Title:
Utility bag assembly for transporting and organizing small items
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable storage assembly is disclosed. The assembly can include a carrying case having body panels that enclose a main storage volume. At least one of the body panels can have an opening and a cover that is selectively positioned in an open position to allow access to the storage volume and a stowed position to cover the opening. A storage unit can be disposed in the main storage volume. The storage unit can have a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items. The members can be received by the holder and accessible through the opening so that the small items can be placed in and removed from the storage volumes without removal of at least the holder from the carrying case.



Inventors:
Adams, Robert G. (Placentia, CA, US)
Brown, Kirk (Incline Village, NV, US)
Application Number:
10/959377
Publication Date:
04/06/2006
Filing Date:
10/06/2004
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/290, 312/311, 190/112
International Classes:
A45C3/00; A47B81/00; A47B88/00; B65D85/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WEAVER, SUE A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RENNER OTTO BOISSELLE & SKLAR, LLP (CLEVELAND, OH, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A portable storage assembly, comprising: a carrying case having body panels that enclose a main storage volume, at least one of the body panels having an opening and a cover that is selectively positioned in an open position to allow access to the storage volume and a stowed position to cover the opening; and a storage unit disposed in the main storage volume, the storage unit having a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items, the members received by the holder and are accessible through the opening so that the small items can be placed in and removed from the storage volumes without removal of at least the holder from the carrying case.

2. The storage assembly according to claim 1, wherein an interior of the cover forms a stop surface that, in the stowed position of the cover, exerts inward force on the members to reduce movement of the members with respect to the holder during transport of the storage assembly.

3. The storage assembly according to claim 2, wherein the inward force maintains a relationship of the members with the holder so that a portion of the holder corresponding to each member closes an open top of the member.

4. The storage assembly according to claim 1, wherein during access of the storage volume of each member, the member is at least partially removed from the carrying case.

5. The storage assembly according to claim 1, wherein the storage unit is a drawer assembly, the members are drawers and the holder is a frame, and the drawers are slidably received in corresponding receptacles of the frame.

6. The storage assembly according to claim 5, wherein each receptacle includes a ceiling surface that is disposed above and closes an opening of the corresponding drawer.

7. The storage assembly according to claim 1, wherein the storage unit is a bin assembly, the members are bins and the holder is a frame, and the bins are pivotally mounted to the frame and received in corresponding receptacles of the frame.

8. The storage assembly according to claim 7, wherein each receptacle includes a ceiling surface that is disposed above and closes an opening of the corresponding bin.

9. The storage assembly according to claim 1, further including a container assembly having a plurality of containers and corresponding straps that are secured within the carrying case and wherein each container is retained in the carrying case by the corresponding strap.

10. The storage assembly according to claim 9, wherein the straps are elastic members.

11. The storage assembly according to claim 1, wherein the opening is in a side body panel of the carrying case.

12. The storage assembly according to claim 11, wherein an end body panel of the carrying case has an opening for accessing a portion of the main storage volume located behind the storage unit relative to the opening of the side body panel.

13. The storage assembly according to claim 1, further comprising a second storage unit disposed in the main storage volume, the second storage unit having a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items, the members received by the holder and are accessible through a second opening in one of the body panels of the carrying case so that the small items can be placed in and removed from the storage volumes without removal of at least the holder of the second storage unit from the carrying case.

14. A portable storage assembly, comprising: a carrying case having body panels that enclose a main storage volume, at least one of the body panels having an opening and a cover that is selectively positioned in an open position to allow access to the storage volume and a stowed position to cover the opening; and a storage unit disposed in the main storage volume, the storage unit having a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items, the members received by the holder; and wherein an interior of the cover forms a stop surface that, in the stowed position of the cover, exerts inward force on the members to reduce movement of the members with respect to the holder during transport of the storage assembly.

15. The storage assembly according to claim 14, wherein the inward force maintains a relationship of the members with the holder so that a portion of the holder corresponding to each member closes an open top of the member.

16. The storage assembly according to claim 14, wherein during access of the storage volume of each member, the member is at least partially removed from the carrying case.

17. The storage assembly according to claim 14, wherein the storage unit is a drawer assembly, the members are drawers and the holder is a frame, and the drawers are slidably received in corresponding receptacles of the frame.

18. The storage assembly according to claim 17, wherein each receptacle includes a ceiling surface that is disposed above and closes an opening of the corresponding drawer.

19. The storage assembly according to claim 14, wherein the storage unit is a bin assembly, the members are bins and the holder is a frame, and the bins are pivotally mounted to the frame and received in corresponding receptacles of the frame.

20. The storage assembly according to claim 19, wherein each receptacle includes a ceiling surface that is disposed above and closes an opening of the corresponding bin.

21. A method of storing small items, comprising: opening a cover of a carrying case to allow access to an interior of the carrying case through an opening; opening a member that defines a storage volume and is at least partially received by a holder, the holder disposed within the carrying case; placing the small items in the storage volume; and closing the member and the cover such that, in the closed positions, the cover maintains the closed position of the member with respect to the holder.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates generally to a carrier for transporting, storing and organizing small items and, more particularly, to a portable storage assembly arranged to hold and increase the portability of loose, items such as fasteners.

