locking element 188 includes engagement slots 224 and 226 which guide or retain release wires or cables (not shown in FIG. 8) for actuating the telescoping support posts 120 (FIGS. 2-5). An engagement slot 228 is also provided in the outer surface 212 of the locking element body 210, and the slot 228 retains an release wire or cable for actuating the locking elements 188 as set forth below. The outer surface 212 of the locking elements 188 further includes stop features in the form of tabs and slots which cooperate with complementary features in the handle retainer housing 150 and/or the shaft 184 to restrict relative movement of the locking elements 188 with respect to the shaft 184 as desired.

FIGS. 9-11 schematically illustrate the operation of the towing handle system 102. As illustrated in FIG. 9, the handle assembly 122 is coupled to the handle retainer housing 150, which is, in turn, mounted stationary to the support posts 120. The shell 154 of the handle assembly 122 is pivotally mounted to the handle retainer housing 150 via the cradle disks 178, and the locking latch mechanism 182 extends across the handle retainer housing 150 between the mounting feet 174. The stops 186 mounted to the shaft 184 are maintained in a predetermined position with respect to the shaft 184 and the handle retainer housing 150, and the bias elements 190 are seated against the stops 186 and provide inwardly directed bias forces F upon the locking elements 188 to maintain the locking elements 188 in an engaged position with the positioning ribs 192 and 194 of the shaft 184. The spring elements 190 provide an equal but oppositely directed force on the respective locking elements 188 to ensure that the locking elements 188 maintain engagement with the ribs 192, 194 of the shaft 184.

An actuating assembly 240 is provided in the shell 154 of the housing assembly 122 for releasing the locking elements 188 from the shaft 184, and the actuating assembly includes the push button 124, rocker arms 242, and release wires 244.

FIG. 10 schematically illustrates the inner portion 160 of the shell 154 and its configuration for housing the actuating assembly 240 (FIG. 9). The shell inner portion 160 is fabricated with a push button seat 250 therein, positioning rails 252 for the rocker arms 242 (shown in phantom in FIG. 10), and grooves 254 which guide the release wires 244 (FIG. 9) through the shell 154. The positioning rails 252 include depressed rounded cradles 256 which receive pivot arms 258 of the rocker arms 242. The rocker arms 242 may therefore pivot, swing, or rock within the cradles 256 between a locked position (FIG. 9) and an unlocked position (FIG. 11) when the pushbutton 124 is depressed downwardly into the shell 154 (i.e., in a direction of arrow B).

As demonstrated in FIGS. 9 and 11, when the pushbutton 124 is depressed in the direction of arrow B, a lower rim 260 of the pushbutton 124 displaces a first end 262 of the rocker arms 242 downward in the direction of arrow B. The displacement of the first end 262 causes the rocker arms 242 to rock on the pivot arms 258 within the shell 154, and a second end 264 of the rocker arms 242 is displaced upwardly in the direction of arrow C (FIG. 11). The release wires 244 are attached to the second end 264 of the rocker arms 242, and the upward displacement of the second ends 264 pulls the release wires 244 which are coupled to the respective locking elements 188. The pulling of the release wires 244 displaces the locking elements 188 in opposite directions D and E (FIG. 11) toward the respective mounting feet 174 of the handle assembly 122. The release wires 144 pull and axially displace the locking elements 188 in the direction of arrows D and E against the bias force F (FIG. 9) until the locking elements 188 clear the positioning ribs 192 and 194 to an unlocked position as shown in FIG. 11. In the unlocked position, the handle shell 154 and the positioning shaft 184 may be freely rotated about the transverse axis 180 to change the relative position of the handle assembly 122 with respect to the locking elements 188, and correspondingly moving the handle assembly 122 between the upright position and the towing position.

As the handle assembly 122 and the shaft 184 are rotated within the locking elements 188 in the unlocked position, when the shaft 184 is once again aligned with the locking elements wherein the positioning ribs 192 and 194 may be received by the locking elements 188, the bias force F generated by the bias elements 190 forces the locking elements 188 back toward one another to the locked position shown in FIG. 9 wherein the locking elements are engaged to the ribs 192, 194. The force from the bias elements 190 therefore automatically returns the locking elements 188 to the locked position when the upright and towing positions are obtained, and the user need do nothing to find the appropriate handle position. Rather, the handle assembly 122 automatically locks into place when the towing position and uptight position are obtained.

Further, as the locking elements move to the locked position, the release wires 244 are pulled back to the locked position shown in FIG. 9, which returns the rocking arms 242 to their original position. The lower rim 260 of the push button 124 is displaced upwardly by the first end 262 of the rocker arms 242 as the rocker arms 242 return to position. Thus, the pushbutton 124 automatically returns to the locked position shown in FIG. 9 as the selected position of the handle assembly 122 (i.e., the upright position or the towing position) is obtained.

