Title:
Portable strap carrier
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable strap carrier and method for managing a conventional tie down, such as a strap or belt, between uses. The carrier includes an elongated frame which defines two spaced apart slits for holding in place a short section of the tie down. Alternately, the short section is held in position by a pair of clips attached to the frame. In use, the short section is first secured to the frame; and then the remainder of the tie down is wrapped lengthwise about the frame. Two slots, disposed at opposing ends of the frame, guide placement of contiguous layers of the tie down as it is being wrapped. Once wrapped, the tie down can be bundled securely with the use of a tying strip attached to the frame.



Inventors:
Gholston, Mathew Howard (Peachtree City, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/259149
Publication Date:
04/01/2004
Filing Date:
09/27/2002
Assignee:
GHOLSTON MATHEW HOWARD
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B60P7/08; (IPC1-7): B65D73/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
FOSTER, JIMMY G
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Harry I. Leon (Atlanta, GA, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A portable strap carrier for carrying a conventional strap, comprising: a generally flat, elongated frame having first and second outer edges, the frame defining first and second transverse slits for slideably receiving portions of the strap, the first and second transverse slits extending inwardly from the first and second outer edges, respectively, and being spaced apart longitudinally; the frame further defining first and second open-ended slots, each slot being disposed on one of the distal ends of the frame; and means attached to the frame for tying around the strap when the strap is wrapped around the frame lengthwise.

2. The strap carrier according to claim 1, further comprising: means connected to the frame for interlocking the strap carrier with a second strap carrier.

3. The strap carrier according to claim 1, which further comprises: a pair of spaced apart nubs which are attached to the second outer edge, the frame defining a pair of spaced apart nub slots which extend inwardly from the first outer edge, the nub slots and nubs being so configured that the nubs on the strap carrier are interlockable with the nub slots on a second strap carrier.

4. The strap carrier according to claim 1, wherein the tying means comprises a strip of Velcro® material.

5. The strap carrier according to claim 1, wherein the tying means comprises a strip of material; and wherein the frame further defines a pair of notches for receiving portions of said strip, the notches extending inwardly from mid-sections of the first and second outer edges, respectively.

6. A carrier for carrying a conventional tie down, comprising: a thin, elongated frame which is generally rectangular in shape and has first and second outer edges, the frame defining first and second slots, each slot being disposed on one of the distal ends of the frame, the slots facilitating wrapping the tie down around the frame lengthwise; at least one clip attached to the frame for receiving a portion of the tie down between the clip and the frame; and means attached to the frame for tying around the tie down when the tie down is wrapped around the frame.

7. The carrier according to claim 6, further comprising means connected to the frame for interlocking the carrier with a second carrier.

8. The carrier according to claim 6, which further comprises: a pair of spaced apart nubs attached to the second outer edge, the frame defining a pair of spaced apart nub slots which extend inwardly from the first outer edge, the nub slots and nubs being so configured that the nubs on a first carrier are interlockable with the nub slots on a second carrier.

9. The carrier according to claim 6, wherein the clip is formed integrally with the frame.

10. The carrier according to claim 6, wherein the frame further defines a pair of notches for receiving portions of the tying means, the notches extending inwardly from midsections of the first and second outer edges, respectively.

11. A portable carrier for carrying a tie down, comprising: an elongated frame which is generally rectangular in shape, the frame defining first and second slots, each slot being disposed on one of the distal ends of the frame; a tie down engaging means attached to the frame for holding in place a portion of the tie down; and a tying means attached to the frame for bundling the tie down when said tie down is wrapped lengthwise around the frame.

13. The portable carrier according to claim 12, wherein the tie down engaging means comprises the frame having two transverse slits formed therein.

14. The portable carrier according to claim 12, wherein the tie down engaging means comprises at least one clip attached to the frame.

15. The portable carrier according to claim 12, further comprising means connected to the frame for interlocking the carrier with a second carrier.

16. The portable carrier according to claim 12, wherein the frame further defines first and second outer edges and a pair of notches for receiving portions of the tying means, the notches extending inwardly from mid-sections of the first and second outer edges, respectively.

17. The portable carrier according to claim 12, wherein the frame further defines first and second outer edges, at least one nub attached to the second outer edge, the frame defining at least one nub slot which extends inwardly from the first outer edge, the nub slot and nub being so configured that the nub on a first carrier is interlockable with the nub slot on a second carrier.

