Title:
Interchangeable storage system and associated method of use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides an interchangeable, portable storage system for organizing items using flexible dividers, wherein items are organized either within the storage system or within a series of storage systems within a larger device such as a chest freezer, or the like. The system includes a first side panel, a second side panel, a front panel, a rear panel, and a base panel, wherein the panels are constructed such that they form a topless box shape, a plurality of interchangeable divider panels containing a handle with tapered ends and a label area, wherein the side panels include placement fins, creating tracks within which the interchangeable divider panels are removably placed, wherein the storage system and the interchangeable divider panels, once placed within the tracks, includes a plurality of variable storage and organization spaces bounded by a combination of the various panels.



Inventors:
Newman A. J. (Cumming, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/516290
Publication Date:
03/08/2007
Filing Date:
09/06/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/407, 312/408
International Classes:
A47B17/00; A47B96/04
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
WILKENS, JANET MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CROSE LAW LLC (WOODSTOCK, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An interchangeable storage and organization system, comprising: a first side panel; a second side panel; a front panel; a rear panel; a base panel; wherein the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, and the base panel are constructed such that they form a topless box shape; a plurality of interchangeable divider panels; wherein the first side panel and the second side panel are further comprised of: a plurality of first front placement fins; a plurality of second front placement fins; a plurality of first rear placement fins; a plurality of second rear placement fins; wherein the pluralities of first front placement fins and first rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior dimension of the first side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located; wherein the pluralities of second front placement fins and second rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior dimension of the second side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located; wherein the interchangeable storage system and the plurality of interchangeable divider panels, once placed within the tracks, comprise a plurality of variable storage and organization spaces bounded by a combination of the various panels.

2. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, and the base panel are integrally formed.

3. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein each of the plurality of interchangeable divider panels is further comprised of a divider panel handle, with which the divider panels may be easily gripped and interchanged amongst the various tracks in the first and second side panels of the interchangeable storage system.

4. The divider panel handle of claim 3, wherein the divider panel handle is further comprised of a tapered end located at each end of the divider panel handle.

5. The divider panel handle of claim 3, wherein the divider panel handle is further comprised of a label area, wherein a label may be placed indicating the contents any of the plurality of variable storage and organization spaces.

6. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein each of the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, the base panel, and the plurality of divider panels is further comprised of a plurality of panel opening to increase visibility and air circulation.

7. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein each of the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, the base panel, and the plurality of divider panels is constructed of injected molded plastic.

8. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein the interchangeable storage system is located in a freezer, providing storage and organization to frozen food items.

9. The interchangeable storage and organization system of claim 1, wherein the interchangeable storage system is used in series with one or more additional interchangeable storage system.

10. A method for interchangeable storage and organization comprising: placing an interchangeable storage and organization system comprising: a first side panel; a second side panel; a front panel; a rear panel; a base panel; wherein the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, and the base panel are constructed such that they form a topless box shape; a plurality of interchangeable divider panels; wherein the first side panel and the second side panel are further comprised of: a plurality of first front placement fins; a plurality of second front placement fins; a plurality of first rear placement fins; a plurality of second rear placement fins; wherein the pluralities of first front placement fins and first rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior dimension of the first side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located; wherein the pluralities of second front placement fins and second rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior dimension of the second side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located; wherein the interchangeable storage system and the plurality of interchangeable divider panels, once placed within the tracks, comprise a plurality of variable storage and organization spaces bounded by a combination of the various panels, within a freezer to store and organize frozen foods items; and storing and organizing various frozen food items with the variable storage and organization spaces bounded by the combination of the various panels.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

The present non-provisional patent application claims the benefit of priority of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/596,195, which is entitled “FREEZER FILES”, which was filed on Sep. 7, 2005, and which is incorporated in full by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to the fields of storage systems and associated storage system methods. More specifically, the present invention relates to an interchangeable, portable storage system for organizing items using a flexible divider system, and wherein items are organized either within the interchangeable storage system or within a series of storage systems located within a larger device such as a chest freezer, or the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many places throughout a home, office, or other similar location are often desperately and repeatedly in need of organization. Frequently at issue is the need to organize items of varying sizes within a limited amount of available space. Similarly at issue is the occurrence when the wish to stack items is desired but too difficult to implement. Further difficulty often arises within a space that has no means of structural subdivision or otherwise supporting stored and organized items in a larger space.

