Title:
Mail receptacle with delivery indicator
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The “Mail Receptacle with Delivery Indicator” is a device which will allow the user of the unit to visually detect the presence of mail without opening the unit, or even approaching said unit directly. There are several possible embodiments of said device, including but not limited to a unit which can be placed at the roadside in rural areas for delivery of mail, a unit which can be mounted on the outside wall of a house for delivery of mail in urban areas, a smaller unit, possibly assembled in groups, which could be used for multiple dwellings such as apartment complexes, a special unit to be placed inside a wall locker in a school, factory, or any other location in which wall lockers are used, or a decorative unit which could be placed on a desk or table to be used for personal or interoffice communication. The unit may also include a recording means which would allow a verbal message for the user of the mailbox to be recorded and played back at the convenience of the user. The unit may also include a security mechanism which prevents unauthorized persons from having access to mail within the unit. The unit may also include a protected area for displaying the name and/or house number of the user, providing easier identification of the proper unit for someone delivering mail.



Inventors:
Neff, Richard Dean (Springville, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/654993
Publication Date:
07/26/2007
Filing Date:
01/19/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G29/12
View Patent Images:
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20090184159Mail Slot Receptacle BagJuly, 2009Crawford
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20090145956CLUSTER BOX MAIL DELIVERY UNIT HAVING SECURITY FEATURESJune, 2009Mikolajczyk et al.
20050274784Mail notification deviceDecember, 2005Mullins



Primary Examiner:
MILLER, WILLIAM L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Richard D. Neff (Springville, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A mailbox which incorporates: a) a mail delivery indicating apparatus wherein said apparatus is activated by the deposit of mail into said mailbox; b) a recording and playback device by which verbal messages can be deposited for the owner of said mailbox, and retrieved only by said owner.

2. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mail delivery indicating apparatus is activated by the deposit of mail into said mailbox in at least one of the following methods: a) the deposit of mail in said mailbox serves to interrupt a sensor beam traveling between two opposing points within said mailbox, causing a connection to be completed which allows said mail delivery indicating apparatus to become active; b) the deposit of mail in said mailbox blocks a light sensor mechanism causing a connection to be completed which allows said mail delivery indicating apparatus to become active; c) the weight of mail deposited in said mailbox causes a rocker arm mechanism to descend, causing two contact points to touch and complete a circuit which allows said mail delivery indicating apparatus to become active.

3. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mail delivery indicating apparatus is comprised of at least one of the following indicating methods: a) an LED light display which is located on the outside of said mailbox to be visible from a distance and remain visible until said mail has been removed; b) a light display located within said mailbox where said mailbox is made of a transparent material to be visible from outside said mailbox and remain visible until said mail has been removed; c) an audio display created by the inclusion of an audio chip within said mailbox, which creates a single sound indicating that mail has been received; d) an audio display created by the inclusion of an audio chip within said mailbox which creates a periodic sound indicating that mail has been received, and continuing until said mail has been removed.

4. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein power is supplied to said mail delivery indicating apparatus by at least one of: replaceable batteries, rechargeable batteries, or an alternative power source such as solar power.

5. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein power is supplied to said recording and playback device incorporated within said mailbox by at least one of: replaceable batteries, rechargeable batteries, or an alternative power source such as solar power.

6. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox incorporates magnetic strips on one side of said mailbox to allow said mailbox to be positioned securely on the inside of the door of a metal wall locker in such a manner that communications which are inserted through ventilation slits in said door of said wall locker by others with access to the area housing said wall lockers, would be contained within said mailbox.

7. The mailbox of claim 6 wherein said mailbox incorporates an additional attaching means which would be inserted through one or more of said ventilation slits in said locker door, allowing said mailbox to be attached even more securely to the inside of said door of said wall locker.

8. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox additionally comprises an attaching means on one side of said mailbox to allow said mailbox to be positioned on an outside wall of a house to receive mail deliveries, and a protective bumper to prevent damage to said wall.

9. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox may be attached to a post to allow said mailbox to be positioned at a roadside or curb to receive mail deliveries.

10. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox may incorporate a stand, either permanently attached or detachable, to allow said mailbox to be positioned on a desk or table to receive household or interoffice communications.

11. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox additionally comprises a locking mechanism which prevents said mail from being tampered with once it has been deposited into said mailbox, by insuring that only an authorized user can gain access to deposited mail.

12. The mailbox of claim 1 wherein said mailbox additionally comprises a name and address indicator to assist delivery personnel in locating the proper mailbox.

