Title:
Nestable and stacking document sorter
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A document sorter has a pair of laterally spaced apart side support beams. Each beam has a front end and a rear end. A plurality of generally vertically oriented dividers is spaced apart from one another along the beams. Each divider traverses a space between the side support beams and includes a front divider, a rear divider, and an intermediate divider therebetween. A storage space is defined above the side support beams between each adjacent pair of dividers. Each of the plurality of dividers has a portion positioned above an inner most edge of each of the side support beams. That portion has a width that is less than the space between the side support beams adjacent that divider. Each divider has laterally opposed ends connected one each to a respective one of the side support beams. The sorter can be stacked upon and nested with multiple like sorters.



Inventors:
Killinger, Timothy D. (Plainfield, IL, US)
Lerch, Matthew G. (Chicago, IL, US)
Smith, Aaron W. (Plainfield, IL, US)
Cavada Jr., Gilberto (Melrose Park, IL, US)
Conklin, Melanie L. (Chicago, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/096939
Publication Date:
10/20/2005
Filing Date:
04/01/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F1/04; A47F7/14; B42F7/14; B42F17/02; B42F17/06; (IPC1-7): A47F1/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060049125Removable space dividerMarch, 2006Stowell
20070075027Book end with saving-boxApril, 2007Yeh
20050150849Stand for bouquet arrangement and methods thereofJuly, 2005Campellone et al.
20070090064CD Storage-Label Viewing RackApril, 2007Kuhns
20070158288Spinner display rackJuly, 2007Rotolo
20070108147Assembled shelfMay, 2007Chen
20050008464Storage magazineJanuary, 2005Emmerling
20030205543Interlocking joint wine rackNovember, 2003Kao
20060102573Rack for holding packs of plastic bagsMay, 2006Alvarado
20100026156SHELF FOR REFRIGERATION UNITSFebruary, 2010Leconte et al.
20060157432Baseball glove organizerJuly, 2006Benck



Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARSHALL, GERSTEIN & BORUN LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A sorter comprising: a pair of laterally spaced apart support beams, each support beam having a front end and a rear end; a plurality of dividers generally vertically oriented spaced apart from one another, and oriented generally parallel to one another, each divider traversing a space between the support beams, the plurality of dividers including a front divider positioned near the front ends of the pair of support beams, a rear divider positioned near the rear ends of the pair of support beams and an intermediate divider therebetween; and a storage space defined above the side support beams and between each adjacent pair of dividers, wherein each of the plurality of dividers has at least a portion positioned above an innermost edge of each of the pair of support beams, the portion having a width that is less than the space between the support beams adjacent that divider, and wherein each divider has laterally opposed ends connected one each to a respective one of the support beams.

2. The sorter of claim 1, wherein the laterally opposed ends are connected to the support beams below and laterally outward of the inner most edges of the support beams.

3. The sorter of claim 1, wherein the pair of support beams is inclined upward toward the rear ends thereof.

4. The sorter of claim 1, further including a rear leg extending from the rear end of each support beam, the rear leg being of sufficient height to elevate the rear end of the sorter relative to the front end of the sorter.

5. The sorter of claim 4, including two rear legs, each substantially a continuation of the rear divider and located proximate the opposed ends of the rear divider.

6. The sorter of claim 1, wherein each of the pair of support beams has an outer edge and the space between the inner edges of respective support beams is traversed only by the plurality of dividers.

7. The sorter of claim 6, wherein each of the pair of support beams are curved in a radial direction between the respective inner most and outer edges of the support beams.

8. The sorter of claim 7, wherein the support beam curvature is convex relative to top edges of the dividers.

9. The sorter of claim 7, wherein the support beam curvature is concave relative to top edges of the dividers.

10. The sorter of claim 7, wherein the inner most edge of each of the pair of support beams is at a different elevation relative to the laterally corresponding outer edge of the support beam at any position along the pair of support beams.

11. The sorter of claim 1, wherein each divider in the plurality of dividers includes an upper arch surface.

12. The sorter of claim 11, wherein each divider in the plurality of dividers includes a lower edge that follows substantially the same contour as the upper arch surface forming an open front of the respective divider beneath the lower edge.

