Magnetic picture frames in framed display field
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Display of photographs and like articles may be facilitated providing photograph carriers that can be mounted in the field of a frame by magnetic force between the backing forming the field, which includes ferromagnetic material such as a thin sheet of steel, and the photograph carriers that may have magnets mounted thereon. The display may be mounted on the wall, and photographs may be changed or rearranged by demounting the photograph carriers without the need to demount the frame from the wall.

Chatellier, Victor James (Snohomish, WA, US)
Chatellier, Judy Diane (Snohomish, WA, US)
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Primary Examiner:
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
I claim:

1. A photograph display comprising: a field comprising a backing, the backing including a first portion of ferromagnetic material, the field being mountable on a vertical surface; a photograph carrier comprising a second portion of ferromagnetic material, the first and second portions of ferromagnetic material being attracted to one another with a force sufficient to retain a photograph carrier placed on the field to be maintained in position thereon, the photograph carrier further comprising retainers connected thereto for retaining a photograph in place.

2. The display of claim 1 wherein the field is bounded by a frame.

3. The display of claim 1 wherein the first portion of ferromagnetic material comprises a steel sheet.

4. The display of claim 1 wherein the second portion of ferromagnetic material comprises a magnet mounted to the photo carrier.

5. The display of claim 3 wherein the steel sheet is covered by a decorative layer, the decorative layer covering at least a portion of the steel sheet.

6. The display of claim 1 wherein the photograph carrier comprises a frame, and wherein the retainers comprise photo corners mounted on the frame.

7. The display of claim 6 wherein the frame forms an opening through which planar articles retained by the photo corners may be viewed, and wherein the photo corners retain the planar article in position for viewing through the opening.

8. The display of claim 5 wherein the decorative layer is separable from the steel sheet, whereby the decorative layer may be changed.

9. The display of claim 2 wherein a mount is connected to the frame whereby the frame may be mounted on a vertical surface.



This application claims priority based on applicant's copending U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/640,894 filed Dec. 31, 2004 and entitled Magnetic Picture Frames In Framed Display Field, which is incorporated herein by this reference.


People who take or exchange photographs frequently have a new batch of film or digital photographs, snapshots and family or school photographs that they wish to display. However, it does not appear that a quick and easy way exists to display, rearrange and change the photographs in a collage that is not time-consuming, expensive or difficult. Moreover, it is desirable to be able to display such photographs in a more aesthetic and safe location, such as on a wall or above a mantle, and in a more aesthetic manner than mounting them on a refrigerator, cabinet, mirror or bulletin board with magnets, tape, pins, thumbtacks or the like.

The photographs may, of course, be displayed in a grouping on a wall or the like by framing them and mounting them to the wall, as with frame wire or frame brackets and nails or picture hooks. This can produce a desired grouping of framed pictures, but changing the pictures in the frames is a somewhat more complicated task than may be desired where the photographs are changed frequently. Further, if photographs are changed or rearranged frequently, and particularly if different size frames are used, the need to fill and possibly to paint over abandoned nail holes to achieve the rearrangement can compound the effort and time required. This is particularly the case if a frame is mounted on the wall to provide an aesthetic border for the smaller frames.

There are other common framing methods on the market to display groups of a plurality of photographs, such as the traditional larger picture frame with a mat board which has cutouts of various sizes, shapes and orientations. Photographs may then be displayed by mounting them behind the mat board in the frame. However, in order to change one or more of the photographs in such a display, the entire frame must be taken down from the wall and disassembled from the back to insert or change the photographs. The photographs must frequently be cut to fit between the openings in the mat board to avoid overlapping, and the photographs must be taped or otherwise fixed in place behind the openings. Changing the arrangement, size and orientation of the openings requires disassembly of the display and either replacement of the mat board with a different set of openings of the desired arrangement, sizes and orientations, or modifying the openings in the existing mat board. An improvement to this common photograph display method is U.S. Pat. No. 4,899,473 to Wiener (1990) entitled Picture Frame Assembly, which has hinges allowing it to be opened from the front for easier changing of the photographs. However, the use of a mask through which the photographs are displayed complicates the changing of the arrangement, size, orientation and number of the photographs.


According to one aspect, a field comprising a backing 14 may be provided, the field incorporating a ferromagnetic material, which may be covered on one side with a decorative outer layer such as paper, fabric, plastic or paint. Then a plurality of smaller sized photograph carriers provided with magnets (or if the ferromagnetic material of the backing sheet is magnetic, with ferromagnetic material), may be chosen, arranged and mounted to the backing sheet. The photograph carriers may be open on the back, and photo mounts such as photo corners may be provided on the back corners for receiving photographs and the like. The small frames can easily be rotated to change their orientations or moved around the field to create a new photograph arrangement.


