Title:
Pocket liner for a motor vehicle door panel
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
There is disclosed a pocket liner for the storage pocket of a motor vehicle door panel, comprising a one-piece pocket liner molded of thin plastic material to substantially conform to an inner contour of the storage pocket. The pocket liner is removable for cleaning and reinstallation and may be retained in position within the storage pocket by a lip formed into the upper edge of the pocket liner that engages a border surrounding the storage pocket. In alternate embodiments, clips or hook and loop fasteners may be used to retain the pocket liner in the storage pocket.



Inventors:
Allmond, Neal R. (Whitewater, KS, US)
Application Number:
11/092517
Publication Date:
10/06/2005
Filing Date:
03/29/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/544, 224/543
International Classes:
B60R7/04; B65D85/30; B65D85/57; (IPC1-7): B65D85/30; B65D85/57
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BLANKENSHIP, GREGORY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Stephen S. Mosher (Fort Worth, TX, US)
Claims:
1. A pocket liner for a motor vehicle door panel having an open-topped storage pocket situated thereon, comprising: a one-piece, seamless pocket liner formed as an open-topped vessel having an upper edge surrounding the open top and molded of a thin, substantially rigid plastic material to substantially conform to an inner contour of the storage pocket; wherein the pocket liner is removable for cleaning; reinstallation is accomplished by inserting the pocket liner into the open-topped storage pocket from above the storage pocket until the pocket liner bottoms against the inner contour of the storage pocket; and the pocket liner is retained in position within the storage pocket by a first lip formed into the upper edge of the pocket liner that engages a border surrounding the open-topped storage pocket.

2. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the plastic material is selected from the group consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, plasticized vinyl, and polystyrene.

3. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the plastic material used for forming the pocket liner is a polypropylene material.

4. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the thin, substantially rigid plastic material is transparent and its thickness does not exceed 0.063 inch.

5. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the thin, substantially rigid plastic material is opaque and its thickness does not exceed 0.063 inch.

6. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the thin, substantially rigid plastic material is finished to harmonize with the color and texture of the motor vehicle door panel.

7. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the pocket liner is retained in position within the storage pocket by engaging an inverted U-shaped resilient clip over the upper edge of the pocket liner and storage pocket combination at one or more locations along the upper edge of the pocket liner.

8. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the pocket liner is retained in position within the storage pocket by a hook-and-loop fastener disposed proximate each end of the storage pocket and pocket liner combination inside the bottom of the storage pocket.

9. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein the seamless, open-topped pocket liner is formed using a molding process selected from the group consisting of thermoforming and vacuum forming for relatively simple shaped pocket liners and pressure forming and injection molding for relatively complex shaped pocket liners.

10. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein an open-topped pocket liner is formed using a twin-sheet forming process.

11. The pocket liner of claim 1, wherein further comprising: an insert disposed within an interior portion of the pocket liner.

12. The pocket liner of claim 11, wherein the insert is constructed with a substance for masking odors.

13. The pocket liner of claim 11, wherein the insert is constructed for absorbing odors.

14. The pocket liner of claim 11, wherein the insert is a fabric liner disposed against the interior portion of the pocket liner.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present application claims priority in U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/558,678 filed Apr. 1, 2004 and entitled “Pocket Liner For A Motor Vehicle Door Panel.”

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to interior features of the cabin or passenger compartment of a motor vehicle, and more particularly to storage compartments or pockets formed into or attached to the door panels of such vehicles.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Motor vehicles are generally not well equipped for the disposal of storage or waste that may be produced within tem such as left over food or snacks, wrappers from purchased articles, etc. Litter containers for depositing refuse are typically not provided except in the from of an accessory that hangs on a knob, or from headrest posts, or rests upon the floor. Otherwise, the refuse is deposited in whatever makeshift container is at hand or perhaps just left on the floor or the upholstery. In the worst case the refuse is tossed out the window, creating a public litter nuisance and a costly maintenance problem for local and regional governments.

The interior panels of motor vehicles have long included various features designed for storing a variety of objects used by the driver and passengers in the motor vehicle, or for holding certain articles being used within the vehicle. Some examples include ashtrays, map pockets, cup holders, and various kinds of bins for storing personal items. In one example of the prior art, U.S. Pat. No. 6,116,672 issued to Cannon et al., for “An Insert for the Map Pocket of a Motor Vehicle,” is directed to a removable insert for the map pocket of an automobile door panel that is configured for receiving and supporting a variety of standardized bins adapted to storing various types of objects. The insert includes a lip that engages the top of the map pocket. In another example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,637,795 issued to Jonardi et al., for “Combination of a Vehicle Door and a Storage Box,” is directed to a door panel configured with a storage compartment adapted to receive a removable storage box having a lower portion shaped to be inserted into the storage compartment. The shape of the lower portion of the storage box matches the inner shape of the storage compartment into which the storage box is inserted.

