Title:
Asset Protection Railing
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A railing system. The system comprises a first rail comprising an axis and a second rail comprising an axis. The system also comprises a mechanism for coupling the first rail to the second rail in a co-axial configuration, a first leg slidably attached to the first rail, and a second leg slidably attached to the second rail. The first leg and the second leg are for supporting the first and second rails at a distance away from a surface.



Inventors:
Boucher, Melissa (Claremore, OK, US)
Application Number:
11/851561
Publication Date:
03/13/2008
Filing Date:
09/07/2007
Assignee:
TBT CONSULTING, LLC (Broken Arrow, OK, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
256/59
International Classes:
E04H17/24; E04H17/14
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KENNEDY, JOSHUA T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Anderson & Levine, L.L.P. (Irving, TX, US)
Claims:
1. A railing system, comprising: a first rail comprising an axis; a second rail comprising an axis; a mechanism for coupling the first rail to the second rail in a co-axial configuration; a first leg slidably attached to the first rail; and a second leg slidably attached to the second rail, wherein the first leg and the second leg are for supporting the first and second rails at a distance away from a surface.

2. The system of claim 1: wherein the first rail comprises a cylindrical shape and the axis of the first rail extends along a length of the cylindrical shape of the first rail; wherein the second rail comprises a cylindrical shape and the axis of the second rail extends along a length of the cylindrical shape of the second rail.

3. The system of claim 2 wherein the mechanism for coupling comprises a cylindrical shape member extending from the first rail and for mating with an interior of the second rail.

4. The system of claim 3 wherein the cylindrical shape member extends an equal distance into an interior of the first rail and away from an end of the first rail.

5. The system of claim 3 and further comprising: a first coupler for positioning in the surface and receiving an end of the first leg; and a second coupler for positioning in the surface and receiving an end of the second leg.

6. The system of claim 5 wherein the first coupler and the second coupler comprise rubber.

7. The system of claim 5 wherein the first coupler and the second coupler each comprise: a receptacle for extending a length into the surface and for receiving an end of the first leg or the second leg; and a rubber member for encircling an outer portion but less than an entirety of the length.

8. The system of claim 2 wherein each of the first leg and the second leg comprises: a cuff having an inner diameter for sliding along an outer diameter of the cylindrical shape of either the first rail or the second rail; and a member extending away from the cuff and for coupling to the surface.

9. The system of claim 8 and further comprising means for affixing the cuff to the outer diameter.

10. The system of claim 8 wherein the cuff has a uniform outer diameter.

11. The system of claim 8 wherein the cuff has a first outer diameter toward a middle location and a second outer diameter, smaller than the first outer diameter, away from the middle location.

12. The system of claim 1: wherein the mechanism forms an interface between the first rail and the second rail; and wherein either the first leg or the second leg comprises a member for covering the interface.

13. The system of claim 12 wherein each of the first leg and the second leg comprises a cuff having an inner diameter for sliding along an outer diameter of a cylindrical shape of either the first rail or the second rail, wherein the cuff is slidable for covering the interface.

14. The system of claim 1: wherein the first rail comprises a cylindrical shape; wherein the second rail comprises a cylindrical shape; wherein the co-axial configuration is between the axis of the first rail and the axis of the second rail; and wherein the mechanism for coupling comprises: a first cylindrical shape member having an outer diameter less than an outer diameter of the first rail and extending from the first rail and for mating with an interior of the second rail; and a second cylindrical shape member having an inner diameter greater than an outer diameter of the second rail and extending from the first rail and for mating with an exterior of the second rail.

15. The system of claim 14 wherein the second cylindrical shape member further comprises an annular ring along its inner perimeter.

16. The system of claim 1 wherein the first rail and the second rail comprise stainless steel.

17. A railing system, comprising: a first rail comprising a cylindrical shape and having an axis; a second rail comprising a cylindrical shape and having an axis; a cylindrical shape member having an outer diameter less than an outer diameter of the first rail and extending from the first rail and for mating with an interior of the second rail for coupling the first rail to the second rail in a co-axial configuration between the axis of the first rail and the axis of the second rail; a first coupler attached to the first rail; and a second coupler attached to the second rail, wherein the first coupler and the second coupler are for supporting the first and second rails at a distance away from a surface.

18. The system of claim 17: wherein the first coupler comprises a cuff for coupling the first rail to a first member in a generally perpendicular relationship between the first rail and the first member; and wherein the second coupler comprises a cuff for coupling the second rail to a second member in a generally perpendicular relationship between the second rail and the second member.

19. The system of claim 18 wherein each of the first member and the second member comprise a post affixed to the surface.

20. A railing system, comprising: a first rail comprising a cylindrical shape and having an axis; a second rail comprising a cylindrical shape and having an axis; a cylindrical shape member having an outer diameter less than an outer diameter of the first rail and extending from the first rail and for mating with an interior of the second rail for coupling the first rail to the second rail in a co-axial configuration between the axis of the first rail and the axis of the second rail; a first leg attached to the first rail; and a second leg attached to the second rail, wherein the first leg and the second leg are for supporting the first and second rails at a distance away from a surface.

