Title:
EXPANDABLE CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An expandable container adapted to be manually adjusted from a vertically compact configuration wherein internal shelves are closely spaced, to a vertically expanded configuration wherein the internal shelves are less closely spaced. A garment folding apparatus is preferably incorporated with the container to provide a tool that assists the user in quickly folding garments to dimensions compatible with shelves within the container.



Inventors:
Barker, Deborah (Oakland Park, FL, US)
Barker, Bradd (Oakland Park, FL, US)
Application Number:
12/037183
Publication Date:
06/19/2008
Filing Date:
02/26/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
190/109, 220/4.03
International Classes:
A45C7/00; A45C13/02; B65D6/16
View Patent Images:
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20050077136Modular luggage systemApril, 2005Brannin
20080277221Case having castersNovember, 2008Josefson et al.
20060254952Diaper bag with lower blanket pocketNovember, 2006Trevino et al.
20080308371Luggage bag with removable storage unitsDecember, 2008Yang
20050098402Carry on multi-function luggageMay, 2005Cohen
20060201763Trunk for easy customs inspectionSeptember, 2006Yu
20060108192Painter's containerMay, 2006Bastarache
20080156606Article of luggage with removable media componentsJuly, 2008Entner
20090255770FOLDABLE CARRYING DEVICEOctober, 2009Slater
20040031654Luggage case having inclined and readily usable handleFebruary, 2004Chang



Primary Examiner:
WEAVER, SUE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Malin Haley DiMaggio & Bowen, P.A. (Spectrum Office Building 4901 NW 17th Way, Suite 308, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, 33309, US)
Claims:
What I claim is:

1. An expandable container comprising: a main body defining an internal compartment bounded by a bottom wall, a top wall, an openable front, a rear wall and two opposing side walls; said internal compartment including a plurality of vertically spaced shelves; said body adapted for vertical expansion such that said body may be configured from a compact configuration wherein said top wall and said bottom wall are spaced a first dimension relative to one another, to a vertically expanded configuration wherein said top wall and said bottom wall are spaced a second dimension relative to one another, said second dimension being greater than said first dimension such that the volume of said internal compartment is increased; means for adjusting vertical spacing between shelves whereby spacing between said shelves increases when said body is configured from said compact configuration to said expanded configuration; and means for releasably locking said body in said vertically expanded configuration.

2. An expandable container according to claim 1, wherein said means for releasably locking said body in said vertically expanded configuration comprises at least one telescopically expandable self-latching track.

3. An expandable container according to claim 2, wherein said means for releasably locking said body includes first and second telescopically adjustable tracks adapted with a self-latching and self-unlatching mechanism.

4. An expandable container according to claim 3, wherein said mechanism comprises a camover latch.

5. An expandable container according to claim 4, wherein said camover latch includes a rotatable locking member and a pin.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/881,872, filed on Jun. 30, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,334,669.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

N/A

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material that is subject to copyright protection. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or patent disclosure as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyrights rights whatsoever.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to containers, such as the type commonly referred to as luggage and suitcases used by travelers, and more particularly to a vertically expandable suitcase adapted with internal shelves. In a broader sense, the present invention relates to an expandable storage container.

2. Description of Related Art

The task of carrying and/or lifting luggage at airports, railway stations, hotels or other sites is generally disliked by travelers. While rental luggage carts are available at certain sites, the renting process is itself an inconvenience and such carts do not remain with the traveler after the baggage is checked in.

As a result, the use of wheeled luggage cases has significantly expanded to the point where wheeled luggage cases are now the norm in the alt of luggage making. Even relatively small luggage cases designed to fit in overhead compartments or under the seats on aircraft are commonly adapted with wheels to facilitate transporting a loaded case. Currently, the most popular type of wheeled luggage is the upright case, which is pushed or towed with the longest or major dimension nearer to vertical than horizontal. Typically, upright cases are equipped with a telescopically extendable and retractable wheel handle at the top end of the body of the case and a pair of wheels at the bottom edge of the back of the body. At rest, the case may sit in an upright position upon the wheels and a pair of legs or glides. To roll the case, the user grips the wheel handle and tips the case to lift the glides from the supporting surface and manually pulls the case while walking.