13. The sorter of claim 1, wherein the front divider has a generally solid front surface beneath an upper edge thereof.

14. The document sorter of claim 1, wherein the front divider includes a generally linear bottom edge.

15. The sorter of claim 1, wherein the plurality of dividers each includes a slight convex curvature in a lateral direction and relative to the front end of the sorter.

16. The sorter of claim 1, wherein each divider in the plurality of dividers terminates at opposed lower ends and each opposed lower end includes a laterally extending foot and wherein each foot includes an upper edge that is joined to an underside of the corresponding support beam of the pair of support beams.

17. The sorter of claim 16, wherein each foot extends completely from the outer edge to the inner most edge of the corresponding support beam.

18. The sorter of claim 17, wherein the feet of the front divider close off the front ends of the pair of support beams.

19. The sorter of claim 17, wherein the feet of the rear divider close off the rear ends of the pair of support beams.

20. A stack of sorters, the stack comprising: a plurality of sorters, each sorter including: a pair of laterally spaced apart support beams, each support beam having a front end and a rear end; a plurality of dividers generally vertically oriented spaced apart from one another, and oriented generally parallel to one another, each divider traversing a space between the support beams, the plurality of dividers including a front divider positioned near the front ends of the pair of support beams, a rear divider positioned near the rear ends of the pair of support beams and an intermediate divider therebetween; and a storage space defined above the side support beams and between each adjacent pair of dividers, wherein each of the plurality of dividers has at least a portion positioned above an innermost edge of each of the pair of support beams, the portion having a width that is less than the space between the support beams adjacent that divider, and wherein each divider has laterally opposed ends connected one each to a respective one of the support beams; wherein a first sorter in the plurality of sorters is vertically stacked with a second sorter in the plurality of sorters and wherein the dividers of the second sorter are received upward within the storage spaces of the first sorter and the support beams of the second sorter underlie the support beams of the first sorter providing a nested configuration.

21. The sorter of claim 20, wherein the front divider of the second sorter is positioned forward of the front divider of the first sorter and a rear leg of the second sorter is positioned forward of a rear leg of the first sorter.

22. The sorter of claim 21, wherein each divider in the plurality of dividers terminates at opposed lower ends and each opposed lower end includes a laterally extending foot and wherein each foot includes an upper edge that is joined to an underside of the corresponding support beam of the pair of support beams.

23. The sorter of claim 22, wherein lower edges of the foot of each divider of the first document sorter are flush with the bottom of the outer edge of the support beams and provide contact points which bear against the upper surface of the support beams of the second document sorter.

24. The sorter of claim 22, wherein lower edges of the foot of each divider of the first document sorter are raised above the bottom of the outer edge of the support beams and provide contact points which bear against the upper surface of the support beams of the second document sorter allowing the support beams of the first document sorter to at least partially overlap the support beams of the second document sorter.

25. The sorter of claim 1, wherein each of the pair of support beams is curved in both a longitudinal direction between the front and rear ends and laterally across a width of the pair of support beams.

26. The sorter of claim 1, wherein each of the pair of support beams is flat laterally across a width between the innermost edge and an outer edge.

27. The sorter of claim 26, wherein each of the pair of support beams is curved in a longitudinal direction between the front and rear ends of the pair of support beams.

28. The sorter of claim 1, including a plurality of intermediate dividers.

29. A method of stacking sorters comprising: providing a plurality of sorters, each sorter including: a pair of laterally spaced apart support beams, each support beam having a front end and a rear end, a plurality of dividers generally vertically oriented spaced apart from one another, and oriented generally parallel to one another, each divider traversing a space between the support beams, the plurality of dividers including a front divider positioned near the front ends of the pair of support beams, a rear divider positioned near the rear ends of the pair of support beams and an intermediate divider therebetween, and a storage space defined above the side support beams and between each adjacent pair of dividers, wherein each of the plurality of dividers has at least a portion positioned above an innermost edge of each of the pair of support beams, the portion having a width that is less than the space between the support beams adjacent that divider, and wherein each divider has laterally opposed ends connected one each to a respective one of the support beams; positioning a first one of a plurality of sorters vertically above and rearwardly offset relative to a second one of the plurality of sorters; inserting each the plurality of dividers of the second sorter into a corresponding aligned one of the storage spaces of the first sorter; and lowering the first sorter until it contacts a portion of the second sorter thereby providing a nested configuration.

