Title:
Baggage item with internal zippered expansion assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An expandable baggage item without rigid support elements that is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment.



Inventors:
Gorga, Aaron (St. Louis, MO, US)
Application Number:
11/502077
Publication Date:
03/01/2007
Filing Date:
08/10/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
190/903
International Classes:
A45C7/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20050077134Briefcase and purse systemApril, 2005Golden
20090288744Collapsible Storable Handbag With Detachable PanelsNovember, 2009Moshirisfahini et al.
20080210506LUGGAGE HANDLE IDENTIFIERSeptember, 2008Geier
20040000458Baggage cart suitcaseJanuary, 2004Weiss et al.
20030188942Luggage item with water bottle pocketOctober, 2003Scicluna
20060137948Carrier for ceremonial apparelJune, 2006Barber
20050077136Modular luggage systemApril, 2005Brannin



Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PATRICK W. RASCHE (ST. LOUIS, MO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An expandable baggage item for carrying of items by hand, the baggage item comprising: a body defining a storage compartment; and an expansion assembly coupled to the body, the expansion assembly comprising a gusset and a zipper, the zipper operable to release the gusset to expand the body from a contracted position to an expanded position; wherein the zipper is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment.

2. The baggage item of claim 1, further comprising a closure element selectively postionable relative to the body between an opened position and a closed position, and wherein the zipper is concealed from view from an exterior of the baggage when the closure element is in the closed position.

3. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the body is soft-sided.

4. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the zipper extends around an interior periphery of the storage compartment.

5. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the body comprises a first frame and a second frame collectively providing the bag with a predetermined shape, and the expansion assembly is operatively connected between the first frame and the second frame.

6. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the body comprises a first frame defining a first portion of the storage compartment and a second frame defining a second portion of the storage compartment, the first portion of the storage compartment being larger than the second portion.

7. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the body defines a luggage item.

8. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the luggage item is selected from the group of a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack, and a briefcase.

9. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the zipper is operable to retract the gusset and return the body to the contracted position when the expanded position is not needed.

10. The baggage item of claim 1, wherein the expansion assembly is substantially devoid of rigid mechanical supports.

11. The baggage item of claim 1, further comprising at least one wheel coupled to the body.

12. A piece of baggage comprising: a first frame and a second frame collectively defining a storage compartment adapted to be carried by a user, the first and second frames being movable relative to one another between an expanded position and a contracted position; a flexible gusset interconnecting the two frames; and a zipper operable to selectively release the gusset for relative movement of the first and second frames to the expanded position, the gusset defining a portion of the storage compartment when the frames are moved to the expanded position; wherein the zipper is located in an interior portion of the first and second frames.

13. The baggage of claim 12, wherein the gusset includes an interior surface and an exterior surface when the baggage item is expanded, the exterior surface hiding the zipper from external view.

14. The baggage of claim 12, wherein the first and second frames are soft-sided.

15. The baggage of claim 12, wherein the first and second frames are different sizes.

16. The baggage of claim 12, wherein the first and second frames define one of a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack, and a briefcase.

17. The baggage of claim 12, wherein the zipper is operable to retract the gusset to move the first and second frames to a contracted position.

18. The baggage of claim 12, further comprising at least one wheel connected to one of the first and second frames.

19. An expandable luggage item comprising: a body defining an interior luggage compartment and an exterior surface surrounding the luggage compartment; at least one carrying handle coupled to the body; and an expansion assembly located interior to the body, the expansion assembly comprising a releasable fabric panel configured to vary an internal volume of the storage compartment without rigid mechanical elements.

20. The luggage item of claim 19, wherein the panel comprises a gusset and a zipper, the zipper operable to release the gusset to expand the body from a contracted position to an expanded position having a greater capacity for storage.

21. The luggage item of claim 19, wherein the zipper is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment.

22. The luggage item of claim 19, wherein the body is soft-sided.

23. The luggage item of claim 19, wherein the body comprises first and second frames, and the zipper expansion assembly extends between the first and second frames.