21. A method of constructing a railing system, comprising: removing a portion of a hollow end of a first rail, the first rail having an axis; coupling the hollow end to a cylindrical shape member extending from a second rail, the second rail having an axis, such that first rail is aligned with the second rail in a co-axial configuration between the axis of the first rail and the axis of the second rail; sliding a first leg to a first position relative to the first rail and fixing the first leg in the first position; sliding a second leg to a second position relative to the second rail and fixing the second leg in the second position; and affixing the first leg and the second leg to a surface.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to, the benefit of the filing date of, and hereby incorporates herein by reference, U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/842,922, entitled “Asset Protection Railing,” and filed Sep. 7, 2006.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present embodiments relate to railing and are more particularly directed to railing that may be mounted to protect nearby assets from damage that may be caused without the protection provided by the railing.

Protective railing is used in various environments, with consumer shopping areas being a key example. In these environments such as stores, rails are often affixed to the ground near an item to be protected by the rail. For example, in a grocery or other store, often a rail is affixed to the ground several inches from and relatively parallel to the bottom edge of a refrigerated case or other structure that will benefit by a barrier mounted near the floor and adjacent the case. As a result, if a consumer approaches the refrigerated case with a grocery cart, the cart will make contact with the rail rather than the case, thereby protecting the case from damage. Indeed, even greater damage could be inflicted on such a case by machinery in the store, such as those devices used to move stock into the store (e.g., hand pulled or motorized pallet mover); again, however, the rail provides a buffer area and barrier to prevent such a device from making contact with the case. As a result, the case, which may be substantially expensive to repair or replace, is protected from damage. Protective railing may be used in other locations and in other forms. For example, the rear area of a store, which typically is not frequented by consumers but is used for stock and for shipping and delivery, may include various items that also require protection of the type described above. These areas of the store may tend to be less appealing in terms of aesthetics, but may require equal if not stronger safety protection. Indeed, movement of stock or other items tends to be more prevalent, with lesser caution, and often of greater loads in these areas and, thus, protection railing may be used in such areas as well.

Protection railing in the prior art takes various forms, but for sake of contrast with numerous inventive aspects described later a certain typical implementation is now described. Consider an instance where a store includes a refrigerated case with a generally rectangular perimeter that is 32 feet long and 8 feet wide. In the prior art, typically posts, also referred to as bollards, are installed near each of the four corners of the case. For example, each such post is six feet in length and four inches in diameter and is installed by forming a two foot deep hole in the ground near the corner of the case, and the post is then affixed (e.g., cemented) into the hole so that four feet of the post extends vertically from the ground. In this manner, therefore, there can be one such post, for a total of four, nearby each respective corner of the refrigerated case. Thus, these posts protect the corners of the case, while railing is then used to protect the length and width of the case as between the posts, as discussed below.

In the prior art, typically a store orders railing for use between the posts discussed above based on the distance remaining between the posts. Thus, in the scenario above, if each of the four corner posts is precisely located as described, there may be 32 feet along both length dimensions of the case and between the posts and 8 feet along both width dimensions of the case and between the posts (assuming the posts are mounted outward of the corners of the case at a certain distance). As a result, typically the store will order sets of railing for each of these dimensions, that is, two sets to extend 32 feet or less and two sets to extend 8 feet or less. In response, a manufacturer of the railing will at its facility cut steel or aluminum tubing or pipe to extend these lengths and ship the resultant railing to the store for installation. Note that for lengthy spans, such as 8 or 10 feet or greater, typically the manufacturer will cut multiple pieces, usually of the same length. Thus, for the 32 foot span described above, the manufacturer may cut 4 lengths of rails, each being 7 feet 10 inches. Moreover, note that the prior art manufacturer often welds fixed position lengths extending perpendicularly from the rail to serve as legs for installation. Thus, when these pipes arrive at the store, each 7 foot 10 inch length is installed by mounting its legs to the floor, with a few inch gap between it and the next adjacent 7 foot 10 inch length, thereby filling most of the 32 feet between the posts mounted at the corners along the 32 foot length span of the refrigerated case. Similarly, a single such rail may be mounted to span the 8 foot span along the width of the refrigerated case.