BACKGROUND

There are a wide variety of utility bags and hand-tool carrying devices on the market. Some devices are of the tool box variety, which are of rigid plastic or metal and include a hinged top and a removable tray that lifts out to reveal the inner confines of the box for bulk tool storage. Some tool boxes include drawers that slide outward for accessing tools that have been placed in the drawers.

“Soft-sided” utility bags, which recently have been introduced on the market, make up another class of tool carrying devices. These bags typically are made from synthetic fabrics and are available in a variety of sizes and configurations. Soft-sided bags are generally similar to a doctor's bag with a zippered top opening that provides access to an inside volume where tools lay in a bulk storage arrangement. Some bags include inner and/or outer pockets for storing and organizing small items, such as drill bits, short tools and so forth.

In addition to carrying tools, workmen also tend to carry groups of small items, such as nails, screws, rivets, washers, electrical connectors and the like. When placed in conventional tool boxes and utility bags, these items tend to settle to the bottom under larger items and become mixed together, making it hard to locate any particular small item of interest. Although it is common to organize small items in a set of storage drawers, in jars and/or in bins, portability of these storage devices has been an issue.

Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an improved small item storage and carrying assembly.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the invention relates to a portable storage assembly including a carrying case having body panels that enclose a main storage volume, at least one of the body panels having an opening and a cover that is selectively positioned in an open position to allow access to the storage volume and a stowed position to cover the opening; and a storage unit disposed in the main storage volume, the storage unit having a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items, the members received by the holder and are accessible through the opening so that the small items can be placed in and removed from the storage volumes without removal of at least the holder from the carrying case.

Another aspect of the invention relates to a portable storage assembly including a carrying case having body panels that enclose a main storage volume, at least one of the body panels having an opening and a cover that is selectively positioned in an open position to allow access to the storage volume and a stowed position to cover the opening; and a storage unit disposed in the main storage volume, the storage unit having a holder and plural members that each define a storage volume for small items, the members received by the holder; and wherein an interior of the cover forms a stop surface that, in the stowed position of the cover, exerts inward force on the members to reduce movement of the members with respect to the holder during transport of the storage assembly.

Yet another aspect of the invention relates to a method of storing small items including opening a cover of a carrying case to allow access to an interior of the carrying case through an opening; opening a member that defines a storage volume and is at least partially received by a holder, the holder disposed within the carrying case; placing the small items in the storage volume; and closing the member and the cover such that, in the closed positions, the cover maintains the closed position of the member with respect to the holder.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

These and further features of the present invention will be apparent with reference to the following description and drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a utility bag assembly for transporting and organizing small items according to a first example embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a front plan view of the utility bag assembly of the first example embodiment;

FIG. 3 is a rear perspective view of the utility bag assembly of the first example embodiment;

FIG. 4 is a rear plan view of the utility bag assembly of the first example embodiment;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the utility bag assembly of the first example embodiment;

FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of a utility bag assembly for transporting and organizing small items according to a second example embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 7 is a rear perspective view of the utility bag assembly of the second example embodiment.

DESCRIPTION

In the description that follows, like components have been given the same reference numerals, regardless of whether they are shown in different embodiments of the present invention. To illustrate the present invention in a clear and concise manner, the drawings may not necessarily be to scale and certain features may be shown in somewhat schematic form. Features that are described and/or illustrated with respect to one embodiment may be used in the same way or in a similar way in one or more other embodiments and/or in combination with or instead of the features of the other embodiments.

Aspects of the present invention are directed to a utility bag assembly for organizing, storing and transporting small items. Small items, as used herein, is best defined by example and typically include items that fit within the palm of one's hand and have a tendency to settle to the bottom of a storage volume when stored with larger items (e.g., tools) and/or become easily mixed with other small items if placed in the same container. Examples of small items include, but are not limited to, fasteners (e.g., screws, nails, bolts, rivets, cotter pins, etc.), electrical connectors (e.g., wire nuts), washers, nuts, gaskets, grommets, clips, blades, picture hooks, screw anchors, drill bits, interchangeable screwdriver bits, glazing points, tacks, staples, paper clips, fishing lures, sewing items (e.g., pins, needles, buttons, etc.) and the like.

The utility bag assembly includes a carrying case and one or more storage units that accommodate small items. The storage units and carrying case are conveniently arranged so that small items can be retrieved without removing the entire storage unit from the carrying case. In addition, the carrying case interacts with the storage units to retain the storage units in an organized manner within the carrying case and/or to substantially keep the storage units in a closed position during transport of the utility bag assembly. As will be described in greater detail below, three types of example storage units are illustrated. However, as one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate, the invention is not limited to the illustrated examples of storage units and includes other storage units that fall within the scope of the invention as defined by the claims appended hereto.

A first of the illustrated storage units is an assembly of drawers. The drawers can be accessed through a side panel of the carrying case. The side panel can be placed in stowed position to limit opening of the drawers that could otherwise lead to spilling of small items contained in the drawers.

A second of the illustrated storage units is an assembly of bins. Similar to the drawers, the bins can be accessed through a side panel that can be placed in a stowed position to limit opening of the bins.

A third of the illustrated storage units is an assembly of containers, such as boxes or jars. The containers are retained in the carrying case by flexible members, such as elastic straps. The containers can be accessed and/or removed from the carrying case through a side panel and/or a top panel.