Description:

This patent is related to and claims priority benefit of U.S. provisional application Ser. No. 60/559,313, filed on Apr. 2, 2004 and U.S. provisional application No. 60/592,271 filed on Jul. 29, 2004, and incorporates by reference all of the subject matter disclosed in said prior provisional applications.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Disclosure

The present disclosure is generally related to document and file organization and storage products, and more particularly to a nestable and stackable sorter for files, documents, and the like.

2. Description of Related Art

Storage and organizer products for documents, file folders, and the like are known. Generally, such products are intended for individual use and are not typically nestable and stackable relative to one another when using more than two of such products. However, such products are often shipped and displayed in individual form or nested in pairs. Consequently, these known products take up a relatively large amount of retail shelf space and also a significant amount of space during shipment.

The consumption of relatively large amounts of retail shelf space by such products is problematic, as retail shelf space is extremely valuable and manufacturers compete vigorously for adequate shelf space to display their products. Any inefficient use of retail shelf space can lead to a manufacturer's products not being adequately displayed, as well as a reduction in the number of different products a manufacturer may be allowed to display in a given retail store.

Because the profit margins for these items can be relatively small, a means for packaging these items in a compact manner is important for reducing shipment and handling costs of such low margin products.

Typical organizer or sorter products can only be stacked with one other identical product by inverting one of the products, rotating it 180 degrees, and placing it on top of and nesting it with the other of the products. Sorter products stacked and nested in this manner are susceptible to movement relative to one another, and can be damaged. Thus, additional packaging materials, such as cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic film and the like must be utilized to prevent product damage from relative movement between such products from scuffing or scratching during shipment and handling.

These types of products are typically individually packaged or packaged in pairs for shipping. Upon being prepared to be displayed for sale, the products are then unpackaged by the retailer if packaged in pairs.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following description in conjunction with the drawing figures, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a top perspective view of one example of a sorter constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a bottom perspective view of the sorter of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 shows a front view of the sorter of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 shows a top view of the sorter of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 shows a cross section view of the sorter of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 shows a side view of three of the sorters of FIG. 1 and arranged in one example of a stacked and nested configuration;

FIG. 7 shows a side cross section view of another example of a sorter constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIG. 8 shows a side view of three of the sorters of FIG. 7 and arranged in another example of a stacked and nested configuration;

FIG. 9 shows a front view of a sorter of either of FIG. 1 or FIG. 7 and supporting a file folder;

FIG. 10 shows a perspective view of another example of a sorter constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIGS. 11A- 11E show additional examples of sorters constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIGS. 12A-12D illustrate additional examples of sorters constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention;

FIGS. 13A-13B illustrate an additional example of a sorter constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present invention is generally directed to a sorter for organizing and storing documents, file folders, and the like in a substantially vertical orientation. The disclosed sorter can be stacked and nested with a plurality of identical sorters in order to reduce the space necessary for shipping, storage, and retail display. By nesting and stacking a large number of identical sorters, the sorters can also be tightly packed. Thus, the sorters may move relatively little or not at all relative to one another during shipping. This further reduces the possibility of the products becoming scratched or scraped.

Turning now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a perspective view of one example of a document sorter 20 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The disclosed sorter 20 generally includes a pair of support pillars or beams 22, a plurality of upstanding dividers 24, a front end 26, and a rear leg 28 extending downward from a rear end 30 of the sorter. The rear legs 28 elevate the rear end 30 upwardly relative to the front end 26 and tilt the beams 22 in an upward and rearward direction. The dividers are hereinafter collectively identified as dividers 24, but specifically include a front or forward most divider 24a, a plurality of intermediate dividers 24b, and a rear or back divider 24c. When referring to the dividers generally, they are referred to by reference number 24. When referring to specific dividers, the reference numbers 24a, 24b, or 24c are used.