A significant disadvantage associated with luggage carriers is that the main packing compartment is small and difficult to pack in a way that the packed clothing and other items are easily accessible when the case is opened up, for example, in the upright position when its standing on the pair of wheels. As a result of this shortcoming, the prior art reveals attempts to improve upon internal organization by providing shelves that divide the interior of the case. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,161,739, issued to Bentzen, discloses a non-wheeled upright backpack having an internal compartment that is divided into subcompartments by shelves that are removable. U.S. Pat. No. 5,988,476, discloses a rack system for a backback. Such attempts to integrate shelves into luggage and backpacks have not resulted in widespread success, and fail to address the inherent space limitation due to the relatively small size of the compartment provided by the luggage.

Accordingly, there exists a need for wheeled luggage having an expandable storage compartment and internal shelving to provide organized storage for travelers.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention overcomes the disadvantages and limitations in the art by providing an expandable case having a main body defining a storage compartment that is expandable and adapted with internal shelves so as to enable a traveler to transport the fully packed case to a final destination and expand the main body to form a vertically expanded configuration wherein the articles therein are readily accessible and disposed on a plurality of vertically spaced shelves. In accordance with the present invention, wheeled luggage is provided including a case having a body defining an interior that serves as container in which clothing and other personal items may be placed for transportation. The body is of the type that stands vertically upright, and is further adapted so as to be telescopically expandable such that the body may be manually adjusted from a normally sized configuration during transit to a vertically enlarged configuration once the final destination, such as a hotel room, is reached. More particularly the body includes a telescopically adjustable main body, to allow for selective vertical extension of the body thereby substantially increasing the volume of the interior storage compartment. The body further includes a plurality of interior horizontally disposed, vertically stacked shelves connected in accordion fashion so as to automatically expand from a compact configuration to an expanded configuration when the main body is telescopically expanded thereby providing a series of vertically spaced shelves which provide convenient access to the contents.

The present invention finds broad application as an expandable container, article of furniture, or storage container.

Accordingly, a traveler using the luggage case disclosed herein is relieved of the time consuming task of having to unpack the case upon reaching his/her destination

A further aspect of the present invention includes combining a garment folding apparatus as an integral component of the luggage main body. The folding apparatus provides the user with a tool to assist in rapidly folding garments, such as shirts, tops, and pants, into precisely folded shapes sized to fit conveniently within the main body interior and to fit neatly on the shelves provided therein.

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide improvements in the field of wheeled luggage.

Another object of the present invention is to provide luggage having an expandable body.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide in combination wheeled luggage and a garment folding apparatus for use therewith.

Still another object of the present invention is to provide wheeled luggage having internal shelf dividers.

In accordance with these and other objects, which will become apparent hereinafter, the instant invention will now be described with particular reference to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of wheeled luggage according to the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a left side view thereof;

FIG. 3 is a front view thereof with the front closure panel removed;

FIG. 4 is right side view thereof;

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view thereof with the handle extended;

FIG. 6 is left side view thereof;

FIG. 7 is a front view thereof with the handle extended and the front closure panel removed;

FIG. 8 is a night side view thereof with the handle extended;

FIG. 9 is a front perspective view thereof in a vertically expanded configuration;

FIG. 10 is a left side view thereof;

FIG. 11 is a front view thereof;

FIG. 12 is a right side view thereof;

FIG. 13 is a front perspective view thereof showing the front closure panel/garment folding device removed and unfolded;

FIG. 14 is a top plan view of the front closure panel that doubles as a garment folding apparatus;

FIG. 15 is a top perspective view thereof;

FIG. 16 is a side view thereof and illustrates the flipping of the left side panel;