18. A method for carrying a conventional tie down, comprising: engaging a portion of the tie down within at least one slit defined by a frame of a tie down carrier, thereby holding in place a short section of the tie down; wrapping the tie down around the frame lengthwise, wherein portions of the tie down rest within two slots defined by the frame and disposed at distal ends thereof, respectively; and tying the tie down with a strip of material once the tie down has been wrapped lengthwise around the frame, said strip being disposed generally perpendicularly to the wrapped tie down during use.

19. The method according to claim 18, wherein the tie down carrier interlocks with a second tie down carrier, thereby allowing management of a plurality of tie downs.

20. The method according to claim 18, wherein the carrier further comprises at least one nub attached to the frame and extending outwardly from a first outer edge thereof; said frame further defining at least one nub slot extending inwardly from a second edge of the frame; said nub and nub slot being configured so as to enable interlocking of the carrier with a second tie down carrier.

21. The method according to claim 18, wherein the frame further defines two notches, each notch extending inwardly from first and second edges of the frame, said edges being generally parallel to each other, the two notches receiving the strip when it is being used to bundle the tie down.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] This invention relates generally to tie downs, and more particularly to a portable device for facilitating the management and use of tie downs, including straps, belts, ropes, and the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Tie downs, such as elongated straps and belts, are frequently used to restrain cargo in carts, trucks, cars, and other vehicles. In general, these tie downs can be tricky and frustrating to manage because they are often left in a discarded state between uses and thus can become dirty, tangled, lost and/or damaged.

[0003] Several U.S. patents describe methods and devices for managing tie downs. U.S. Pat. No. 6,290,440 discloses a tie-down strap container comprising a well and a slit. A spindle sits in the well and the tie-down strap, which is normally wound on the spindle, passes through the slit when in use. U.S. Pat. No. 6,109,846 discloses a retractable restraint assembly and an E-shaped track having a plurality of slots. The restraint assembly connects to or disconnects from the track with the aid of a latch. The assembly includes a housing having a gear and a spool about which a belt is normally maintained in a wound state. U.S. Pat. No. 5,338,136 discloses a cargo restraining assembly, which is normally bolted on the sides of a truck bed. U.S. Pat. No. 4,083,312 discloses a pair of elongated slot holders for attaching a U-shaped spring. The U-shaped spring in turn connects to a strap used for restraining cargo loads. U.S. Pat. No. 3,429,537 discloses a strap connector and a slotted track. A pin and a spring member comprising the strap connector allow it to engage a slot in the track.

[0004] Each of these prior art devices is rather elaborate and cumbersome to use. What is needed is a simple apparatus for facilitating the management and use of tie downs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0005] The object of the present invention is to provide a portable device for managing a tie down between uses and preventing its becoming tangled, soiled or damaged from neglect.

[0006] In accordance with the present invention, there is provided a conveniently sized, portable strap carrier for attaching and carrying a tie down. The carrier includes an elongated frame and means, including two spaced apart, transverse slits formed in the frame, for holding in place a short section of the tie down. In addition, the frame defines a pair of open-ended slots, one slot being disposed on each of the distal ends of the frame. Prior to use, the tie down is slideably inserted into the transverse slits, securing the short section. The slots guide placement of contiguous layers of the tie down as it is being wrapped lengthwise about the frame. A tying means, such as a strip of Velcro® attached to the frame, is provided for bundling the tie down, once it has been wrapped about the frame.

[0007] Alternately, the means for holding in place a short section of the tie down comprises a pair of longitudinally spaced apart fasteners, such as clips, mounted on the elongated frame.

[0008] So that a plurality of tie downs can be easily managed and used, there is further provided an embodiment of the present invention in which a plurality of strap carriers can be interlocked. According to this embodiment, the elongated frame includes first and second edges disposed generally longitudinally and at least two spaced apart nubs which protrude outwardly from the first edge. Further, the frame defines open-ended nub slots which extend inwardly from the second edge. The nubs and nub slots are so configured that the nubs on one strap carrier can be interlocked with the nub slots in another, when the respective carriers are positioned so that the first edge of one is contiguous with the second edge of the other.

[0009] In general, once the short section of the tie down has been held in place, the portable strap carrier can be left in position, permanently attached to the tie down. So that when the tie down is being used to restrain cargo, the portable strap carrier can be placed flush against the load, the frame is preferably thin in profile.