The dividers 24 extend vertically upward and are spaced apart and positioned traversing laterally between the spaced apart support beams 22. The dividers 24 are longitudinally spaced apart between the front end 26 and the rear end 30 of the sorter 20. In this example, the dividers are at equidistant spacing relative to each other. Storage gaps or spaces 31 are formed between adjacent ones of the dividers 24. FIG. 3 illustrates a front view of the sorter 20 shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 2 illustrates the sorter 20 of FIG. 1 but in an inverted orientation to show its underside. In the disclosed example, the support beams 22 of the sorter 20 include an outer most edge 32 and an inner most edge 34. The space between the inner edges 34 of the pair of support beams 22 is open and traversed only by the dividers 24. Each support beam 22 in this example has a lengthwise or longitudinal axis extending between the front end 26 and the rear end 30 of the sorter 20. The disclosed support beams 22 are straight relative to their longitudinal direction, but inclined by the height of the rear legs 28. The support beams 22 are curved or arcuate in a radial direction relative to the support beam axis between the respective inner and outer edges 32 and 34. The support beam curvature adds structural rigidity and stability to the overall sorter construction. In this example, each support beam 22 is curved upwardly or is convex in an upward direction. Thus, the inner edges 34 of the support beams are at a higher elevation than the outer edges 32 in this example.

In the disclosed example shown in FIGS. 1-3, each of the dividers 24 has an arcuate or curved upper arch portion 36. In this example, the arch portion 36 has a lower edge 38 and an upper edge 40 that essentially follow the same contour. The front divider 24a has a generally solid front surface 42 beneath the lower edge 38, whereas the remaining dividers 24b and 24c are merely arches with open fronts beneath the lower edges 38. As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, each of the dividers 24 can have a closed front or an open front as desired. Further, the closed front surface, if present, can include one or more holes, openings, or perforations to reduce material weight, usage, and thus cost, or merely for ornamental purpose.

The shape of the dividers 24 can also vary within the spirit and scope of the present invention. In this example, the arcuate or curved arch portion 36 is in the form of a semi-circle. However, the curvature or shape need not be any particular shape. In fact, the dividers 24 can be any shape suitable for supporting file folders, documents, and the like within the spaces 31 of the sorter 20. The size of the dividers 24 in the disclosed example are such that the upper edges 40 are below a height of a file or folder stored therein and are narrower than a width of a file or folder stored therein. Thus, a user can easily read a file or other object to view any labels or content indicators and can grasp objects stored in the sorter along virtually any of three edges or-comers of the article. However, the dividers 24 should be of sufficient width and sufficient height to bear against a sufficient portion of a file, folder, document, or other article or object stored in the sorter so that the object is adequately supported in a substantially vertical or upright orientation.

As indicated in FIG. 2 showing the inverted sorter 20, only the front panel 24a includes a generally linear bottom edge 44. The lower edge 38 of each of the dividers 24b and 24c positioned behind the forward most divider 24a is curved to substantially mirror the curvature of the respective upper edges 40. In this manner, the front divider 24a of the sorter 20 will give the appearance of a solid, substantial divider and sorter product. However, material reduction and therefore cost reduction can be achieved by the open front configuration of the dividers 24b and 24c positioned rearward of the forward most divider 24a.

The top view of FIG. 4 shows that the dividers 24 are not planar or flat in a lateral or side to side direction. Instead, each divider 24 has a slight convex curvature relative to the front end 26 of the sorter. The curvature of the dividers 24 can add structural rigidity and strength to the sorter. When a number of files or folders are stored in a given gap 31, the curved dividers 24 can better support the bearing weight of the folders or files. The arch portion 36 of each divider can also have a curve in cross section to add further structure and stiffness to each divider and the overall sorter construction. However, the dividers 24 can be planar or flat if desired, or can be planar but have some depth created by ribs to add rigidity.

Also as shown in FIGS. 2 and 5, each divider 24 terminates at opposed lower ends 50. Each end 50 further has a laterally extending foot 52. The feet 52 of the dividers 24 extend in outwardly opposite directions in this example. Each of the feet 52 in this example has an upper edge that interconnects to an underside 54 of a respective support beam 22. In this example, each foot 52 extends completely from the innermost edge 34 to the outermost edge 32 of the support beams 22. The length and height of each foot 52 in this example adds strength and rigidity to the dividers 24, the support beams 22, and the entire sorter 20. Each of the feet 52 of the dividers 24a and 24b includes a horizontal lower edge 56 in this example. The upward curvature of the support beams adds height to the feet 52 from the lower foot edges 56 to the underside of the beams 22, which adds further rigidity and strength to the structure.