Other types of storage units that can be used with the carrying case include, for example, plastic or metal boxes with “snap-on” or hinged lids, fabric pouches, partitioned or unpartitioned shelves onto which items can be placed (e.g., “cubby holes”) and so forth. In one embodiment, “cubby holes” can be sized to receive containers, such as cardboard boxes in which fasteners are commonly sold.

In addition to retaining the storage units, the carrying case can include one or more general purpose storage volumes for storing items such as hand and power tools. The general purpose storage volumes can be accessed, for example, through a closeable top panel or closeable end panel of the carrying case.

Referring now to FIGS. 1-5, shown is a utility bag assembly 10. The utility bag assembly 10 can include a “soft-sided” carrying case 12 and one or more storage units 14. In the illustrated example, the carrying case 12 is a generally rectangular bag having a bottom panel (not shown), opposing side panels 16, opposing end panels 18 and a top panel 20. The bottom panel, side panels 16, end panels 18 and top panel 20 are collectively referred to herein as body panels. The body panels can be made from one or more pieces of conformable material that are stitched or otherwise secured together. Example materials for these panels include various fabrics, cotton, nylon, leather, plastic, rubber and the like. In one embodiment, one or more of the body panels, as well as internal dividers 22, can include padded material. For example, impact absorbing material such as foam or fiber matting can be sandwiched between layers of fabric to form the body panels and/or dividers 22 or the impact absorbing material can be attached to a surface of the body panels and/or dividers 22.

In one embodiment, the body panels can include rigid material, such as plastic, metal or wood, to strengthen and/or shape the carrying case 12. The dividers can be made from the same material(s) as the body panels, or can include or be made exclusively from rigid material (e.g., plastic, metal or wood). Rigid material members also can be used to position the storage units 14 within the carrying case 12.

In another embodiment, the bottom panel can be made of thicker, heavier and/or more durable material (e.g., molded rubber or plastic) than the rest of the body panels. For example, the bottom panel can have properties that prevent or delay the environment from damaging the carrying case 12 or the contents thereof. For example, the bottom panel can minimize water or moisture from entering the carrying case 12 by absorption through the bottom panel, even when the carrying case 12 is placed on a damp surface.

In alternative embodiments, the carrying case 12 can be arranged to have a more rigid configuration, such as the configuration of a tool box that is made from metal or plastic. Modifications to the illustrated embodiment to retain storage units 14 with a rigid carrying case will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

The carrying case 12 can include straps 24 for transporting the carrying case 12 and contents of the carrying case 12 by carrying, pulling, lifting, etc. The straps 24 may be securely or removably attached to the carrying case 12 in a number of ways, for example, by stitching 25 or with clips. In the illustrated embodiment, straps 24 are stitched to an outer surface of an openable flap 26 portion of each side panel 16. When the flaps 26 are closed, such as in a stowed position described below, the straps 24 can be used as a handle that can be grasped by a hand of a user. A shoulder strap(s) can be removably connected to the carrying case 12 by clips that engage rings that are, in turn, secured to the carrying case 12 in strategic locations, such as on the end panels 18. Other types of handles may be used to facilitate transporting the utility bag assembly 10.

The body panels, including the bottom panel, the side panels 16, the end panels 18 and the top panel 20 enclose a main storage volume 28. The volume 28 can be divided with the dividers 22 into smaller storage volumes, or storage sections 30. The dividers 22 can be secured to interior surfaces of the body panels or integrally formed with one or more of the body panels.

In the illustrated example, the dividers 22 are generally disposed along a longitudinal axis of the carrying case 12 to form three longitudinal storage sections 30. A first section 30a is disposed adjacent a first of the side panels 16a, a second section 30b is disposed adjacent a second of the side panels 16b and a third section 30c is disposed between the other sections 30a and 30b. As will be appreciated, further dividing of the volume 28 can be made with additional dividers. Alternatively, the carrying case 12 can be divided into two sections 30 or not divided.

The first section 30a can be accessed via an opening 32a in the side panel 16a. The flap 26a (also referred to herein as a cover) can be used to selectively cover or expose the opening 32a. The flap 26a forms a part of the side panel 16a and can have an open position as illustrated in FIGS. 1-5 such that a user can access the contents of the first section 30a through an opening 32a defined by the side panel 16a. The flap 26a can have a closed position, or stowed position, such that the opening 32a is covered and objects disposed within the section 30a are retained in the section 30a during movement of the utility bag assembly 10. By way of an example, FIG. 7 shows a flap portion of a side panel in a stowed position. In the stowed position, a closing mechanism 34a can be used to secure the flap 26 to the rest of the side panel 16a. In the illustrated example, the closing mechanism 34a is a zipper having corresponding sections stitched to an edge of the flap 26 and a portion of the side panel 16a defining the opening 32a. Other closing mechanisms 34 can be used, such as snaps, a pull-tie, Velcro fastener or the like.