[0010] Furthermore, to allow a plurality of carriers to neatly link with one another, there is provided yet another embodiment of the present invention. According to this embodiment, the frame defines a pair of notches which extend inwardly from the midsections of the first and second outer edges, respectively. The notches receive portions of the tying means as they traverse the outer edges when the tying means is used to bundle the strap wrapped lengthwise around the frame.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a strap carrier according to the present invention, a short section of a conventional strap being held in place by the frame of the carrier, the strap, as well as a rachet and S-shaped hooks connected thereto, being shown in dashed lines and forming no part of the invention;

[0012] FIG. 2 is a plan view of the strap carrier according to FIG. 1, when the strap has been wrapped longitudinally about the frame and secured thereto by a tie;

[0013] FIG. 3 is a plan view of an alternate embodiment of the strap carrier according to FIG. 1, showing a pair of the strap carriers in an interlocked state, each carrier having a modified frame about which a conventional strap has been wrapped longitudinally and bundled by tying means; and

[0014] FIGS. 4, 5 and 6 are plan views of further alternate embodiments of the strap carrier according to FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0015] In the drawings, a portable strap carrier according to the present invention is indicated generally by the reference numeral 10. Removably attached to the carrier 10 is a conventional strap 7, which terminates in S-shaped hooks 8, 9 and is coupled with a ratchet device 6 for tightly tying-down a load (FIG. 1).

[0016] The portable strap carrier 10 includes a frame 11, which is generally rectangular in shape and thin in profile, and a strap or tie down engaging means (hereinafter “strap engaging means”) for initially holding in place a short section of the strap 7. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the frame 11 defines two transverse slits 12, 20, which comprise the strap engaging means. Alternately, the strap engaging means includes clips, belts, flaps, or the like attached to the frame 11 (FIGS. 5 and 6). As those skilled in the art will understand, the strap engaging means can be any mechanism which can hold in place at least a short section of the conventional strap 7 before the strap is wound on or wrapped about the frame 11.

[0017] As illustrated in FIG. 1, a first transverse slit 12 includes an elongated, narrow opening 14 and an even narrower passageway 13 for slideably receiving the strap 7. The passageway 13 communicates with both the opening 14 and an outer edge of the frame 11. Prior to using the carrier 10, one must slide or engage a first portion of the strap 7 through the passageway 13 and into the opening 14, thereby securing the portion. Likewise, a second transverse slit 20 with an elongated, narrow opening 22 and an even narrower passageway 21 is provided for securing a second portion of the strap 7. In the preferred embodiment, the first and second transverse slits 12, 20 extend inwardly from first and second outer edges, respectively, of the frame 11. These outer edges are disposed generally parallel to each other, and each slit 12, 20 spans about three-fourths (¾) of the distance between the first and second outer edges.

[0018] The portable strap carrier 10 further includes two open-ended slots or cutouts (hereinafter “slots”) 15, 16, formed at distal ends of the frame 11. Each of the slots 15, 16 is preferably slightly wider than the strap 7. As the strap 7 is being wrapped around the frame 11, the slots 15, 16 guide placement of the strap, restraining it between opposing sides of each respective slot. Accordingly, the strap 7 can be easily wrapped lengthwise around the carrier 10.

[0019] Moreover, the portable strap carrier 10 includes a tying means for tying around or bundling the strap 7 after the strap has been wrapped about the frame 11 (FIG. 2). When in use, the tying means is disposed generally perpendicularly to the wrapped strap 7. Preferably, the tying means comprises a strip 19 of Velcro® attached to the frame 11 by a mechanical fastener such as a screw and nut (FIG. 4). However, the tying means can include a strip of plastic, a cloth ribbon, or the like attached to the frame 11 using any known means such as gluing, sewing, stapling, and mechanical fasteners.

[0020] The portable strap carrier 10 also includes means for interlocking or linking contiguous pairs of carriers so as to facilitate management of a plurality of tie downs. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the frame 11 defines spaced apart nub slots 23, 24, which extend inwardly from the first edge, and spaced apart nubs 18, 28, which protrude outwardly and are attached to the second edge. For the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, each of the nub slots 23, 24 includes a nub-hole 25, 26 for tightly receiving one of the nubs 18, 28, respectively, attached to the frame 11 of another carrier 10. What is important is that the nub-holes 25, 26 and the nubs 18, 28 maintain the spatial relationship that allows a plurality of portable strap carriers 10 to be locked together. As those skilled in the art will understand, the interlocking means can be any pair of slots and nubs, knobs, balls, or screwed-in devices for interlocking, attaching, fitting, or putting together a plurality of portable strap carriers according to the present invention.