FIG. 1 is a front elevation of a display unit with photograph carriers mounted thereto.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of the backing of the display unit of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a rear elevation of the display unit of FIG. 1 showing the rear surface of the backing.

FIG. 4 is a front elevation of the display unit of FIG. 1 without photograph carriers mounted thereon.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation of the display unit.

FIG. 6 is a front elevation of a photograph carrier such as those mounted on the display unit of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a rear elevation of the photograph carrier of FIG. 6.

FIG. 8 is a side elevation of the photograph carrier of FIGS. 6 and 7.


Referring to FIGS. 1-5, in one embodiment a magnetic display unit 10 is provided that includes a frame 11 on which are demountably affixed a plurality of demountable photograph carriers 12 for the mounting of photograph 13. It should be noted that, although the term “photograph” is used in describing this and other embodiments, other such planar articles, such as, for example prints, credentials, documents, drawings and notices may be carried by the photograph carriers 12. In this embodiment, a large frame moulding 11 surrounds the display field that comprises the surface of the backing 14. The field comprises a backing 14 that may be formed in three layers 15-17, as best shown in FIG. 2. In the present embodiment, the backing comprises three layers. The layer 17 forming the front surface of the backing sheet is a decorative layer, which may be of any of a variety of materials such as paper, fabric, plastic or paint, according to the desired aesthetics, and may be patterned or unpatterned as desired. The intermediate layer 16 may be of a ferromagnetic material of an appropriate thickness, such as 28 gage galvanized or ungalvenized steel sheeting. The back layer 15 is a supporting layer, and may be made of a lightweight structural material such as hardboard. In an alternate embodiment, the surface of the steel sheet is prepared, as by buffing, brushing or the like, so that the sheet itself functions as both the ferromagnetic and decorative layers. In yet another embodiment, the decorative layer 15 is merely overlaid on the front surface of the backing 14 either with or without the use of releasable means, such as releasable adhesives, to attach the decorative layer 17 to the steel sheet of the intermediate, second layer 16.

In another embodiment, for example, where the decorative layer 17 or intermediate layer 16, alone and/or in combination, have sufficient dimensional stability to support of the photograph carriers 12, the rear layer 15 may be eliminated. A layer may also incorporate multiple functions, as would be the case if a decorative layer incorporating sufficient ferromagnetic material were applied to a backing layer. Such might be the case if a ferromagnetic paint were used to coat the rear layer 15, or if the rear layer were coated with a paint or other coating into which a ferromagnetic material had been mixed. In other embodiments, a ferromagnetic material may be provided in or on the backing 14 in a series of discreet units, such as a pattern of dots. The ferromagnetic material may likewise be magnetic such that ferromagnetic materials like thin steel sheet might adhere to the backing 14 without themselves needing to be magnetized. In yet another embodiment, ferromagnetic material, magnetized or not, might be integrated with, or even form, the rear layer 17.

In one embodiment, the decorative layer comprises wallpaper, fabric or other such materials, and is affixed to the other layers as by a spray adhesive, wallpaper paste, glue or the like. Similarly, adhesives or other fastening means may be used to hold a thin sheet of steel or other such layer of ferromagnetic material, whether magnetized or not, to the rear layer 17. A releasable adhesive or other releasable mounting means may be used to adhere a decorative layer 17 in place so that such layer, for example a decorative paper or wallpaper, may be removed and replaced with another such layer. It may, of course, be convenient to demount the display unit 10 from the wall to accomplish such a replacement of a decorative layer.

The backing 14 may thus contain the number of layers necessary to provide the structural integrity needed to engage and support the photograph carriers 12. Ferromagnetic materials useable in the backing 14 may include magnetic material such as, for example, flexible or rigid magnetic strips or sheets.

The backing 14 may be formed in any desired size, and may be mounted in a frame 11 or a frame 11 may be constructed to receive the backing 14. In one embodiment, the backing 14 may be mounted in the frame 11 to provide a display unit 10. Referring particularly to FIG. 3, an outer frame may be constructed using any conventional picture frame moulding, such as wood, plastic, composite or plastic material. The frame 11 according to one embodiment may be made of strips of wood or other structural material and may be of widths in the range of ¼ to 3½ inches. The size of the display field 14 would determine the length and width of the large frame moulding 11 just as is commonly known in the framing of artwork. After the frame molding is cut to size and assembled at the corners into a frame 11 using glue and/or framing nails 18 such as tacks or v-nails, then the backing 14 forming the display field is inserted into the rabbet in the large picture frame 11. The display field 14 may be permanently fastened into the large frame moulding 11 using framing points 19 or, if desired, for example, to allow refinishing or replacement of a decorative layer 17, removable, flexible or swivel type framing fasteners may be used to secure the display field 17 into the large frame moulding. Lastly, picture hangers 20, picture hanging brackets or other such means may be attached to the frame 11 or backing 14 to allow the display unit 10 to be hung on a wall or in another location.