FIG. 17 is a top plan view depicting the garment folding apparatus and an unfolded shirt thereon;

FIG. 18 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt depicted in FIG. 17, with the bottom portion of the shirt folded up according to the folding method disclosed herein;

FIG. 19 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the left side panel folded over;

FIG. 20 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the left side panel folded back revealing the partially folded shirt;

FIG. 21 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the right side panel folded over;

FIG. 22 is a top plan view of the of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the right side panel folded back revealing the partially folded shirt;

FIG. 23 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the bottom panel folded upward;

FIG. 24 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirt with the bottom panel folded back;

FIG. 25 is a top plan view of the garment folding apparatus and shirts folded therewith;

FIG. 26 is a left side view of an alternate embodiment vertically expandable wheeled luggage apparatus according to the present invention in the compact configuration;

FIG. 27 is a front view thereof (front access panel open);

FIG. 28 is a front perspective view thereof;

FIG. 29 is a left side view thereof in the vertically expanded configuration;

FIG. 30 is a front view thereof;

FIG. 31 is a front perspective view thereof;

FIG. 32 is a front view of the expandable frame assembly and expandable shelves;

FIG. 33 is a right side view thereof;

FIG. 34 is a rear view thereof;

FIG. 35 is a rear perspective view thereof;

FIG. 36 is a front perspective view thereof;

FIG. 37 is a rear view of the expandable frame assembly;

FIG. 38 is a right side view thereof;

FIG. 39 is a rear view thereof;

FIG. 40 is a rear perspective view thereof;

FIG. 41 is a front perspective view thereof;

FIG. 42 is a top view schematic of the telescopically adjustable locking track in an extended position.

FIG. 43 is a side view of the lower locking track member.

FIG. 44 is a frontal view of the locking track member.

FIG. 45 is a side view of the upper locking track member.

FIG. 46 is a top view schematic of both the upper locking track member and the lower locking track member.

FIG. 47 is an exploded view of the locking member configuration on the lower track member.

FIG. 48 is a top view schematic of the components associated with the locking mechanism as the upper locking track is extended.

FIG. 49. is a top view schematic of the components associated with the locking mechanism as the upper track is locked in the extended position.

FIG. 50. is a top view schematic of the components associated with the locking mechanism as the upper track is disengaged from the locked position.

FIG. 51 is a top view schematic of the components associated with the locking mechanism as the upper locking track is retracted back into the lower locking track; and

FIG. 52 is a top view schematic of the components associated with the locking mechanism as the upper track is extended back from a retracted position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

With reference to the drawings, FIGS. 1-25 depict a preferred embodiment of the invention. Broadly described, the invention includes a case 10 having a body 12 that functions as a container in which clothing and other personal items may be placed for transportation. Case 10 may is preferably sized to conform to the maximum dimensions for “carry-on” luggage to be carried aboard and stowed in passenger cabins in aircraft, buses, and the like, but may be any suitable size.

In a preferred embodiment case 10 will not have length, width, and height dimensions that exceed a sum total of forty-foul inches (44″), and is preferably about 20″ high, about 10″ deep, and about 14″ wide when in the compact “carry-on” configuration, however, other dimensional configurations are considered within the scope of the present invention. Body 12 is preferably hard-side construction as known in the art, but an alternative embodiment fabricated as soft-side construction is considered within the scope of the present invention. The present invention is suitable for a variety of uses and should not be construed in application to mere luggage or garment case.

As best depicted in FIGS. 1-13, body 12 defines a generally hollow interior for receiving clothing and the like and the exterior may feature various handles, piping, pockets, and the like, as depicted or as otherwise are used in the luggage art. Body 12 has a front 14, a back 16, a top 18, a bottom 20 and two opposing sides 22 and 24. Top 18 preferably includes a handle 26 attached thereto to assist in lifting case 10, and for other reasons discussed herein below.