Additionally, the support posts 120 include respective release wires 270, 272. The release wires 270, 272 are attached to the locking elements 188 at attachment points 274, 276, respectively. On each of the locking elements 188, one of the slots 224, 226 (FIG. 8) in the release arm 216 (FIG. 8) serves as a guide for one of the wires 270, 272, and the other of the slots 224, 226 retains the other of the wires 270, 272. Thus, for each of the locking elements 188, one of the slots 224, 226 is a pass through slot for one of the release wires 270, 272, and the other of the slots 224, 226 defines a connection point 274, 276 for fixed engagement of the respective wires 270, 272.

When the actuating assembly 240 is actuated to move the locking elements 188 to the unlocked position (FIG. 11), the movement of the locking elements 188 in the direction of arrows D and E pulls the release wires 270 and 272 within the telescoping supports 120 to release a mechanism (not shown) and unlock the support posts for extension of the support posts 120 from the bag 100 or retracting the support posts 120 into the bag 100. Likewise, as the locking elements 188 return to the locked position (FIG. 9), the locking elements 188 return the wires 270, 272 to their original position with the supports 120 engaged in a locked position, whether extended or retracted.

The actuation assembly 240, via the locking elements 188, therefore serves to simultaneously actuate the handle assembly 122 for rotation about the transverse axis 180 and the telescoping supports 120. A user may therefore extend and retract the supports 120 and rotate the handle between the upright and towing positions with one hand in a simple and direct manner by actuating the pushbutton 124 and guiding the handle assembly 122 to the desired position. When the handle assembly 122 and/or the telescoping supports 120 are properly aligned, the push button 124 automatically returns to its original position and the actuating assembly 240 is effectively reset to its locked position.

The above described handle assembly 122 and towing handle system 102 presents a reliable handle system for towing a bag 100 which is convenient for persons towing the bag 100, more comfortable than many known handle system for towing bags, and is reliable in operation. When extended and leaned to the angle α (FIG. 3), the bag 100 is less likely to interrupt the gait pattern of a towing person the bag 100.

While the handle assembly 122 is illustrated and described as being movable from an upright position to a singular towing position at the angle α, it is understood that the locking elements 188 and the positioning shaft 184 may be appropriately modified to facilitate positioning of the handle at other angular positions either greater than or less than the angle α as desired. Additional towing positions may be provided by adding more positioning ribs to the shaft 184 and more slots to the locking members 188.

FIG. 12 is a schematic assembly view of another exemplary embodiment of baggage towing handle assembly 300 which is positionable to a towing position at an angle α with respect to telescoping supports (not shown in FIG. 12) for more comfortable towing of a bag, such as the bag 100 (shown in FIGS. 1-4). The handle assembly 300 includes an inner shell 302 having an actuation assembly 304 mounted thereon, and an outer shell 306 which is fitted to the inner shell 302 to form a U-shaped handle assembly. The inner shell 302 includes mounting feet 308 and cradle disks 310 extending therefrom. The actuation assembly 304 includes a push button 312, rocker arms 314 mounted proximate the push button 312, and release wires 316 coupled to the rocker arms 314. Each of the release wires are coupled to a known spring loaded locking mechanism 318 and a pair of lock pins 320 actuated by the locking mechanisms 318. The lock pins 320 face inwardly toward one another, and each lock pin 320 include a groove 322 formed therein.

FIG. 13 illustrates the handle 320 with the inner shell 302 and the outer shell 306 assembled. The lock pins 320 extend through a resilient bias element 330 which biases the lock pins 320 toward a predetermined orientation, and a release lever 332 is attached to each respective lock pin 330.

FIG. 14 is an exploded view of an exemplary bias element 330, and in an exemplary embodiment the bias element 330 includes outer rigid layers 340 and an elastic layer 342 sandwiched therebetween. The rigid layers 340 include arc-shaped slots 344 and the elastic layer 342 includes a round aperture 346 dimensioned to receive a lock pin 320 (FIG. 13). When assembled, the elastic layer 342 is secured between the rigid layers 340 and the lock pin 320 extends through the slots 344 of the rigid layers 340 and the aperture 346 of the elastic layer 342. The elastic layer 342 is deformable and allows the pin 320 to move within the confines of the slots 344 to select a handle position, yet is resilient enough that once a handle position is selected, the elastic layer 342 moves the lock pin 320 back to its original position to lock the handle assembly 300 in place. The rigid layers 340 may be fabricated from, for example, stamped steel, and the elastic layer 342 may be fabricated from, for example, an elastomeric rubber material.

