Title:
Breakaway gripper-style lanyard connector
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
According to one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a breakaway connector for use in a breakaway lanyard comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attached to the ends of a strap that forms the lanyard. The breakaway members each preferably comprise a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body so as to accept the end of the strap when in an open position and to grip the end of the strap when in a closed position, preferably by means of projections extending from the hinged closure element and the base body compressing and engaging the strap. According to another preferred embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a breakaway lanyard comprising a strap and a breakaway connector comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attached to the ends of the strap.



Inventors:
Raia, Richard M. (Lexington, MA, US)
Brosofsky, Robert (Tewksbury, MA, US)
Tsui, Angela (Lexington, MA, US)
Application Number:
10/314866
Publication Date:
07/03/2003
Filing Date:
12/09/2002
Assignee:
Comprehensive Identification Products, Inc. (Burlington, MA)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
24/3.4
International Classes:
A44B99/00; A45F5/00; A45F3/00; A45F3/04; (IPC1-7): A45F5/00; A44B21/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BRITTAIN, JAMES R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BANNER & WITCOFF, LTD. (BOSTON, MA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A breakaway connector for use in a breakaway lanyard comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members, wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attachable to ends of a strap.

2. The breakaway connector of claim 1, wherein at least one of the pair of breakaway members further comprises a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body so as to accept an end of a strap when in an open position and to grip the end of the strap when in a closed position.

3. The breakaway connector of claim 2, wherein either one or both of the hinged closure element and the base body further comprises projections.

4. The breakaway connector of claim 3, wherein both the base body and the hinged closure element further comprise projections.

5. The breakaway connector of claim 2, wherein the hinged closure element reversibly moves between an open position and a closed position.

6. The breakaway connector of claim 3, wherein the base body further comprises a recess of sufficient width and depth to contain the end of the strap such that the projections compress and engage the strap when the hinged closure element is in the closed position.

7. The breakaway connector of claim 3, wherein the projections comprise sawtooth-shaped teeth.

8. The breakaway connector of claim 2, wherein the pair of breakaway members comprise a male member and an interengaging female member.

9. The breakaway connector of claim 8, wherein the male member comprises a rigid protrusion with at least one side notch and a semicircular end.

10. The breakaway connector of claim 8, wherein the female member comprises a slot in a wall, at least one side of which includes a detent.

11. The breakaway connector of claim 2 wherein the hinged closure element is held in a closed position by a snap closure.

12. The breakaway connector of claim 3, wherein one of the hinged closure element and the base body comprises projections and the other of the hinged closure element and base body comprises ridges.

13. The breakaway connector of claim 3, wherein one of the hinged closure element and the base body comprises projections and the other of the hinged closure element and base body comprises a compressible inner surface.

14. A breakaway connector comprising: a male member with a male protrusion; a female member with a slot capable of accepting and releasably engaging the male protrusion; wherein the male member and female member each comprise a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body.

15. The breakaway connector of claim 13, wherein each base body further comprises protrusions contained within a recess.

16. The breakaway connector of claim 14, wherein the hinged closure element further comprises projections.

17. The breakaway connector of claim 15, wherein the projections of each of the hinged closure elements and the base bodies project inwardly when the hinged closure element is in a closed position.

18. A lanyard construction comprising: a strap; and a breakaway connector comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members, wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attachable to ends of a strap.

19. The lanyard of claim 17 wherein at least one of the pair of breakaway members further comprises a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body so as to accept an end of a strap when in an open position and to grip the end of the strap when in a closed position.

20. The lanyard of claim 17 wherein the strap is manually cutable.

Description:

[0001] This application claims priority from commonly owned, copending provisional application Serial No. 60/340,109, filed Dec. 11, 2001, the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The purpose of this invention is to provide a combination breakaway connector and gripper connector for attachment to fabric materials to form a closed loop neck lanyard or cord. Such a lanyard is used to display and suspend an ID badge around a person's neck. As such, the gripper connector also provides a simple and rapid means to manually assemble and attach the connector to various strap materials for forming these lanyards.

[0003] This breakaway connector, when utilized with a cutable strap, permits users to customize the length of the strap to create whatever size lanyard they desire. Further, when utilized along with an adjustable mounting element, the lanyards described herein can have the distance between the breakaway connector and the mounting element adjusted by the user.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0004] There are many types of articles that include a strap to be worn about a part of the body, which may be generically termed lanyards and may include loop-like elements worn about the neck or the wrist and even belts worn about the waist. In many cases, these lanyards are fitted with some type of a mounting element such that another article, such as an identification badge, keys, whistle, or other article, may be attached to the strap. Often, the lanyard is attached directly to an article being carried or displayed, for example sunglasses or eyeglasses, such that the article forms part of the loop.