In addition, case 10 is preferably equipped with an extendible/retractable handle 30 with which the case 10 may be pushed or pulled across a supporting surface. Handle 30 may be extended and locked in the extended configuration by a simple mechanical locking apparatus. For example, pillow blocks 32 may each be adapted with a locking set-screw or lever actuated cam lock device 33. In an alternate embodiment, handle 30 may be foldable or rotatable from a stowed configuration to a deployed configuration. In a preferred embodiment, case 10 has two wheels 34 rotatably mounted within wheel housings 36 proximate to the lower rear corners of the body 12. Wheels 34 permit the case 10, with wheel handle 30 extended as shown in FIG. 2, to be tipped slightly from vertical and wheeled along the ground in a generally upright position as is customary in the art. When case 10 is not in use, handle 30 may be retracted by known methods to the position depicted in FIGS. 1-4.

A significant aspect of the present invention relates to expandability. More particularly, back 16 and opposing sides 22 and 24, are each composite structures including adjacent, slidably engaged outer and inner members identified by individually as 16A/16B, 22A/22B, and 24A/24B. Each outer member 16A, 22A and 24A is attached at the lower peripheral edges thereof to bottom 20. Each inner member 16B, 22B, and 24B is attached at the upper peripheral edges thereof to top 18. Accordingly, body 12 is telescopically adjustable, and may be selectively manipulated between a compact configuration depicted in FIGS. 1-4, to an expanded configuration depicted in FIGS. 9-12. Body 12 is preferably maintained in the expanded configuration by connection of extended handle 30 with top handle 26 so as to maintain body 12 in the expanded configuration. Connection of handles 30 and 26 may be accomplished by any suitable mechanical connection. In a preferred embodiment, handle 26 includes a slidable rod 27 that is positionable from a retracted position wherein rod 27 is received within handle 26, to a deployed position wherein rod 27 is extended to engage handle 30 thus supporting top 18 in the vertically expanded configuration.

Furthermore, the interior of case 10 preferably includes a plurality of horizontal shelves, referenced as 40 for use in storing clothes and personal items within case 10. Shelves 40 may be attached to an internal, vertically expandable liner 42 that is connected to body 12, such as to top 18, so as to expand upward in an accordion manner when case 10 is configured to the expanded configuration depicted in FIGS. 9-12. By incorporating an expandable shelving system within case 10, the user may configure the case to the expanded configuration depicted in FIG. 9 while packing the case, then close the case by configuring same to the compact configuration depicted in FIGS. 1-8 wherein case 10 may be transported during travel. Once the user has arrived at his/her destination, case 10 may be opened and configured to the expanded configuration thereby increasing the vertical spacing of shelves 40. In the expanded configuration, the clothing and personal items stored with the case remain neatly stacked, and readily accessible due to the expansion of the interior volume and increased vertical spacing between individual shelf members. The present invention thus provides an expandable case that saves the user significant time while traveling since the user may leave his/her clothing and personal items neatly within the case and thus is relieved of the duties related to unpacking the case. A further advantage realized by the use of the expandable shelving system of the present invention relates to the visibility of the packed clothing and articles when the case is configured to the expanded configuration as the clothing and articles remain on the shelves, visible, and accessible to the user.

It should be noted, however, that in an alternate embodiment shelves 40 may be fixed within the case. In addition, the present invention contemplates the use of vertical dividers, either in lieu of shelves or in addition thereto. The use of vertical dividers is considered desirable for an embodiment of the present invention particularly directed to use by persons in carrying files or other items more suitably transported in a vertical orientation. It should further be appreciated that the present invention may comprise a container for housing a variety of articles, and may be embodied in a wheel-less embodiment. In addition, the present invention may comprise an expandable container, such as an article OF furniture, found in a dwelling.

