Title:
Holder for flaccid flat articles such as napkins
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A holder maintains flaccid, flat articles in substantially vertically no matter how many articles are removed from it. The holder's base defines a generally horizontal plane when the holder is in normal use. A pair of lateral walls are attached to the base and arranged in vertical planes generally normal to the horizontal plane. These walls, with predetermined height and spacing from each other a predetermined distance, form a region that receives and holds the stacked, flat, flaccid articles—such as napkins—vertically oriented substantially parallel to the lateral walls. Gravity-actuated force-generating members apply a generally horizontal force to the stack of articles within the region and urge them toward one of the lateral walls and away from the other. This application of force substantially reduces any drooping or collapse of the articles and keeps them erect no matter how many articles are placed within or removed from the holder.



Inventors:
Fiola, Salvatore (Thiells, NY, US)
Application Number:
10/949835
Publication Date:
07/28/2005
Filing Date:
09/24/2004
Assignee:
FIOLA SALVATORE
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
248/311.2, 211/51
International Classes:
A47G21/16; B65H1/00; (IPC1-7): B65H1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAVCHAVADZE, COLLEEN MARGARET
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NOLTE LACKENBACH SIEGEL (SCARSDALE, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A holder for maintaining flaccid flat articles in substantially vertical orientations independently of the number of articles received or removed from the holder, comprising: a base defining a generally horizontal plane when the holder is placed on a support surface during normal use; a pair of laterals walls attached to said base and arranged in vertical planes generally normal to said horizontal plane, said pair of walls having a predetermined height and spaced from each other a predetermined spaced distance to form a region for receiving and holding a plurality of stacked flat flaccid articles, such as napkins, with orientations generally parallel to said spaced walls and vertical planes; and gravity actuated force-generating means for applying a generally horizontal force on a stack of flat flaccid articles to urge said articles to be urged toward one of said lateral walls and away from the other of said lateral walls to substantially reduce the drooping or collapse of said articles and maintain said articles substantially erect independently of the number of articles placed within or removed from the holder.

2. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said predetermined height is generally equal to the vertical height of said articles when stacked within the holder.

3. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said predetermined height is less than the vertical height of said articles when stacked within the holder.

4. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said lateral walls are fixedly mounted and supported on said base.

5. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the holder is made of plastic.

6. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein at least a portion of the holder is made of wood.

7. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said force generating means includes means for generating said generally horizontal force in the direction of said one of said lateral walls at a distance above said base.

8. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said force generating means comprises a generally planar member mounted for movement in generally parallel planes between and parallel to said lateral walls to remain upright in all lateral positions and create a compressive force on said stack of articles between said one of said lateral walls and said planar member.

9. A holder as defined in claim 8, wherein said planar member is pivotally mounted on a movable member between said lateral walls to enable said planar member to remain upright regardless of the position of said movable member.

10. A holder as defined in claim 9, wherein said movable member comprises linkage means connected to said planar member and to one of said base and said other of said lateral walls.

11. A holder as defined in claim 10, wherein said movable member is pivotably connected to a region of the holder proximate to the location where said base is connected to said other of said lateral walls.

12. A holder as defined in claim 8, wherein said planar member has a vertical height less than said predetermined height of said lateral walls.

13. A holder as defined in claim 11, wherein said planar member has a vertical height and connection point to said linkage means selected to position a lower edge of said planar member out of contact with said base when all articles have been removed from the holder.

14. A holder as defined in claim 11, wherein said planar member has a vertical height and connection point to said linkage means selected to position an upper edge of said planar member within the region of the upper edge of said other of said lateral walls when the holder has been fully filled with the articles to be held and said other of said lateral walls and said planar member are substantially juxtaposed against each other.

15. A holder as defined in claim 10, wherein said linkage means is pivotally joined to said planar member at a height below a midpoint between said upper and lower edges of said planar member.

16. A holder as defined in claim 10, wherein said linkage means comprises a generally inclined rectangular wall having opposing horizontal edges, and pivot means at each edge for pivoting said inclined wall about a lower horizontal edge and for pivoting said planar member along an upper horizontal edge.

17. A holder as defined in claim 16, wherein said inclined wall is formed of plastic and includes portions of hinges along at least one of said edges.

18. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein said force generating means is formed of a material sufficiently heavy to create a gravitational force to produce a desired horizontal force acting on the article.

19. A holder as defined in claim 1, wherein the dimensions of said lateral walls are selected to generally correspond to the size and shape of the articles to be held.