Such organizational difficulty is often the case in a chest freezer, or the like, where items fall one on top of the other because there is no structure for organization or support to hold the various items in place, keeping them both accessible and visible. Although the interchangeable storage system of the present invention is useful in many storage environments, and to solve many storage problems, use within a chest freezer is described herein as an exemplary embodiment.

Chest freezers tend to become disorganized quickly because there is no means to organize the freezer space such that frozen food items may be stacked, visible, and accessible without causing the other items in the freezer to be shuffled about. There is no means within a chest freezer to organize the freezer space such that items may be stacked one on top of the other such that when some items are moved or removed that the entire stack of items does not topple or shuffle out of order. Such use results in disorganization and inefficient consumption of freezer space. Thus, it is desired to have an interchangeable storage system that overcomes these deficiencies.

These and other problems exist. Previous attempts to solve these and other problems include the following:

U.S. Pat. No. 4,932,548, issued to Bensinger on Jun. 12, 2003, discloses a space divider assembly, for use in a freezer chest, to organize the space within the freezer compartment. The space divider assembly has an end panel with upright tracks securably attached within the freezer compartment. Divider panels are mounted in the tracks, each of the panels having slots extending approximately half its length wherein other divider panels are slidably attached. The other divider panels also have slots which enable the panels to be assembled in crisscross fashion. When assembled the panels divide the freezer compartment into a plurality of storage columns arranged in a checkerboard pattern.

The '548 invention, however, does not provide interchangeability of dividers such that areas of varying space may be created; rather the space created is a checkerboard pattern providing a plurality of uniform spaces. Additionally, the '548 invention does not provide panels that include handles or a storage system that includes an outer edge; it merely provides dividers similar to those found in a case of soda bottles or wine bottles, providing uniform separation, and relying on the inside walls of the freezer to provide the outer edge of the storage system. Additionally, the '548 invention does not provide a track system with placement fins in panels that form an outer edge. Furthermore, the '548 invention does not provide panels with openings such that the freezer's air circulation is not curtailed and such that items in the freezer are more visible.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,191,434, issued to Powell et al. on Mar. 4, 1980 discloses a refrigerator cabinet having a metal outer shell and a plastic inner liner, containing a partition between fresh food and freezer compartments formed of a metal plate defining the fresh food compartment ceiling, a rigid expanded styrene bead thermally insulating divider mounted on the plate, and a plastic tray forming the freezing compartment floor mounted on the divider. An elongated strip of flexible polyurethane is folded lengthwise over a vertical edge of the plate so as to form a compressible, resilient air tight thermal seal between the sides and back of the plate and the adjacent liner walls regardless of changes in the gap distance between the plate and liner caused by the thermal variations of refrigerator operation or reasonable manufacturing variations. The partition inserts into channels formed on the sides of the liner which are partially defined by upper ledges with overlap raised flat rims extending along the sides of the tray to prevent unsightly gaps from occurring between the tray and the liner as a result of thermal or manufacturing variations. Laterally projecting tabs formed on the sides of the rims at the front of the tray project behind frontal edges of the outer shell a distance sufficient to prevent unsightly gaps between the sides of the tray and the edges of the shell resulting from thermal variations or manufacturing variations.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,244,268, issued to Derrickson on Sep. 14, 1993 discloses a case for carrying condiments, spices and other food items in an airtight and moisture-proof environment. The case has slotted compartments in which resealable pouches are provided. The pouches are detachably fastened to the sides of these compartments. Various condiments, spices or other food items can be easily transported in the case for later use.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,703,855, issued to Moe et al. on Nov. 3, 1987 discloses a system for the storing and shipping of containers wherein a plurality of interlocked partitions divide an inner cavity of a carton into a plurality of compartments each of which is adapted to receive a container and wherein the largest cross-sectional configuration of the container is located within each compartment and which largest cross-sectional configuration includes a label secured to the container and wherein each compartment is provided with means ensuring that there is no contact between the label and at least a plurality of the sidewalls defining each compartment to protect the label from abrasion, tearing or other undesirable forces.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,096,056, issued to Garcia on Mar. 17, 1992 discloses a memento box. The memento box includes a box-like structure having a floor, opposing sidewalls, and a lid hinged to one of the sidewalls. The lid covers the top of the box and defines a closed interior space within the box. A latch or releasable means is provided to keep the lid in a closed position on the box. A plurality of removable and changeable interfitting partitions form a matrix that is sized to fit within the interior space. The height of the partitions and, hence, the matrix is such that when the partitions are placed in the interior space, a book can be stored in the memento box and the interspace within the box above the partitions is at least one-half inch thick to accommodate the book. In addition, the memento box includes a pocket for retaining flat sheet mementos such as photographs. Preferably, the pocket includes a transparent cover. The pocket is attached to the inboard side of the lid. Additionally, the memento box may include a flat divider plate that is removably but securely disposed on top of the interfitting partitions thereby closing the compartments formed by the partitions. The size of the compartments formed by the interfitting partitions can be changed due to complementary slots in the partitions themselves. The person using the box changes the size of the compartments by removing one partition and interlinking different complementary slots on another partition.