While the preceding represents a common prior art approach for floor mounted railing, the present inventor has observed numerous drawbacks of that art. For example, the preceding example assumes that each of the four corner posts is precisely and symmetrically located with respect to an adjacent corner of the refrigerated case. Naturally, in a typical implementation, factors such as human error may cause the posts to be asymmetrically located. Thus, instead of having two 32 foot spans along the case length between posts and two 8 foot spans along the case width between the posts, there could be differences of one or even several inches. Thus, the store is left to measure each such distance and then require the manufacturer to custom cut pipes for each potentially different span. This is quite inefficient and also may require multiple iterations if the store's measurements are inaccurate, if the cuts made at a distant location are inaccurate, or if the measurements are not made and symmetry between the posts is assumed and later found not to be the case. The prior art suffers other drawbacks as well. As another example of such a drawback, for lengthy spans such as the 32 foot example above, as mentioned that span typically is covered by installing numerous smaller length pipes/rails with gaps between each rail. At the ends of each such pipe, often a plastic cap is attached for safety and/or aesthetics. Thus, where there are four rails, and with each rail having a cap at each of its two ends, there are a total of eight caps, with each cap posing a potential problem. For example, any such cap may be removed by a curious person or otherwise become detached, such as from routine impacts with the rail. Once a cap is off, the rail end is exposed, which some people find unappealing in look and it also may present a potential safety hazard. As still another example of a drawback, the welded legs used for mounting the railing to the floor in the prior art also require a certain amount of precision in installation, that is, the holes cut in the floor for each leg must be the same distance apart as the legs themselves. The need for such precision increases the time for installation and increases the chance of error, with additional time lost in correcting the error and potentially an unsightly result. Still other drawbacks will be ascertainable by one skilled in the art.

Thus, while the preceding approach has useful application, the present inventor has discovered that it may be improved upon. Such improvements are borne out in the preferred embodiments, as discussed below.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one preferred embodiment, there is a railing system. The system comprises a first rail comprising an axis and a second rail comprising an axis. The system also comprises a mechanism for coupling the first rail to the second rail in a co-axial configuration, a first leg slidably attached to the first rail, and a second leg slidably attached to the second rail. The first leg and the second leg are for supporting the first and second rails at a distance away from a surface.

Other embodiments and aspects are also disclosed and claimed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

FIG. 1 illustrates an inventive railing system with rails, legs, and a receptacle floor mount for coupling the legs and rails to a surface, such as the ground.

FIG. 2 illustrates the receptacle floor mount of FIG. 1 in greater detail, including a hollow receptacle portion and a rubber anchor that encircles a portion of the length of the receptacle.

FIG. 3 illustrates the leg and cuff of FIG. 1 in greater detail, including the slidable relationship of the inner diameter of the cuff along the outer diameter of the rail.

FIG. 4 illustrates an alternative cuff per another embodiment.

FIG. 5 illustrates a first and second rail for coupling to one another with both a protrusion extending from a first rail and having an outer diameter smaller than the inner diameter of the second rail and a collar attached to the first rail and with an inner diameter greater than the outer diameter of the second rail.

FIG. 6 illustrates a metal plug for connecting into the end of a rail.

FIGS. 7a and 7b illustrate an alternative preferred embodiment where each rail has a cuff that slides over a respective member, such as a post, to retain the rails in a fixed relationship relative to the posts and the surface to which the posts are connected.

FIG. 8 illustrates an example of an implementation of a rail system per the preferred embodiment and affixed relative to the ground and a refrigeration case, such as may be implemented in a grocery department or store.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 illustrates various inventive aspects that may be used in an overall inventive railing system indicated generally at 10. By way of introduction, system 10 includes a male rail 20 and a female rail 30 that may be fitted to one another as detailed later to provide a continuous rail structure for purposes such as protecting assets as described above in the Background Of The Invention section of this document. Male rail 20 includes a cylindrical rail 20CL and a leg 20LG that extends generally perpendicular from cylindrical rail 20CL. Similarly, female rail 30 includes a cylindrical rail 30CL and a leg 30LG that extends generally perpendicular from cylindrical rail 30CL. The bottom tips 20TP and 30TP of both legs 20LG and 30LG, respectively, may be affixed to the ground by coupling it to a respective floor mount of the type shown by a single floor mount 40 in FIG. 1, once such a once floor mount 40 for each such tip is located in the ground. Numerous other details about male rail 20, female rail 30, and floor mount 40 are discussed below.

Turning now to cylindrical rails 20CL and 30CL in FIG. 1 and in greater detail in the preferred embodiment, they are hollow cylinders constructed of steel and more preferably of refrigeration grade stainless steel, so as to resist rust, corrosion, and the like under various conditions. Further, preferably both cylindrical rails 20CL and 30CL have a same outer diameter, which by way of example is 2 inches. However, looking more precisely to male rail 20, it further includes a protrusion 20PT, extending from an end 20E of the rail. In the preferred embodiment, protrusion 20PT is a separate cylinder (hollow or solid) that fits within and is affixed to the inner diameter of cylindrical rail 20CL, where the affixation may be by way of welding or other manner ascertainable by one skilled in the art. Further, the length of protrusion 20PT extending from end 20E is preferably the same length to which protrusion 20PT extends within cylindrical rail 20CL; of course, in the perspective of FIG. 1, this extension of protrusion 20PT within cylindrical rail 20CL is shown by way of dashed lines. Thus, for sake of example, assume in FIG. 1 that protrusion 20PT extends 6 inches externally from cylindrical rail 20CL and, thus, those 6 inches of protrusion 20PT are visible in the perspective of FIG. 1; likewise, therefore, protrusion 20PT also extends 6 inches within cylindrical rail 20CL.