20. A holder as defined in claim 8, wherein said surfaces of said planar member and said one of said lateral walls facing the stacked articles are generally smooth to facilitate removal of an article by pulling same upwardly notwithstanding compressive forces acting on said articles by minimizing friction between the flat articles and said facing surfaces.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO PRIOR APPLICATION

This utility patent application is based on an earlier filed provisional application, for a “Sure-Hold Napkin Holder,” which was filed on September 24, 2003, and received the Ser. No. 60/505,531. This application takes priority from that provisional application.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention generally relates to article holders and, more specifically, to a holder for flaccid flat articles such as napkins, files, correspondence, and other such articles.

2. Description of the Prior Art

While numerous napkin holder designs have been proposed, the prior art has failed to create a simple design that generally has the appearance of a typical or traditional napkin holder while it maintains the generally soft and flaccid napkins from drooping as the napkin holder is depleted, and fewer and fewer napkins remain between two fixed spaced lateral upright walls.

For example, one prior art approach to avoid the drooping or sagging of napkins is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,505,745, in which the retained stacked articles are stacked one upon the other so that the napkins are all in horizontal planes. While such design avoids the drooping or sagging problem, such napkin holders necessarily have a larger footprint than conventional or traditional napkin holders. Another such design in which napkins are stacked one on top of another in general horizontal planes is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,622,888.

A well-known or common design used to maintain the vertically arranged napkins in a generally erect state is a napkin holder that is provided with an inner coil compression spring that urges two plates on either side of the spring to force the napkins in opposite directions of openings through which the end napkins can be accessed and pulled out. Such napkin holders are significantly more complicated and costly.

Traditional napkin holders, which have two vertical sidewalls, in fixed positions, are very familiar and are intended to maintain napkins in generally vertical orientations between the two spaced walls that are fixed to the base. The traditional napkin holder works well as long as it is completely filled with napkins. However, as napkins are removed from the holder, the remaining napkins are no longer held firm between the vertical walls, and thus they hang loose, and become limp and fold over each other, which makes it more difficult to grasp the edge of the napkins and remove them from the holder. The more napkins that are removed from the holder, the more difficult it becomes to remove a single napkin without having the others fall over each other. They can also fall out of the napkin holder if one moves the holder. In addition, if the napkin holder is used outside, such as on a patio table, a deck table or a picnic table, the slightest breeze can blow the napkins away.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a holder for maintaining flaccid flat articles, such as table napkin, that overcomes the disadvantages inherent in the prior art holders.

It is another object of the invention to provide a holder for maintaining soft or flaccid flat articles, ones that are subject to drooping, that is simple in construction and economical to manufacture.

It is still another object of the invention to provide a holder as in the previous objects that continues to maintain a substantially constant force on vertically oriented, flaccid articles to prevent such articles from drooping or collapsing, particularly when the holder becomes depleted of such articles.

It is yet a further object of the invention to provide a holder as in the previous objects that does not require springs or other active biasing members, but, instead, relies upon the force of gravity to provide a substantially continuous and substantially constant force acting on the vertically oriented, flat articles.

It is a further object of the information to provide a holder of the type under discussion that maintains a stack of vertically arranged flaccid flat articles in an organized, neat array, so that the upper edges of such articles continue to be available for easy access, gripping and removal from the holder.

It is still a further object of the invention to provide a holder as in a previous object that prevents flaccid flat articles, vertically arranged, from inadvertently falling out or being blown out by wind or the like when the napkin holder is not full.

In order to achieve the above objects, as well as others that will become evident hereinafter, a holder for maintaining flaccid flat articles in substantially vertical orientations independently of the number of articles received or removed from the holder, in accordance with the present invention, comprises a base defining a general horizontal plane when the holder is placed on a support surface during normal use. A pair of lateral walls are attached to said base and arranged in vertical plane general normal to said horizontal plane. Said walls have a predetermined height and are spaced from each other a predetermined spaced distance to form a region for receiving and holding a plurality of stacked flaccid, flat articles such as napkins, with orientations generally parallel to said spaced walls and vertical planes. An important feature of the invention is the provision of gravity-actuated force-generating means for applying a generally horizontal force on a stack of flaccid articles to cause said articles to be urged towards one of said lateral walls and away from the other of said lateral walls to substantially reduce the drooping and/or collapse of said articles and maintain said articles erect independently of the number of articles within or removed from the holder.