24. The luggage item of claim 19, wherein the body defines one of a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack, and a briefcase.

25. An expandable baggage item for carrying of items by hand, the baggage item comprising: a body defining a storage compartment; and an expansion assembly coupled to the body, the expansion assembly comprising a gusset and an actuation element, the actuation element operable to selectively release or maintain the gusset to expand or contract the storage compartment, respectively, without aid of rigid mechanical supports and mechanisms; wherein the closure element is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment.

26. The baggage item of claim 25 wherein the actuation element comprises a zipper.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/708,159 filed Aug. 15, 2005, the complete disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to baggage items, and more particularly to expandable baggage items.

Bags, cases and luggage items are widely used to carry a variety of items of a traveler from place to place. Some types of baggage items are expandable to allow the traveler additional room for packing items in the bag while needed, while otherwise providing a bag of reduced size when the bag is not expanded. Known expandable bags are prone to damage as the bags are handled in use, are prone to premature wear and failure, and can be expensive to produce. Additionally, known expansion mechanisms can be bulky and complicated to use, and can be unsightly to some users. It would be desirable to provide a lower cost, more convenient, and more attractive expandable baggage item that overcomes these and other disadvantages.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

According to one exemplary embodiment, an expandable baggage item for carrying of items by hand is provided. The baggage item comprises a body defining a storage compartment and an expansion assembly coupled to the body. The expansion assembly comprises a gusset and a zipper. The zipper is operable to release the gusset to expand the body from a contracted position to an expanded position, and the zipper is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment in an exemplary embodiment.

Optionally, a closure element is selectively postionable relative to the body between an opened position and a closed position, and the zipper is concealed from view from an exterior of the baggage when the closure element is in the closed position. The body may be soft-sided, and the zipper may extend around an interior periphery of the storage compartment. The body may comprise a first frame and a second frame collectively providing the bag with a predetermined shape, and the expansion assembly may be operatively connected between the first frame and the second frame. A first frame may define a first portion of the storage compartment and a second frame may define a second portion of the storage compartment, with the first portion of the storage compartment being larger than the second portion. The body may define a luggage item selected from the group of a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack, and a briefcase. The zipper may be operable to retract the gusset and return the body to the contracted position when the expanded position is not needed. The expansion assembly may be substantially devoid of rigid mechanical supports, and at least one wheel may be coupled to the body.

According to another exemplary embodiment, a piece of baggage comprises a first frame and a second frame collectively defining a storage compartment adapted to be carried by a user. The first and second frames are movable relative to one another between an expanded position and a contracted position, and a flexible gusset interconnects the two frames. A zipper is operable to selectively release the gusset for relative movement of the first and second frames to the expanded position, and the gusset defines a portion of the storage compartment when the frames are moved to the expanded position. The zipper is located in an interior portion of the first and second frames.

Optionally, the gusset includes an interior surface and an exterior surface when the baggage item is expanded, and the exterior surface hides the zipper from external view. The first and second frames may be soft-sided, and the first and second frames may be different sizes. The first and second frames may define one of a suitcase, a duffel bag, and a briefcase. The zipper may be operable to retract the gusset to move the first and second frames to a contracted position, and a wheel may be coupled to the body.

In still another exemplary embodiment, an expandable luggage item comprises a body defining an interior luggage compartment and an exterior surface surrounding the luggage compartment; at least one carrying handle coupled to the body; and an expansion assembly located interior to the body. The expansion assembly comprises a releasable fabric panel configured to vary an internal volume of the storage compartment without rigid mechanical elements.

Optionally, the panel may comprise a gusset and a zipper, and the zipper may be operable to release the gusset to expand the body from a contracted position to an expanded position having a greater capacity for storage. The zipper may be accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment. The body may be soft-sided, and the body may comprise first and second frames, with the zipper expansion assembly extending between the first and second frames. The body may define one of a suitcase, a duffel bag, a backpack and a brief case.