A further significant aspect of the present invention includes providing a garment folding tool for use in rapidly folding clothing, such as shirts and tops, as an integral component. Such a garment folding tool is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,360,927, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference. More particularly case 10 is adapted with vertically disposed, U-shaped channel members 15 on opposing sides of front opening 14. Channel members 15 are intended to receive a garment folding tool 50 that is removably received in the otherwise open front 14 of body 12 thereby functioning as a closure panel. Folding tool 50 includes four (4) hingedly connected panels including a main panel, opposing side panels, and a bottom panel. The opposing side panels and the bottom panel are each pivotally connected to the main panel. The pivotal connections permit folding of the panels during use and further permit the device to be configured for compact storage.

Folding tool 50 includes a plurality of substantially flat, light-weight panel members including a main panel 52, opposing left and right side panels 54 and 56, and a bottom panel 58. Panels 52, 54, 56, and 58 are preferably fabricated from a light-weight, rigid or semi-rigid material. Side panels 54, 56, and bottom panel 58, are each pivotally connected to main panel 52. The pivotal connections facilitate the folding of panels 54, 56, and 58 about main panel 52 as best seen in FIG. 16. Side panels 54 and 56 preferably define a plurality of apertures, referenced as 62, for reasons more fully discussed below. Apertures 62 are preferably circular, however, any suitable shape (e.g. square, triangular, slotted etc.) is considered within the scope of the invention.

FIG. 16 depicts a side elevational view of the apparatus 50. The bottom surfaces of panels 54 and 56 are preferably slightly raised when apparatus 50 is placed on a flat supporting surface. In a preferred embodiment, projecting feet, referenced as 64, projected downward proximal the peripheral corner edges thereof. Feet 64 function to elevate the edges of the panels to facilitate grasping and manipulation thereof by the user.

FIG. 17 shows the garment folding apparatus 50 with a shirt, referenced as “S” placed face down in a folding position thereon. It should be noted that apparatus 50 is preferably sized such that the ends of the shirt sleeves terminate proximal the outside edges of panels 54 and 56 respectively. As best seen in FIG. 18, and according to the method of folding disclosed herein, the first step involves folding the bottom of the shirt such that the shirt fold line is approximately aligned with the lower edges of panels 54, 56 and 58. As best seen in FIG. 19, and according to the method of folding disclosed herein, the second step involves the user flipping panel 54 (or alternatively panel 56), and the shirt portion laying thereon, such that panel 54 is disposed over panels 52 and 58 with the shirt sandwiched there between thereby creating a straight and uniform fold line upon return of the panel to the position depicted in FIG. 20. Projecting feet 64 function to enable the user to easily grasp each foldable panel by causing the edge portion of each panel adapted with said feet to be slightly elevated above the underlying surface thereby enabling the user's fingers to easily slide underneath the panel while grasping.

As best seen in FIG. 21, and according to the method disclosed herein, the third step involves the user flipping panel 56, and the shirt portion laying thereon, such that panel 56 is disposed over panels 52 and 58 with the shirt sandwiched there between. Once again, projecting feet 64 function to enable the user to easily grasp the panel. Panel 56 is then returned to its original position as depicted in FIG. 22. It should be noted that the above-referenced second and third steps, and associated returning of the panels to the original positions, are performed rapidly. Significantly, apertures 62, on each of panels 54 and 56 function, upon returning the panels to the original positions to prevent suction and static cling from unfolding the shirt as the panels are rapidly flipped back to the original positions. If the panels did not include the apertures, the rapid return of the panels would cause the shirt to adhere to the panels thereby undoing the fold and resulting in a significantly slower folding operation. Accordingly, apertures 62 provide for a more efficient folding process than is possible with known folding devices.

As best seen in FIGS. 23-24, and according to the fourth step of the folding method disclosed herein, panel 58, and the shirt portion thereon, is folded upward thereby completing the folding process. As should be apparent, panel 58 may also include apertures 62 and/or feet 64 to provide the advantages discussed herein above.