Description:

This utility patent application claims priority of provisional patent application 60/759925 filed Jan. 19, 2006, which is incorporated by reference herein.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to devices and systems for detecting the presence of verbal or written communication in a receptacle intended to receive such communication. More particularly, the invention relates to devices and systems for detecting the presence of such communications without the need to open the receptacle. The invention also relates to protection of such communications from unauthorized users, and more easily identifying the proper receptacle to receive such communications.

REFERENCES CITED

U.S. Patents
1.4,101,877July 1978Rush
2.4,154,393May 1979Darvishan
3.4,314,102Febuary 1982Lowe & McFiggans
4.4,633,236June 1985Buhl & Holger
5.4,999,612March 1991Cherveny
6.5,040.723August 1991Kelly
7.5,239,305August 1993Murphy & Shea
8.5,335,848August 1994Schreiber
9.5,382,945January 1995Novak
10.5,385,295September 1993McNair
11.5,440,295August 1995Mercier
12.5,884,838March 1999Rose
13.5,917,411June 1999Baggerly
14.6,046,675April 2000Hanna
15.6,114,959September 2000Bennett
16.6,155,482December 2000Perry
17.6,462,659October 2002Schuette
18.6,629,634October 2003Simmons
20.7,025,250April 2006Wolfe
21.7,066,381June 2006Bundy
22.7,083,080August 2006McKenzie
Patent Application Publication
1.2005/0253715November 2005Awobue
Provisional Patent Application
1.60/759925January 2006Neff

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The prior art offers various mail delivery indicating systems, as shown in the following U.S. Patents, but none contain the unique combination of elements and embodiments contained in this invention.

Several examples of prior art describe mail delivery indicators which are located at some distance from the mailbox itself, such as inside a house. If the person receiving mail is not inside the house, they would not be aware that mail has been delivered. Such devices would not be readily adaptable to other embodiments. U.S. Pat. No. 4,101,877 describes such a device in which current runs through wires from the mailbox to the house. If the current between the house and the unit should be interrupted for any reason, the device would not be able to function.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,999,612 also describes such a device, in which the mailbox is gravity fed. The weight of the mail triggers a signal which is sent through wires into the house. If the weight of the mail was not sufficient to trigger the signal, or if the flow of the current between the mailbox and the house was interrupted in any way, the device would not function.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,440,295 illustrates still another device in which the indicator is located inside the house, and therefore is not visible to anyone outside the house.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,114,959 describes a device which is intended for use in multiple mailbox units. The indicator is not within the mailbox itself, but within the house or apartment connected with each individual mailbox. Therefore it cannot be seen by approaching the multiple mailbox unit.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,239,305 describes a device which has been developed as a separate unit to be attached to a mailbox, not as a part of the mailbox itself, which could therefore be removed or damaged. In this unit as well, the indicator is inside the house, not in the box.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,382,945 also describes a device which has been developed as a separate unit to be attached to the mailbox rather than as a part of the mailbox itself, which therefore could be removed or damaged. It incorporates a buzzer or beeper which would not be heard unless the person approached near the mailbox. Also, the device is activated by the opening of the mailbox door, not necessarily by the delivery of mail.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,155,482 describes a device which has been developed as a kit to be installed on a mailbox. The indicator hangs down below the mailbox, making it difficult to see during the day and nearly impossible to see at night. This device and others like it which are further detailed in other examples of prior art are intended mainly for rural mailboxes, which are positioned at the side of the road, and would not be readily adaptable to other embodiments.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,335,848 describes a delivery indicator system for newspapers. It is activated by weight, and as newspapers are often quite heavy, the system possibly would not be activated by the lesser weight of ordinary mail. The indicator is a flag style device which would not be readily visible at night.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,884,838 describes a system in which an indicator rises to become visible when the mailbox is opened. This system would not work with a mailbox in which mail is deposited through a slot. The indicator would be visible for a limited distance during daylight hours, but would not be readily visible at night.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,025,250 describes a system incorporating a flag style indicator which is gravity activated utilizing the action of opening the mailbox door to trigger the indicator. This system would not work with a mailbox in which mail is deposited through a slot. The indicator could be visible during daylight hours, but would not be readily visible at night.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,066,381 describes a system incorporating a flag style indicator which extends out from the front of the mailbox, making it difficult to see from the house even during daylight hours, since such mailboxes typically face toward the street, not the house. It also would not be readily visible at night.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,083,080 describes a system in which a signal ball extends out from the side of the mailbox. In this position the indicator would be only marginally visible during the day and very difficult to see at night.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,046,675 describes another system in which a mailbox must actually be opened in order to activate the indicator. Depositing mail into the mailbox by way of a slot would not activate the unit.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,462,659 describes a system in which the indicator is not triggered by the delivery of mail but by a hand-held remote control unit. This requires that the user be in relatively close proximity to the mailbox for the indicator to work. Also, if the remote control unit were to be lost, stolen, or simply forgotten at home, the indicator could not be activated. Published Application No. 2005/0253715 describes a system which is quite similar to that which was previously cited. It also operates by using a hand-held remote control unit which requires that the user approach the mailbox fairly closely, and without the remote unit the indicator could not be activated.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,629,634 describes a system which is weight activated. Depending on the sensitivity of the system, small items might not possess enough weight to activate the system, which consists of a light. This light is only visible from the front of the mailbox, which typically faces away from the house, making it difficult to see for someone inside the house.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,385,295 describes a system in which the indicator consists of a fluorescent material which makes use of available light to activate it. The light which it creates, while visible on dim or overcast days, would not be highly visible during sunny periods when natural light is already bright, and it would not operate at night when there is an absence of natural light to activate it.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,040,723 describes a system in which a wheel on top of the mailbox is rotated by the opening of the box. Since the wheel is not large, the user would have to walk up to the mailbox to see if the wheel has been rotated. This would not be visible from a distance and would not be readily visible at night. This system would not be adaptable to mailboxes in which mail is deposited by way of a slot. U.S. Pat. No. 4,314,102 describes a system for confirming delivery of mail to a post office box. Making a telephone call is necessary to verify if mail is there.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,154,393 describes a system for securing mail inside a mailbox, but which does not indicate whether or not mail is present inside the mailbox. The system allows a person inside the dwelling to communicate with the person delivering mail, but does not make provision for recording or playing back a message.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,917,411 describes a system for securing mail inside a mailbox, but which does not indicate in any way whether or not mail has been delivered.