In yet another embodiment, an expandable baggage item for carrying of items by hand is provided. The baggage item comprises a body defining a storage compartment and an expansion assembly coupled to the body. The expansion assembly comprising a gusset and an actuation element. The actuation element is operable to selectively release or maintain the gusset to expand or contract the storage compartment, respectively, without aid of rigid mechanical supports and mechanisms. The closure element is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment.

Optionally, the actuation element comprises a zipper.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of an exemplary baggage item formed in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the luggage item shown in FIG. 1 and having an internal expansion assembly in a closed or contracted position.

FIG. 3 illustrates the internal expansion assembly for the baggage item shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, wherein FIG. 3A schematically illustrates the expansion assembly in side elevation and in the contracted position, and FIG. 3B illustrates the assembly in a front elevation viewed from the interior of the baggage item and in the contracted position.

FIG. 4 illustrates the expansion assembly in an opened or expanded position, wherein FIG. 4A schematically illustrates the expansion assembly in side elevation and FIG. 4B illustrates the assembly in front elevation viewed from the interior of the baggage item.

FIG. 5 schematically illustrates the expansion assembly in perspective view and in an intermediate position.

FIG. 6 illustrates the expansion assembly installed to the baggage item in perspective view, wherein FIG. 6A shows the expansion assembly in the contracted position viewed from the interior of the bag, and FIG. 6B shows the expansion assembly in the contracted position viewed from an exterior of the bag.

FIG. 7 illustrates the expansion assembly installed to the baggage item in perspective view, wherein FIG. 7A shows the expansion assembly in the expanded position viewed from the interior of the bag, and FIG. 7B shows the expansion assembly in the expanded position viewed from an exterior of the bag

FIG. 8 illustrates a conventional expandable baggage item, wherein in FIG. 8A the baggage item is shown is in a contracted position and wherein in FIG. 8B the baggage item is shown in an expanded position.

FIG. 9 illustrates another conventional luggage item having an expansion mechanism.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention, as described in relation to exemplary embodiments set forth below, provides an expansion assembly for baggage items, and particularly for luggage items, that overcomes difficulties and disadvantages in the art associated with existing expandable baggage items. In order to fully appreciate the present invention, the disclosure herein will be segmented into different segments, wherein Part I introduces conventional baggage items and problems in the art; and Part II discloses exemplary embodiments of the invention.

I. Introduction to the Invention

A variety of expansion techniques for luggage and baggage items, including but not limited to garment bags and suitcases, are known. One popular type of conventional expandable bag 200 is shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B that includes a zipper 202 on the outer or exterior surface 204 of the bag 200 that, when un-zipped, releases an expansion section of material 206 (FIG. 8B). While such zipper expansion systems are convenient, they are not without disadvantages. For example, the teeth of the zipper 202 are generally exposed on the exterior surfaces 204 of the bag 200 and are vulnerable to snags, impact, and damage as the bag 200 is handled in use. The external zipper expansion system can also be aesthetically unappealing to at least some users, because excess fabric is often left to gather at the top of the case as shown in FIG. 8B if the case or bag contains an insufficient amount of clothes, for example, to expand the bag 200 to its full capacity.

FIG. 9 illustrates another known bag 210 having an expansion system in the form of a mechanical mechanism 212 located internal to the bag 210. Typical mechanical expansion mechanisms of this type, as shown in FIG. 9, may include, for example, two rigid support plates 214, 216 and a gusset 218. The plates 214, 216 are movable relative to one another to extend or retract the gusset 218 and provide a bag or case of a variable volume. A locking mechanism or mechanisms are typically provided to securely maintain the plates 214, 216 in expanded or collapsed positions. Additional support members may also be provided to facilitate packing of the bag 210.