The ends 50 and feet 52 of the forward most divider 24a are interconnected to and close off a forward facing edge of the respective support beams 22. The ends 50 and feet 52 of the rearward most divider 24c are connected to and close off a rearward facing edge of the respective support beams 22. In this example, the bottom edges 58 of the rearward most divider 24c depend further downward and define the rear legs 28.

The area within the gaps 31 is open between adjacent dividers 24 and laterally between the opposite innermost edges 34 of the support beams 22. As a result, multiple sorters 20 of identical construction can be nested relative to and stacked upon one another as illustrated in FIG. 6. The dividers 24 of a lower most sorter 20 can be received through the openings in the gaps 31 between the support beams 22 of a next adjacent upper sorter in a stack. The lateral width of the dividers 24 in this example is such that the dividers can fit within the lateral opening between support beams in the next adjacent upper sorter. The front or forward most divider 24a of the lower most sorter in the stack is positioned forward of the front divider panel 24a of the next upwardly adjacent stacked sorter. Each next upwardly stacked sorter is similarly positioned or offset behind the previous sorter front divider. The rear legs 28 of each sorter are positioned behind the previously stacked sorter. The gaps 31 permit only a limited number of dividers to nest therebetween. The gap can be precisely dimensioned to tightly or closely fit a specific number of dividers. In this manner, that number of sorters can be stacked and nested relative to one another as depicted in FIG. 6. Only three such sorters 20 are depicted therein, with room for one or more additional sorters 20 in the stack.

As shown in FIGS. 2 and 5, the lower edges 56 of the feet 52 of the dividers 24a and 24b are flush with the bottom, outermost edge 32 of the support beams 22 in this example. The lower edges 56 provide contact points which bear against the support beam 22 of a lower adjacent support beam 22 in the stack. Thus, the feet 52 can determine the vertical stacking depth of one sorter 20 on top of another sorter. In this example, the feet bottom edges 56 are positioned such that the support beam 22 of one sorter 20 does not vertically overlap or nest in contact with another support beam 22 of an adjacent sorter 20. Thus, the support beams 22 rest spaced from one another in this example. This can reduce or inhibit friction locking between stacked sorters.

Alternative contact points between stacked sorters can be provided. In one example as shown in FIG. 7, different configurations of the lower edges 56′ of the feet 52′ can be provided to define a different nesting depth between stacked sorters. The elevation of the lower edges 56′ of the feet 52′ in this example do not extend as far downward as the feet 52 of the prior example. In this example the lower edges 56′ of the feet 52′ are raised or elevated so that it is well above the height of the outermost edge 32 of the support beams 22. The contact point between the lower edges 56′ and the top of the support beams 22 would thus permit a greater nesting depth between the stacked and nested sorters 20 as shown in FIG. 8. The support beams 22 at least partially overlap with the next lower support beams 22 in this example to provide a tighter nesting and thus a shorter stack of sorters 20.

As shown in FIG. 9, files, folders, and the like that are stored in the gaps 31 between dividers 24 of the disclosed sorters will also rest on the top surface of the support beams 22. As noted above, the size of the dividers can be such that parts of the stored objects extend beyond the perimeter of the dividers. The exposed parts of the objects can thus be easily seen and grasped as needed.

FIG. 10 illustrates another example of a sorter 200 that is similar in many respects to the sorter 20 described previously. However, in this example, the sorter 200 has support beams 202 that are curved in both a radial and a longitudinal direction. The sorter 200 depicts one of many variations that can be achieved in the disclosed sorter configurations without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

FIGS. 11A-11E illustrate yet additional examples of file or document sorters constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. FIG. 11A illustrates a sorter 210 with support beams 212 that are flat in cross section, or relative to a radial direction, but are curved in the longitudinal direction. Additionally, the sorter 210 includes dividers 214 that are curved along their top edges 216 but have substantially straight side edges 218. FIG. 11B illustrates a similar sorter 220 with essentially identical support beams 222. However, the sorter 220 has substantially rectangular shaped dividers 224.

FIG. 11C illustrates another example of a sorter 230 that also has flat cross sectional support beams 232 that are curved in a longitudinal direction. In this example, the sorter 230 has dividers 234 that are semi-circular in configuration, similar to the dividers 24 of the sorter 20 described herein. However, as with the dividers 214 and 224 of the sorters 210 and 220, respectively, all of the interior and rear dividers 234 are solid and are not open arches.