The above prior art illustrates various methods of alerting the user of a mail receptacle to the delivery of mail, as well as certain other adaptations which could be added to mailboxes. The present invention combines these features, along with others, which makes the system much more versatile as well as more effective. The manner by which this is realized will become apparent from a reading of the following specification, particularly when read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention allows the user to detect the presence of mail or messages within the mailbox without having to approach the mailbox directly, use a remote control device to activate the indicator, or be inside the building or at the location where a separate indicator is positioned. Several embodiments of this invention are possible, including but not limited to one which is intended to be suspended within a school or work locker, one which is intended to be positioned on the outside wall of a house, one which is intended to be positioned at the side of a road or street, and one which is intended to be placed on a desk or table in a home or office. Other embodiments could also be developed using this technology.

The indicating means employed by the present invention could comprise such means as one or a plurality of LED lights, or audio indicators such as a bell, chime, or spoken phrase, which would require the inclusion of an audio chip within the unit. A means to record and play back a voice message could also be included, as well as a locking mechanism to prevent mail from being removed from the mailbox by an unauthorized person once it has been deposited and a protected display window where the name and/or house number of the user could be displayed.

PARTS LIST

  • 1. Stabilizing Pin
  • 2. Floor
  • 3. Back to Front Bars
  • 4. Battery Storage Area
  • 5. Counter weight
  • 6. Lower Contact Point
  • 7. Cover grid
  • 8. Pivot Point
  • 9. Door
  • 10. Door Handle
  • 11. Current Conducting Medium
  • 12. Light Display
  • 13. Magnetic Strips
  • 14. Battery
  • 15. Activating and Deactivating Means
  • 16. Anchoring Guides for Door
  • 17. Opening for Door
  • 18. Light Sensing Means
  • 19. Invisible Beam
  • 20. Beam Contact Point
  • 21. Transmitter
  • 22. Rotating Means
  • 23. Door Stopper
  • 24. Suspending Means
  • 25. Attaching Openings for Suspending Means
  • 26. Alternative Power Source
  • 27. Display Window
  • 28. Decorative Element
  • 29. Attaching Openings for Decorative Elements
  • 30. Recording and Playback Device
  • 31. Lid
  • 32. Lid Handle
  • 33. Snap Mechanism
  • 34. Attaching Means for Wall Mounted Unit
  • 35. Protective Bumper
  • 36. Speaker
  • 37. Playback Activator
  • 38. Recording Activator
  • 39. Microphone
  • 40. Channel for Current Conducting Media
  • 41. Protective Covering for Light Display
  • 42. Post
  • 43. Stand
  • 44. Activating Mechanism
  • 45. Infrared Emitter
  • 46. Current Limiting Resistor
  • 47. Infrared Receiver
  • 48. Filter
  • 49. Current Driving Transistor
  • 50. Voltage Stabilizing Transistor
  • 51. Controlling and Processing Unit
  • 52. Ground
  • 53. Bias Current Resistor
  • 54. Current Supply Resistor
  • 55. Current Feedback Resistor
  • 56. Voltage Input
  • 57. Reinforcing Bar
  • 58. Screw
  • 59. Stabilizing Pin Holder
  • 60. Upper Contact Point
  • 61. Rocker Arm Mechanism
  • 62. Movable Spring Plate
  • 63. Hole Guides
  • 64. Spring Housing Well
  • 65. Spring
  • 66. Guide Post
  • 67. Latch
  • 68. Wall
  • 69. Latch Release Mechanism
  • 70. Hollow Guide Grooves
  • 71. Latch Guide
  • 72. Opening for Latch Release Mechanism

