Title:
Display rack
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
In one embodiment of a ball mount display rack, the rack includes a panel and an elongated member extending from the panel. The elongated member includes a first end attached to the panel, a second end located distal from the panel, an exterior surface, and an interior surface. The interior surface of the elongated member is accessible from the second end of the member. The elongated member is adapted to receive ball mount such that when the ball mount is received, either a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the exterior surface or a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the interior surface.



Inventors:
Sheridan, Michael (Lake Villa, IL, US)
Recknagel, Jim (Delafield, WI, US)
Rico, Linda L. (Wonderlake, IL, US)
Postle, Randall G. (Shawnee, KS, US)
Application Number:
11/409777
Publication Date:
12/28/2006
Filing Date:
04/24/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F7/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040238468Hanger trolleyDecember, 2004Dosso et al.
20090120883SHELF ACCESSORY FOR A DISHWASHER RACKMay, 2009Jadhav et al.
20040060880Support rackApril, 2004Lang et al.
20080053928Lumber storage and stacking apparatus and method stackingMarch, 2008Klauer
20090057248APPARATUS FOR SUPPORTING WATER BOTTLESMarch, 2009Vishnevsky
20050236351Board mounting to support systemOctober, 2005Curatolo
20090184068Clip Assemblies for Rug Display SystemsJuly, 2009Kin
20050006329Display strip with non-hanging product attachmentJanuary, 2005Williquette
20090211995Wall rack for geometric cylindrical containersAugust, 2009Bianchini
20080135509CLOSET STORAGE SYSTEM, KIT OF PARTS, AND INSTALLATION METHODJune, 2008Jackson
20020074304Storage unitsJune, 2002Hardy



Primary Examiner:
NOVOSAD, JENNIFER ELEANORE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP (Cleveland, OH, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A rack for displaying ball mounts comprising: a. a panel; and b. an elongated member extending from the panel and comprising: i. a first end attached to the panel; ii. a second end located distal from the panel; iii. an exterior surface; and iv. an interior surface accessible from the second end of the member; wherein the member is adapted to receive a ball mount such that when the ball mount is received, either a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the exterior surface or a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the interior surface.

2. The rack of claim 1 wherein the elongated member extends from the back panel at an incline, such that the second end is positioned above the first end.

3. The rack of claim 1 wherein the member is a tube.

4. The rack of claim 3 wherein the cross-section of the tube is generally square.

5. The rack of claim 3 wherein the tube comprises: a. a first wall; b. a second wall attached to the first wall; c. a third wall attached to the second wall; and d. a fourth wall attached to the third wall.

6. The rack of claim 5 wherein the first wall and the fourth wall are arranged such that the first wall and the fourth wall define a slot in the tube.

7. The rack of claim 3 further comprising a plurality of tubes.

8. The rack of claim 7 wherein the plurality of tubes includes a first tube and a second tube and a height and width of the first tube are greater than a height and width of the second tube.

9. The rack of claim 1 wherein the member defines at least one aperture.

10. The rack of claim 9 wherein the at least one aperture is adapted to receive a securing mechanism of a ball mount when the ball mount is received by the member.

11. The rack of claim 10 wherein the securing mechanism includes a pin.

12. The rack of claim 1 further including a channeled display panel adapted to retain information cards.

13. A rack for displaying ball mounts comprising: a. a back panel comprising: i. a first end; ii. a second end; and iii. a front surface; b. a first side panel attached to the first end of the back panel; c. a second side panel attached to the second end of the back panel; and d. a plurality of tubes, each of the plurality of tubes comprising: i. a first end attached to the front surface of the back panel; ii. a second end; iii. an outer surface; and iv. an inner surface; wherein each of the plurality of tubes is arranged to receive a sleeve of a ball mount either along the inner surface of the tube or along the outer surface of the tube.

14. The rack of claim 13 wherein the plurality of tubes is attached to the back panel such that the second end is positioned above the first end.

15. The rack of claim 13 wherein the sleeve of the ball mount is received from the second end of the tube.

16. The rack of claim 13 wherein the rack includes at least one tab arranged to secure the rack to a generally vertical surface.