FIG. 11D illustrates a sorter 240 with support beams 242 similar to the support beams 212, 222, and 232 and solid surface dividers 244. However, in this example, the dividers 244 include top edges 246 that have one of many possible alternative curvilinear configurations. FIG. 11E illustrates a sorter 250, again having support beams 252 similar to those in the previous sorter examples of FIGS. 11A-11D. However, in this example, the sorter 250 includes dividers 254 that are similar to the dividers of the sorter 20 described previously herein, except that all of the dividers, including the forward most divider 254 have no solid front surface, but are of an open front configuration.

FIGS. 12A-12D illustrate yet additional examples of sorter configurations that fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. FIG. 12A illustrates a sorter 260 with essentially rectangular dividers 262 of varying height. In this example, the dividers 262 are also two dimensionally curved in cross section along their perimeter edges. FIG. 12B illustrates a similar sorter 270 with dividers 272 of essentially the same construction as the dividers 262. However, in this example, the dividers 272 are open and do not include solid front surfaces. FIGS. 12C and 12D illustrate still further examples of sorters 280 and 290 having dividers 282 and 292, respectively that are different in shape from those previously described herein. The dividers 282 of FIG. 12C are generally rectangular in shape, while the dividers 292 of FIG. 12D are generally arch shaped including three sides and having squared off corners.

FIGS. 13A-13B illustrate an additional example of a sorter configuration that falls within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The sorter 300 has support beams 302, 304 coupled to dividers 306. The dividers 306 have substantially flat sides 308 and bottoms 310, and having tops 312 formed in an arc-shape. Other shapes for the perimeter of the divider 306 are readily apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art. The support beams 302, 304 and divider sides 308, bottom 310, and top 312 have a round cross-section shape and may be constructed of plastic. Alternately, the support beams 302, 304 and divider sides 308, bottom 310, and top 312 can be made of metal, for example, a suitable diameter wire formed to the desired shape. The dividers 306 may be open, similar to that of divider 254, or may be closed, as illustrated, similar to dividers 224. To form a closed divider 306, a suitable-mesh 314 can be coupled to the sides 308, bottom 310 and top 312. The mesh 314 of the closed construction provides support to documents placed between dividers 306 and can vary in opening size. The mesh 314 can be woven, for example of fabric or wire screen. Alternately, the mesh 314 can be a molded substance. The mesh 314 can be substantially transparent, to ease document identification, translucent, or even opaque, depending on the mesh material and construction. FIG. 13B illustrates three exemplary sorters 316, 318, 320 of the type illustrated in FIG. 13A stacked, for example, for shipping or display as described above. As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, a sorter falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention can be achieved while the particular shape and configuration of the dividers and beams can vary considerably. In these examples, the beams 302 and 304 are spaced outward of the side edges of the dividers 306 to allow stacking of like sorters.

Merchandisers and retailers of vertical orientation document sorters typically provide shelf space and retail arrangements that vary from store to store and from retailer to retailer. Thus, a product configuration that is suitable for display in a shelf space at one location may not be suitable for a shelf space or configuration at another location. The disclosed sorters permit stacking and nesting of multiple products. The disclosed sorters can thus be displayed, packaged, shipped, stocked, stored, and the like within a relatively small amount of shelf space.

By maximizing packaging and shipping space as well as store shelf space utilizing the disclosed document sorter configurations, one is able to package, ship and store a larger product volume per unit area. This creates more space within an-existing product display in a limited shelf space arrangement that may have been originally suited for a completely different product. This can increase revenue dollars for the retailer per square foot of shelf-space. This can also permit adding the disclosed article holders to an existing shelf space without having to knock out another product from that shelf space.

Sorters for storing items such as file folders, documents, and the like in a vertical orientation have not heretofore been designed for nestability in the manner disclosed herein. Some solutions have been provided, but these typically require that the sorters being offered for sale be provided in several pieces, partially dismantled, or as stand alone units. Also, such products typically are packaged with cardboard, Styrofoam, plastic film and the like to protect the articles from being damaged by one another, such as by being scuffed, scratched, or the like, while being shipped or while on display for sale.

