Title:
Athletic key clasp system and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Disclosed is an apparatus and method for retaining and securing such physical objects to a person participating in athletic activities and the like. The apparatus for retaining a key having a head portion and a shank portion coupled to the head portion includes a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and a key coupler for operatively retaining the key relative to the cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to the body to define the storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within the cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond the body. The method of storing a key having a head portion and shank portion coupled to the head portion includes securing the key within a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and retaining operatively the key relative to the cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to the body to define the storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within the cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond the body.



Inventors:
Folger, Peter J. (San Francisco, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/884229
Publication Date:
01/05/2006
Filing Date:
07/03/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45C11/32; A44B15/00; A47G29/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GALL, LLOYD A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATENT LAW OFFICES MICHAEL E. WOODS (El Sobrante, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A key clasp for retaining a key having a head portion and a shank portion coupled to the head portion, the clasp comprising: a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and a key coupler for operatively retaining the key relative to said cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to said body to define said storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within said cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond said body.

2. The key clasp of claim 1 wherein said body includes an attachment member for engaging an object other than an element of the key clasp.

3. The key clasp of claim 1 wherein said wall defines said cavity between a front wall portion and a rear wall portion.

4. The key clasp of claim 2 wherein said wall is formed from a unitary construction.

5. The key clasp of claim 2 wherein said body is generally “U” shaped having said cavity between a first leg and a second leg of said “U.”

6. The key clasp of claim 2 wherein said body includes an attachment member for engaging an object other than an element of the key clasp.

7. The key clasp of claim 6 wherein said wall is formed from a unitary construction.

8. The key clasp of claim 7 wherein said attachment member is defined by an attachment region of said wall.

9. The key clasp of claim 1 wherein a region of the head portion extends beyond a periphery of said body to facilitate movement of the key from said storage mode to said operational mode.

10. The key clasp of claim 2 wherein a region of the head portion extends beyond a periphery of said body to facilitate movement of the key from said storage mode to said operational mode.

11. The key clasp of claim 1 wherein said key coupler is a pin defining a rotational pivot for the key.

12. The key clasp of claim 11 wherein said pin includes an attachment mode wherein the key may be coupled to and decoupled from the key clasp and an engagement mode in which the key is retained to the key clasp.

13. The key clasp of claim 12 wherein said pin includes a threaded bolt portion selectively engageable with a complementary threaded receptacle portion.

14. The key clasp of claim 8 wherein said key coupler is a pin defining a rotational pivot for the key, wherein the key rotates within said body when moving from said storage mode to said operational mode.

15. The key clasp of claim 14 wherein said pin includes an attachment mode wherein the key may be coupled to and decoupled from the key clasp and an engagement mode in which the key is retained to the key clasp.

16. The key clasp of claim 15 wherein said pin includes a threaded bolt portion selectively engageable with a complementary threaded receptacle portion.

17. A method of storing a key having a head portion and shank portion coupled to the head portion, the method comprising: securing the key within a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and retaining operatively the key relative to said cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to said body to define said storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within said cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond said body.

18. The method of claim 17 wherein said body includes an attachment member for engaging an object other than an element of the key clasp, said wall defines said cavity between a front wall portion and a rear wall portion, said wall is formed from a unitary construction, and said attachment member is defined by an attachment region of said wall.

19. The method of claim 18 wherein said object is an article of clothing and said attachment member is adapted for engagement to a portion of said article.

20. The method of claim 19 comprising the step of engaging said portion of said article.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to key holders, and more specifically to a key clasp for use during athletic activities and the like.

It is well known for persons to employ one or more physical objects used for securing a residence portal (e.g., a key for a lock in a front door) in many different instances. Many of these persons are often confronted with a dilemma when they desire to participate in activities outside of the residence, particularly running and other athletic activities. The dilemma is to forego the use of the physical object to secure the portal and thereby not require its use when returning to the residence or to use the physical object and thereafter carry it during such activities so it is available for reentry.

The former option is not always available for multiperson residence structures (e.g., apartment complexes) and when available the option may be undesirable in many circumstances due to real or perceived compromised security scenarios.

The latter option is not ideal as the person either has to secret the object where it may stored and recovered without detection by others, or the object must be carried during the activity. Besides the inconvenience of carrying the object, the object may be especially prone to loss because the person often does not participate in such activities with clothing and accessories that normally and conventionally accommodate such objects during non-athletic activities. Considering a running activity, many runners participate in the activity by wearing special running attire that offers minimal storage facilities. In some instances, multiple objects may be required for entrance, such as one for a lobby door and one for the specific residence, further taxing limited storage resources.