FIG. 15 illustrates an exemplary release lever 332 which includes a lower section 350, and upper section 352, and pivot arms 354 extending outwardly in between the upper and lower sections 350 and 352. The lower section 352 includes a closed slot 356 which retains a release wire (not shown) for the telescoping supports (not shown in FIG. 1) used with the handle assembly 300. The upper section defines an open slot 358 which receives the groove 322 (FIG. 12) in a lock pin 320. The upper section 352 is retained in the lock pin groove 320 such that when the lock pins 320 move in the direction of arrow G (FIG. 13), the release levers 332 pivot about the pivot arms and pull release wires attached to the lower section 350 to actuate the telescoping supports.

FIGS. 16 and 17 further illustrate the handle assembly 300 and a locking latch mechanism 368 including an actuator housing 360 which may be fixedly mounted to telescoping support posts (not shown) when the posts are received in support receptacles 362 formed in the housing 360. The housing 360 defines a cavity (not shown) which receives a dial position selector 370 having a base 372 including apertures 374 for receiving the lock pins 320, positioning portions 376 extending upward from the base 374, and a button portion 378 extending between the positioning portions 376. The positioning portions 376 include a ribbed outer surface 378 having projections or teeth extending thereon which are aligned a predetermined intervals with respect to one another. In an exemplary embodiment, the ribs or teeth are positioned at 8° increments, although it is understood that greater or lesser angular separation may be employed in further and/or alternative embodiments. The dial position selector 370 further includes a lower extension 380 having receptacles therein providing a seat for bias elements 384 (FIG. 17), such as helical coil spring elements.

When the dial position selector 370 is fitted within the actuator housing 360 as shown in FIG. 17, locking plates 386 are extended over the dial position selector 370, and the positioning portions 376 of the position selector 370 are biased against the locking plates 386. As illustrated in FIG. 16, an inner surface 388 of the locking plates 386 are ribbed in a complementary manner to the positioning portions 376 of the dial position selector 370, wherein the positioning portions 376 and the inner surfaces 388 may mesh with one another in a tongue and groove configuration to orient the dial position selector 370 with respect to the locking plates 386 and hence determine a stable orientation of the handle assembly 300 with respect to the actuator housing 360. Stable orientations may be provided at each angular increment according to the increments of the ribs in the respective surfaces of the locking plates 386 and the dial position selector 370. Thus, the handle assembly may be positioned at a number of different angles (e.g., 37°, 45° and 53°) with respect to the actuator housing 360 to provide a number of different towing positions, in addition to the upright position.

FIG. 17 illustrates the handle assembly 300 in an assembled condition wherein a cover plate 400 retains the locking latch assembly 368 together. The bias elements 384 provide an upwardly directed force in the direction of arrow H on the position selector 370, and the bias force maintains the dial position selector 370 in contact with the locking plates 386. To release the handle assembly 300 for rotation from an upright position to a towing position, or from one towing position to another, the push button 312 is depressed downwardly in the direction of arrow I, which cause the rocker arms 314 to pivot and pull the release wires 316 to actuate the locking mechanisms 318 and pull the lock pins 320 in opposite directions J and K away from the dial position selector 370. Once the lock pins 320 are free of the position selector 370, the button 378 of the dial position selector 370 may be depressed downwardly in the direction of arrow I, and the selector 370 is displaced downwardly against the bias of the bias elements 384.

Once the position surfaces 376 of the selector 370 clear the inner surfaces 388 of the locking plates 386 when the button 378 is depressed, the locking plates 386 and the handle shell may be rotated over the dial position selector 370 to another relative orientation. When the button 378 of the dial position selector 370 is released, the bias elements 384 return the dial position selector 370 upwardly in the direction of arrow H until the positioning surfaces 376 of the dial position selector 370 lockingly engage the locking plates 386 in a locked position. The spring loaded locking mechanisms 318 engage the locking pins 320 in the new position and the handle is ready for towing.

Additionally, when the push button 312 is actuated to move the locking pins 320 to the unlocked position, the movement of the locking pins 320 in the direction of arrows J and K cause the release levers 332 to pivot and pulls release wires 316 within the telescoping supports to release a mechanism (not shown) and unlock the support legs for extension or retraction from the associated bag.

Thus, unlike the handle assembly 122 described above, the handle assembly 300 utilizes two step actuation to release and rotate the handle assembly 300. Nonetheless, and like the handle assembly 122, the handle assembly 300 presents a reliable handle system for towing a bag which is convenient for persons towing the bag, more comfortable than many known handle system for towing bags, and is reliable in operation. When extended and leaned to an angle α (as illustrated in FIG. 3), the handle 300 is less likely to interrupt the gait pattern of a person towing person the bag.

While the invention has been described in terms of various specific embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the claims.