A storage unit 14 can be disposed in the section 30a. In the illustrated example, the storage unit 14 disposed in the section 30a is a drawer assembly 35. The drawer assembly 35 can include a frame 36 that holds a plurality of drawers 38. Each drawer 38 can be a rectangular container for storing small items and has an open top that. The drawers can be made from a rigid material, such as plastic, metal or wood. To assist a user in pulling the drawer 38 from the frame 36, the drawer can include a pull tab (as illustrated), a knob, a handle or other grasping member. In one embodiment, the frame 36 is an assembly made from a rigid material (e.g., plastic, metal or wood) that receives the drawers 38 in corresponding receptacles. For example, for each drawer 38, the frame 36 can include a shelf surface to provide subjacent support to the drawer 38. The frame can include a ceiling surface for each drawer 38 disposed adjacent the open top of the drawer 38. When the drawer 38 is closed (e.g., received within the corresponding receptacle of the frame 36), the ceiling surface can stop small items contained in the drawer 38 from exiting a volume defined by a bottom and sidewalls of the drawer 38, such as during movement and/or jostling of the utility bag assembly 10. Alternatively or in addition to the ceiling surface, each drawer 38 can include a lid (not shown). The lid can be detachably or pivotally (e.g., with a hinge) connected to the drawer 38. The frame also can include vertical members between each drawer or adjacent at least some of the drawers to reduce horizontal shifting of the drawers 38. A rear wall of the frame 36 can minimize shifting and/or over-travel of the drawers 38 towards the second side panel 16b. Alternatively, the rear wall of the frame 36 can be omitted and the divider 22 can minimize shifting and/or over-travel of the drawers 38 towards the second side panel 16b.

When the flap 26 is open, such as in the illustrated position, the drawers 38 can be accessed by a user of the utility bag assembly 10. For instance, the drawers 38 can be pulled from the frame 36. Small items can be placed into or removed from the drawer 38 as needed. Thereafter, the drawers 38 can be closed by pushing the drawers 38 into the frame 36. The drawers 38 can slide on the corresponding shelf surfaces of the frame 38. Alternatively, the drawers 38 can ride on glides, slides, rollers or the like. Stops can be provided to limit complete removal of the drawers 38 from the frame 36 by a simple pulling action.

When the flap 26a is in the stowed position so as to cover the opening 32a, the interior surface of the flap 26a is disposed adjacent the front of the drawers 38. In this position, the interior surface of the flap 26a can serve as a stop surface to minimize movement of the drawers 38 out of the frame 36. For example, if the utility bag assembly 10 were to be moved, the drawers 38 may have a tendency to move relative to the frame 36 and carrying case 12. The presence of the flap 26a can minimize such movement by exerting inward force on the front of the drawers 38 and/or pull tab or other grasping member disposed on or formed as part of the front of the drawers 38. Although the drawers 38 may experience some movement relative to the frame 36 during transport of the utility bag assembly 10, it has been found that the flap 26a can sufficiently limit travel of the drawers 38 so that most small items remain contained in the drawers 38 by a closing function of the frame 36 over the open top of the drawers 38.

The frame 36 can be “trapped” within the carrying case 12. For example, the frame 36 can be inserted between the portion of the side panel 16a defining the opening 32a and the divider 22a. The opening 32a can be large enough to allow access to the drawers 38, but a portion of the frame 36 can be covered by the side panel portion defining the opening 32a to limit movement of the frame 36 relative to the carrying case 12. The end panels 18 can be located adjacent ends of the frame 36 to further limit movement of the frame 36 relative to the carrying case 12. Although not used in the illustrated embodiment, additional dividers, clips and/or other securing mechanisms can be used to position and/or secure the frame 36 within the carrying case 12.

In some configurations, the frame 36 and/or drawers 38 can be removed from the carrying case 12, such as by pulling and stretching the body panels and/or dividers 22 of the carrying case 12 and feeding the frame 36 through the opening 32a or an opening 40 in the top panel 20. However, it will be appreciated that objects stored in the drawers 38 can be conveniently accessed without removal of the entire drawer assembly 35. The bottom panel (not illustrated) can provide subjacent support to the drawer assembly 35.

In another embodiment, the assembly 35 can include the frame 36 without the drawers 38. In this embodiment, the frame 36 forms shelves upon which items can be placed. In the stowed position, the flap 26a can restrict movement of the items placed on the shelves.

With continued reference to FIGS. 1-5, the second section 30b can be accessed via an opening 32b in the side panel 16b. The flap 26b (also referred to herein as a cover) can be used to selectively cover or expose the opening 32b. The flap 26b forms a part of the side panel 16b and can have an open position as illustrated in FIGS. 1-5 such that a user can access the contents of the second section 30b through an opening 32b defined by the side panel 16b. The flap 26b can have a closed position, or stowed position, such that the opening 32b is covered and objects disposed within the section 30b are retained in the section 30b during movement of the utility bag assembly 10. By way of an example, FIG. 7 shows a flap portion of a side panel in a stowed position. In the stowed position, a closing mechanism 34b can be used to secure the flap 26b to the rest of the side panel 16b. In the illustrated example, the closing mechanism 34b is a zipper having corresponding sections stitched to an edge of the flap 26b and a portion of the side panel 16b defining the opening 32a. Other closing mechanisms 34 can be used, such as snaps, a pull-tie, Velcro fastener or the like.