Thus, in the prior art, devices have been disclosed for the purposes of storage and organization. However, despite years of products evolution, many deficiencies exist with the devices known in the art. For example, none of these patents provide interchangeability of dividers such that areas of varying space may be created. Additionally, none of these patents in the prior art provides divider panels that include handles, a storage system that includes an outer edge, or a track system with placement fins in panels that form an outer edge. Furthermore, none of these patents in the prior art provides panels with openings such that a freezer's air circulation is not curtailed and such that items in the freezer are more visible.

However, while such devices may be suitable for their particular purposes, they are not suitable for the purposes of the present invention. Therefore, a need exists for the interchangeable storage system and method of the present invention.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In various exemplary embodiments, the present invention provides an interchangeable, portable storage system for organizing items using a flexible divider system, and wherein items are organized either within the interchangeable storage system or within a series of storage systems located within a larger device such as a chest freezer, or the like.

In one exemplary embodiment of the present invention, an interchangeable storage and organization system includes a first side panel, a second side panel, a front panel, a rear panel, and a base panel. The first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, and the base panel are constructed such that they form a topless box shape. The interchangeable storage and organization system also includes a plurality of interchangeable divider panels. The first side panel and the second side panel further include a plurality of first front placement fins, a plurality of second front placement fins, a plurality of first rear placement fins, and a plurality of second rear placement fins. The pluralities of first front placement fins and first rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior height of the first side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located. The pluralities of second front placement fins and second rear placement fins are located in parallel fashion repeatedly along the interior height of the second side panel, creating a plurality of tracks within which the plurality of interchangeable divider panels are removably located. The interchangeable storage system and the plurality of interchangeable divider panels, once placed within the tracks, include a plurality of variable storage and organization spaces bounded by a combination of the various panels.

Optionally, the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, and the base panel are integrally formed. Optionally, each of the plurality of interchangeable divider panels further include a divider panel handle, with which the divider panels may be easily gripped and interchanged amongst the various tracks in the first and second side panels of the interchangeable storage system. Optionally, the divider panel handle further includes a tapered end located at each end of the divider panel handle. Optionally, the divider panel handle further includes a label area, wherein a label may be placed indicating the contents any of the plurality of variable storage and organization spaces. Optionally, each of the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, the base panel, and the plurality of divider panels further includes a plurality of panel opening to increase visibility and air circulation. Optionally each of the first side panel, the second side panel, the front panel, the rear panel, the base panel, and the plurality of divider panels is constructed of semi-rigid injected molded plastic. Optionally, the interchangeable storage system is located in a freezer, providing storage and organization to frozen food items. Optionally, the interchangeable storage system is used in series with one or more additional interchangeable storage system.