However, the prior art lacks a device that protects the storage pocket from damage or staining or absorbing residues from foodstuffs and other perishable or liquid or organic materials that frequently find their way into such storage pockets, either intentionally or by accident. The presence of these materials in the storage pockets may lead to deterioration of the door panels, cause unpleasant odors to develop in them, serve as breeding grounds for mildew, mold, bacteria and other organisms, and the like. Once such organisms become established, their effects cannot readily be ameliorated, except through the use of caustic cleaning or disinfecting agents. Such agents are often inconvenient to use, may leave objectionable odors, and may damage or leave blemishes on the interior and upholstery surfaces of the vehicle.

What is needed is a liner device that is easily installed in the existing door pockets of a motor vehicle, that is easily removable for cleaning and reuse, and that preserves a sanitary environment within the motor vehicle.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, there is disclosed a pocket liner for a motor vehicle door panel having an open-topped storage pocket situated in a lower portion thereof, comprising a one-piece pocket liner forming an open-topped vessel having an upper edge surrounding the open top and molded of thin plastic material to substantially conform to an inner contour of the storage pocket. The pocket liner is removable for cleaning and reinstallation by inserting the pocket liner into the storage pocket from above the storage pocket until the pocket liner bottoms against the inner contour of the storage pocket. The pocket liner may be retained in position within the storage pocket by a first lip formed into the upper edge of the pocket liner that engages a border surrounding the open-topped storage pocket. Alternatively, the pocket liner may be retained by several inverted, U-shaped spring clips slipped over the upper edges of the pocket liner and storage pocket. In another embodiment the pocket liner may be retained by hook-and-loop fasteners installed between the bottoms of the pocket liner and storage pocket at each end of the interior of the storage pocket.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a door panel of a motor vehicle having a storage pocket and a pocket liner according to the present invention; and

FIG. 2 illustrates the embodiment of the door panel of a motor vehicle as illustrated in FIG. 1, wherein the pocket liner according to the present invention is installed in the storage pocket.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates a door 10 and a door panel 12 of a motor vehicle having an open-topped storage pocket 14 and a pocket liner 20 according to the present invention. The door 10 may be any door of a motor vehicle such as an automobile, truck, construction or farm vehicle, motor home or recreational vehicle, or even an airplane or motor boat. In some vehicles the storage pocket 20 may be attached to an interior panel instead of a door panel 12 without departing from the spirit of the invention disclosed herein. The storage pocket 14, also known as a map pocket or storage compartment, may be a separate, open-topped structure attached to the door panel 12 or it may be an integral part of a door panel 12. Alternatively, the storage pocket may be an integral part of other interior panels of the motor vehicle. Generally, the storage pocket 14 is a rigid structure that is fully enclosed on all sides and the bottom, and is open at the top, for ease of storing or retrieving articles of various sizes and shapes into or from the storage pocket. The storage pocket 14 has an interior surface 16 that may have a contour similar to the exterior surface and shape or it may have a contour that departs from the exterior shape because of structural webs, bulkheads or braces across the interior, or dividers that provide separate compartments within the storage pocket 14. The storage pocket 14 may further include a finished edge or lip 18 formed in its upper edge to provide a smooth, rounded contour that blends with the design of the door panel 12.

Continuing with FIG. 1, a pocket liner 20 is shown positioned away from the door panel 12 to show its resemblance to the shape and size of the storage pocket 14. The pocket liner 20 has an interior surface 22 and an exterior surface 24. The exterior surface 24 of the pocket liner 20 is formed of a relatively thin plastic material that generally conforms to the contour and shape of the interior surface 16 of the storage pocket 14 so that, when installed, the space taken up by the pocket liner 20 does not diminish the interior volume of the storage pocket 14 any more than necessary, i.e., by any more than the thickness of the material from which the pocket liner 20 is fabricated. It is for this reason also that the material used to fabricate the pocket liner 20 is generally thin, on the order of 20 mils, i.e., 0.020 inch thick, although the thickness may typically be varied within the range of 10 mils to 50 mils to suit particular applications. In some cases the thickness may be as much as 0.063 inch or greater, for heavy duty applications. Thicknesses less than 10 mils may be used but it is harder to maintain the stiffness and resilience required to keep the pocket liner firmly in position when installed within the storage pocket 14.

Upon installation of the pocket liner 20 into the storage pocket 14, a convenient waste or storage receptacle is provided that may readily be removed to empty it, clean it, and re-used many times over. For example, during a refueling stop or a rest area stop, or while washing the car or cleaning the interior, the pocket liner 20 may simply be lifted out of the storage pocket 14 and emptied into a nearby waste can. The pocket liner type of receptacle is much more convenient than a loose sack or bag or other container that is used for trash or other waste inside the motor vehicle. The pocket liner 20 also provides much expanded utility for the map/door pocket or storage pocket 14.

