Title:
See-through mailbox
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A mailbox is constructed of a transparent material. The transparent material used in the mailbox construction allows for visual inspection of the interior of the mailbox. Thus dangerous objects that may be placed in the mailbox such as pipe bombs can be detected and injury avoided. The amount of transparent material, as opposed to non-transparent material used in construction may vary; thus the mailbox may only be partially constructed of transparent material provided the amount of transparent material still allows for visual inspection of the mailbox interior. In addition the mailbox may be provided with an inspection port or window that allows visual inspection of the interior.



Inventors:
Morgan, Ray H. (Springfield, VA, US)
Application Number:
10/237528
Publication Date:
11/20/2003
Filing Date:
09/06/2002
Assignee:
MORGAN RAY H.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G29/122; (IPC1-7): B65D91/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MILLER, WILLIAM L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP (Glendale, CA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A see-through mailbox comprising: a structure defining an enclosure with an interior for receiving mailpieces and an exterior wherein a door attached to such structure allows access to the interior of said structure from the exterior of said structure; and wherein the structure comprises at least in part transparent material sufficient to permit visual inspection of the interior of said structure.

2. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said transparent material is comprised in part of glass.

3. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said transparent material is comprised in part of plastic.

4. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said transparent material is comprised in part of polyacrylate.

5. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said transparent material is comprised in part of polycarbonate.

6. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said enclosure further comprises a bodypiece and wherein said door and said bodypiece are comprised at least in part of transparent material.

7. A see-through mailbox comprising: A structure defining an enclosure with an interior for receiving mailpieces and an exterior and wherein said structure comprises a bodypiece, a door, a backpiece and a bottom and wherein at least one of said bodypiece, door, backpiece and bottom comprises transparent material.

8. The see-through mailbox of claim 7 wherein said bodypiece comprises a top piece and two side walls and wherein said top piece is transparent.

9. Thee see-through mailbox of claim 7 wherein said structure comprises a frontpiece, two sides, lid, backpiece, and bottom and wherein at least one of said frontpiece, two sides, lid, backpiece, and bottom comprises transparent material.

10. The see-through mailbox of claim 7 wherein said structure comprises a frontpiece, two sides, lid, backpiece, and bottom and wherein said lid is transparent.

11. The see-through mailbox of claim 10 wherein said lid and said frontpiece are transparent.

12. The see-through mailbox of claim 7 wherein said structure comprises a frontpiece, two sides, lid, backpiece, and bottom, and wherein said frontpiece is transparent.

13. A see-through mailbox comprising: A structure defining an enclosure with an interior for receiving mailpieces and an exterior wherein a door attached to such structure allows access to the interior of said structure from the exterior of said structure and wherein said structure further defines an inspection window so as to allow visual inspection of the interior of said structure through the inspection window.

14. The see-through mailbox of claim 13 wherein said inspection window further comprises transparent material.

15. The see-through mailbox of claim 14 wherein said transparent material comprises polyacrylate.

16. The see-through mailbox of claim 14 wherein said transparent material comprises polycarbonate.

17. The see-through mailbox of claim 14 wherein said inspection window is located on said door.

18. The see-through mailbox of claim 14 wherein said structure comprises a bodypiece, end piece and bottom piece and wherein said inspection window is located on said bodypiece.

19. The see-through mailbox of claim 13 wherein said structure comprises a frontpiece, two sides, lid, backpiece, and bottompiece and wherein said inspection window is located on said lid.

20. The see-through mailbox of claim 19 wherein said inspection window is located on said frontpiece.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/378,036 filed on May 15, 2002, entitled “See-Through Mailbox.” The contents of the above provisional application is relied upon and expressly incorporated by reference as if fully set forth herein.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0002] The invention was made by an agency of the United States government or under a contract with an agency of the United States government, the United States Postal Service (“USPS” or “Postal Service”), an independent establishment of the executive branch of the U.S. government.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] 1. Field of the Invention

[0004] The present invention relates generally to mailboxes. More particularly the invention relates to the construction of mailboxes and the materials for the construction of mailboxes.

[0005] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0006] There are several mailbox designs currently approved for customer/household use. Many such postal mailboxes are traditionally made out of nontransparent materials such as metal, wood, and opaque plastic. As is well known the mailbox is defined by an enclosure with a door. Opening the door allows mailpieces to be placed in the mailbox, and the mailpieces may also be retrieved from the mailbox by opening the door. Such mailboxes may be placed on the roadside curb or may be hung from a dwelling.

[0007] In addition to private mailboxes there are also public mailboxes. A public mailbox is typically much larger than a private mailbox. They are typically placed in locations of high public traffic for ready access by postal consumers. A public mailbox typically has a hinged door through which a member of the public may deposit a mailpiece. However, members of the public cannot retrieve a mailpiece once it has been deposited in a public mailbox; the mail is gathered for delivery by a postal employee through an access door separate from the deposit door. Typically the access door is locked to restrict access and provide for mail security.