ALTERNATE EMBODIMENT

FIGS. 26-41 depict an alternate embodiment of the expandable luggage of the present invention, generally referenced as 100, and generally discloses the best mode for practicing the present invention. As best depicted in FIGS. 26-31, expandable luggage 100 includes a body 102 that defines a generally hollow interior for receiving clothing and the like, and an exterior that may feature various handles, piping, pockets, and the like, as depicted or as otherwise are used in the luggage art. Body 102 has a front 104, a back 106, a top 108, a bottom 120 and two opposing sides 122 and 124. Top 108 preferably includes a handle 126 attached thereto to assist in lifting case 10, and for other reasons discussed herein below. As with all rolling luggage, case 100 is adapted with at least one wheel. In the preferred embodiment case 100 has two wheels 134 rotatably mounted within wheel housings 136 proximate to the lower rear corners of the body 112. Expandable case 100 also preferably includes an extendable handle as is well known in the art for use by the user when rolling.

As disclosed in the first embodiment, a significant aspect of the present invention relates to expandability. The embodiment depicted in FIGS. 26-41 differs in structure from the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-12. Specifically, case 100 is adapted with a telescopically adjustable frame assembly having four telescopically adjustable frame members 150 and a telescopically adjustable locking track 152. Locking track 152 includes two telescopically adjustable members and an automatically locking/unlocking mechanism, commonly referred to as a camover latch, that functions to automatically lock and unlock to allow for selective vertical expansion and retraction of frame members 150 as further described herein below. Each telescopically adjustable frame member 150 and locking track 152 is connected at the upper ends thereof to the top portion 108 of case body 102 and at the lower ends thereof to the bottom portion 120 of case 102. Frame members 150 and locking track 152 are telescopically adjustable such that body 102 of case 100 may be vertically manipulated between a compact configuration depicted in FIGS. 26-28 and an expanded configuration depicted in FIGS. 29-31. FIGS. 37-41 depict adjustable frame members 150 and adjustable locking track 152 in a vertically expanded configuration. It should be noted, however, that any suitable system, such as gas operated cylinders or spring mechanism may provide a suitable alternative to frame members 50 and adjustable locking track 152.

A significant advantage to the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 26-41 relates to maintaining body 102 in the expanded configuration by the automatic locking camover latch feature of locking track 152. More particularly, the camover latch feature incorporated within locking track 152 functions to automatically lock track 152 in a telescopically expanded configuration when the user configures the body 102 into the expanded configuration. Similarly, the camover latch incorporated within locking track 152 functions to automatically unlock when the user lifts the top of body 102 slightly thereby releasing an internal locking mechanism and allowing track 152 to return to the telescopically retracted configuration.

In addition, an expandable shelf assembly 140 comprising all expandable liner 142 and a plurality of shelves 144 is connected to frame assembly 150 to provide a series of vertically expandable shelves 144 that expand and contract with frame members 150 and locking member 152. More particularly, an expandable shelf assembly 140 includes an expandable liner 142 having a plurality of horizontal shelves 144 connected thereto in vertically spaced relation. Shelf assembly 140 has an upper end secured to the top portion 108 of case body 102, and lower end secured to the bottom portion 120 of case 102. The plurality of horizontal shelves may be used for storing neatly folded clothing and personal items within case 100.

As discussed herein above, each shelf 144 is preferably attached to an internal, vertically expandable liner 144 having an upper end connected to the top portion 108 of body 102 and a bottom portion connected to the bottom 120 of body 102 so as to expand upward in an accordion manner when case 100 is configured to the expanded configuration depicted in FIGS. 29-31. By incorporating an expandable shelving system within case 100, the user may configure the case to the expanded configuration depicted in FIG. 31 while packing the case, then close the case by configuring same to the compact configuration depicted in FIG. 28 wherein case 100 may be transported during travel. Significantly, the vertical spacing between shelf members 144 decreases when case 100 is in the compact configuration thereby preferably slightly compressing the clothing and articles thereon so as to secure the articles during transit. Once the user has arrived at his/her destination, case 100 may be opened and configured to the expanded configuration depicted in FIG. 31, thereby increasing the vertical spacing of shelves 40. In the expanded configuration, the clothing and personal items stored within the case remain neatly stacked, and readily accessible due to the expansion of the interior volume and increased vertical spacing between individual shelf members. The present invention thus provides an expandable case that saves the user significant time while traveling since the riser may leave his/her clothing and personal items neatly within the case and thus is relieved of the duties related to unpacking the case.