In accordance with one presently preferred embodiment, said force-generating means comprises a pivoted, generally planar member mounted for movement in generally parallel planes between and parallel to said lateral walls to remain upright in all positions and create a compressive force on said stack of articles between said one of said lateral walls and said planar member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a holder for flaccid flat articles, such as napkins, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the gravity-actuated force-generating member or inclined wall in accordance with the present invention, used to continuously apply a force to the napkins or other flaccid flat articles as it generates a biasing force on the napkins due to the force of gravity;

FIG. 3A is a side elevational view of the holder shown in FIG. 1, when the holder has received and holds a stack of vertically oriented napkins that are maintained in general vertical orientations;

FIG. 3B is similar to FIG. 3A, but showing the changed position of the gravity-actuated biasing members when a plurality of napkins have been removed;

FIG. 3C is similar to FIG. 3A and FIG. 3B, but showing the arrangement of the gravity-actuated members when all of the napkins have been removed or depleted from the holder; and

FIG. 4 is a top plan view of the holder corresponding to the arrangement of the gravity-actuated members shown in FIG. 3C.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the Figures, in which each reference numeral or letter represents the same or similar part of the invention throughout, and referring initially to FIG. 1, the holder in accordance with the present invention is generally designated by the reference numeral 10. The holder 10 is used to maintain flaccid flat articles 12 in substantially vertical orientations, independently of the number of articles received or removed from the holder. While the presently preferred embodiment is disclosed to be in the form of a napkin holder, it will be evident that similar elements and structures can be used to receive and hold other flaccid flat articles, such as letters, bills, files, postal cards, and the like.

The holder 10 includes a base 14 that defines a generally horizontal plane when the holder is placed on a support surface 16 (FIGS. 3A-3C) during normal use. A pair of lateral walls 18, 20 are attached to the base 14 in any conventional mannerand arranged in vertical planes, as shown, generally normal to the horizontal plane of the base. The pairs of walls 18, 20 have a predetermined height H (FIG. 3C) and are spaced from each other a predetermined spaced distance S (FIG. 3C), to form a region 22 (FIG. 3B) for receiving and holding a plurality of stacked flaccid articles 12, such as napkins, with vertical orientations generally parallel to the spaced walls and vertical planes. An important feature of the present invention is the provision of gravity-actuated force-generating means 24 for applying a generally horizontal force to the stack of flat, flaccid articles 12 to cause the articles to be urged towards the lateral wall 18 and away from the other lateral wall 20 to substantially reduce the drooping or collapse of the articles, and to maintain the articles substantially erect. As will become evident, the articles will remain erect, under all conditions, independently of the number of articles placed within or removed from the holder.

As with most typical or traditional napkin holders, the lateral walls 18, 20 have a predetermined height H that is generally equal to the vertical height of the articles stacked within the holder. However, it should be clear that this is not a critical feature of the invention and the lateral walls are preferably somewhat shorter than the articles 12, so that such articles protrude or project above the upper edges 18a, 20a of the lateral walls, as shown in FIGS. 3A and 3B, to render the upper ends of the articles 12 accessible and grippable for convenient and easy removal. The extent to which the walls 18, 20 can extend below the upper edges of the articles 12 will, of course, depend on the softness of the articles, how flaccid they are, and how much they are inclined to droop or collapse. In many instances, the napkins can project 10-25% of their overall height above the upper edges 18a, 20a without bending or drooping.

In the Figures the lateral walls 18, 20 are, as with traditional, more conventional napkin holders, fixedly mounted and supported on the base 10 at the lower edges 18b, 20b, as shown in FIG. 3A. Thus, the lateral walls 18, 20 are always fixed in the designated positions and are not adjustable. Notwithstanding the fact that the lateral walls 18, 20 are spaced from each other a fixed distance S, a force-generating member 24 generates a generally horizontal force F (FIG. 3B) in the direction of the lateral wall 18. Preferably, the force applied, towards the left as viewed in 3B, is applied to the articles 12 at a distance above the base 14 no greater than the predetermined height H. In FIG. 3A, the applied force is represented by distributed representative forces F1, F2 and F3, which are force components distributed over the height and area of a planar member 26 that forms part of the gravity-actuated force-generating mechanism 24. With the construction illustrated, the force is generally uniformly distributed over the area of the planar member 26 to bias or urge the articles 12 against the wall 18 to compress the articles between the fixed lateral wall 18 and the movable planar member 26.