A storage unit 14 can be disposed in the section 30b. In the illustrated example, two storage units 14 are disposed in the section 30b. One of the storage units 14 is a bin assembly 42 and the other is a container assembly (discussed below). The bin assembly 42 can include a frame 44 that holds a plurality of bins 46. Each bin 46 can be an open top container for storing small items. The bins 46 can be made from a rigid material, such as plastic, metal or wood. Each bin 46 can be pivotally mounted to the frame 44 at a lower outside edge of the bin 46. Pivoting an upper portion of the bin 46 forward can allow access to a storage volume 48 defined by the bin 46 through the top opening. In the illustrated example, the bins 46 are secured to the frame 44 so that the bins 46 cannot be easily detached from the frame 44. Alternatively, the bins 46 can be detached from the frame 44 or not secured to the frame 44 at all to allow complete removal of individual bins 46 from the frame 44 and utility bag assembly 10.

To assist a user in pulling and rotating the bins 46 forward, the bins 46 can include a ledge 50 that can be guided by the fingertips of a user. Alternatively, a grasping member, lip, pull tab, knob, handle or other device can be disposed on or formed as part of the front of the bins 46 to facilitate opening of the bins 46.

In one embodiment, the frame 44 is an assembly made from a rigid material (e.g., plastic, metal or wood) that receive the bins 46 in corresponding receptacles. For example, for each bin 46, the frame 44 can include a member (e.g., shelf or bar) to provide subjacent and/or hinge support to the bin 46. The frame can include a ceiling surface for each bin 46 disposed adjacent the open top of the bin 46. When the bin 46 is closed (e.g., received within the corresponding receptacle of the frame 44), the ceiling surface can stop small items contained in the bin 46 from exiting the storage volume 48 defined by the bin 46, such as during movement and/or jostling of the utility bag assembly 10. Alternatively or in addition to the ceiling surface, each bin 46 can include a lid (not shown). The lid can be detachably or pivotally (e.g., with a hinge) connected to the bin 46. The frame 44 also can include vertical members between each bin 46 or adjacent at least some of the bins 46 to reduce horizontal shifting of the bins 46. A rear wall of the frame 44 can minimize shifting and/or over-travel of the bins 48 towards the first side panel 16a. Alternatively, the rear wall of the frame 44 can be omitted and the divider 22b can minimize shifting and/or over-travel of the bins 44 towards the first side panel 16a.

When the flap 26b is open, such as in the illustrated position, the bins 46 can be accessed by a user of the utility bag assembly 10. For instance, the bins 46 can be rotated with respect to the frame 44. Small items can be placed into or removed from the bins 46 as needed. Thereafter, the bins 46 can be closed by rotating the bins 46 into the frame 44. Stops can be provided to limit over-rotation and/or complete removal of the bins 46 from the frame 44 by a simple rotating action. The bins 46 can be spring biased such that after opening of a bin 46, the bin 46 returns to a closed position unless held open.

When the flap 26b is in the stowed position so as to cover the opening 32b, the interior surface of the flap 26b is disposed adjacent the front of the bins 46. In this position, the interior surface of the flap 26b can serve as a stop surface to minimize movement of the bins 46 out of the frame 44. For example, if the utility bag assembly 10 were to be moved, the bins 46 may have a tendency to rotate or otherwise move relative to the frame 44 and carrying case 12. The presence of the flap 26b can minimize such movement by exerting inward force on the front of the bins 46. Although the bins 46 may experience some movement relative to the frame 44 during transport of the utility bag assembly 10, it has been found that the flap 26b can sufficiently limit travel of the bins 46 so that most small items remain contained in the bins 46 by a closing function of the frame 44 over the open top of the bins 46.

The frame 44 can be “trapped” within the carrying case 12. For example, the frame 44 can be inserted between the portion of the side panel 16b defining the opening 32b and the divider 22b. The opening 32b can be large enough to allow access to the bins 46, but a portion of the frame 44 can be covered by the side panel portion defining the opening 32b to limit movement of the frame 44 relative to the carrying case 12. The end panels 18 can be located adjacent ends of the frame 44 to further limit movement of the frame 44 relative to the carrying case 12. Although not used in the illustrated embodiment, additional dividers, clips and/or other securing mechanisms can be used to position and/or secure the frame 44 within the carrying case 12.

In some configurations, the frame 44 and/or bins 46 can be removed from the carrying case 12, such as by pulling and stretching the body panels and/or dividers 22 of the carrying case 12 and feeding the frame 44 through the opening 32b or the opening 40 in the top panel 20. However, it will be appreciated that objects stored in the bins 38 can be conveniently accessed without removal of the entire bin assembly 42. The bottom panel (not illustrated) can provide subjacent support to the bin assembly 42.

As indicated, a second storage unit 14 can be located in one or both of the first section 30a and second section 30b. For example, both a drawer assembly 35 and a bin assembly 46 or a combination thereof can be located in one or both of the sections 30. In the illustrated example, the second section 30b contains the bin assembly 42 and a container assembly 52. In another example, one or both of the sections 30a, 30b can contain a drawer assembly and a container assembly 52. In another embodiment, one or bot of the sections 30a, 30b can container just one storage unit 14 or no storage unit 14.