In another exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a method for interchangeable storage and organization includes placing the interchangeable storage and organization system of the previous embodiment within a freezer to store and organize frozen foods items and storing and organizing various frozen food items with the variable storage and organization spaces bounded by the combination of the various panels.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the features of the present invention in order that the detailed description that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are additional features of the invention that will be described and which will form the subject matter of the claims. In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting.

As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods, and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Additional aspects and advantages of the present invention will be apparent from the following detailed description of exemplary embodiments which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is illustrated and described herein with reference to various figures, in which like reference numerals denote like system components and/or method steps, and in which:

FIG. 1 is a front perspective view illustrating the interchangeable storage system and an arrangement of flexible divider panels according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front perspective view illustrating a flexible divider panel of the interchangeable storage system of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a top planar view illustrating the interchangeable storage system, divider placement fins, and flexible divider panels.

FIG. 4 is a top planar view illustrating the interchangeable storage system and flexible divider panels shown in use in a chest freezer according to one exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a front perspective view illustrating the interchangeable storage system and flexible divider panels shown in use in a chest freezer.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Before describing the disclosed embodiments of the present invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of the particular arrangement shown here since the invention is capable of other embodiments. Also, the terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and not of limitation.

In various exemplary embodiments, the present invention provides an interchangeable, portable storage system for storing and organizing items of various sizes using a flexible and interchangeable divider system. Stored items are organized either within the storage system or within a series of storage systems located within a larger device such as a chest freezer, or the like. Although the interchangeable storage system of the present invention is described herein as used in a chest freezer, it is noted that the interchangeable storage system of the present invention is useful in many storage environments, and to solve many storage problems.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a front perspective view illustrating the interchangeable storage system 10 and an arrangement of flexible divider panels 30 are shown. The interchangeable storage system 10 includes a first side panel 20, a second side panel 22, a front panel 24, a rear panel 26, and a base panel 28 (not visible). Each of the first side panel 20 and the second side panel 22 include a plurality of fins: a plurality of first front placement fins 50, a plurality of second front placement fins 52, a plurality of first rear placement fins 54, and a plurality of second rear placement fins 56. The first side panel 20, second side panel 22, front panel 24, rear panel 26, base panel 28 (not visible), and each of the divider panels 30 include a plurality of panel openings 40. Each divider panel 30 includes a divider panel handle 32 for gripping the divider panel 30 and placing it within the various fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10. Once the divider panels 30 are placed within the fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10, storage spaces 12 are created.

The first side panel 20, second side panel 22, front panel 24, rear panel 26, base panel 28, and the plurality of divider panels 30 are constructed of semi-rigid injection molded plastic and are constructed such that they form a topless box shape. However, in various other alternative embodiments, the panels 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 are made of metal. It is to be appreciated by those in the art that the storage system may be constructed with a variety of alternative materials. In another alternative embodiment, the panels 20, 22, 24, 26, and 28 are integrally formed, leaving only the divider panels 30 to be removable and interchangeable.

In one embodiment the first side panel 20, second side panel 22, front panel 24, and rear panel 26, each have a height of approximately twenty inches. The first side panel 20 and the second side panel 22 each have an approximate length of twenty inches and the front panel 24 and the rear panel 26 each have an approximate length of twelve inches. The base panel is approximately twelve by twenty inches, to securely hold the side, front, and rear panels in place in a topless box shape. Thus, the box shaped assembly of panels is approximately twenty inches in height, twenty inches in length, and twelve inches in width. The panels, however, may be constructed of various dimensions.

The front and rear placement fins are located in pairs (i.e., 50 and 54; 52 and 56) spaced along the side panels 20, 22. The spacing of the pairs of fins may vary, but in one embodiment the pairs of fins 50 and 54; 52 and 56 are located approximately two inches apart between pairs. The front and rear fins that make up each pair 50 and 54, 52 and 56 are located approximately three-eighths of an inch apart, providing a track that is approximately three-eighths of an inch in width. These dimensions may vary as well. Each pair of fins 50 and 54, 52 and 56 creates a track within which a divider panel 30 is removably located.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a front perspective view illustrating a flexible divider panel 30 of the interchangeable storage system 10 (not shown here in its entirety) of the present invention is shown. Each divider panel 30 includes a divider panel handle 32 for gripping the divider panel 30 and placing it within the various fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10 (as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3). The divider panel handle 32 includes tapered ends 34 to enable the divider panel to easily slide into the various fins 50, 52, 54, and 56 of the storage system 10 and to remain there securely. Each of the divider panels 30 includes a plurality of panel openings 40.