The material used to fabricate the pocket liner 20 of FIG. 1 may include but not be limited to any of various thermoplastics such as polypropylene, polyethylene, plasticized vinyl (also known as PVC—polyvinyl chloride) or polystyrene, or specific varieties thereof. Polypropylene is a preferred material. The material selected must be impervious to water, beverages, foodstuffs and other liquids and debris that may be found or deposited inside a motor vehicle. Further, the material should preferably be scratch-resistant and readily cleaned using soap and water or mild solvents or other cleaning agents. Further, the selected material must be easily formed, durable, heat resistant, abrasion resistant, waterproof, resistant to chemicals and other solvents, yet provide a substantially rigid pocket liner that holds its own shape. The material must be available in clear (transparent) form or readily colored using colorants, dyes, coatings or paints. Thermoplastics, such as those listed above, are well-suited because they may be readily colored or textured to match or harmonize with an interior decor, may be formed into almost any shape, and generally provide tough, durable, low cost protection for the storage pocket in the motor vehicle. The materials described above may also provide a product that may be disposable or readily recycled. In some applications, the interior of the pocket liner may be covered with a fabric or other soft-surfaced material (not shown) to provide a more pleasing appearance, reduce the sound of rattles, etc. Such fabric may also be used as a vehicle for including an odor neutralizing feature.

Fabrication of the pocket liner 20 may be by any of several processes including but not limited to vacuum forming, twin sheet thermoforming, pressure forming, and injection molding. Vacuum forming is suitable for relatively simple shapes and employs low cost molds that can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, aluminum, or epoxy. Twin sheet thermoforming is a variant of vacuum forming in which both halves of the molded article are respectively molded over a half portion mold in the same mold at the same time, and then bonded together along their edges while still hot from the molding process. Thus, in twin sheet forming, a seam may result where the adjoining edges of the sheet material meet. Pressure forming, which utilizes high pressure air to force heated plastic sheet over the mold, is capable of producing moderately complex to complex molded shapes and uses relatively inexpensive tooling. For complex pocket liners, pressure forming or injection molding is preferred. Hydroforming or similar processes may also be suitable in some applications. The pocket liner 20 is typically custom molded to fit each motor vehicle storage panel 14 to ensure a close fit and to minimize the loss of storage space. Further, the process used must ensure that a leakproof pocket liner 20 is produced. Seams may be formed in the pocket liner 20 as long as they are substantially the same thickness as the adjacent walls of the material and do not leak liquids. All of the processes mentioned herein above are well known in the art and need not be described further herein. Moreover, the choice of process will be dictated in large part by the particular design and materials selected, the processes available within cost constraints, and other factors.

The pocket liner 20 includes a lip 26 that conforms to and engages the edge 18 of the storage pocket 14 as the pocket liner 20 is fully inserted (as shown by the arrows 28) into the interior 16 of the storage pocket 14, such that the pocket liner 20 is firmly retained within the storage pocket 14. All that is needed to remove the pocket liner 20 is to disengage the lip 26 from the edge of the storage packet 14 by lifting one edge of the pocket liner 20 with a putty knife or similar instrument and lift upward on the freed edge of the pocket liner while sliding the putty knife along the upper edge of the storage pocket just under the lip 26.

FIG. 2 illustrates the embodiment of the door panel 10 of a motor vehicle as illustrated in FIG. 1, wherein the pocket liner 20 according to the present invention is installed in the storage pocket. The pocket liner 20 is shown within the storage pocket 14, with the lip 26 of the pocket liner 20 just visible above the storage pocket 14. In some applications, where the storage pocket 14 lacks a definable edge that a lip 26 may be configured to engage with, U-shaped resilient clips 30, 32, inverted over the upper edges of the pocket liner 20 and storage pocket 14 combination, may be used to clamp the two parts together at several positions along the upper edge of the storage pocket 14. The resilient clips 30, 32 may be fabricated of metal or plastic material having the properties of a spring so that they may be readily reused. In other cases, a hook-and-loop fastener system (not shown) may be used. In this embodiment, the two ‘halves’ or segments of the hook and loop fastener may be installed near each end of the storage pocket 14 and attached respectively to the bottom of the interior 16 of the storage pocket 14 and the exterior 24 of the pocket liner 20 in locations that are in relative juxtaposition.

While the invention has been shown in only one of its forms, it is not thus limited but is susceptible to various changes and modifications without departing from the spirit thereof. For example, the pocket liner 20 disclosed herein may be readily adapted to related uses, such as providing a repository for odor neutralizing or masking devices or inserts that may be installed in the pocket liner such as an odor wick—an elongated cylindrical or tubular rope-like or bag-like insert that is impregnated or filled with baking soda or similar absorbing compound. Further, the insert may be impregnated with an aromatic material that absorbs or masks odors through a relatively porous fabric that is used to fabricate the insert. The insert may simply be laid in the bottom of the pocket liner and removed periodically for replacement or replenishment.