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The attached drawings show a variety of embodiments of the unit, illustrating variations of said electronic indicating means. They include views from several different perspectives, including front, back, side, and down views.

FIG. A illustrates a down view of the inside bottom of said unit showing the rocker arm mechanism 61 for activating said electronic indicating means, incorporating stabilizing pin 1, stabilizing pin holders 59, back to front bars 3 which serve to catch notes or other items deposited inside said unit, and counter weight 5. When the weight of an item inserted into the unit causes rocker arm mechanism 61 to descend, a connection is made which activates said electronic indicating means. Lower contact point 6 for completing the electrical circuit to activate said electronic indicating means is also shown. Storage space 4 is also indicated for batteries 14 in battery operated embodiments. Said battery storage area 4 could be located in whatever position is most effective for the particular embodiment in question, not necessarily in the position shown in FIG. A.

FIG. B1 shows a side view of rocker arm mechanism 61. In this view back to front bars 3 are shown to incorporate a counter weight 5 which holds rocker arm mechanism 61 in a raised position when the unit is empty. When a note or item is inserted into said unit, the weight of said item will overbalance said counter-weight 5, causing said rocker arm mechanism 61 to shift in a downward direction, completing an electronic circuit which causes said electronic indicating means to be activated. Rocker arm mechanism 61 also incorporates a pivot point 8, held in place by stabilizing pin 1 which allows said rocker arm mechanism 61 to raise or lower, making or breaking contact with the addition or removal of weight from items placed inside the unit. Upper contact point 60 and lower contact point 6 which when brought together create a circuit which activates said electronic indicating means are also shown. A cover grid 7 made of thin wire or plastic which may be installed in the bottom of said unit to insure that the weight of items inserted into the receptacle allows a proper connection to be made is also shown.

FIG. B2 illustrates rocker arm mechanism 61 of FIG. B1, with the addition of stabilizing pin holder 59 in place to secure stabilizing pin 1 which holds pivot point 8 securely in place.

FIG. C shows a down view of said cover grid 7, the purpose of which is to assure that the weight of said note or item is evenly distributed thereby causing said rocker arm mechanism 61 to be pushed downward, allowing said electronic connection to be made, in which case said electronic indicating means would be activated.

FIG. D shows a side cutaway view of said unit, illustrating one possible location of said light display 12 inside said unit. Also shown is the current conducting medium 11 connecting said batteries 14 with said electronic contact area 6 located beneath said rocker arm mechanism 61. Said unit is shown as having a door 9 inside said unit which slides up to open and down to close, with said door 9 in the closed position. Said door 9 could also slide down to open and up to close, or from right to left or left to right. Said door 9 could also be located on the outside of said unit. Said door 9 is shown as having a handle 10 to be used for raising and lowering it, said handle 10 having indented areas in the top and bottom of said handle 10 to contribute to ease of opening and closing said door.

FIG. E shows a rear view of the front panel of said unit, looking from the back of said unit toward the front, illustrating anchoring guides 16 which hold said door 9 in the proper position. Said door 9 moves up and down within said anchoring guides 16, allowing said door 9 to open and close. Said door 9 could also be positioned on the outside of the front panel of said unit, in which case said anchoring guides 16 would be on the outside of the front panel of said unit. Possible positioning of an activating and deactivating means 15 for activation and deactivation of said electronic indicating means is also shown. Possible positioning of said light display 12 within said unit is also shown.