Looking to legs 20LG and 30LG in the preferred embodiments in FIG. 1 and in greater detail, they are preferably constructed of the same material as cylindrical rails 20CL and 30CL (e.g., refrigeration grade stainless steel). Thus, legs 20LG and 30LG match in strength, properties, and visual appearance with cylindrical rails 20CL and 30CL. Legs 20LG and 30LG are the same in construction and, thus, attention is directed to leg 20LG with the understanding that the following applies equally to leg 30LG. Let 20LG is formed to include a hollow cuff 20CF and a support 20ST, where these two are fixed perpendicular to one another, preferably by welding or the like. Cuff 20CF has a cylindrical inner diameter sized so as to be slidable along the outer diameter of cylindrical rail 20CL; thus, in the example above where the outer diameter of cylindrical rail 20CL is 2 inches, then the inner diameter of cuff 20CF may be approximately 2.18 inches. As a result, leg 20LG may be positioned as shown in FIG. 1 by sliding cuff 20CF onto the extreme end 20EE of protrusion 20PT and then moving cuff 20CF axially along cylindrical rail 20CL to the position shown in FIG. 1. Cuff 20CF has a width W1 of 3 inches in the axial direction of cylindrical rail 20CL, and as detailed later cuff 20CF, once positioned as desired, may be fixed in position relative to cylindrical rail 20CL by way of a set screw 20SS or set screws such as those with an allen wrench head. Moreover, note the outer diameter of cuff 20CF may be generally uniform or, alternatively as shown in FIG. 1, the diameter of cuff 20CF may be larger toward its middle and taper downward to the outer length of the cuff. In any event, once cuff 20CF is so fixed in position, then support 20ST provides a support to cuff 20CF and, thus, necessarily also provides a support to cylindrical rail 20CL and protrusion 20PT. Also in this regard, support 20ST may be of any desired length, where in the example herein support 20ST is 8 inches longs.

Looking to floor mount 40 in FIG. 1 and in greater detail, it includes two pieces, namely, a flanged receptacle 40FR and an anchor 40AN, as are also shown in a different perspective and separated in FIG. 2. Indeed, as shown in greater detail in FIG. 2, flanged receptacle 40FR has a flange 40FL at one end and a hollow receptacle 40RC extending away from that flange 40FL. Thus, returning briefly to FIG. 1, the open end of hollow receptacle 40RC is for receiving tip 20TP or tip 30TP of a leg 20LG or 30LG, once floor mount 40 is mounted into the floor (or ground, or other structure), as detailed later. Toward this end, therefore, the diameter of the hole in flange 40FL and, thus, the inner diameter of receptacle 40RC is sized to receive the outer diameter of either leg 20LG or 30LG. Thus, by way of example, the outer diameter of either leg 20LG or 30LG may be 0.75 inches, in which case the inner diameter of receptacle 40RC is 0.78 inches. Returning to FIG. 2, anchor 40AN preferably is formed of rubber and is generally a cylindrical piece of rubber with an inner diameter sized to force-fit slide over the outer diameter of receptacle 40FR; thus, the inner diameter of anchor 40AN may be approximately 0.823 inches. Further, a number of ribs 40AR are axially oriented around the outer circumference of anchor 40AN, with the example of FIG. 2 illustrating eight such ribs, and such ribs may therefore effectively extend the outer diameter of anchor 40AN to approximately 0.90 inches. Lastly, in the preferred embodiment, the length L1 of anchor 40AN is preferably shorter than the length L2 of receptacle 40RC, where by example length L1 may be 2.25 inches while length L2 may be 2.625 inches. This relationship of lengths avoids bottlenecking of anchor 40AN around receptacle 40RC during installation, as detailed later.

The installation of system 10 in FIGS. 1 and 2 is now described, with the installed product shown in FIG. 3. In the preferred embodiment, an installer determines the total desired length of a rail. For example, assume that the installer desires a rail that spans 15 feet 6 inches. Toward this end, the installer obtains a male rail 20 and a female rail 30 with combined cylindrical rail lengths 20CL and 30CL that initially exceed the desired span. For example, the installer in the present example may obtain a male rail 20 of a standard length, such as with its cylindrical rail 20CL of 8 feet (and its protrusion 20PT extending 6 inches beyond that 8 feet) and a female rail 30 of a standard length, such as with its cylindrical rail 30CL of 8 feet. Next, the installer cuts female rail 30 to a length so that its cylindrical rail 30CL, when combined with the cylindrical rail 20CL of male rail 20, will total the entire desired span. Thus, in the present example wherein the desired span is 15 feet 6 inches, then cylindrical rail 30CL of female 30 is cut to a length of 7 feet 6 inches, so that it may be combined with the standard 8 foot length of cylindrical rail 20CL of male rail 20 so as to span 15 feet 6 inches. Note than any appropriate cutting device may be used given the material used to form female rail 30, where in the preferred embodiment when that material is steel then examples of an appropriate cutting device would be a hot saw or carbide diamond tip blade. Once female rail 30 is cut to the desired length, then the hollow end 30E of female rail 30 is positioned to fit around, and slid toward, protrusion 20PT of male rail 20; thus, the outer diameter of protrusion 20PT fits within the inner diameter of female rail 30. Female rail 30 and male rail 20 are then pushed together until end 20E of cylindrical rail 20CL contacts end 30E of cylindrical rail 30CL. Thus, at this point protrusion 20PT is entirely encased and no longer visible, as it resides inside female rail 30. Moreover, with the cutting described above, then at this point cylindrical rail 20CL and cylindrical rail 30CL combine to form a continuous rail of length 15 feet 6 inches, that is, the longitudinal axis of each cylindrical rail is co-linear to form a single line spanning 15 feet 6 inches. Still further, because both of cuff 20CF and cuff 30CF are slidable along the outer diameter of the respective cylindrical rail 20CL and cylindrical rail 30CL, then either cuff may be slid to cover the interface that exists where ends 20E and 30E meet. Toward this end, note in FIG. 3 that a single cuff XCF is shown and it is to be understood that cuff XCF is covering an interface in this manner, where to illustrate this covering aspect in FIG. 3 an interface is shown by way of a dashed line where ends 20E and 30E meet. In addition and as detailed later, the preferred embodiments include other alternatives for a cuff to cover the interface between two rails, whether both are female rails or one is male and one is female, as also discussed later.