[0005] Seron, in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,027,477 and 5,092,018, discloses one type of breakaway lanyard, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference. The lanyard of the Seron patents consist of a strap forming a closed loop of flexible material adapted to be disposed about a part of a human body, a mounting element at a fixed location on the loop for mounting an object to be displayed or used by the wearer of the lanyard, and a breakaway element defining a weak point at a location remote from the mounting element at which the loop may be opened and pulled free of the wearer. The remoteness of the weak point from the mounting element is identified as a critical feature of the Seron invention; this location is said to prevent the breakaway element from becoming entangled along with the object mounted to the mounting element. The breakaway element of the Seron patents also contains a connector section in which the strap is glued or solvent-welded. The glue or solvent used adds to the cost of constructing the lanyards and further means that the overall length of the lanyard must be fixed at the time of manufacture. Further, certain solvents are costly to dispose of and present health hazard to those exposed to them.

[0006] Nelson, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,244,135, hereby incorporated by reference, describes a breakaway lanyard that comprises a strap that terminates in aglets at each end and a length of flexible hollow tubing into which the aglets are pushed. The aglets have a cross-sectional area greater than the cross-sectional area of the inside of the tubing such that at least one of the aglets is retained only by frictional contact. Given that the flexible tubing must be stretched around the aglet whenever the lanyard is in use, the tubing is continuously under a stretching force that will eventually weaken the material and cause it to lose rebound, causing the breakaway connector to fail to hold the lanyard together.

[0007] Co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 09/677,295, incorporated herein in its entirety for all purposes, describes a breakaway lanyard with an adjustable mounting element in which the user can select the best location of the weak point relative to the mounting element about the periphery of the lanyard loop. The mounting element is connected with or contiguous with a sliding connector in which frictional interaction between the material of the lanyard loop and the sliding connector allows the user to position the mounting element at any desired location. The connector is attached to the strap by means of sonic welding, adhesives, or solvent welding.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] The present invention provides a breakaway lanyard connector that alleviates the above problems associated with glue or solvent use, in terms of increased cost and decreased flexibility for user adjustment. Breakaway gripper style lanyard connectors of the present invention may be easily manually attached to a lanyard that is cut or sized to user-selected lengths. The breakaway connectors can further be readily transferred from lanyard to lanyard.

[0009] Certain preferred embodiments of the present invention comprise a breakaway connector comprising two separate members, preferably rectangular, each consisting of a base body, a hinged closure element and alternately inter-engaging, male and female parts for purposes of joining two separate ends of a loop to form the closed lanyard. Other preferred embodiments comprise a strap in connection with the breakaway connector such as to form a loop when the breakaway connector is engaged. The lanyard optionally further comprises a mounting element that is user-adjustable as to the distance it may be spaced from the breakaway connector. In other preferred embodiments, the mounting element may be free-floating or may be fixed, that is to say not capable of being adjusted by the user.

[0010] According to one embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a breakaway connector for use in a breakaway lanyard comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attached to the ends of a strap that forms the lanyard. The breakaway members each preferably comprise a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body so as to accept the end of the strap when in an open position and to grip the end of the strap when in a closed position, preferably by means of projections extending from the hinged closure element and the base body compressing and engaging the strap. According to another preferred embodiment of the present invention, there is provided a breakaway lanyard comprising a strap and a breakaway connector comprising a pair of releasably enjoyable breakaway members wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attached to the ends of the strap.

[0011] In certain preferred embodiments, a breakaway connector for use in a breakaway lanyard comprises a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members, wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attachable to ends of a strap. Preferably, at least one of the pair of breakaway members further comprises a base body and a hinged closure element hingedly attached to the base body so as to accept an end of a strap when in an open position and to grip the end of the strap when in a closed position. Optionally, the connector is manually removably attached to the ends of a strap; that is to say, the hinged closure element can be hingedly moved between an open position and a closed position such that the user can remove the connector from the strap if desired, but whereby the strap will not become unattached from the connector when not desired. Advantageously, the hinged closure element is held or retained in the closed position such as by a latch, snap or snap closure, ensuring that the hinge does not open when not intended to by the user. In other preferred embodiments, the hinged closure element moves from an open position to a substantially permanently closed position. Preferably, both of the pair of breakaway members comprise such a configuration.