Many people desire to have minimal distractions during participation in their chosen activity and desire some option that does not require special preparation, monitoring, or otherwise interfere with immersion into the activity.

The prior art has offered some solutions including retrofit pockets such as for strapping to a running shoe and providing limited storage space in running shorts. Other solutions include simply tying a rubber band to the key and attaching it to one's wrist—an inconvenient and often uncomfortable solution.

Unfortunately, these solutions are not always ideal. Many people have limited time for such activities so their preference is to buy and wear appropriate gear without regard to the availability of pockets. Additionally, over time (particularly as seasons change) the person will use different gear and in some cases such as for running, layers of clothing may be employed. Some layering arrangements inhibit the accessibility and any ease-of-use for such pockets.

What is needed is an efficient and convenient system and method for retaining and securing such physical objects to a person participating in athletic activities and the like.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Disclosed is an apparatus and method for retaining and securing such physical objects to a person participating in athletic activities and the like. The apparatus for retaining a key having a head portion and a shank portion coupled to the head portion includes a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and a key coupler for operatively retaining the key relative to the cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to the body to define the storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within the cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond the body. The method of storing a key having a head portion and shank portion coupled to the head portion includes securing the key within a body having a wall defining a cavity including a length dimension and a width dimension greater than a proximate length dimension and width dimension of the shank portion when in a storage mode; and retaining operatively the key relative to the cavity in at least two modes, the key moveably proximated to the body to define the storage mode wherein the shank portion is retained within the cavity and an operational mode in which the shank portion extends beyond the body.

The present invention is an efficient and simple solution to retaining and securing physical objects, such as keys, to a person participating in athletic activities and the like. The key clasp of the preferred embodiment is adapted to easily attach to an article of clothing, for example by the use of one hand, and to thereby secure the keys to the clothing while reducing potential drawbacks and irritations commonly associated with clipping a key ring to clothing.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a preferred embodiment for a key clasp of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a side perspective view of the key clasp shown in FIG. 1 without any keys;

FIG. 3 is a side perspective view of the key clasp shown in FIG. 1 with two keys;

FIG. 4 is a side perspective view of the key clasp shown in FIG. 3 with the keys moved into the operational mode; and

FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of the key clasp shown in FIG. 3 with the keys moved into the storage mode.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an apparatus and method for retaining and securing physical objects to a person participating in athletic activities and the like. The following description is presented to enable one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention and is provided in the context of a patent application and its requirements. Various modifications to the preferred embodiment and the generic principles and features described herein will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiment shown but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features described herein.

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a preferred embodiment for a key clasp 100 of the present invention. Clasp 100 includes a body 105 and a key coupler 110, with a portion of body 105 forming an attachment member. Body 105 defines a region, more particularly described below, having a width “w” and a length “l” from coupler 110 to an end 115 of the attachment member.

FIG. 2 is a side perspective view of key clasp 100 shown in FIG. 1 without any keys. Clasp 100 includes the attachment member (shown as a particular adaptation 200 of body 105) including a clipping portion 205 coupled to end 115. Body 105 defines a cavity 210 between a rear wall portion 215 and clipping portion 205. Rear wall portion 215 is separated nominally by a distance “d” from clipping portion 200 which is also a length of coupler 110. Thus body 105 defines cavity 210 having volume dimensions of “w”דl”דd.”

Body 105 of the preferred embodiment is unitary construction meaning a single, formed, piece of lightweight material sufficiently resistant to plastic deformation (e.g., aluminum) to provide a springy clipping function as described below. As shown, body 105 of the preferred embodiment is generally “U” shaped and adapted to form a key retaining cavity, with a portion of the body forming a clipping member, though other constructions and configurations are possible and remain within the scope of the present invention. In some embodiments, body 105 may be a composite of two or more integrated sub-pieces.

Rear wall 215 is preferably planar, extending beyond end 115 using coupler 110 as a starting reference. The amount of extension is dependent upon design considerations of specific implementations considering the present teachings.