FIG. 3 also illustrates the result of system 10 after the installation of a leg XLG into a ground surface GS, where leg XLG may represent either leg 20LG or leg 30LG from FIG. 1. In the preferred embodiment and to accomplish this installation, first a hole is formed in ground surface GS, where the diameter and length of that hole is to accommodate floor mount 40, shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. Thus, where anchor 40AN is 0.823 inches in diameter, then a hole of 1.0 inch in diameter is formed in ground surface GS. Next, anchor 40AN is positioned around the lower portion of flanged receptacle 40FR and preferably the combination is force fitted into the hole in ground surface GS, such as by use of a rubber mallet or the like. Alternatively or additionally, an adhesive may be used in this regard, but the preferred pieces of mount 40 permit the advantageous elimination of such adhesives in various installations. Particularly, as mount 40 is driven into ground surface GS, anchor 40AN and the ribs 40AR thereon will friction fit into the ground hole while also creating retaining force against the outer diameter of frame receptacle 40FR. Thus, in this manner, mount 40 is retained firmly within ground surface GS, and indeed may remain in the ground without the use of an adhesive. Moreover, because anchor 40AN is shorter in length than flanged receptacle 40FR, then anchor 40AN is able to move and compress sufficiently so as to avoid bottlenecking of the rubber where if such bottlenecking were otherwise to occur it could cause mount 40 to not seat satisfactorily within the ground. In any event, once mount 40 is in the ground, the bottom tip (e.g., 20TP or 30TP in FIG. 1) of leg XLG is inserted into the hollow end of flange 40FL, thereby extending into the length of flanged receptacle 40FR. Here again, with the preferred outer diameter of leg XLG sized relative to the preferred inner diameter of flanged receptacle 40FR, then the fitting relationship between the two may be maintained without the use of adhesives, where in an alternative embodiment such a relationship may be further maintained with an adhesive if desired. In any event, once leg XLG is so positioned, then it provides support to its respective cuff XCF, thereby further supporting both male rail 20 and female rail 30, as shown in the final result of FIG. 3.

Before proceeding with additional inventive aspects, various observations are now noteworthy with respect to benefits provided by system 10 as has thus far been described and in contrast to the prior art. Specifically, the Background Of The Invention section of this document describes various drawbacks of the prior art, specifically including: (i) the use of separate rails with gaps between them for spans beyond a certain distance; (ii) the use of fixed legs; and (iii) the troubles that arise when dimensions are not as expected, such as between asymmetrically located posts. The preferred embodiments eliminate each of these issues. First, with the connection of a male and female rail, a continuous metal rail is provided in that there is no gap as between one rail and the next, since protrusion 20PT couples male rail 20 and female rail 30. Thus, unlike the prior art, there is greater structural integrity along a lengthy span, and arguably aesthetics are likewise improved in that there are no visible interruptions from one rail to the next in a linear dimension. Further, the preferred embodiment includes legs that are slidable in the axial direction with respect to the rails, thereby permitting the covering of rail interfaces as described above and/or alternatively permitting legs to be moved to various locations along the rail so as to permit the installation of the legs into a ground surface at different locations. Lastly and perhaps most importantly in terms of economics, complexity, and customization, the preferred embodiment provides great latitude for on-sight installation while accommodating varying spans as may be incurred at the location desiring the installation. For example, in the instance where male rail 20 and female rail 30 are both 8 feet in length, note that female rail 30 may be cut down to a size anywhere from 6 inches to 8 feet in length. Thus, in combination with the 8 foot male rail 20, the two provide a span of anywhere between 8.5 feet and 16 feet as may be achieved on site with the teachings of this document as well as installation details provided later. Still further, more than two rails may be coupled in this manner, where for example a rail may include a male end and a female end, whereby successive ones of such rails may be coupled together with the male end of one such rail connected to the female end of a next rail, where the male end of that female-containing rail is coupled to a next rail, and so forth where the last coupled rail requires only female ends. Alternatively, and for example to reduce cost in using multiple rails where each has both a male and female end, then one rail with one male end and one female end can be combined with multiple rails each having two female ends, whereby the cut to ensure the desired length of the entirety of the span of the rails is made to only one female and where one female rail end may be located touching or near a different female rail end, where both such ends are positioned close to one another or touching within the interior of a cuff for purposes of rigidity and aesthetics. These aspects are in stark contrast to the manner of the prior art where on site measurements must be made and conveyed to a manufacturer, then materials are shipped, and then the shipped materials must be matched to the specific location of the measurements and installed only in that area. Clearly, therefore, the preferred embodiments provide numerous advantages.