[0012] Either or both of the hinged closure element and the base body may optionally further comprises projections. The projections are preferably contained within a recess on the base body of sufficient width and depth to contain the end of the strap such that the projections compress and engage the strap when the hinged closure element is in the closed position. The projections are preferably sawtooth-shaped so as to grip and/or penetrate the material of the strap to secure the strap to the connector. The projections may comprise other shapes, or a mix of shapes, as desired. Other suitable shapes for the projections will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure. Where only one or neither of the hinged closure element and base body comprises projections, the other or both of the hinged closure element and base body preferably comprise a surface against which the projections of the other can push the strap so as to secure the strap. This surface may be smooth, or may be optionally ridged, or may comprise recesses or indentations. In this fashion, when the hinged closure element is closed, the strap is held in the connector by frictional forces, mechanical forces resulting from the penetration of the strap material by the projections, or both. The projections in certain preferred embodiments are arranged in rows such that the tips of the projections of the hinged closure element align with the gap between rows of projections of the base body. Other suitable arrangements of projections will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of this disclosure.

[0013] The breakaway members of the breakaway connector comprise a male member and an interengaging female member. In certain preferred embodiments, the male member comprises a rigid protrusion with at least one side notch and a semicircular end. Preferably the male protrusion comprises at least one notch on each side. In certain preferred embodiments the female member comprises an opening, for example a slot, in a wall, wherein at least one side of the opening includes a detent. Preferably each side includes at least one detent. The notches of the male protrusion advantageously are aligned to releasably engage the detents of the female member when the male protrusion is engaged into the opening of the female member. Preferably, the semicircular end of the male protrusion is slightly wider than the opening between the detents of the female member, such that when the male protrusion is forced into the opening of the female member, the semicircular end forces the detents slightly apart. The detents then snap back into position when they encounter the notches of the male protrusion, removably holding the connector together.

[0014] Another embodiment of the present invention comprises a lanyard construction comprising a strap comprising a flexible material and a breakaway connector comprising a pair of releasably engageable breakaway members, wherein the breakaway members are manually removably attachable to ends of a strap, preferably comprised of a flexible material such as plastic or cloth. The breakaway connector of this embodiment may comprise any of the embodiments previously discussed above. The strap in certain preferred embodiments preferably comprises of a material which is durable enough for repeated usage without fraying or tearing but is manually cutable; that is to say the strap is capable of being cut to desired lengths by conventional means such as scissors or knifes such as utility knifes with razor-type blades, or by other means typically available to end-users of the lanyard. Preferably, the strap is of a multiple-stranded woven or webbed construction. More preferably, the strap is of the nylon/synthetic cord type. Additionally, the strap is preferably constructed to have a rectangular cross-section of thin width relative to length.

[0015] The lanyard in preferred embodiments is used to retain or display an object, for example a badge or identification card, keys, sunglasses or eyeglasses. The lanyards in such instances may optionally further comprises an adjustable-position mounting element attached to the strap and adapted for mounting an object. The mounting element may comprise a hook member attached to a sliding member, optionally wherein the hook member and sliding member comprise an integral unit. The sliding member may optionally comprise two offset and spaced-apart slots and a friction bar between the slots. The hook member may optionally comprise a hinged extension member emanating from the sliding member, wherein the distal end of the extension member includes a closure member which is adapted for closure of the extension member with a corresponding member in the main body to form an attachment point for one or more other objects, for example a key ring, a badge clip, a swivel hook, a J-hook, or a bulldog clip. Other suitable mounting elements will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] FIGS. 1A, 1B and 1C show a preferred embodiment of the male member base body of the breakaway connector from a top view, a side view, and an end view, respectively.

[0017] FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C show a preferred embodiment of the female member base body of the breakaway connector from a top view, a side view, and an end view, respectively.

[0018] FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C show one preferred embodiment of the hinged closure element from a bottom view, a side view, and an end view, respectively.

[0019] FIG. 4 shows a side view of another preferred embodiment of the male member of the breakaway connector with the hinged closure element assembled and in the closed position.

[0020] FIGS. 5 and 6 show side views of other preferred embodiments of the male member of the breakaway connector, with the hinged closure element assembled and in the closed position.