FIG. F illustrates a side cutaway view of said unit with said door 9 located on the inside of the front panel of said unit. Said door 9 is shown in the closed position. Anchoring guides 16 for said door 9 are shown. An opening 17 in the top of said unit through which said door 9 passes when opened is shown. Magnetic strips 13 which secure said unit in position within said wall locker are illustrated. Possible positioning for said light display 12 is also shown. Said handle 10 for said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. G illustrates a side cutaway view of said unit with said door 9 located on the inside of the front panel of said unit. Said door 9 is shown in the open position. Said door 9 is shown passing through said opening 17 in the top of said unit. Anchoring guides 16 for said door 9 are shown. Magnetic strips 13 which secure said unit in position within said wall locker are illustrated. Possible positioning for said light display 12 is also shown. Said handle 10 for said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. H shows a front view of said unit with said door 9 located on the inside of the front panel of said unit. Said door 9 is shown in the closed position. Said handle 10 for opening and closing said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. I shows a front view of said unit with said door 9 located on the inside of the front panel of said unit. Said door 9 is shown in the open position. Said handle 10 for opening and closing said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. J is a cutaway view of said unit looking in from the back of said unit. Possible positioning of said light sensing means 18 for activating said electronic indicating means is shown. Possible positioning for said light display 12 is also shown. A possible location for said battery storage compartment 4 is illustrated. Current conducting media 11 are shown leading from batteries 14 placed inside said battery storage compartment 4 to beam contact point 20, providing a power source for activating said electronic indicating means. A possible location for an activating and deactivating means 15 for said electronic indicating means is also shown.

FIG. K is a cutaway view of said unit looking in from the back of said unit. A transmitting mechanism 21 is shown on the inside top of said unit, which sends out an invisible beam 19 to a contact point 20 which is shown on the inside bottom of said unit. Said transmitting mechanism 21 and said contact point 20 could be located on opposite sides of the inside of said unit, on the inside front and back of said unit, or in opposite corners of the inside of said unit. A possible location for said battery storage compartment 4 is illustrated. Current conducting media 11 are shown leading from batteries 14 placed inside said battery storage compartment 4 to said transmitting mechanism 21 and said contact point 20, providing a power source for activating said invisible beam 19. Interruption of said invisible beam 19 causes said electronic indicating means to be activated. A possible location for an activating and deactivating mechanism 15 for said electronic indicating means is also shown.

FIG. L illustrates a front view of said unit incorporating a door 9 which opens by swinging upward and closes by swinging downward. Said door 9 is shown as being in the open position. A rotating means 22, possibly but not limited to a hinge, is shown at the top of said door 9, allowing it to move upward to be opened. Said rotating means 22 could also be located on the bottom of said door 9, allowing said door 9 to move downward to open and upward to close. Said handle 10 for opening and closing said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. M illustrates a side view of said unit incorporating a door 9 which opens by swinging upward. Said door 9 is shown as being in the open position. A rotating means 22, possibly but not limited to a hinge, is shown at the top of said door 9, allowing it to move upward to be opened.

FIG. N illustrates a side view of said unit incorporating a door 9 which opens by swinging downward. Said door 9 is shown as being in the open position. A rotating means 22, possibly but not limited to a hinge, is shown at the bottom of said door 9, allowing it to move downward to be opened. A door stopper 23 which prevents door 9 from opening beyond a certain point is also illustrated.

FIG. O illustrates a front view of said unit incorporating a door 9 which opens by swinging from right to left. Said door 9 is shown as being in the open position. A rotating means 22, possibly but not limited to a hinge, is shown at the left side of said door 9, allowing it to move from right to left to be opened. Said handle 10 for opening and closing said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. P illustrates a front view of said unit incorporating a door 9 which opens by swinging from left to right. A rotating means 22, possibly but not limited to a hinge, is shown at the right side of said door 9, allowing it to move from left to right to be opened. Said handle 10 for opening and closing said door 9 is also shown.

FIG. Q illustrates a side view of a possible embodiment of a suspending means 24 to be used in place of or in addition to said magnetic strips 13 to secure said unit to the inside of said door of said wall locker. In this embodiment the suspending means 24 consists of a hook which fits over a ventilation slit in said door of said wall locker to hold said unit more securely in position. Said suspending means 24 could consist of a single mechanism, or a group of said mechanisms. Possible placement of said magnetic strips 13 is shown.

FIG. R illustrates a down view of said embodiment incorporating said suspending means 24, including a down view of said unit showing possible positioning of said suspending means 24. Attaching openings 25 are shown which would accommodate said suspending means 24. Said suspending means 24 may be secured to said unit by means of a screw 58 or a series of screws 58 which are inserted through said attaching openings 25 and connected to said suspending means 24. Said attaching openings 25 may be reinforced by a reinforcing bar 57 constructed of a material possibly but not limited to hard plastic, to give added strength to said attaching openings 25.