17. The rack of claim 16 wherein a first of the at least one tab extends from the first side panel and a second of the at least one tab extends from the second side panel.

18. The rack of claim 13 further comprising a top panel attached to at least one of the back panel, first side panel, or second side panel.

19. The rack of claim 18 wherein the top panel is arranged such that the top shelf is generally horizontal when the rack is secured to a generally vertical surface.

20. The rack of claim 18 further comprising a channeled display panel arranged to accept information cards and attached to at least one of the first side panel, second side panel, back panel, or top panel.

21. A display rack comprising: a. a body including a back wall; b. a plurality of tubes extending from the back wall, each of the plurality of tubes comprising: i. a first end attached to the back wall; ii. a second end located distal from the back wall; iii. an exterior surface; and iv. an interior surface accessible from the second end; and c. a ball mount including a sleeve, the sleeve received by a first of the plurality of tubes.

22. The rack of claim 21 wherein when the sleeve is received by the first tube, at least a portion of the sleeve is contiguous with the interior surface.

23. The rack of claim 21 wherein when the sleeve is received by the first tube, at least a portion of the sleeve is contiguous with the exterior surface.

24. The rack of claim 21 wherein a cross-section of the first tube is generally rectangle.

25. The rack of claim 24 wherein a height and width of the first tube is greater than a height and width of a second of the plurality of tubes.

26. The rack of claim 21 where the first tube defines a slot running from the first end to the second end.

27. The rack of claim 21 wherein the ball mount includes a securing mechanism.

28. The rack of claim 27 wherein the first tube defines an aperture to receive the securing mechanism.

29. The rack of claim 21 further comprising a channeled panel arranged to display information cards.

30. The rack of claim 21 wherein when the sleeve is received by the first tube, the sleeve and the first tube are generally coaxial.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This non-provisional application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/674,205, entitled “Display Rack,” filed Apr. 22, 2005, which is herein incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates generally to display racks and relates specifically to racks for displaying ball mounts.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Ball mounts refer to a variety of apparatus that are designed to connect or attach to vehicles to provide the vehicle with a mechanism for towing a trailer or other such equipment. Ball mounts normally include a mechanism for mounting a hitch ball to the ball mount. Ball mounts are normally constructed or fabricated from metal and can be heavy and cumbersome for consumers to handle and evaluate in a retail environment. These limitations are particularly evident when a hitch ball is secured to a ball mount.

There exists a need for apparatus and methods that provide for conveniently displaying ball mounts in a retail environment to allow consumers to better compare and gauge the functionality and usefulness of various ball mounts.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The present invention is directed to racks that display ball mounts. In one embodiment of a ball mount display rack, the rack includes a panel and an elongated member extending from the panel. The elongated member comprises a first end attached to the panel, a second end located distal from the panel, an exterior surface, and an interior surface. The interior surface of the elongated member is accessible from the second end of the member. The elongated member is adapted to receive a ball mount such that when the ball mount is received, either a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the exterior surface of the elongated member or a portion of the ball mount is in contact with at least a portion of the interior surface of the elongated member.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

In the accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, embodiments of the invention are illustrated, which, together with a general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description given below serve to illustrate the principles of this invention. The drawings and detailed description are not intended to and do not limit the scope of the invention or the claims in any way. Instead, the drawings and detailed description only describe embodiments of the invention and other embodiments of the invention not described are encompassed by the claims.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a display rack arranged in accordance with the present invention and displaying ball mounts;

FIG. 2 is a front view of the display rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2A is a cross-sectional view of the display rack of FIG. 1 shown along the line 2A-2A of FIG. 2;

FIG. 3 is a side view of the display rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a back view of the display rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a top view of the display rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the display rack of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another display rack arranged in accordance with the present invention, including two sets of elongated members, and displaying ball mounts;

FIG. 8 is a front view of the display rack of FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of yet another display rack arranged in accordance with the present invention and including a slot along the elongated members;

FIG. 10 is a front view of the display rack of FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of yet another display rack arranged in accordance with the present invention for the display of ball mounts equipped with locking mechanisms; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of yet another display rack arranged in accordance with the present invention, including a slot along the elongated members, and arranged for the display of ball mounts equipped with locking mechanisms.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The Detailed Description of the Invention merely describes preferred embodiments of the invention and is not intended to limit the scope of the claims or specifications in any way. Indeed, the invention as described by the claims is broader than and unlimited by the preferred embodiments, and the terms in the claims and specifications have their full ordinary meaning.