The container assembly 52 can include one or more retaining straps 54 that holds a plurality of containers 56. In the illustrated example, the containers 56 are hollow cylinders, such as jars or bottles, made from a rigid material such as glass, plastic, metal or the like. Each container 56 can include a lid 58, such a snap-on lid, a twist-on lid (with or without threaded engagement to the container 56), a hinged lid and so forth. It will be appreciated that the containers 56 need not be cylindrically shaped, but could be rectangular or another other shape, such as a custom shape to conform to a particular object. Also, the straps 54 can be used to hold objects other than containers 56, such as tools. The straps 54 can be made from elastic material, such as a fabric that includes elastic fibers and/or an elastic weave. In the illustrated embodiment, each strap 54 forms a loop with ends secured to the divider 22b. Each loop can be made from an individual piece of material. Alternatively, multiple loops can be made from one piece of material that has been stitched or secured to the divider 22b, or other member (e.g., a body panel) at selected locations. To retain an object or container 56 with the straps 54, the strap 54 can be pulled to stretch the strap 54 and the container can be placed within the corresponding loop. Release of the strap 54 can cause the strap 54 to conform to the exterior side surfaces of the container 56 to limit movement of the container 56 relative to the carrying case 12. A bottom of the container 54 can rest on an upper surface of the frame 44 (e.g., as shown in the illustrated embodiment), on an upper surface of the frame 36, on the bottom body panel, etc. If the tension of the strap 54 is sufficient, the bottom of the container 56 may not receive subjacent support.

In another embodiment, the straps 54 can be in multiple sections having a closure mechanism, such as Velcro fastener, buttons, snaps, ties, clips, catches and the like. In this embodiment, the strap sections are fitted around the container 56 and secured together to retain the container 56.

The straps 54 need not be made from elastic material. Alternatives include relatively non-elastic synthetic or natural fabrics, plastic, rubber, and so forth. Straps of these materials, or elastic straps, can be supplemented with a tightening feature to draw the strap 54 closely around the container 56. Tightening features can include, without limitation, draw strings, material slidably looped through fingers of a clip, cooperating catches and so forth.

Items can be placed in or removed from the containers 56 by removing or opening the lid 58 of the container 56 to access a storage volume of the container 56. Such access can be gained via the opening 40 in the top panel 20 or through the opening 32b in the side panel 16b. Therefore, objects stored in the containers 56 can be conveniently accessed without removal of the containers 56 themselves. In addition, the user can remove the entire container 56 and contents from the utility bag assembly by lifting the container 56 through the opening 40 or the opening 32b. The lifting action can release the container from the strap 54 or additional manipulation of the strap 54 and/or container 56 may be carried out depending on their respective configurations.

In another embodiment, the assembly 52 can include the straps 54 without the containers 56. In this embodiment, the straps 54 form retainment members that can hold various items, such as tools, mobile phones, beverage containers, spools of wire or thread, and so forth.

As indicated, another volume section 30c can be formed between the dividers 22. This section 30c can be used for bulk item storage where the items are arranged collectively without a container. For example a group of tools can be placed in the section 30c, such as screw drivers, a hammer, pliers and so forth. In one embodiment, the section 30c is sized to accommodate a corded or cordless power drill. In another embodiment, a storage container can be stored in the section 30c. For example, a rectangular covered box or tray, with or without internal dividers, can be placed into and/or removed from the section 30c through the opening 40 in the top panel 20.

The top panel 20 can include a flap 60 for closing the opening 40. A closing mechanism 34c (FIG. 3) can be used to secure the flap 60 to the rest of the top panel 20. In the illustrated example, the closing mechanism 34c is a zipper having corresponding sections stitched to an edge of the flap 60 and a portion of the top panel 20 defining the opening 40. Other closing mechanisms 34 can be used, such as snaps, a pull-tie, Velcro fastener or the like.

Attached to the exterior and/or the interior of the body panels, and/or the dividers 22, can be supplemental storage devices 62 for holding tools, supplies, mobile phones, beverage containers and so forth. The storage devices 62 can take the form of pockets with or without covers or closing mechanisms (e.g., zippers, Velcro fastener, etc.), pouches, compartments, loops, mesh pockets, and so forth. Some or all of the supplemental storage devices 62 can include elastic material or elastic weaves. The supplemental storage devices 62 can be partitioned with dividers.

Referring now to FIGS. 6 and 7, shown is another embodiment of a utility bag assembly 64. The utility bag assembly 64 can include a “soft-sided” carrying case 66 and one or storage units 68. In one embodiment, the carrying case 66 is an adapted version of the tool bag shown and described in commonly assigned U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/563,024, filed Apr. 16, 2004, the disclosure of which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

The carrying case 66 is a generally rectangular bag having a bottom panel 69, opposing side panels 70 that join at a top closure 72, and opposing end panels 74. The bottom panel 69, side panels 70 and end panels 74 are collectively referred to herein as body panels. The body panels can be made from one or more pieces of conformable material that are stitched or otherwise secured together. Example materials for these panels include various fabrics, cotton, nylon, leather, plastic, rubber and the like. In one embodiment, one or more of the body panels, as well as internal dividers (not shown), can include padded material. For example, impact absorbing material such as foam or fiber matting can be sandwiched between layers of fabric to form the body panels and/or dividers or the impact absorbing material can be attached to the body panels and/or dividers. The carrying case 66 can include rigid material (e.g., plastic, metal or wood) to strengthen and/or shape the carrying case 12. Rigid material members also can be used to position the storage units 68.