To some extent, such a mechanical mechanism 212 in the bag 210 solves external snagging and impact issues, as well as aesthetic appearance issues, because the mechanical system is generally concealed within the bag when not expanded, but known mechanical expansion mechanisms can present other issues. The mechanisms may include a large number of parts and may be intricate to fabricate, install and use. The rigid plates and supports of such mechanisms also introduce additional weight to the construction of the bag. The added cost, weight and complexity of mechanical mechanism and systems can be significant and undesirable to some users.

Also, when the mechanical expansion mechanisms are used, uneven pressure applied to the perimeter of the case or bag may result in instability of the bag, as well as unsightly and undesirable gaps forming on one or more faces of the bag. Mechanical expansion mechanisms are also subject to breakage during handling of the case or bag is use, and may present reliability issues for users that frequently operate the mechanism to use the bag in each of the extended and contracted positions.

II. Exemplary Embodiments of the Invention

Referring now to FIGS. 1-7, an exemplary expandable baggage item 50 is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the type of which may benefit from the expansion assembly of the present invention as described hereinbelow. The baggage item 50 includes a body 52 defining a compartment 54 (FIG. 2) with one or more points of access for receiving personal effects and items of a traveler, such as clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. that one may need for a trip away from home. The compartment 54 may, as desired, be subdivided into smaller compartments in a further, and or alternative embodiment. That is, the compartment 54 may be considered a primary storage compartment, with secondary storage compartments also being provided through segmenting of the compartment 54 into smaller portions, or alternatively by being provided elsewhere in the construction of the bag.

A closure element 55 (shown in an opened position in FIG. 2 and a closed position in FIG. 1) is selectively positionable relatively to the body 52 in a known manner for packing and unpacking of the storage compartment 54 with items. The closure element 55 may comprise a fabric panel hingedly attached to the body 52 along one edge thereof as shown in FIG. 2, and a zipper 56, for example, is accessible from an exterior of the body 52 to open or close the closure member 55. Other closure members and actuation elements therefore may likewise be used in other alternative embodiments of the invention, including but not limited to foldable panels and hook and loop fasteners.

The body 52 may, for example, be sized and dimensioned appropriately for transport in an aircraft or vehicle and for being carried by hand via a carrying handle 53, and may include one or more wheels 57 on a lower edge thereof that allow the body to be rolled along a surface when desired. Accordingly, a towing handle and extendable telescoping supports, for example, may also be provided and coupled to the body 52 as desired for towing the bag 50 by hand along a surface via the wheels 57.

While the body 52 in an illustrative embodiment defines a substantially rectangular luggage bag in the form of an upright suitcase as shown in FIG. 1, it is understood that the body 52 may alternatively assume various alternative shapes and styles the different types of baggage and luggage items, including but not limited to other types of suitcases, backpacks, briefcases, duffel bags and the like. Additionally carrying handles, straps, shoulder straps, and the like may be provided as appropriate for different types of bags.

Exterior surfaces of the body 52 may include fabric panels and the like to form a soft-sided construction in an exemplary embodiment, as opposed to comparatively rigid, hard-shelled constructions that have also been conventionally used to fabricate baggage items. In an exemplary embodiment, the body 52 is defined at least in part by a first frame 58, sometimes referred to as a back frame, and a second frame 60, sometimes referred to as a front frame, each defining a portion of the bag 50. The frames 58, 60 are fabricated from known materials and impart, for example, a freestanding rectangular shape and form to the bag 50. The frames 58, 60 may be fabricated in a thin walled, cellular structure, sometimes referred to as a honeycomb structure, for weight reduction purposes. Additionally, the frames 58, 60 may be wrapped with fabrics, linings and the like to match remaining portions of the bag 50 on the interior and the exterior. In alternative embodiments, the bag may be configured as a collapsible bag and one or both of the frames may be omitted.