While the described embodiments herein are presented in the context of display racks for ball mounts, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the present invention may be used to display a number of different items. The examples presented in this specification are intended to illustrate the broad application of the invention for display racks. The specific design and operation of the display racks selected provide no limitation on the present invention.

An exemplary embodiment of a display rack 10 is shown in FIGS. 1 through 6. The display rack 10 is designed to hold and display a variety of ball mounts. Ball mounts generally take the form of structural members that includes a sleeve portion and a portion for mounting a hitch ball. The sleeve portion of a ball mount typically is generally rectangular and hollow and can be mated with and secured to a cooperatively shaped mating receiver on a vehicle. Once the ball mount is secured to the vehicle and a hitch ball is attached to the ball mount, a trailer or other such equipment can be attached to the hitch ball such that the equipment may be towed by the vehicle.

Referring to FIG. 1, the exemplary embodiment includes a left side panel 12, a right side panel 14, a back panel 16, and a series of wire portions 18 joined together to form a top panel 20. The panels 12, 14, 16, and 20 are coupled together to form a generally rectangular and rigid structure that may be hung as a display rack 10. The structure is capable of maintaining its shape under relatively moderate to heavy loads caused by displaying objects in the rack 10. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, a series of elongated members 22 extend from the back panel 16. The elongated members 22 are arranged to support and hold items or objects, such as retail ball mounts displayed in the rack 10.

The elongated members 22 are tubes that have generally thin-walled rectangular cross-sections. Each tube 22 has a first end 24 that is coupled or otherwise attached to the back panel 16 and a second end 26 that is distal to the back panel 16 and is generally unencumbered by any attachments or couplings. The tubes 22 can be arranged such that the tubes 22 extend generally perpendicular to the back panel 16. Alternatively, as best seen in FIG. 2A, the tubes 22 can be arranged to extend at an inclined angle α such that the second ends 26 of the tubes 22 are relatively higher than the first ends 24 of the tubes 22. Under certain conditions, the inclined arrangement of the tubes 22 with respect to the back panel 16 may make it less likely that items or objects displayed on or in the tubes 22 are unintentionally removed, knocked off, or otherwise displaced from the tubes 22.

The exemplary tubes 22 of FIGS. 1 through 6 are hollow and thin-walled and designed to mate with or otherwise accommodate the sleeve portion of a ball mount. Each tube 22 includes an outer surface 28 and an inner surface 30. The inner surface 30 is accessible from an opening 32 at the second end 26 of the tube 22. Depending on the cross-sectional size of a ball mount, a ball mount sleeve may either slide inside a tube 22 or slide over a tube 22.

As seen in FIG. 1, a first ball mount 34 can include a sleeve portion 36 with a relatively small cross-section that is accommodated by a tube 22 when the sleeve portion 36 is slid into the tube 22. This arrangement places a portion of the ball mount 34 in contact with a portion of the inner surface 30 of the tube 22. A second ball mount 38 can include a sleeve portion 40 with a relatively large cross-section that is accommodated by the tube 22 when the sleeve portion 40 is slid over the tube 22. This places a portion of the ball mount 38 in contact a portion of the outer surface 28 of the tube 22. As described above and illustrated in FIG. 1, a hollow, thin-walled construction of a tube 22 allows the tube 22 to accommodate multiple ball mount 34 and 38.

As best seen in FIG. 3, the side panels 12 and 14 can be equipped with a series of hooks 42. Such hooks 42 can be used, for example, to mount the display rack 10 directly into preformed holes in a wall or onto a track (not shown) that can be either free standing or attached to a wall. Hooks 42 allow for efficient exchanging, relocating, and mounting of the display rack 10. Although the exemplary embodiment illustrates and discusses hooks as a method of securing the display rack 10, it should be understood that any method of securing a display rack is included in this invention. For example, a display rack can be integrated into a cabinet, stand or other such support structure, or a display rack can include a series of apertures through which fasteners are passed to secure the display rack to a wall, rail system or other vertical surface.