FIG. 4 illustrates system 10 of FIG. 1 with an alternative cuff 50CF that also may be used in a preferred embodiment. Particularly, in one embodiment, in the axial direction of rails 20 and 30, cuff 50CF has the same shape and inner and outer dimensions as cuff 20CF (or cuff 30CF) of FIG. 1, although a distinction is that cuff 50CF does not include a leg or other perpendicular extension. Moreover, also in a preferred embodiment, the width W2 of cuff 50CF in the axially direction relative to rails 20 and 30 may be shorter than width W1 of cuff 20CF (or cuff 30CF). Thus, for example, width W2 is preferably 1 to 2 inches. In any event, in installation, initially cuff 50CF is slid over cylindrical rail 20CL (or cylindrical rail 30CL) and thereafter protrusion 20PT is inserted fully into end 30E of female rail 30 and ends 30E and 20E are brought to contact one another; thereafter, cuff 50CF is preferably slid over the interface that thereby results at ends 30E and 20E to prevent exposure of that interface. Moreover, once cuff 50CF is so positioned, it may be affixed in this position relative to the interface by tightening a set screw 50SS. In any event, therefore, any risk of injury as well as any undesirable aesthetic association from that interface is prevented by covering that interface from external contact. Thus, cuff 50CF provides various of the same functions as cuff 20CF (or cuff 30CF), but does so without the addition of a protruding leg and may be less noticeable given the lack of that leg and the preferable reduction of width W2 as compared to width W1.

Further in connection with FIG. 4, note that certain additional modifications may be made to cuff 50CF. For example, cuffs 20CF and 30CF in FIG. 1 are shown to have a changing outer diameter whereby that diameter is larger toward the cuff middle and tapers downward to smaller diameters in the direction toward the outer length of the cuff. In contrast, cuff 50CF may be made with a uniform outer diameter. In addition, also in a preferred embodiment, an annular ring may be fixed inside the inner cylindrical diameter of the cuff 50CF and with the ring having a slightly smaller diameter than the cylinder inner diameter. As a result, the annular ring provides a stop when either end 20E or 30E is inserted inside the cuff, that is, each such end will only penetrate just short of half the axial length of the interior of cuff 50CF and then make contact with the ring, thereby keeping the cuff and cylindrical rail fixed relative to one another and also, if desired, eliminating the need for any type of set screw adjustment.

FIG. 5 illustrates system 10 of FIG. 1 with an alternative cuff 60CF that also may be used in a preferred embodiment. Preferably cuff 60CF has the same dimensions as cuff 50CF of FIG. 4. However, in contrast, cuff 60CF is affixed in the position illustrated in FIG. 5 at the time of manufacture, such as via welding or the like. Thus, in the preferred embodiment and as shown in FIG. 5, cuff 60CF is affixed so that its inner diameter covers edge 20E of cylindrical rail 20CL before rails 20 and 30 are brought together. Further, cuff 60CF will similarly cover edge 30E of cylindrical rail 30CL once cylindrical rail 30CL is slid over protrusion 20PT to bring edges 20E and 30E toward, and preferably in contact, with one another. Thus, unlike cuff 50CF which leaves to the installer the responsibility of sliding that cuff into an appropriate position over an interface and possibly the fastening of one or more set screws 50SS, cuff 60CF is pre-positioned and physically fixed in the manner illustrated in FIG. 5 and thereby avoids additional work by the installer and also eliminates the possibility of the installer failing to include a cuff that would otherwise cover an interface between two joined rails.

FIG. 6 illustrates another aspect of the preferred embodiment system 10 of the preceding Figures. Specifically, FIG. 6 illustrates a terminal end TE of either cylindrical rail 20CL or cylindrical rail 30CL and at the opposite ends of each rail as compared to the ends 20E and 30E that are joined together. In the preferred embodiment, at that opposite end TE of each such rail is a rounded metal plug 10PG. In the preferred embodiment, plug 10PG is formed of a same type of metal as cylindrical rails 20CL and 30CL and is affixed to the respective rail end via welding. Thus, unlike the prior art where a rubber or other soft material is used to plug a rail and is often done so in screw or plug-in type fashion, the preferred embodiment includes an approach with a more permanent affixation of the plug, which provides for a more sturdy, safe, and longer-lasting result. In addition, recall that the preferred embodiment permits a male and female rail to be joined to span a greater distance than could be provided by either singular rail, and that span is continuous with only one open end for each rail (the other ends being coupled). Each such open end represents a terminal end TE as in FIG. 6 and preferably is enclosed by a plug 10PG. Thus, unlike the prior art where each rail has a gap between it and the next rail and, therefore, also has two plugs per each rail, the preferred embodiment provides for multiple rails in a continuous span with no gaps between these rails and only plugs at each end of the span.