Coupler 110 is, in the preferred embodiment, a key retaining structure for holding one or more keys within cavity 210 while permitting movement of one or more keys between a storage mode and an operational mode. For the example shown in the preferred embodiment, coupler 110 is a pin, most preferably a reusable pin, permitting keys to be rotated about the pin when moving between the two modes. By reusable, the present invention contemplates a key coupling system wherein one or more keys may be repeatedly associated with, and disassociated from, key clasp 110. In some implementations, coupler 110 may be a two-part threaded bolt and mating receptacle, while in other instances coupler 110 may be a snap-fit pin and receptacle. However, some implementations may not provide for a reusable key coupler 110. Such implementations are still within the scope of the present invention. For example, it may be desirable to provide one or two key blanks permanently integrated into a suitable body and connected by a rivet or the like. In this instance, a user has a particular key duplicated onto the blank for use and does not remove the key from clasp 100.

In addition to retaining keys as described above, key coupler 110 also serves to define cavity 210 by biasing the walls of body 105 into the desired relative orientation. Distance “d” is selected, in the preferred embodiment, to be an integral number of standard key widths, with one or two key widths the most preferred alternatives.

FIG. 3 is a side perspective view of key clasp 100 shown in FIG. 1 with two keys (Key_1 and Key_2 stacked side-by-side and extending from rear wall 215). FIG. 3 illustrates a particular orientation of body adaptation 200 relative to Key_1 and Key_2. Beginning at coupler 110 and traveling towards end 115, attachment member 200 quickly increases its separation from rear wall 215 and then sharply bends toward rear wall 215 to gradually slope towards clipping portion 205 that is immediately adjacent key Key_2 in the preferred embodiment. Thereafter, body adaptation 200 again quickly increases a separation distance from Key_2 until another bend is made so that end 115 extends for a some distance parallel to Key_2 with a space 300 provided between Key_2 and end 115. Of course, other number of keys may be accommodated, the discussion would be different depending upon which key was closest to clipping portion 205 but otherwise would not depart from the description of the present invention.

As shown in FIG. 1, end 115 is bluntly pointed. It is further a feature of the preferred embodiment that peripheral edges of body adaptation 200 are smooth and rounded or otherwise adapted to not cut, poke, pierce, abrade or otherwise injure/irritate a person's skin or clothing. This is because end 115, as shown, engages an edge of a structure, like an edge of an article of clothing, and slides relative to the structure to maintain the structure between clipping portion 205 and Key_2. In one preferred embodiment, such as in the case of a waistband of a pair of shorts, end 115 extends inside the shorts next to the body capturing the waistband between clipping portion 205 and Key_2. Space 300 provides an easy mechanism to engage a suitable structure edge and also to separate body adaptation 200 against the clipping/biasing force using one hand. In this configuration, the smooth edges of body 105 are inside the shorts while the toothed structures of the keys are outside, limiting the key's impact upon the person's participation in their chosen activity. Alternatively, the arrangement may be reversed with end 115 extending external of the waistband, with keys and rear wall 215 internal, for example. Still other configuring solutions are possible within the scope of the present invention.

In operation, once one or more keys are coupled to key clasp 100, the user simply and efficiently clips key clasp 100 to a suitable structure (e.g., a hemline, waistband, collar, cuffband, shoelace, headband, and the like) by clipping the structure between clipping portion 205 and one of the keys.

FIG. 4 and FIG. 5 show an additional feature of the preferred embodiment enhancing the usefulness of key clasp 100. FIG. 4 is a side perspective view of key clasp 100 shown in FIG. 3 with each Key_1 and Key_2 moved into an operational mode. FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of key clasp 100 shown in FIG. 3 with each Key_1 and Key_2 moved into a storage mode.

As shown in FIG. 4, each key has a head portion 400 and a shank portion 405. Most keys include an aperture of some sort, a hole or opening, to enable a user to attach the key to a key ring. Key coupler 110 of the preferred embodiment is adapted to engage this aperture when a key is retained within body 105. However, in some embodiments an alternative retaining system may be employed to secure one or more keys to key coupler 110. An adapter may be employed for this purpose, as well as for retaining keys having enlarged apertures to provide for better operation between the operational mode and the storage mode. In the operational mode shown in FIG. 4, the shank portion of a key is exposed for operation in well-known fashion.

As shown in FIG. 5, a portion of each key's head portion extends beyond a lateral periphery of body 105 (e.g., the width “w” is less than a width “W” of head portion 400) while shank portion 405 of each key is retained with cavity 210 shown in FIG. 2. A clipping force from clipping portion 205, or a compressive force from key coupler 110 on head portion 400, may be adjusted to inhibit movement of one or more keys from the storage mode to the operational mode until purposefully moved. Note that in the preferred embodiments for one key and two keys, head portion 400 of each key will be exposed—a head portion of one key is exposed from the back and the front, while for two keys a head portion of one key is available from the front and the head portion of the other key is available from the rear. For more than two keys, a solution described in the next paragraph may be used.