The top closure 72 can be a zipper, snaps, pull-tie, Velcro fastener or the like. As will be appreciated, the top closure 72 can be placed in a closed position as illustrated or in an opening position to allow access to the inside of the carrying case 66 through a top opening.

In one embodiment, the bottom panel 69 can be made of heavier and/or more durable material (e.g., molded rubber or plastic) than the rest of the body panels. For example, the bottom panel 69 can have properties that prevent or delay the environment from damaging the carrying case 66 or the contents thereof. For example, the bottom panel 69 can minimize water or moisture from entering the carrying case 66 by absorption through the bottom panel, even when the carrying case 66 is placed on a damp surface.

In alternative embodiments, the carrying case 66 can be arranged to have a more rigid configuration, such as the configuration of a tool box that is made from metal or plastic. Modifications to the illustrated embodiment to retain storage units 68 with a rigid carrying case will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

The carrying case 66 can include straps 76 for transporting the carrying case 66 and contents of the carrying case 66 by carrying, pulling, lifting, etc. The straps 76 may be securely or removably attached to the carrying case 66 in a number of ways, for example, by stitching 78 or with clips. . In the illustrated embodiment, straps 78 are stitched to an outer surface of an openable flap 80 portion of each side panel 70. When the flaps 80 are closed, such as in a stowed position described below, the straps 76 can be used as a handle that can be grasped by a hand of a user. A shoulder strap(s) can be removably connected to the carrying case 66 by clips that engage rings that are secured to the carrying case 66 in strategic locations, such as on the end panels 74. Other types of handles may be used to facilitate transporting the utility bag assembly 64.

The body panels, including the bottom panel 69, the side panels 70 and the end panel 74 enclose a main storage volume 82. Although not illustrated, the storage volume 82 can be divided with dividers into smaller storage volumes, or storage sections.

The storage volume 82 can be accessed via an opening 84 in the side panel 70a. The flap 80a (also referred to herein as a cover) can be used to selectively cover or expose the opening 84. The flap 80a forms a part of the side panel 16a and can have an open position as illustrated in FIG. 6 such that a user can access the contents of the storage volume 82 through an opening 84 defined by the side panel 70a. The flap 70a can have a closed position, or stowed position, such that the opening 84 is covered and objects disposed within the storage volume 82 are retained in the carrying case 66 during movement of the utility bag assembly 64. By way of an example, FIG. 7 shows the flap portion 80b (also referred to herein as a cover) of the side panel 70b in a stowed position. In the stowed position, closing mechanisms can be respectively used to secure the flap 80a to the rest of the side panel 70a and the flap 80b to the side panel 70b. In the illustrated example, the closing mechanism is a zipper having corresponding sections stitched to an edge of the flap 80 and a portion of the side panel 70. Other closing mechanisms can be used, such as snaps, a pull-tie, Velcro fastener or the like.

As indicated, one or more storage units 68 can be disposed in the volume 82. In the illustrated example, three storage units 68 are disposed in the volume 82. Two of the storage units 68 are bin assemblies 86 placed back to back and the other is a container assembly 88. The bin assemblies 86 includes pivotable, open-top bins 90 held by a frame 92. The bins 90 of one bin assembly 86 can be accessed through the opening 84 in the side panel 70a and the bins 90 of the other bin assembly 86 can be accessed through a similar opening (not shown) in the opposing side panel 70b. Each bin assembly 86 is arranged in a similar manner to the bin assembly 42 described in connection with FIGS. 1-5 and can include some or all of the features shown and/or described with respect to the bin assembly 42. In the illustrated example, the bins 86 have a pull knob 94 instead of a ledge 50 to assist in opening the bins 86. Due to the similarities between the bin assemblies 86 and the bin assembly 42, and the corresponding components thereof, no additional description of the bin assemblies 86 will be made.

When the flap 80a is open, such as in the illustrated position, the bins 90 can be accessed by a user of the utility bag assembly 64. For instance, the bins 90 can be rotated with respect to the frame 92. Small items can be placed into or removed from the bins 90 as needed. Thereafter, the bins 90 can be closed by rotating the bins 90 into the frame 92. When the flap 80a is in the stowed position so as to cover the opening 84, the interior surface of the flap 80a is disposed adjacent the front of the bins 90. In this position, the interior surface of the flap 80a can serve as a stop surface to minimize movement of the bins 90 out of the frame 92. For example, if the utility bag assembly 64 were to be moved, the bins 90 may have a tendency to rotate or otherwise move relative to the frame 92 and carrying case 66. The presence of the flap 80a can minimize such movement by exerting inward force on the front of the bins 90. Although the bins 90 may experience some movement relative to the frame 92 during transport of the utility bag assembly 64, it has been found that the flap 80a can sufficiently limit travel of open top bins 90 so that most small items remain contained in the bins 90 by a closing function of the frame 92 over the open top. In the illustrated embodiment, there will be similar interaction between the flap 80b and the bin assembly 86 adjacent the opposing side panel 70b.

Similar to the frame 44, the frame(s) 92 can be “trapped” within the carrying case 66. For example, the frame(s) 92 can be inserted between side panels 70a and 70b. In another embodiment, a divider or other member can engage and position the frame(s) 92. The respective openings 84 can be large enough to allow access to the bins 90, but a portion of the frames 92 can be covered by the side panel portion defining the openings 84 to limit movement of the frames 92 relative to the carrying case 66. The end panels 74 can be located adjacent ends of the frames 92 to further limit movement of the frames 92 relative to the carrying case 66. Although not used in the illustrated embodiment, additional dividers, clips and/or other securing mechanisms can be used to position and/or secure the frame 92 within the carrying case 66.