[0008] Mailboxes both public and residential have occasionally been the target of pranks and vandalism. In 2002 there was a spate of more serious incidents involving explosive devices planted in mailboxes. Devices known as pipe bombs were placed in mailboxes. The devices were rigged to explode when moved. The bombs injured several customers and mail carriers. It is also unfortunately anticipated that mailboxes may be a target of future terroristic acts and threats.

[0009] Mailboxes by nature are publicly accessible. Further the postal carriers and individuals who access mailboxes typically do so in a hurried manner with little if any thought to the potential danger that may await inside them. Thus mailboxes make an inviting target for those bent on anonymous and antisocial violence.

[0010] Accordingly, there is a need to improve the design of mailboxes. It is desirable to provide an improved design whereby mailboxes are made more safe and secure both for the contents of the mailboxes and for the individuals who access these mailboxes. The improvement would ideally be achieved with simple and inexpensive design modifications. Further the improved design should allow individuals to detect dangerous devices inside the mailbox without the need to open or access the mailbox.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] The present invention provides a see-through mailbox, or alternatively a mailbox that has an inspection window or is in part see-through. In order to overcome the disadvantages of current mailboxes, there is disclosed a mailbox that allows visual inspection of the interior of the mailbox. Thus a letter carrier or individual could, by visual inspection, determine whether any dangerous items such as pipe bombs have been placed in the mailbox. The advantages of the present invention are applicable to both public and private mailboxes.

[0012] It is an object of the present invention to provide a see through mailbox. The see-through mailbox may be constructed with the dimensions and layout of those opaque mailboxes now in use. However, the material of major construction used for the see-through mailbox is of a transparent, or see-through material.

[0013] It is a further object of the present invention to provide a partially see-through mailbox. Instead of a totally transparent mailbox, the needed improvement in security may be achieved by providing a mailbox of which only a portion is transparent. Thus, for example a door or wall of the mailbox may be made transparent. The remainder of the mailbox may be constructed of traditional, opaque materials.

[0014] An additional object of the present invention is to provide a mailbox with a transparent inspection window or port. A mailbox may also be constructed of traditional design and materials to which is added an inspection window, or port. The window, of transparent material, would allow visual inspection of the interior of the mailbox.

[0015] The see-through mailbox of the present invention will provide a deterrent against anyone who would place any dangerous object in the mailbox. The transparent quality of the mailbox would allow detection of the dangerous object. The see-through mailbox will thus safeguard both the public and the mailcarriers by allowing them to see the interior of the mailbox before even opening the mailbox. In particular the human injury that resulted from the pipe bomb explosions in 2002 could be avoided with the present invention.

[0016] Additional objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention will be realized and attained by means of the elements and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claim. It is to be understood that both the foregoing general description and the following detailed description are exemplary and explanatory only and are not restrictive of the invention, as claimed. Thus, the present invention comprises a combination of features, steps, and advantages which enable it to overcome various deficiencies of the prior art. The various characteristics described above, as well as other features, will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments of the invention, and by referring to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] For a more detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the present invention, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part of the specification, and wherein:

[0018] FIG. 1 is a schematic drawing showing the see-through mailbox.

[0019] FIG. 2 is schematic drawing showing a partially see-through mailbox.

[0020] FIG. 3 is a schematic drawing showing a mailbox with an inspection window.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

[0021] Reference will now be made in detail to exemplary embodiments of the invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, the same reference numbers will be used throughout the drawings to refer to the same or like parts.

[0022] Referring initially to FIG. 1 there is shown a schematic of a preferred embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 1 depicts what is a standard residential mailbox 10. The structure of the mailbox is formed by a bodypiece 12, backpiece (not shown), bottom 16, and door 18. Bodypiece 12 may be a unitary piece or may be constructed of individual members such as side walls and a top. Bodypiece, backpiece, bottom, and door are joined to form the mailbox through fastening methods such as crimping, gluing, screwing, and bolting.

[0023] In the see-through mailbox members such as the bodypiece, or its components, door, backpiece, and door are formed of transparent material. These members are then joined in traditional, known methods to form the see-through mailbox. There now exist a multitude of designs for mailboxes, of which FIG. 1 is representative. For example, mailbox shape may be box-like, rectangular, and curved in exterior appearance. Nevertheless the present invention may be adapted to any of the known designs. Mailbox designs by necessity comprise a series of structural pieces that form an enclosure where mail is deposited. The see-through mailbox substitutes the material of construction for known structural pieces with a transparent material.