FIG. S illustrates an embodiment of the invention which would be attached to the wall of a house to receive mail deliveries. In this embodiment, the delivery of mail would activate said electronic indicating means. Possible location for an alterative power source 26, such as a solar panel, is shown. This embodiment is illustrated as incorporating an electronic device 30 for recording and playing back voice messages intended for the owner of the unit. Said recording and playback device 30 incorporates a speaker 36, a playback activator 37, a recording activator 38, and a microphone 39. Said recording and playback device 30 could be included in any of the illustrated embodiments. Placement of said components could be different in different embodiments. Attaching openings for decorative elements 29 are shown which could be used to snap in a variety of decorative elements 28, allowing said unit to be decorated in any way the owner desires. One such decorative element 28 is shown, but many other styles are possible. A clear plastic display window 27 is shown in which a name and/or house number could be placed, to make mail delivery easier. Names or numbers could be inserted at the top or side of said display window 27. This embodiment is shown as having a lid 31 which opens upward, incorporating a handle 32 for ease of opening. Latch release mechanism 69, which allows said unit to be opened to remove mail is also shown.

FIG. T shows a side view of this embodiment of said unit. It shows possible placement of said light display 12 which indicates delivery of mail. Said upward opening lid 31 is shown, with a rotating means 22, such as but not limited to a hinge, shown at the rear edge of said lid 31. A snap mechanism 33 is shown which serves to keep said lid 31 in the open position while mail is being removed. An attaching means for wall mounted unit 34 is shown to attach said unit to the wall of a house. A cushioning bumper 35 is also shown at the bottom of the rear side of said unit, to prevent said unit from damaging the wall surface of said house. Latch release mechanism 69, which allows said unit to be opened to remove mail is also shown.

FIG. U shows a side cutaway view of the lower portion of said embodiment. Possible location of a battery storage unit 4 is shown. Possible location of a speaker 36 for said recording and playback device 30 is shown, with a channel conducting current conducting media 11 from said batteries 14 in said battery storage area 4, or said alternative power source 26 to said recording and playback device 30, and said speaker 36, providing power to permit said recording and playback device 30 to operate. Opening for latch release mechanism 72 is shown. Latch release mechanism 69 would be inserted into said opening for latch release mechanism 72.

FIG. V illustrates an embodiment of the invention which would be placed by the roadside in rural areas to receive mail deliveries. It is shown positioned on top of a post 42, but other means of support could also be used. In this embodiment the delivery of mail would activate said electronic indicating means, illustrated in this drawing as an LED light display 12, which is covered by protective covering for light display 41, for protection from bad weather. Possible location for an alterative power source 26, such as but not limited to a solar panel, is shown, as well as a battery storage area 4. Display windows 27 are shown, to display names and/or house numbers for mail delivery persons. Letters or numbers could be inserted into said display windows 27 from inside said unit, protecting them from becoming wet or soiled.

FIG. W illustrates an embodiment of the invention which would be placed on a table or desk in a home or office setting. In this embodiment insertion of a note or item into said unit would activate said electronic indicating means. This embodiment is illustrated as incorporating a recording and playback device 30 for recording and playing back voice messages intended for the owner of the unit. Placement of said recording and playback device 30 is merely an illustration, and could be different in different styles or embodiments. Attaching openings for decorative elements 29 are shown which could be used to snap in a variety of decorative elements 28, allowing said unit to be decorated in any way the owner desires. One such decorative element 28 is shown, but many other styles are possible. A clear plastic display window 27 is shown in which the owner's name could be inserted. Possible location for an alterative power source 26, such as but not limited to a solar panel is shown. A stand 43 is shown which would sit on a desk or table. Said unit could be set into said stand 43 without being attached, or could be attached to said stand 43 permanently.

FIG. X is a diagram of the electrical wiring needed to allow said electronic indicating device to operate. It illustrates current conducting media 11 leading from the chosen power source for said unit, including but not limited to batteries 14, through said activating mechanism 44, to said electronic indicating means, including but not limited to said light display 12, or said recording and playback device 30. Details of such circuitry is known to those skilled in the art.

FIG. Y is a back cutaway view of the unit showing possible placement of said reinforcing bar 57 to add extra strength to said attaching openings for suspending means 25. Screw 58 fits through reinforcing bar 57 and attaching openings for suspending means 25 and connects said suspending means 24 securely to said unit. Possible placement for magnetic strips 13 and battery storage unit 4 are also shown.