[0021] Prior to its being used to tie down a load, the strap 7 must first be unwrapped from the frame 11. Then, as a general rule, the underside of the frame 11 is placed flush against the load being tied down. So that strap 7 can be tightened around the load, while the strap is still engaged by the frame 11, the frame is preferably fabricated from a flexible plastic material such as polyethylene or the like. However, the frame 11 can also be made out of a thin sheet of aluminum, wood, or the like. The frame 11 measures, by way of example, from about four inches to twelve inches in length and, when made out of plastic, about 0.033 inches to 0.25 inches in thickness.

[0022] In an alternate embodiment, a strap carrier 30 has an elongated frame 31 which defines a pair of notches 39, 49 for receiving a tying means 19 (FIG. 3). In addition, the frame 31 defines end slots 35, 36 and transverse slits 32, 40. Each transverse slit 32, 40 has an elongated, narrow opening 34, 42 which communicates with an outer edge of the frame through an even narrower passageway 33, 41, respectively.

[0023] Used to bundle a conventional strap 7 once it has been wrapped about the frame 31, the tying means 19 can be positioned so that those portions thereof which traverse the outer edges of the frame during use rest generally in the notches 39, 49. The notches 39, 49 enable a user to neatly link together two or more strap carriers 30 along their first and second outer edges, respectively (FIG. 3).

[0024] As illustrated in FIG. 3, the frame 31 defines spaced apart nub slots 43, 44, which extend inwardly from the first edge, and spaced apart necks 37, 47 tipped by nubs 38, 48, which protrude outwardly from the second edge. For the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, each of the nub slots 43, 44 includes a nub-hole 45, 46 for tightly receiving one of the nubs 38, 48, respectively, attached to the frame 31 of another carrier 30.

[0025] A portable strap carrier 50, a further alternative embodiment, has a modified frame which is generally similar to the frame 31 except with respect to its interlocking means. Frame 51 includes a first outer edge from which nub slots 63, 64 extend inwardly and a second outer edge from which nubs 58, 68 protrude outwardly (FIG. 4). The frame 51 also defines notches 59, 69 for receiving a tying means 19 used to bundle a strap (not shown), so that two or more strap carriers 50 can be easily linked together.

[0026] An alternative embodiment which may be preferred by consumers who normally use only a single strap 7 is shown in FIG. 5. Illustrated there is a portable strap carrier 70 with an elongated, generally flat frame 71 which lacks interlocking means. In addition, transverse slits for holding in place portions of the strap 7 have been replaced by clips 72, 80 attached to the frame 71 (FIG. 5). Prior to wrapping the strap lengthwise around the frame 71, one first secures a short section of the strap to the frame using the clips 72, 80. Slots 75, 76 on the ends of the frame 71 prevent the strap 7, once it has been wrapped lengthwise, from sliding off the frame.

[0027] The clips 72, 80 are preferably fabricated from metal or plastic and attached to the frame 71 using mechanical fasteners. The clips 72, 80 can also be an integral part of the frame 71 itself, formed by cutting or slicing it to form the desired shapes.

[0028] In a still further alternative embodiment, a strap carrier 90 includes a frame 91 and a single, elongated clip 92 between which portions of a conventional strap 7 can be slid. The clip 92 is preferably an integral part of the frame 91 and is sliced therefrom. Fabricated without cutting all of the way through the frame 91, the clip 92 is substantially thinner in transverse cross-section than the frame except for that portion of the frame disposed contiguous with the clip. Alternately, the clip 92 can be a slice of the frame 91 whose three sides are formed by cutting through the thickness of the mid-section of the frame.

[0029] Frame 91 includes a first outer edge from which nub slots 98, 108 extend inwardly and a second outer edge from which nubs 93, 94 protrude outwardly, so that two or more carriers 90 can be interlocked (FIG. 6). Slots 95, 96 on the ends of the frame 91 prevent the strap 7, once it has been wound thereabout, from sliding off of the frame.

[0030] Numerous modifications to and alternative embodiments of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art in view of the foregoing description. Accordingly, this description is to be construed as illustrative only and is for the purpose of teaching those skilled in the art the best mode of carrying out the invention. Details of the embodiment may be varied without departing from the spirit of the invention, and the exclusive use of all modifications which come within the scope of the appended claims is reserved.