The first frame 58 defines a first portion or volume of the storage compartment 54, and the second frame 60 defines a second portion or volume of the compartment 54. As shown in the exemplary embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2 the first frame 58 is larger than the second frame 60, although the second frame 60 may be of equal or greater size than the first frame 58 in an alternative embodiment.

An expansion assembly 62 interconnects the back frame 58 and the front frame 60 and may be actuated to move the frames 58, 60 between a closed or contracted position (FIGS. 2, 3 and 6) having a storage capacity approximately equal to the interior volume of the first frame 58 and the interior volume of the second frame 60, and an opened or expanded position (FIGS. 4 and 7) having a greater storage capacity as explained below. That is, when moved to the expanded position, the storage compartment 54 has an increased storage capacity relative to the contracted position.

As shown in FIG. 2, the expansion assembly 62 is located interior to the storage compartment 54. Also, as shown in FIG. 1, the expansion assembly 62 is generally concealed or hidden from view on the exterior of the bag 50 when the closure element 55 is closed. As such, the expansion assembly 62 is not exposed on the exterior surfaces of the bag 50, but rather is exposed only on interior portions of the storage compartment 54. This is specifically contrasted to the conventional expandable bag shown in FIG. 8 having the externally mounted expansion system. The lack of exposure of the assembly 62 on outer portions of the bag 50 in the present invention eliminates potential snags of the assembly 62 with other items and surfaces during use, transport and handling, as well as isolates the expansion assembly 62 on exterior surfaces of the bag 50 when the assembly is in the closed position. The expansion assembly 62 is therefore protected by virtue of its location internal to, rather than external, the body 52 of the bag 50.

As shown in FIGS. 2-7, the expansion assembly 62 includes an expansion gusset 64 and an actuation element in the form of a zipper 66 that extends around an inner periphery of the storage compartment 54. The expansion gusset 64 may be fabricated from, for example, a flexible and non-rigid material, such as a fabric panel and the like that is stitched, sewn, or otherwise attached to the respective frames 58, 60.

The expansion assembly 62 is implemented in one embodiment by sewing a center section of the expansion gusset 64 to one side of the zipper 66 located on the inside of the bag 50. The other side of the zipper 66 is sewn in a fixed location on the inside of the bag 50. Consequently, the zipper 66 is accessible for actuation from inside the storage compartment, while the exterior of the expansion assembly 62 is zipperless insofar as the expansion assembly is concerned. Stated another way, the zipper 66 is located on an interior side or surface of the gusset 64 (to the right in FIGS. 3A and 4A), and not on an exterior surface of the gusset 64 (to the left in FIGS. 3A and 4A) so that when the baggage item is expanded, the exterior surface hides the zipper 66 from external view and provides at least some degree of protection to the zipper.

The zipper 66 is operable to release the gusset 64 when unzipped for extension to the extended position (FIG. 4A), or alternatively to draw the gusset 64 to the contracted position shown in FIG. 3A when zipped closed. When the zipper 66 is unzipped, the front frame 60 may be lifted and separated from the back frame 58 as shown in FIG. 7A to an amount approximately equal to the width of the gusset 64 extending between the frames 58 and 60 (approximately 3 inches in one embodiment) to expand the storage capacity of the compartment 54 That is, when the frames 58 and 60 are separated from one another, the expansion gusset 64 defines a third portion or volume of the compartment 54 that is independent of the first and second portions of the compartment 54 defined by the frames 58 and 60. The available storage capacity of the compartment 54 in the expanded position is therefore the sum of the first, second, and third portions defined by the frames 58, 60 and the gusset 64, respectively.