In contrast, the disclosed document sorter configurations may eliminate the need for utilizing foam, paper, corrugated elements, poly bags, or other such packing materials. Instead, the disclosed sorters can be shipped, stored, and displayed in tightly nested stacks. The stacks will provide stability to the shipped, stored, and displayed products. The products can stand alone in stacks without additional packing in shipping containers or on a shelf storage space for sale.

Some other existing office products of the type described herein are capable of nesting, but only with one other like product. Further, one of the two products must be inverted or turned upside down and rotated 180 degrees relative to the other in order to nest. These types of products, however, must still utilize additional packing to prevent the products from moving relative to one another during shipping and display, which would otherwise cause scuffing or scratching. Such known products do not typically optimize product nesting or reduce shelf space to the degree that the disclosed sorters can accomplish.

The disclosed sorters achieve the objective of substantially reducing the necessary space required for shipping, storage, and retail sale, while still maintaining standard function for such products. The standard function is typically to be suitable for storing file folders or similar sized documents. The disclosed sorters can nest bi-directionally, i.e., horizontally offset and vertically, while still meeting the aforementioned function and minimizing the possibility of product damage during shipping.

The materials and processes used to manufacture the disclosed article holders can vary considerably and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. However, in one example, the sorters disclosed herein can be manufactured using an injection molding process. The materials utilized in one example can be commodity plastics such as polystyrene or polypropylene. However, many other materials may be suitable for forming the disclosed sorters. For example, other materials may include engineering grade plastic materials such as polycarbonate, ABS, or TPE. Other commodity thermoplastics, or even further alternative materials such as metal, wood, organic materials, leather, glass, and/or variations and combinations of these materials, as well as other materials such as fabrics and woven materials may be used. Material selection may assist in creating a higher impact strength, flexibility, improved resistance to scratching or scuffing, or enhanced appearance. The material selection can be undertaken with important characteristics in mind for a given application. However, engineering plastics such as polystyrene or polypropylene also lend themselves to reduce consumer cost.

The disclosed sorters can be painted, decorated, or in-molded with labels, graphics, or other layers or accents. These additional design characteristics can be employed to protect the surfaces of the sorter or to enhance the decorative nature of the product. Combinations of materials can be utilized and assembled in any suitable way, including forming a plastic underbody product with rubber over-molded on the plastic base material. Alternatively, metal parts can be mechanically fastened together or wood products can be covered with suitable decorative materials such as fabric, metal decorative and protective corner features, and the like.

Depending upon the materials selected, the manufacturing processes and methods used can also vary and be employed as needed. In one example, a plastic sorter disclosed herein can be molded using a simple two part mold. The construction of the dividers, beams, and feet can be configured to provide the necessary mold draft for easy formation and removal of parts from the mold cavities. The openings in the dividers and between the dividers can be formed by providing shut-offs or surface-to-surface metal contact within the mold.

The disclosed sorter configurations improve upon maximizing retail shelf space, accommodate variable shelf space arrangements and configurations, and enhance product nesting during display for sale. Product nesting is accomplished in a bidirectional manner to yield a stack with offset in both a horizontal and a vertical direction. The stacked products can be displayed and shipped without damage to the product caused by scuffing, scrapping, and the like because the products can be tightly nested. The need for additional packing can be negated. The disclosed sorters can also provide multiple access points to the stored objects so that a user can easily grasp materials stored between the dividers.

Additionally, freight cube size can be optimized and significantly reduced utilizing the disclosed sorter configurations. Products shipped in bulk can be directly unloaded from the master carton or shipping-box onto a shelf. No additional reorientation of the product may be necessary, making the merchandiser's handling of the product easier. The nested products can also assist in retaining the displayed sorters on a retail shelf space. The products when nested as disclosed herein also look more organized. This reduces the amount of work required by the customer/merchandiser to keep the shelf display organized and arranged. An organized shelf space may effect the perception of the consumer and influence his or her decision to buy the displayed sorters.

Further, because more products can be displayed for sale in a given amount of shelf space, less restocking time and stocking space is necessary for the retailer. Having more products available for sale at any one time reduces the frequency of an item appearing to be out of stock, which can prevent a consumer from leaving the establishment to go elsewhere to find the desired product.

Although certain document and file sorters that are nestable and stackable have been described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present disclosure, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the disclosure that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.