As best seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, the display rack 10 can also be equipped with a channeled display panel 44 running generally horizontally and perpendicularly to the top panel 20. The channeled display panel 44 can be designed and fabricated to hold information regarding objects, items, or products for sale displayed in the display rack 10. For example, information cards (not shown) including universal product code (UPC) labels, or any other information that may be useful for a consumer, may be displayed in the channeled display panel 44. In the exemplary embodiment, the display panel 44 includes an upper horizontal portion 46 and a lower horizontal portion 48 bent inward to form a track into which an information card, for example, can be inserted. Once inserted, a card with product information can be horizontally positioned above the corresponding product in the display rack 10.

The channeled display panel 44 together with the top panel 20 can form a shelf 50 for storing or displaying additional items. The channeled display panel 44 can be secured to the top 20 and side 12 and 14 panels in such a manner that the channeled display panel 44 forms a vertical barrier that may restrain items from rolling or falling off the front of the shelf 50. The side panels 12 and 14 can be attached to the top panel 20 such that portions of the side panels 12 and 14 form vertical barriers to restrain objects from falling from the sides of the shelf 50. The wire sections 18 that comprise the top panel 20 can include bent portions 52 at the rear of the top panel 20 to form another vertical barrier to restrain objects from falling from the back of the shelf 50.

Although the top panel 20 is illustrated as a series of joined wire sections 18, one skilled in the art will recognize that the top panel 20 can be fabricated in a variety of ways and from a variety of materials. For example, a top panel can be constructed from a solid metal sheet similar to the side 12 and 14 and back 16 panels; from a wood based product, such as particle board; or from a polymeric material capable of providing the necessary structural integrity.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate another embodiment of a display rack 60 in accordance with the present invention. This embodiment includes two sets or series of elongated members or tubes extending from the back panel 16. Both sets of tubes 62 and 64 are identical, with the exception of certain physical dimensions. A first set of tubes 62 have a cross-section that has a smaller height and width than a second set of tubes 64. The length of the first set of tubes 62 is generally equal to the length of the second set of tubes 64. As will be discussed, the difference in cross-sectional size of the two sets of tubes 62 and 64 allows the display rack 60 to accommodate and hold a relatively large number of different sized items or objects. The purpose of varying dimensions of tubes 62 and 64 is to provide flexibility and variety in the types of products that can be displayed in a rack 60.

Similar to the embodiment described above and illustrated in FIGS. 1 through 6, both sets of tubes 62 and 64 have generally rectangular cross-sections. Each tube 62 and 64 has a first end 66 and 68, respectively, which is coupled to the back panel 16 and a second end 70 and 72, respectively, which is distal to the back panel 16 and terminates in free space. The tubes 62 and 64 can be arranged to extend perpendicularly from the back panel 16 or arranged to extend from the back panel 16 at an incline.

In the exemplary illustration of FIGS. 7 and 8, the smaller tubes 62 are fabricated from #16 gage metal and have internal widths and heights of approximately 1.31 inches. The external height and width are each approximately 1.43 inches. With such dimensions, the small tubes 62 can accommodate a class 3 ball mount 74 when the sleeve 76 of the ball mount 74 is slid over the tube 62. Such a class 3 ball mount sleeve 76 typically has an internal width and internal height of approximately 1.50 inches. The small tube 62 can also accommodate a class 2 ball mount 78 when the sleeve 80 of the ball mount 78 is slid inside the tube 62. A class 2 ball mount sleeve 80 typically has an outer height and width of approximately 1.25 inches. The larger tubes 64 can serve a similar function for larger ball mounts. The dimensions as described are merely exemplary and the invention is not limited in any way to such dimensions. Any suitable dimensions that permit embodiments of the invention to operate as described herein are within the scope of the invention.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate another embodiment of the channeled display panel 82. In this exemplary embodiment, the channeled display panel 82 includes a pair of channels, an upper channel 84 and a lower channel 86. Both channels 84 and 86 run horizontally and parallel to the top panel 20. The inclusion of two channels 84 and 86 can increase the amount of information presented above objects, items, or products displayed in the rack 60. Any number of channels can be used in the practice of the present invention.