Camover Latch

FIGS. 42-46 depict schematics of the telescopically adjustable self-latching track 152. A significant aspect of track 152 is the ability of the track to be self-latching and self-unlatching as more fully described herein. The self-latching feature allows the user to simply raise the case body to the expanded configuration wherein the self-latching function will lock the case in said configuration. The self-unlatching feature allows the user to return the case body to its compact configuration by simply lifting the top a small dimension upward whereby the track 152 self-unlatches thereby allowing the case body to telescopically compact with the aid of gravity.

The telescopically adjustable track 152 is comprised of an upper locking track member 160, a lower locking track member 161, and a camover latch assembly 162. In a preferred embodiment, the upper and lower locking track members 160 and 161 are both generally the same shape consisting of a flat bottom panel 163 with two sidewalls 164 extending perpendicularly outward on opposing longitudinal sides of the bottom panel 163. A metal flange 165 extends parallel with the bottom panel 163 from the top of each sidewall 164, into the space created between the two track sidewalls 164 and the bottom panel 163. Both track members 161 and 162 include apertures 166 and 167 through both sidewalls at one end of each locking track member 161 and 162. It should be noted, however, that track members 161 and 162 may be generally cylindrical, or any other suitable shape.

The upper locking track member 160 is the same shape as the lower locking track member 161 with a reduction in dimensions. This reduction in dimensions allows the upper locking track member 160 to fit within the lower locking track member 161. The upper locking track member 160 is secured within the lower locking track member 161 by the metal flanges 165 that extend from the sidewalls of the lower locking track member 161. The upper track member 160 is displaced in a sliding manner within the lower track member, thus allowing for the adjustable locking track 152 to be moved between a compact configuration and an expanded configuration. The upper track member 161 fits within the lower track member 160 such that in the compact configuration, the end of the lower track member 161 with the sidewall apertures 166 is on the opposite end of the locking track 152 from the end of the upper track member 160 with the sidewall apertures 167.

The upper locking track member 160 includes a pin 168 (or other projecting member) that extends through the bottom panel 163 into the space between the sidewalls 164. The pin 168 is arranged at the end of the upper track member 160 between the sidewall apertures 167. As the upper track member 160 slides to create an expanded configuration, the pin is used to initiate and control the operation of the camover locking mechanism 162.

FIGS. 46 and 47 show schematics of the camover latch assembly 162 within the lower locking track member 161. Specifically, the latch assembly is comprised of a locking member 169 that is secured to the bottom panel 163 of the lower locking track member 161 in a position that is off of the central longitudinal axis of the bottom panel 163. The locking member 169 is secured to the bottom panel with a screw 170, thus allowing the locking member 169 to rotate freely about the central axis of the screw 170.

The locking member 169 is irregularly shaped with two large protrusions 171 and 173 and two small protrusions 172 and 174 extending from the locking member 169. Locking protrusions 171 and 173 are of the same triangular corner shape and dimensions. Locking protrusions 172 and 174 with respect to each other are also of the same triangular corner shape and dimensions. The smaller locking protrusions 172 and 174 extend from opposing ends of the locking member 169, while the larger locking protrusions 171 and 173 extend from the other pair of opposing ends of the locking member 169, such that the locking member 169 has two fold rotational symmetry about the central axis of the screw 170. The large protrusion 171 and the small protrusion 174 both share a common side to each form a triangular corner shape, while the large protrusion 172 and the small protrusion 173 also share a common side to each form a triangular corner shape.