[0024] Referring now to FIG. 2 there is shown a separate embodiment of the present invention. Mailbox 20 is composed of structural members, frontpiece 24, sides 22, lid 28, and backpiece (not shown) and bottompiece (not shown). Lid 28 also has an opening button 26 attached. As before, the components of the see-through mailbox are fastened with known methods. In this embodiment, only portions of the mailbox are composed of see-through material. Thus, for example, lid 28 and frontpiece 24 are transparent so as to allow quick and full inspection of the interior of the mailbox. The sides, bottom, and backpiece may be made of opaque materials such as metal.

[0025] In the embodiment of FIG. 2 at least one of the structural members is transparent and at least one structural member is non-transparent. Thus, only the lid 28 or only the frontpiece 24 may be transparent. Alternatively any other member such as one of the sides, the backpiece and the bottom piece may be transparent.

[0026] In another preferred embodiment, with an exterior structure different from that in FIG. 2, only a portion of the structure, structural members or part of the enclosure forming the mailbox is transparent. Preferably the transparent portion of the mailbox is that portion which directly faces the mailcarrier or customer when that person accesses the mailbox. It may, for example be a lid, a front-facing portion, or a top-portion, or any of these three in combination. By selecting these portions of the mailbox to be transparent, a person may readily inspect the interior of the mailbox.

[0027] A see-through mailbox of the present invention may thus be constructed from the body of an existing, opaque mailbox. A transparent door, lid, top-piece, wall, or other structural member that is added to an opaque mailbox while the corresponding opaque door, lid, top-piece, wall, or structural member is removed, will create a see-through mailbox.

[0028] Referring now to FIG. 3 there is shown a further embodiment of the present invention. Visual inspection of the interior of a mailbox may be achieved by providing an inspection window or port on the exterior structure of the mailbox. In FIG. 3 door 18 of a mailbox is shown. Inspection window 30 is located on door 18. The inspection window is created in one embodiment by cutting a portion of an opaque door away and covering the resulting hole with transparent material. The material may be joined to the existing door, or other member, with known methods such as gluing and/or fastening.

[0029] While FIG. 3 shows an inspection window located on a mailbox door, the inspection window may be located on another member or portion of the mailbox. For example, it may be located on the top or sides of the mailbox. Preferably an inspection window is placed on a mailbox so as to allow quick and easy visual inspection of the mailbox interior. Likewise, the inspection window is not restricted to a particular dimension, size or shape so long as it provides for visual inspection of the interior. The shape may be circular, curved, and/or polygonal.

[0030] The amount of transparent material, as opposed to non-transparent material used in construction may vary; thus the mailbox may only be partially constructed of transparent material provided the amount of transparent material still allows for visual inspection of the mailbox interior.

[0031] Throughout this disclosure the terms see-through and transparent have been used to denote a material that allows an ordinary individual to conduct a visual inspection of the interior of the mailbox. The degree to which the material is transparent or see-through thus need only be the degree needed to allow such a visual inspection of the contents of the mailbox. Tinted materials, smoked materials, partially obscured materials may all provide the transparent material necessary for construction of the mailbox in this invention provided it still allows for visual inspection of the mailbox interior.

[0032] It is further to be understood that certain components of the see-through mailbox may in fact not be composed of transparent materials. For example the hinge that allows opening doors to swing may be constructed, as is now the case, of a metal material. A clasp, latch, or other closing device that holds a door in a closed or open position may also be of a non-transparent material. Further, glues and certain fasteners such as screws or bolts may be formed of non-transparent material. While these materials facilitate the assembly or use of the mailbox they do not comprise such a significant portion of the mailbox enclosure so as to prevent visual inspection of its interior.

[0033] The material that comprises the transparent or see-through structure in the mailbox of the present invention can be any material sufficiently transparent so as to provide the needed visual inspection. Acceptable examples are glass or plastic. Preferred materials are polycarbonates such as Lexan and polyacrylates such as plexiglas. Of the glass materials, any glass composition, including specially formulated glass, may be used. Laminates of glass, plastic, and both glass and plastic may also be used. It is also preferred to construct the see-through mailbox of a durable and break-resistant material.

[0034] The principles of the see-through mailbox may also be applied to public, postal mailboxes, as for example mail drops of the US Postal Service. In a preferred embodiment portions of a public postal mailbox are provided of transparent material. Alternatively, an inspection window is provided in the exterior structure of the mailbox so as to allow inspection of the interior. As with household mailboxes, the transparent portion of a public mailbox must be such that it allows visual inspection of the mailbox interior. The transparent portion of the mailbox may constitute the entire mailbox or a portion of the mailbox.

[0035] While preferred embodiments of this invention have been shown and described, modifications thereof can be made by one skilled in the art without departing from the spirit or teaching of this invention. The embodiments described herein are exemplary only and are not limiting. Many variations and modifications of the system and apparatus are possible and are within the scope of the invention. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the process just described may easily have steps added, taken away, or modified without departing from the principles of the present invention. Accordingly, the scope of protection is not limited to the embodiments described herein, but is only limited by the claims which follow, the scope of which shall include all equivalents of the subject matter of the claims.