FIGS. 9 and 10 illustrate yet another embodiment of a display rack 90 arranged in accordance with the present invention. Similar to the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 7 and 8, the rack 90 includes a set or series of small tubes 92 and a set or series of large tubes 94. In this embodiment each tube 92 and 94 includes a longitudinal slot 96 and 98, respectively. The slots 96 in the small tubes 92 are defined by two approximately parallel surfaces 100 and 102 running longitudinally along the tube 92. The slots 98 in the large tubes 94 are defined by two approximately parallel surfaces 104 and 106 running longitudinally along the tube 94. The longitudinal slots 96 and 98 can be dimensioned to accommodate features of ball mount that may interfere with a tube that includes a solid cross-section. The longitudinal slots 92 and 94 extending along a tube 92 and 94 can be designed and dimensioned to accommodate specific features on ball mounts. For example, ball mounts can include portions of a locking mechanism that can be accommodate by the slots 96 and 98. Although the tubes 92 and 94 are illustrated with longitudinal slots 96 and 98 running along a corner of a rectangular tube 92 and 94, this arrangement is exemplary only. A slot or any other opening can be incorporated into a tube to accommodate unique features of ball mounts to be displayed on a display rack. The slots 96 and 98 also allow for other manufacturing techniques for the tubes 92 and 94 as compared to tubes with a complete cross-section.

Yet another embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 11. In this embodiment, a rack 110 includes a set of small tubes 112 and a set of large tubes 114. Each tube 112 and 114 include a pair of apertures 116 though the vertical walls of the tubes 112 and 114. The tubes 112 and 114 and apertures 116 are designed to accommodate ball mounts with locking mechanisms. One example of such a ball mount is the integral locking coupler disclosed in U.S. published application 2004/0240934A1, filed on May 28, 2004, incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. Ball mounts of this type may have locking mechanisms which generally incorporate a pair of engagement pins in the ball mount sleeve to mate with apertures in a receiver. This mating can secure the ball mount sleeve to the receiver, and thus, secure the ball mount to a vehicle. The apertures 116 in the tubes 112 and 114 can be designed to simulate the apertures in a receiver attached to a vehicle. This arrangement allows and moreover invites the consumer to experiment with the engagement and locking mechanisms on a tube 112 and 114 in a display rack 110 in the retail location. The illustration of FIG. 11 is designed specifically for the integral locking coupler disclosed in U.S. published application 2004/0240934A1; however, the tube can be designed to accommodate any ball mount with a locking mechanism, allowing a consumer to test and experiment with the locking mechanism of any ball mount.

FIG. 12 illustrates yet another embodiment of the invention. In this embodiment a display rack 120 includes two sets of tubes 122 and 124. Each of the tubes 122 and 124 includes a longitudinal slot 126 and a pair of apertures 128. This arrangement allows for the accommodation of a large variety of ball mounts. Including ball mounts of different cross-sectional sizes, ball mounts with locking mechanisms, and ball mounts with unique features to be accommodated by the longitudinal slot.

While various aspects of the invention are described and illustrated herein as embodied in combination in the exemplary embodiments, these various aspects may be realized in many alternative embodiments, either individually or in various combinations and sub-combinations thereof. Unless expressly excluded herein all such combinations and sub-combinations are intended to be within the scope of the present invention. Still further, while various alternative embodiments as to the various aspects and features of the invention, such as alternative materials, structures, configurations, methods, devices, and so on may be described herein, such descriptions are not intended to be a complete or exhaustive list of available alternative embodiments, whether presently known or later developed. Those skilled in the art may readily adopt one or more of the aspects, concepts or features of the invention into additional embodiments within the scope of the present invention even if such embodiments are not expressly disclosed herein. Additionally, even though some features, concepts or aspects of the invention may be described herein as being a preferred arrangement or method, such description is not intended to suggest that such feature is required or necessary unless expressly so stated. Still further, exemplary or representative values and ranges may be included to assist in understanding the present invention however, such values and ranges are not to be construed in a limiting sense and are intended to be critical values or ranges only if so expressly stated





 
Previous Patent: Hair rack

Next Patent: Sliding module positioning device