[0021] FIGS. 7 and 8 show another preferred embodiment of the female member of the breakaway connector from a top view and a perspective view.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0022] Preferred embodiments of the invention will now be described in detail. Referring to FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C and 3A, 3B and 3C, the male member 2 of the breakaway connector comprises a base body 4 and a hinged closure element 15. The base body 4 of the male member has at a front face 6 a rigid protrusion 8 that removably engages with an opening 51 in the front face 49 of the female base body 47 (shown in FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C). The protrusion has a pair of opposed notches 10 that releasably engage detents 65 of the female base body 47. Preferably, the protrusion 8 terminates in a semicircular end 12.

[0023] The female member 45 of the breakaway connector, illustrated in FIGS. 3 and 4, similarly comprises a base body 47 and a hinged closure element 15. The base body 47 has a front face 49 in which there is an opening 51 configured to removably engage with the protrusion 8 of the male member 2. Located within the opening are opposing detents 65 which are preferably integral with the wall 67 of the opening. Semicircular end 12 of protrusion 8 is wider than the opening between detents 65. As a result, when the user forces the rigid protrusion 8 into opening 51, the semicircular end 12 forces the detents slightly apart such that the semicircular end can move past the detents and the detents can then releasably engage with notches 10.

[0024] In a preferred embodiment, the sides 14 of the protrusion 8 taper outward from the body side of the notches 10 to the base body 4 of the male member to more readily guide the protrusion into the engaged position with the female member. In other preferred embodiments, the interior walls 67 of the opening of the female member are tapered outward from the opening-side of the detents to the front face of the female member for the same reason. In still another preferred embodiment, the tapering of the protrusion walls 14 and the opening walls 67 match, to guide the protrusion into the engaged position with the female member and hold it in place when engaged. In another preferred embodiment, exemplified in FIGS. 7 and 8, the interior walls 71 extend just beyond detents 65 and then taper back to the rear of the opening, thus defining a pair of protrusions 73 within opening 61. Again, semicircular end 12 of protrusion 8 is wider than the opening between detents 65. As a result, when the user forces the rigid protrusion 8 into opening 61, the semicircular end 12 forces the detents slightly apart such that the semicircular end can move past the detents and the detents can then releasably engage with notches 10.

[0025] Thus, the entry of the male member in the present invention forces the detents of the female member apart, and the complete insertion of the male member, such that the detents align with the notches of the male member results in the detents snapping back to their initial positions into the notches and locking or engaging the members. As a result, the preferred breakaway features of the present invention both include a releasable male/female engagement in which the male member is fixed and does not compress while the female member expands to receive the male member and is not fixed. The force required to open the breakaway connector can be seen to be interdependent on a number of variables, such as the materials used to construct the members, the size of the detents and notches, and the overall physical structure of the members.

[0026] One of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure, would recognize that other means of releasable engagement, for example in which the male member compresses and the female member remains fixed, would also be suitable. Such a configuration could be achieved, for example, by the choice of materials making up the male protrusion. Other known breakaway combinations could alternatively be employed herein, including for example hook-and-loop elements (e.g., Velcro®), flexible rubber or plastic tubing with removable solid inserts, and the like. Such members are well known in this art.

[0027] Referring again to FIGS. 1A, 1B, 1C and 2A, 2B, and 2C, both the male and female base bodies 4 and 47 have a back portion 30 with a back face 31. The back portions each contain a recess 33 that is open to both the top and to the back of the base body of the members. Each recess contains an array of sharp, pointed projections 35 protruding upwardly in any desired spacing. The projections are preferably sawtooth-shaped, that is to say the ends 37 of the projections angle towards the front face of the member. In other preferred embodiments, they may be needle-shaped, conical, or any other shape suitable for gripping a strap pressed against the projections.

[0028] The sides of the back portions 30 of the male and female members that define the sides of the recess 33 contain hinge sites 92 adapted to receive and hold the hinge members of the hinged closure element. The hinge sites in certain preferred embodiments are circular holes; in other preferred embodiments they may be slot-shaped or oval shaped to permit the hinged closure element to slide upward relative to the base member when in an open position. In still other preferred embodiments the hinge sites may be slots that are open to the top rear-ward portion of the side walls, such that the hinged closure element could be readily removed when in the open position. Other configurations of the hinge sites will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure.