FIG. Z 1 illustrates individual components of a latching mechanism to prevent unauthorized users from removing mail from the unit. Said latching mechanism comprises movable spring plate 62, latch guide 71, latch 67, and latch release mechanism 69. Movable spring plate 62 incorporates four hole guides 63 and spring housing well 64. Latch guide 71 incorporates four guide posts 66 and spring housing well 64. Guide posts 66 pass through hole guides 63 in movable spring plate 62 and enter into hollow guide grooves 70 which are incorporated in latch 67. After passing through hollow guide grooves 70, guide posts 66 are attached to wall 68 of the unit, possibly but not necessarily by means of threads on the outer ends of guide posts 66 which can be screwed into said wall 68. Spring 65 is positioned between latch guide 71 and movable spring plate 62 in such a manner that when latch release mechanism 69 is pushed, spring 65 is compressed, causing latch 67 to move in a backward direction, which allows lid 31 of said unit to be lifted so mail can be removed.

FIG. Z 2 illustrates the individual components of said latching mechanism as they would appear when said latching mechanism is assembled for use and has been attached to wall 68. Said latch 67, positioned between movable spring plate 62 and wall 68, is shown in position above the lower edge of lid 31, preventing lid 31 from being raised to remove mail. When latch release mechanism 69 is pushed, spring 65 is compressed, causing latch 67 to move in a backward direction, so that it is no longer positioned above the lower edge of lid 31, allowing lid 31 to be lifted so mail can be removed.

FIG. Z 3 illustrates a front view of latch 67 showing hole guides 63 within hollow guide grooves 70 which allow guide posts 66 to pass through to connect latch 67 to the other components of said latching mechanism.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS

The preferred embodiment is a unit that will allow easier communication between school students, or anyone else who makes regular use of a wall locker. Said unit could be used in school lockers, sports lockers, industrial locker rooms, or any location where the same person occupies the same locker for an extended period of time. In this embodiment said unit is attached to the inside of said wall locker, using magnetic strips that will hold it securely in place on the metal door of said wall locker. Said magnetic strips could vary in size, depending on the size of the unit, the main requirement being that they need to be large enough to support the weight of said unit on the inside of said door of said wall locker. Other means of attachment could be used apart from or in combination with said magnetic strips. These means of attachment could include, but are not limited to, one or a plurality of suspending means attached to said unit, which would fit over one or more of the ventilation slits in said door of said wall locker. One of the advantages of said unit is that in the event a person moves from one locker to another, said unit can be moved with the rest of their belongings, since in this embodiment said unit is not attached to said wall locker with a permanent adhesive. Another advantage is that removing said unit will not damage said locker in any way, also because said unit is not attached with a permanent adhesive. One side of said unit is open, and when installed, said open side is aligned with the ventilation slits in said door of said wall locker. Anyone wishing to leave a message for the user of said wall locker can insert a card or note through one of said ventilation slits in said door. The note will then go into said wall locker, rather than falling to the floor of said locker and possibly becoming lost. Insertion of said note will activate an indicating device, allowing the user of the locker to tell that a message is there. The opposite side of said unit from said open side has a door that can be opened to allow the receiver to get his mail without removing the unit from said wall locker. Said door could be configured to slide, either up and down or sideways, or to swing open in any direction. In this way, since said unit is positioned inside said wall locker, mail cannot be accessed without opening said wall locker, making sure that no one other than the person intended to receive said message can recover it. Said unit could be constructed of transparent material, most likely but not limited to transparent plastic, either clear material or material in any of a variety of transparent colors. Said transparency of construction material would allow the user to see if he has mail without opening the unit. If desired, a non-transparent material, including but not limited to metal, wood, or plastic could be used, as would probably be the case with some of the alternative embodiments, in particular those intended to be used outside, or in locations such as a desk or table top which are more visible to people other than the user of said unit. In the preferred embodiment the shape of said unit would most likely be square or rectangular, due to space and positioning requirements, but other shapes could be used. In alternative embodiments the shape of said unit could vary more widely, for both functional and decorative purposes.