In one embodiment, bins 90 accessible via the side panel 70a and bins 90 accessible via the side panel 70b can be received in a unitary frame 92. Also, one or both of the bin assemblies 86 can be replaced by a drawer assembly or container assembly 88. For example, instead of one or both of the illustrated bin assemblies 86 and/or container assembly 88, the utility bag assembly 64 can include a drawer assembly similar to the drawer assembly 35 illustrated in connection with FIGS. 1-5. One or more of the storage units 68 can be omitted to provide a bulk item storage volume that is located above and/or behind the remaining storage units.

In some configurations, the frame 92 and/or bins 90 can be removed from the carrying case 66, such as by pulling and stretching the body panels of the carrying case 66 and feeding the frame 92 through the opening 84 or an opening at the top of the carrying case when the top closure 72 is placed in an open position (not illustrated). However, it will be appreciated that objects stored in the bins 90 can be conveniently accessed without removal of the entire bin assembly 86. The bottom panel 69 can provide subjacent support to the bin assembly 86.

As indicated, an additional storage unit 68 can be located in storage volume 82. In the illustrated example, the volume 82 contains the bin assemblies 86 and the container assembly 88 disposed over at least one of the bin assemblies 86. The container assembly 88 can include one or more retaining straps 98 that hold a plurality of containers 100. The container assembly 88 is arranged in a similar manner to the container assembly 52 described in connection with FIGS. 1-5 and can include some or all of the features shown and/or described with respect to the container assembly 52. Due to the similarities between the bin assembly 88 and the bin assembly 52, and the corresponding components thereof, no additional description of the container assembly 88 will be made.

Items can be placed in or removed from the containers 100 by removing or opening a lid of the container 100 to access a storage volume of the container 100. Such access can be gained via the opening 84 in the side panel 70a or through an opening at the top of the carrying case when the top closure 72 is placed in an open position (not illustrated). Therefore, objects stored in the containers 100 can be conveniently accessed without removal of the containers 100 themselves. In addition, the user can remove the entire container 100 and contents from the utility bag assembly by lifting the container 100 through the opening 84 or the top opening. The lifting action can release the container 100 from the strap 98 or additional manipulation of the strap 98 and/or container 100 may be carried out depending on their respective configurations.

In another embodiment, the assembly 88 can include the straps 98 without the containers 100. In this embodiment, the straps 100 form retainment members that can hold various items, such as tools, mobile phones, beverage containers, spools of wire or thread, and so forth.

A volume 96 can be formed between a pari of storage units 86. For example, the bin assemblies 86 can be spaced apart to form the volume 96. The volume 96 can be used for bulk item storage where the items are arranged collectively without a container. For example a group of tools can be placed in the volume 96, such as screw drivers, a hammer, pliers and so forth. In one embodiment, the volume 96 is sized to accommodate a corded or cordless power drill. In another embodiment, a removable storage container can be stored in the volume 96.

In one embodiment, the volume 96 can be accessed through an opening 102 in the end panel 74a and/or a top opening present when the top closure 72 is placed in an open position (not shown). The opening 102 can be selectively covered by a flap 104 (also referred to herein as a cover) that forms a part of the end panel 74a. The flap 104 can be retained in a closed, or stowed, position using a closure mechanism, such as a zipper, pull tie, Velcro fastener, snaps, buttons and so forth.

With continued reference to FIGS. 6 and 7, attached to the exterior and/or the interior of the body panels can be supplemental storage devices 106 for holding tools, supplies, mobile phones, beverage containers and so forth. The storage devices 106 can take the form of pockets with or without covers or closing mechanisms (e.g., zippers, Velcro fastener, etc.), pouches, compartments, loops, mesh pockets, and so forth. Some or all of the supplemental storage devices 106 can include elastic material or elastic weaves. The supplemental storage devices 106 can be partitioned with dividers.

In the illustrated example, supplemental storage devices 106 in the form of pockets are attached to an exterior surface of the end panel 74b. A flap 108 (also referred to herein as a cover) disposed on the end panel 74b can be used to cover an opening that provides access to the volume 96 or, as illustrated, to cover the supplemental storage devices 106 and form a supplemental storage space 110. In an alternative arrangement, the supplemental storage devices 106 on the end panel 74b can be omitted and the end panel 74b can have an opening for accessing the volume 82, including, for example, the volume 96.

In one embodiment, one or both of the carrying cases 12 (FIGS. 1-5), 66 omits an opening 32, 84 in a corresponding side panel 16, 70. In this arrangement, a storage unit(s) 14, 68 adjacent the side panel 16, 70 also can be omitted. However, supplemental storage devices 62,106 can be located on the exterior of the side panel 16, 70, which can be covered with a flap in a similar manner to the way the flap 108 covers the supplemental storage devices 106.

Although particular embodiments of the invention have been described in detail, it is understood that the invention is not limited correspondingly in scope, but includes all changes, modifications and equivalents coming within the spirit and terms of the claims appended hereto.