FIGS. 48-52 show schematics of the camover latch assembly 162 as the telescopically adjustable locking track 152 is operated. Specifically FIG. 48 shows the first step as the upper track member 160 is displaced to an expanded position within the lower track member 161. As the telescopically adjustable locking track 152 is extended, the pin 168 of the upper track member 160 engages the locking member 169 on the lower track member 161. The pin 168 comes into contact with one side of the large protrusion 173, causing the entire locking member 169 to rotate about the central pivot axis 175 of the locking member 169. The rotation of the locking member 169 causes the large protrusion 171 to extend out of both the upper track member aperture 160 and the lower track member aperture 167. the locking member 169 continues to rotate as the upper track member 160 is extended, until the pin 168 rests in the cavity 176 formed by the intersection of one side of protrusions 174 with one side of protrusion 176.

FIG. 49. shows a schematic of the camover latch assembly 162 in relation to the telescopically adjustable locking track 152 during the second operational step as the upper track member 160 is locked into a supporting position. Once the upper track member 160 reaches a fully extended position, it is retracted back into the lower track member 161 so that the top of the upper sidewall aperture 177 makes contact with the large protrusion 171. Once contact between the top of the upper sidewall aperture 177 and the large protrusion 171 is made, the upper track member 160 is retracted back down into the lower track member 161 even further, causing the locking member 169 to continue rotating about the central pivot axis. The locking member 169 continues to rotate, until the smaller protrusion 172 touches the side wall of the upper locking track member 160. At this point, the upper track member 160 is in an extended and locked position as downward displacement back into the lower track member 161 is stopped by the protrusion 171 engaging the top of the sidewall aperture 177.

FIG. 50 shows a schematic of the camover latch assembly 162 as the upper track member 160 is disengaged from the extended locked position. From the locked position, the upper track member 160, which is stopped from moving downward back into the lower track member 161, is again extended vertically out from the lower track member 161. As the lower track member 161 is displaced vertically upward, the upper track member pin 168 makes contact with the edge of locking member 169 formed from the common side shared by protrusions 171 and 174. Since the locking member 169 is mounted off of the central longitudinal axis of the lower track member 161, the pin 168 engages the locking member 169 such that the locking member 69 continues to rotate as the upper track member 160 is further extended. The rotation of the locking member 169 causes the smaller protrusion 172 to extend out between both the upper track member aperture 166 and the lower track member aperture 167. The upper track member is extended until the large protrusion 171 makes contact with the bottom of the upper track member aperture 166.

The upper track member 160 is then retracted back into the lower track member 161. As the upper track member 160 is lowered, the top of the upper track member side wall aperture 177 makes contact with the small protrusion 172. This contact causes the lock member 169 to rotate even further. As shown in FIG. 51, the lock member 169 rotates so that both large and small protrusions 172 and 171 face downward, and the face of the locking member 169 that is the shared side used to form protrusions 173 and 172 is parallel with the sidewalls of both locking track members 160 and 161. In turn, the upper track member 160 can retract completely back into the lower track member 161.

FIG. 52. shows a schematic of the camover latch assembly 162 as the process of engaging the lock repeats itself. As the upper track member 160 is extended out from the lower track member 161, the upper track member pin 168 engages the large protrusion 171. This causes the locking member 169 to rotate about the pivot axis 175. As the upper track member 160 is extended further from the lower track member 161, the locking member 169 continues to rotate causing the large protrusion 173 to extend out from the upper track aperture 166 and the lower track aperture 167. The upper track member 160 is extended until the pin is stopped in the cavity between the small protrusion 172 and the large protrusion 171. The upper track member 160 is then retracted back into the lower track member 161 until the top of the upper track member sidewall aperture 177 engages the large protrusion 173, thereby locking the upper track member 160 in an extended position. The apparatus may be constructed to any suitable size. For example, one size apparatus may be configured for adult clothing and another size apparatus may be configured for children's clothing merely by altering the dimensions of the panels.

The instant invention has been shown and described herein in what is considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment. It is recognized, however, that departures may be made therefrom within the scope of the invention and that obvious modifications will occur to a person skilled in the art.





 
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