The length “l” of cavity 210 is also adjusted, which in the preferred embodiment is designed to extend beyond expected lengths of shank portions 405 of keys used with key clasp 100. However, in some implementations, it may be desirable to adjust the length “l” to permit an end portion of shank portions 405 to extend beyond end 115, such as for example, to assist in movement of a key from the storage mode into the operational mode or when there are more than two keys. Such an implementation may be desirable when the width “w” is greater than the width “W” or when a retaining force for the storage mode is relatively great making easy movement to the operational mode somewhat difficult.

While the preferred embodiment of key clasp 100 incorporates both the clipping function and the storage/operational mode features, some implementations may include a single one of the features without departing from the scope of the present invention. For example, the storage mode may be desirable as a replacement for a conventional key ring or key fob as it protects the inside of a key container (e.g., a pants pocket) from the abrading effects of the teeth of the keys, and it improves the organization, sound, and appearance of conventional key organizers which frequently appear to be a jumble of keys that rattle around together and can create unwelcome sounds in some circumstances.

Although embodiments of the invention have been described primarily with respect to running, many types of activities like biking, surfing, swimming may benefit from features of the invention including many everyday activities like walking and hiking. In some embodiments, the key clasp is a substitute for conventional key rings (particularly when the user has few keys). Providing additional functions for the body of the key clasp, such as ornamentation functions or remote alarm deactivation functions, is also possible and such implementations remain within the scope of the present invention.

In the description herein, numerous specific details are provided, such as examples of components and/or methods, to provide a thorough understanding of embodiments of the present invention. One skilled in the relevant art will recognize, however, that an embodiment of the invention can be practiced without one or more of the specific details, or with other apparatus, systems, assemblies, methods, components, materials, parts, and/or the like. In other instances, well-known structures, materials, or operations are not specifically shown or described in detail to avoid obscuring aspects of embodiments of the present invention.

Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment”, “an embodiment”, or “a specific embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention and not necessarily in all embodiments. Thus, respective appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment”, “in an embodiment”, or “in a specific embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily referring to the same embodiment. Furthermore, the particular features, structures, or characteristics of any specific embodiment of the present invention may be combined in any suitable manner with one or more other embodiments. It is to be understood that other variations and modifications of the embodiments of the present invention described and illustrated herein are possible in light of the teachings herein and are to be considered as part of the spirit and scope of the present invention.

It will also be appreciated that one or more of the elements depicted in the drawings/figures can also be implemented in a more separated or integrated manner, or even removed or rendered as inoperable in certain cases, as is useful in accordance with a particular application.

Additionally, any signal arrows in the drawings/Figures should be considered only as exemplary, and not limiting, unless otherwise specifically noted. Furthermore, the term “or” as used herein is generally intended to mean “and/or” unless otherwise indicated. Combinations of components or steps will also be considered as being noted, where terminology is foreseen as rendering the ability to separate or combine is unclear.

As used in the description herein and throughout the claims that follow, “a”, “an”, and “the” includes plural references unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Also, as used in the description herein and throughout the claims that follow, the meaning of “in” includes “in” and “on” unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

The foregoing description of illustrated embodiments of the present invention, including what is described in the Abstract, is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed herein. While specific embodiments of, and examples for, the invention are described herein for illustrative purposes only, various equivalent modifications are possible within the spirit and scope of the present invention, as those skilled in the relevant art will recognize and appreciate. As indicated, these modifications may be made to the present invention in light of the foregoing description of illustrated embodiments of the present invention and are to be included within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Thus, while the present invention has been described herein with reference to particular embodiments thereof, a latitude of modification, various changes and substitutions are intended in the foregoing disclosures, and it will be appreciated that in some instances some features of embodiments of the invention will be employed without a corresponding use of other features without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention as set forth. Therefore, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the essential scope and spirit of the present invention. It is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular terms used in following claims and/or to the particular embodiment disclosed as the best mode contemplated for carrying out this invention, but that the invention will include any and all embodiments and equivalents falling within the scope of the appended claims.

Therefore, the scope of the invention is to be determined solely by the appended claims.