[0029] Preferred embodiments of the hinged closure element 15 as shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C comprise a cover portion 16 and a pair of hinge members 17. The hinge members are configured to reside in the hinge sites 92 of the base bodies such that the hinged closure element is longitudinally hingedly attached to the base body. The hinge members may comprise solid protrusions extending from or mounted to the cover portion. Alternatively, the hinge members may comprise a single axis mounted to of integral with the hinged closure element. In yet other preferred embodiments, the hinge members may comprise push-pin elements, i.e. elements that can be pushed inwardly but that are spring-loaded to extend outwardly when not being so pushed such that they can be compressed inwardly for insertion of the hinged closure element into the base body and snap into place upon being positioned adjacent to the hinge sites. Other configurations of the hinge members will be readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure.

[0030] The cover portion 16 includes at the edge remote from the hinge members snap closures 18 that are engageable with snap closure recesses 93. The snap closures are in certain preferred embodiments of a quarter-rounded or triangular cross section such as to be capable of deflection when being closed and snapping back to its original position when reaching a fully closed state. The snap closure recesses 93 are typically located at the front face 94 of the recess. In other preferred embodiments, the snap closures are located at the side edges of the cover portion 16 and the snap closure recesses are located at the sides 30 that define the recesses. Other snap closure configurations will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure.

[0031] The cover portion 16 in certain preferred embodiments is of the same configuration as the recess 33, when viewed from above, such that when in the closed position, the cover portion completely covers the recess. Alternatively, the cover portion may encompass less than the full recess or may overlay the recess, provided that there is a snap closure connector for holding the hinged closure element in the closed position. The hinged closure element as described is thus capable of being moved between an open position and a closed position, in which the snap closures reversibly hold the hinged closure element closed. In yet other preferred embodiments, the snap closures irreversibly hold the hinged closure element in the closed position, i.e. once closed the hinge cannot be reopened.

[0032] The hinged closure element 15 in one preferred embodiment contains an array of sharp, pointed projections 36 protruding downwardly (relative to the hinged closure element in the closed position) in any desired spacing. These projections are also preferably sawtooth-shaped; in other preferred embodiments, they may be needle-shaped, conical, or any other shape suitable for gripping a strap pressed against the projections. The spacing of the projections 36 may be any desired spacing; preferred is a spacing such that the projections 36 are offset from projections 35 of the base body when the hinged closure element is in the closed position. In this, way, the alternating projections compress and engage the strap thus prohibiting the strap from being dislodged or pulled away from the members.

[0033] In still other preferred embodiments, exemplified in FIGS. 5 and 6, either the hinged closure element or the recess of the corresponding base body, but not both, may in lieu of projections 35 or 36 comprise a flat or texture-surfaced pad 36, preferably a compressible pad comprised for example of rubber or plastic, suitable to compress a strap placed in the recess against the projections of the corresponding hinged closure element or the recess when the hinged closure element is in the closed position so that the projections compress and engage the strap and prohibit the strap from being dislodged or pulled away from the members.

[0034] The width of recess 33 of the back portions of the male and female members is preferably at least as wide as the width of the strap. Further, the recess is preferably of sufficient depth to accommodate the strap when the hinged closure element is in the closed position. More preferably, the depth of the recess is such that, taking into account the length of projections 35 and 36 and the width of the strap, when the hinged closure element is in the closed position, the pointed ends of the projections penetrates the strap sufficiently to grip the strap and prevent it's being pulled out of the male or female members. Suitable depths of recess, lengths of projections, and widths of strap will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art, given the benefit of the present disclosure.

[0035] Thus, the strap can be attached to the breakaway members of the present invention merely by placing the ends of the strap in the recesses of the male and female members and closing the hinged closure element such that it snaps shut. This means of attachment is advantageous for several reasons. First, the additional costs and potential safety issues associated with gluing or solvent-welding the strap are avoided. Second, the breakaway members can be attached by the end user. This means that the end user can adjust the length of the lanyard to suit his or her personal requirements in that the strap can be cut to length by the user and the breakaway members then attached, allowing for a custom fit. Further, should the user determine that the lanyard should be shorter, the user merely has to remove the members, cut the strap shorter, and replace the members. Prior art breakaway members, being permanently installed at the time of manufacture, lack this capacity; and while they can incorporate a length adjustment feature into their lanyards, this typically requires additional components and additional strap length, with commensurate increase in cost. Further, the physical location of the mounting element, breakaway connector, and length adjustment device place significant limitations on the degree to which the length of the lanyard can be adjusted.

[0036] The present invention has been described in detail, including preferred embodiments thereof. However, it will be appreciated that those of ordinary skill in the art, upon consideration of the present disclosure, may make modifications and/or improvements on this invention and still be within the scope and spirit of this invention as set forth in the following claims.





 
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