When the zipper 66 is zipped closed as shown in FIGS. 3 and 6, however, the gusset 64 is drawn back to the closed position, thereby pulling or drawing the frames 58, 60 back toward one another to the contracted position wherein the gusset 64 fails to define any substantial portion of the compartment 54. When the zipper 66 is zipped to close the expansion assembly 62, the fabric of the gusset 64 is drawn into the bag 50 and is held firmly against the frames 58 or 60 or another other rigid member giving shape to the bag 50. This action has the effect of drawing together the two portions or frames 58, 60 of the bag 50 and holding them firmly in place when the expanded position of the bag 50 is not needed and the contracted position of the bag provides a sufficient storage capacity for use. As such, the zipper 66 naturally secures the material of the gusset 64 when closed and pulls the frames 58, 60 back together.

When the zipper 66 is again un-zipped, the bag 50 may then be expanded to increase or expand the storage capacity of the compartment 54 relative to the contracted position. The amount of increased storage capacity is dependent upon the amount or dimensions of material used in the gusset 64.

The expansion assembly 62 is located at an interior location within the bag 50, and is substantially devoid of rigid and movable mechanical plates and associated mechanical mechanisms and supports that are prone to reliability issues in use. This is specifically contrasted to the conventional bag 210 shown in FIG. 9. Because mechanical mechanisms and rigid elements are not used, the expansion assembly 62 provides a comparatively lower cost and lightweight construction compared to, for example, the bag 210 shown in FIG. 9, yet nonetheless highly reliable expansion assembly in operation.

The construction of the expansion assembly 62 also offers a more tailored appearance on the inside of the bag 50, because the excess material of the gusset 64 is held tightly in place when out of use. This system is also as light weight as, for example, the conventional bag 200 shown in FIG. 8, but offers a similar look and appearance as heavier and more expensive bags having mechanical expansion mechanisms, such as the bag 210 shown in FIG. 9 for example.

Additionally, while embodiments of the expansion assembly 62 have thus far been described with a zipper 62 as the actuation element, it is understood that other known detachable actuation elements may likewise be employed in alternative embodiments, including but not limited to hook and loop fasteners, snaps, and other known fasteners in the art with like effect and benefit to the zipper 62 described above.

While the expansion assembly 62 has so far been described in the context of a primary storage compartment 54 of a luggage item such as a suitcase, it is contemplated that the expansion assembly may likewise be used in other portions of a bag, and more than one expansion assembly may be used in different portions of the same bag. For example, in a duffel bag embodiment, the expansion assembly may be utilized on each opposing end of the bag in the same or separate compartments from the primary storage compartment of the duffel bag.

As another example, the expansion assembly 62 may be utilized in one or more pockets defining an additional storage compartment separate and apart from the primary storage compartment 54. In such an embodiment, the bag may be provided with multiple expandable compartments while providing similar benefits to the embodiments described above.

The expansion assembly 62 may further find application in other types of bags, such as, for example, sports equipment carriers and golf bags wherein temporary increased storage capacity may be desirable.

The expansion assembly 62 may also be beneficial, for example, in soft-sided lunch box constructions, purses, and tote bags. Additionally, electronic equipment carriers for cell phones, portable music players and systems, personal digital assistant devices, notebook computers, etc., may benefit from the expansion assembly 62 to provide increased room for packaging of accessories and the like for some outings or excursions but not others. Further, storage bags and packages for electronic media including compact disks, digital video disks, video games, etc. may utilize the expansion assembly 62 to provide additional storage of content for a long trip, for example, versus a shorter one. As still another example, toy bags and packages may utilize the expansion assembly 62 to accommodate entertainment items of various sizes in a single bag for various day trips and excursions. Infant care bags, diaper bags, and the like may also benefit from the expansion assembly 62 to accommodate additional items for extended trips when needed.

The versatility and advantages of the invention is believed to be amply demonstrated in the aforementioned examples and embodiments. It is to be understood that the foregoing examples and potential applications of the invention are set forth for illustrative purposes only and are not intended to limit the invention to any of the disclosed embodiments or examples. The benefits and advantages of the invention are believed to accrue to any application wherein expandable bags are beneficial. The invention is not intended to be limited solely to the embodiments and applications described specifically herein.

While the invention has been described in terms of various specific embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the claims.