As will be evident, the planar member 26 is mounted for movement in generally parallel planes between and parallel to the lateral walls 18, 20 to remain upright in all lateral positions to create a compressive force on the stack of articles 12 between the fixed lateral wall 18 and the planar member 26. In accordance with the construction of the presently preferred embodiment, the planar member 26 is pivotally mounted on a movable member 28 between the lateral walls 18, 20 to enable the planar member 26 to remain upright regardless of the position of the movable member 28. This is achieved by pivotally attaching the movable member 28 to the planar member 26 by means of a pivot, joint or hinge 30, at the upper edge of the movable member 28, and by means of a pivot or hinge 32 to a fixed portion of the holder 10, at the lower edge of the movable member 28. It will be evident that the movable member 28 may take on many forms and may be in the form of one or more linkages. However, in the presently preferred embodiment, it is in the form of a generally inclined wall or rectangular flat panel having opposing horizontal edges, best shown in FIG. 2, and pivots at each edge for pivoting the inclined wall about a lower horizontal edge and for pivoting the planar member along a upper horizontal edge. This can be achieved by providing longitudinal, circular channels along each edge and inserting elongate pivot pins 36, 38, which are longer than the channels, to provide pin projections or ends 36a, 36b and 38a, 38b, respectively, that can be received within associated sleeves or bosses 40, 42 (FIG. 4) that are formed on a fixed portion of the holder and on the movable member 28. Other means of attachment of the inclined wall 34, forming part of the movable member 28 will be evident. However, by way of example, the inclined wall 34 may be pivotably or hingedly attached by means of open hinges, snaps, clips or the like. When the inclined wall 34 is formed out of plastic, the pin extensions 36a, 36b, 38a, 38b can be molded into the material so that no extra or separate pins need to be used.

As indicated, the linkage 28 is connected to the planar member 26, at one end, and to either the base 14 or to lateral wall 20, at the other end. The precise locations where the movable member 28 is pivotably or hingedly attached is not critical. However, it has been found that a practical design is to have the lower pivot 32 connected to a region of the holder proximate to the corner location where the base 14 is connected to the upright lateral wall 20, as shown in the Figures. The upper pivot 30, connected to the planar member 26, is preferably joined at a point somewhat below the vertical midpoint between the upper and lower edges 26a, 26b of the planar member 26. However, attachment of the pivot 30 to the midpoint, or even somewhat above the midpoint, of the planar member 26 still provides useful results, with differing degrees of advantage.

In the disclosed embodiment the planar member 26 has a vertical height P that is less than the predetermined height H of the lateral walls 18, 20. The vertical height P of the planar member and the connection point, at 30, to the movable member or linkage 28 are selected to position the lower edge 26b of the planar member 26 out of contact with the base 14 when all articles 12 have been removed from the holder. Thus, it will be evident that as long as the lower edge 18b remains positioned above the upper surface of the base 14, the gravity-actuated elements will continue to apply a force F towards the left, as viewed in FIGS. 3B and 3C. This ensures that such force is applied even when a small number of articles in the form of napkins, for example, remain in the holder. In FIG. 3C, the gravitational force G is shown directed downwardly from a point of the center of gravity representing the combined weight of the movable member 28 as well as the planar member 26, which is connected thereto at pivot 30.

The planar member 26 also advantageously has a vertical height and connection point to the movable member or linkage point 28, selected to position the upper edge 26a within the region of the upper edge 20a of the lateral wall 20 when the holder has been fully filled with articles, and the planar member 26 and the lateral wall 20 are substantially juxtaposed against each other.

The force-generating members or elements, including the planar member 26, as well as the movable member or linkage 28, are preferably formed of a material sufficiently heavy to create a suitable gravitational force G (FIG. 3C) to produce a desired force acting on the articles 12. The greater force G, the greater the lateral force applied to the articles. The holder, and any of the component parts thereof, may be made of any suitable or desirable materials, including plastic, wood, aluminum, or the like. The presently preferred embodiment contemplates that the surfaces of the planar member 26 as well the inner surface of the lateral wall 18 facing the stacked articles 12 be general smooth to facilitate the removal of an article by pulling same upwardly, notwithstanding the horizontal forces acting on the articles, by minimizing friction between the flat articles and the facing contacting surfaces.

It will be evident from the above the holder in accordance with the present invention has a weighted, self-collapsing inner wall or planar member 26 that presses against the napkins 12 and holds them firmly in place all the time no matter how many or how few napkins are in the holder.

The design is extremely simple, inexpensive and very effective. The use of gravity to apply constant pressure to the articles or napkins by way of an inner self-biasing and adjusting inner wall or planar member designed and hinged for free movements towards an opposing fixed lateral wall 18 renders the design extremely efficient and highly resistant to mechanical failure. As suggested, the holder, or any selected components thereof, can be made from stainless steel, plastic, or other materials, or a combination of different materials.

Having described at least one of the preferred embodiments of the present invention with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various changes, modifications, and adaptations may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention as defined in the appended claims.





 
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