FIGS. 7a and 7b illustrate a system 100 as an additional inventive preferred embodiment and that shares certain aspects with embodiments described above. System 100 is for use in connection with two (or more) posts 110P1 and 110P2, also sometimes referred to in certain architectures as bollards. System 100 includes a male rail 120 and a female rail 130 that may be fitted to one another to provide a continuous rail structure, again for purposes such as protecting assets as described above in the Background Of The Invention section of this document and here between posts 110P1 and 110P2. As shown in FIG. 7a, male rail 120 includes a cylindrical rail 120CL that extends generally perpendicularly from the axis of a cylindrical hollow cuff 120CF, where cuff 120CF ultimately is to be slid over and around the outer diameter of a post such as post 110P1; thus, a preferred inner diameter of cuff 120CF is 4.5 inches. Similarly, female rail 130 includes a cylindrical rail 130CL that extends generally perpendicularly from the axis of a cylindrical hollow cuff 130CF, where cuff 130CF ultimately is to be slid over and around the outer diameter of a post such as post 110P2. Preferably cylindrical rail 120CL and cylindrical rail 130CL are constructed of steel and a same outer diameter, which by way of example is within a few inches of the diameter of posts 110P1 and 110P2 and, therefore, may be in the range of 2 to 3 inches, with an example being 2.5 inches. Further, the length of each rail may be the same, such as 4 feet from its cuff to the end of its cylindrical rail portion 120CL or 130CL, although a different length could be manufactured for the male as opposed to the female rail.

Continuing in FIG. 7a, male rail 120 includes a protrusion 120PT, extending from an end 120E of the rail. In the preferred embodiment, protrusion 120PT is a separate cylinder that fits within and is affixed to the inner diameter of cylindrical rail 120CL, where the affixation may be by way of welding or other manner ascertainable by one skilled in the art. Thus, the outer diameter of protrusion 120PT in the present example may be approximately 2.375 inches, assuming therefore that the inner diameter of cylindrical rail 120CL is slightly larger and therefore that protrusion 120PT may be inserted and affixed into that inner diameter of rail 120CL. Further, the length of protrusion 120PT extending from end 120E is preferably the same length to which protrusion 120PT extends within cylindrical rail 120CL; in the perspective of FIG. 7a, this extension of protrusion 120PT within cylindrical rail 120CL is shown by way of dashed lines. In any event, for sake of example, assume in FIG. 7a that protrusion 120PT extends 6 inches externally from cylindrical rail 120CL and, thus, those 6 inches of protrusion 120PT are visible in the perspective of FIG. 7a, and likewise therefore protrusion 120PT also extends 6 inches within cylindrical rail 120CL.

The installation of system 100 in FIGS. 7a and 7b is now described, with the installed product shown in FIG. 7b. In the preferred embodiment, an installer determines the total desired length of a rail to span between two posts such as posts 110P1 and 110P2. For example, assume that the installer desires a rail that spans 5 feet, 6 inches. Toward this end, the installer obtains a male rail 120 and a female rail 130 that, when combined in length from cuff to respective ends 120E and 130E exceeds 5 feet 6 inches, such as with cylindrical rail 120CL of 2 feet (and its protrusion 120PT extending 6 inches beyond that 2 feet) and with cylindrical rail 130CL of 4 feet. Next, the installer cuts female rail 130 to a length so that its cylindrical rail 130CL, when combined with the cylindrical rail 120CL of male rail 20, will total the entire desired span. Thus, in the present example wherein the desired span is 5 feet 6 inches, then cylindrical rail 130CL is cut to a length of 3 feet 6 inches, so that it may be combined with the 2 foot length of cylindrical rail 120CL of male rail 120 so as to span 5 feet 6 inches. Note than any appropriate cutting device may be used given the material used to form female rail 130. Once female rail 130 is cut to the desired length, then the hollow end 130E of female rail 130 is positioned to fit around, and slid toward, protrusion 120PT of male rail 120. Female rail 130 and male rail 120 are then pushed together until end 120E of cylindrical rail 120CL contacts end 130E of cylindrical rail 130CL. While not shown in FIGS. 7a and 7b, a cuff comparable to that in either FIG. 4 or FIG. 5, but sized accordingly, also may be located on either rail prior to joining the rails to one another and to thereby cover the interface that will occur at edges 120E and 130E after the rails are so connected. Thus, once the rails are so pushed together, protrusion 120PT is entirely encased and no longer visible, as it resides inside female rail 130. Moreover, with the cutting described above, then at this point cylindrical rail 120CL and cylindrical rail 130CL combine to form a continuous rail of length 5 feet 6 inches. In any event, with the rails joined in this manner, at this point cuffs 120CF and 130CF are slid over posts 110P1 and 110P2, respectively. Finally, note that while not shown, preferably each such cuff 120CF and 130CF includes a mechanism for fixing the cuff at a desired vertical height along its respective post; in a preferred embodiment, this mechanism is a set screw or machine bolt that passes through threads formed in the cuff so that the screw then contacts the respective post positioned within the inner diameter of the cuff, thereby affixing the cuff relative to the post.