The preferred embodiment of said unit would include an electronic system that will allow the user of said wall locker to tell if he has mail without opening said wall locker, most commonly by means of a light display that will be visible through said ventilation slits in said wall locker door. In this embodiment this type of display would be preferred, in that it would not cause an undue disruption of normal activities as other types of indicators might, especially in a school environment. Said result will be accomplished by the use of one of a variety of means, including, but not limited to, a rocker arm mechanism installed in the bottom of the unit, a sensor mechanism installed in the bottom of the unit, or a system of beams traveling between the top and bottom, between the front and back, or from side to side or corner to corner within said unit. In the first method, when a note or other item is inserted into said unit, the weight of said item on said rocker arm mechanism will cause it to complete an electrical connection that activates a series of LED lights, which will show through said slits in said wall locker door. This means may or may not include a grid made of thin wire or plastic positioned over the contact area, to assure that a proper connection is made. In the second method, inserting a note or other item into said unit will block light from reaching said light sensor, activating said light display. In the third method, inserting a note or other item into said unit will interrupt the flow of said beams, activating said light display. In the preferred embodiment said light display could consist of a series of LED lights flashing in sequence, but a single light, flashing or steady, or several steady lights could also be used. A control mechanism could also be incorporated which would change the speed and/or frequency of said flashing lights. Alternative means to indicate the arrival of mail could also be used, in place of or in addition to said light display. These means could include, but are not limited to audio indicators, such as a bell, chime, music, or a voice making a statement such as “you've got mail”. These audio indicating means would require an audio chip, set up to be activated by any one of the aforementioned electronic means, either as a one time signal to indicate the arrival of mail, or set up to be repeated on a periodic basis until said mail is removed from said mailbox. Said alternative indicating means could also include a motion sensor which would detect movement when mail is deposited in said unit, thereby activating said electronic indicating means. In the preferred embodiment said electronic mechanism is shown as being battery operated, but other means of operation could conceivably be used, including but not limited to solar power. These alternative means of power would be more likely to be used in the other embodiments but could also be used in the preferred embodiment by positioning the alternative power source, such as a solar panel, on the outside of said wall locker. All forms of electronic indicating means could be equipped with an activating and deactivating mechanism, so the unit could be deactivated in the event of an extended period of inactivity, such as a vacation, which would allow battery power to be conserved in battery operated embodiments. All embodiments of said unit could also include a means which would allow a voice message to be recorded for the user of said unit. Recording of a voice message would also activate said electronic indicating means, notifying the user of the presence of said voice message. In the preferred embodiment the recording means for said voice message would be located on the outside of said wall locker, but the playback means would be located inside said locker to assure the privacy of the person for whom the voice message is intended. In other embodiments this arrangement could be altered as needed or desired.

In alternative embodiments, said unit could be adapted for home use in a variety of ways. By use of a mail delivery receptacle incorporating said electronic indicating means, the occupant of the home would be able to tell just by looking at said unit whether there is mail in it or not. This would be especially good on very cold days, very hot days, or stormy days, in that the person would not have to go outside unless there was actually mail to pick up. Said alternative embodiments could be adapted to be attached to a house, or to be set up next to the road in rural areas. Said units could also be constructed in groups, to be installed in multiple dwellings such as apartment complexes, where tenants all receive their mail in the same location. In this embodiment, said units would incorporate a small window in the front of the unit where said light display would be visible, so tenants could tell if they had mail without opening their individual box. Shapes and sizes of units used for delivery of mail by the Postal Service would be determined by United States Postal Service requirements. In said alternative embodiments, said units would not necessarily have an open side, but could incorporate a door which could slide up or down or swing in any direction, or a lid which could be raised enabling mail to be put in and taken out. It is also possible that a slot could be incorporated in the top or front of said unit for deposit of mail in addition to said door for removing mail. Said alternative embodiments could also incorporate a security mechanism, including but not limited to a latch or a locking mechanism, most notably but not necessarily a combination lock, rotary or digital, employing a series of numbers to be determined by the user of said unit. Creation and installation of said security mechanism is known to those skilled in the art.

Another alternative embodiment could be constructed as a unit which would be placed on a table or desk in either a home or office location. These units could sit on a stand, located on the desk or table, the unit itself could sit on said desk or table, or the unit could be constructed to attach to said desk or table with an attaching means, including but not limited to a hook, clamp, or clip. In this embodiment, shape does not need to be limited in any way, but said units would be designed to be decorative as well as useful. This embodiment would employ one of the said electronic indicating means to show when an item has been placed within said unit. In said alternative embodiments, said units would not necessarily have an open side, but could incorporate a door which could slide up or down or swing in any direction or a lid which could be raised enabling mail to be put in and taken out or a lid which could be raised enabling mail to be put in and taken out. It is also possible that a slot could be incorporated in the top or front of said unit for deposit of mail in addition to said door for removing mail. Said alternative embodiment could also incorporate a security mechanism, including but not limited to a locking mechanism or latch, most notably but not necessarily a combination lock, rotary or digital, employing a series of numbers to be determined by the user of said unit. Creation and installation of said security mechanism is known to those skilled in the art.

I have disclosed a useful system to enable the user of a message receptacle to detect the presence of messages, either verbal or written, without actually opening the receptacle, display the user's name and dwelling number for easier identification of the dwelling, and protect messages which have been deposited in the receptacle from unauthorized users.

While I have described and illustrated various embodiments of my invention, I wish it to be understood that I do not intend to be restricted solely to these embodiments, but I intend to cover any and all modifications thereof which would be apparent to one skilled in the art, and which come within the spirit and scope of my invention.