If wallpaper is used to provide a decorative layer 17, the size of the backing 14 may be chosen so that it is not necessary to use multiple sheets of wallpaper to cover its surface if a seam is undesired.

Referring to FIGS. 6-8, a photograph carrier 12 according to one embodiment of the invention comprises a frame 12a that may be made of moulding in like manner as described above. In this embodiment, the moulding 21 of which the frame 12a is formed may include a shallow rabbet along the inside, rear edge 25 sized to receive a glazing sheet 22, that may be made of transparent acrylic or other clear material that may protect the photograph from damage and soiling. Photo corners 24, adhesives or other means may be used to retain the glazing layer 22 in place. In another embodiment, glazing 22 may or may not be provided, and the frame 12a does not have any rabbet on its inside, rear edge, with the photograph 13 (and the optional sheet of glazing 22) being held in place by photo corners 24 or like means. Photo corners 24 may be held in place on the frame 12a by any of a variety of means, including adhesive. The sizing and placement of the photograph corners 24 on the back of the frame may be chosen depending on the size of the photographs 13 the frame is intended to receive, and depending on the width of the moulding 21 of which the frame 12a is made.

Thin magnets 23 or other, as desired, magnetic or non-magnetic ferromagnetic materials may be mounted on the rear surface of the frame 12a, or may be recessed flush or nearly flush into the frame 12a. The ferromagnetic material may be press-fit into recesses formed in the frame or held in place by adhesive material or fasteners, as desired.

In one embodiment, the molding strips 21 of which the frame 12a is made may have a width of ⅛″ to 1″ or wider. Standard picture frames 12 could also be used with a display unit 10 by affixing a magnetized or non-magnetized ferromagnetic material, such as conventional or flexible strip magnets or a non-magnetized ferromagnetic material such as steel to the back thereof. The photograph carriers 12 may be provided in sizes chosen to be able to receive standard sizes of photographic prints such as 3.25×5, 4×6, 5×7, 6×8, 8×10, and in other such sizes. The photograph carriers 12 may also have shapes other than rectangular, or the inner periphery of the frame that forms the opening through which photographs may be viewed may be of various shapes.

In another embodiment, the frame is omitted, and the photograph carriers 12 are placed on the backing board as they are in other embodiments discussed herein, although, in such case, the placement of the photograph carriers 12 is not bounded by the frame 11.

Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred embodiments, other embodiments are possible. Therefore, the spirit or scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the embodiments contained herein.

In one embodiment, in use, the display unit 10, may be hung on a wall or other surface using conventional picture hanging methods. Photographs 13 or other such planar articles may be placed in the frames of the photograph carriers 12 and may be retained therein by retainers, such as photo corners 24, either with or without the presence of glazing 22, such as a thin, transparent plastic sheet. The photograph carriers may then be placed and arranged in the field provided by the backing 14. The photograph carriers 12 are then held in place by the magnetic force provided by the portions of the ferromagnetic material that form parts of the backing 14 and photograph carriers 12, respectively, are mutually attracted, and the magnetic force holds the photo carriers 12 in place. Such portions of ferromagnetic material may be comprised of, for example, the thin sheet of steel discussed in connection with the intermediate layer 16 of the backing 14 of FIG. 2, and the magnets 23 recessed into the frame 12a of the photo carrier 12 of FIG. 7.

The user may then be able to remove one or more of the photograph carriers 12 to replace the photograph and/or to rearrange the photograph carriers 12 mounted to the backing 14 in the field of the display unit 10. Of course, either or both portions of ferromagnetic material could be magnetized. The user may thus be permitted to produce the aesthetic impression he or she desires by choosing the number of photograph carriers 12 mounted in the field of the display unit 10, as well as their arrangement. Photograph carriers 12 of different sizes may be provided to accommodate various sizes of planar articles. The aesthetics of the display unit 10 may also be changed if a decorative layer is provided that is unattached to or detachable from the backing 14. The use of magnetic attraction between the carriers 12 and the backing 14 permit the removal of the carriers 12 from the backing 14 permit the repositioning of the carriers on the field provided by the backing 14 without damage to either, and without the need to demount the display unit 10 from the wall or other vertical surface. Releasable means other than ferromagnetic materials may be used to mount the photo carriers in the field of the display unit 10.

Although the present invention has been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred embodiments, other embodiments are possible. Therefore, the spirit or scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the embodiments contained herein.