In one embodiment, the divider panels are approximately twelve inches in width and twenty inches in height. However, the divider panels may be constructed of various sizes, so long as they fit securely with the box-shaped panel assembly that includes panels 20, 22, 24, 26, and 28. The divider panels 30 may be placed within the overall storage system 10 in any manner such that the divider panels 30 are placed within the tracks formed by the various fins 50, 52, 54, and 56 of the storage system 10 (as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3). The divider panels 30 need not be evenly spaced, thus providing the ability to create varying sized storage spaces 12 (as shown in FIG. 3).

Referring now to FIG. 3, a top planar view illustrating the interchangeable storage system 10, divider placement fins 50, 52, 54, 56, and flexible divider panels 30 are shown. The interchangeable storage system 10 is shown with a first side panel 20, a second side panel 22, a front panel 24, and a rear panel 26. Each of the first side panel 20 and the second side panel 22 include a plurality of fins: a plurality of first front placement fins 50, a plurality of second front placement fins 52, a plurality of first rear placement fins 54, and a plurality of second rear placement fins 56. Each divider panel 30 includes a divider panel handle 32 for gripping the divider panel 30 and placing it within the various fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10. Once the divider panels 30 are placed within the fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10, storage spaces of either uniform or varying sizes 12 are created. The divider panel handle 32 includes tapered ends 34 to enable the divider panel to easily slide into the various fins 50, 52, 54, and 56 of the storage system 10 and to remain there securely. Each divider panel handle 32 includes a label area 36 where a label is placed to identify the items stored and organized with one of the storage spaces 12 created by the interchangeable storage system 10.

The fins 50, 52, 54, 56 run the entire height of the side panels 20, 22, providing a track within which the divider panels 30 are securely held in place to the interchangeable storage system 10.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a top planar view illustrating the interchangeable storage system 10 and flexible divider panels 30 is shown. The interchangeable storage system 10 is shown, in one exemplary embodiment, located within a chest freezer 60 with the freezer lid 62 in an open, upright position, providing interchangeable organization and storage to frozen food items located within the chest freezer 60. Each divider panel 30 includes a divider panel handle 32 for gripping the divider panel 30 and placing it within the various fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10. Once the divider panels 30 are placed within the fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10, storage spaces 12 are created. Labels pertaining to the identification of various frozen food items are placed in the label area 36 of the divider panel handle 32 of the divider panel 30 (as shown in FIG. 3).

Referring now to FIG. 5, a front perspective view illustrating the interchangeable storage system 10 and flexible divider panels 30 shown. The interchangeable storage system 10 is shown, in one exemplary embodiment, located within a chest freezer 60 with the freezer lid 62 in an open, upright position, providing interchangeable organization and storage to frozen food items located within the chest freezer 60. The first side panel 20, the second side panel 22, the front panel 24, and the rear panel 26 are each visible in the chest freezer 60. Two divider panels 30 are shown placed within the interchangeable storage system 10. Each divider panel 30 includes a divider panel handle 32 for gripping the divider panel 30 and placing it within the various fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10 (as shown in FIG. 3). Once the divider panels 30 are placed within the fins 50, 52, 54, 56 of the storage system 10, storage spaces 12 are created. The storage spaces 12 are used in the chest freezer 60 to segregate various frozen food items, containing them in an organized manner.

Although the present invention has been illustrated and described with reference to preferred embodiments and examples thereof, it will be readily apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments and examples may perform similar functions and/or achieve similar results. All such equivalent embodiments and examples are within the spirit and scope of the invention and are intended to be covered by the following claims.