Given system 100, note that it shares various benefits with system 10 described above and further provides a mechanism of protection between posts or bollards where in the prior art it is believed typically such posts alone are used to provide protection with no structure between such posts. Thus, again with the connection of a male and female rail, a continuous metal rail is provided and great latitude is provided for on-sight installation while accommodating varying spans as may be incurred at the location desiring the installation.

FIG. 8 illustrates an example of implementation of a rail system 10 per the preferred embodiment and affixed relative to the surface SF of the ground and a refrigeration case 200, such as may be implemented in a grocery department or store. The illustration of FIG. 8 is merely for context and is not necessarily to scale or with precise locations of the elements of system 10. In general, therefore, system 10 is shown to be constructed and mounted relative to two aligned refrigerator cases 2001 and 2002. Thus, near the extending corners of case 2001 are located respective posts 10P1 and 100P2 (or bollards). Also, along the width and length of case 2001, and extending partially along the length of case 2002 shown in the partial cutaway perspective of FIG. 8, are rails labeled 20/30, because each such rail may have a male end and a female end or just female ends as described earlier in the document, where in any event preferably the interface between two adjoining rails is enclosed within a respective cuff XCF. Further, while only a few such cuffs XCF are shown, the number and positioning thereof may be adjusted by one skilled in the art based on various criteria, including desired support, length of railing, aesthetics, and the like. Lastly, for sake of context, a cart CT is shown nearby system 10 so that it may be appreciated that if cart CT is advanced toward cases 2001 and 2002, it will be stopped from making contact with those cases by instead first contacting system 10; also in this regard, the length of the illustrated legs XLG may be selected to support the rails 20/30 at a desired distance from surface SF (e.g., the store floor or ground) and that also is likely to coincide with the height of the lower structure of cart CT, that is system 10 is positioned at a desirable height in an effort to likely come in contact with cart CT before cart CT contacts case 2001 and 2002. Lastly, note that while rails 20/30 are shown with ends near but not attached to posts 100P1 and 110P2, in an alternative embodiment the inventive teachings of FIGS. 7a and 7b may be implemented at each corner or ninety degree connection, whereby either separate cuffs are used for each rail in a different dimension or a cuff is formed with railing extending in different directions, such as with one extension along the width of case 2001 and another extension along the length of case 2001.

Having illustrated an example of the implementation environment of system 10 in FIG. 8, the following is one set of installation instructions for that system. First, unconnected rails are laid out in front of (or around) the item (e.g., case) to be protected. A chalk line may be used to depict the desired position of the rails relative to the case, such as ½ inch from the outer perimeter of the case. Next, each leg/cuff XLG/LCF combination is slid onto the railing or located relative to the desired railing position or chalk line, and preferably at least one leg/cuff XLG/LCF is positioned 12 inches from each respective plug 10PG. In addition, in order to cover an eventual interface between two separate rails, an additional leg/cuff may be planned to be positioned in the surface at the location of that interface, that is, so that such a cuff will eventually cover the interface. Next, a line is traced on the surface (e.g., floor) at each location into which a leg will be affixed, where the trace is around the outer perimeter of the leg support 20ST. Preferably using a drill, a hole is formed into the surface at the trace location, where the depth of the hole may be approximately 3 inches or other appropriate depth to accommodate the receptacle 40RC. Next, a floor mount 40 is located in the drilled hole whereby the receptacle 40RC, with its surrounding anchor 40AN, is fitted or struck into this hole, such as using a rubber mallet, until the underside of the flange 40FL comes in contact with the surface. Next, any adjustments in the lengths of rails 20/30 may be made by appropriately cutting the female end or ends of one or more rails are to obtain the desired length or span in a direction and if not already, the rails are slid inside the cuffs. For example, if an 8 foot male and an 8 foot female are provided, and if 15 feet of combined span is desired from the rails once coupled, then one foot is cut from the 8 foot female to create a 7 foot female, and that 7 foot female is then mated with the 8 foot male, via the protrusion of the latter, to create a 15 foot span of railing. Finally, the cuffs are slid along the railing (if not already so located) and the bottom tips of each leg XLG are placed into respective anchor receptacles; preferably, the cuff is further attached to the rail by adjusting its respective set screw 20SS.

From the above, it may be appreciated that the above embodiments provide useful applications in the field of railing to protect assets. While the present embodiments have been described in detail, various substitutions, modifications or alterations could be made to the descriptions set forth above without departing from the inventive scope. For example, note that while only two rails are shown as adjacent to one another herein, more than two such rails may be joined using various of the described approaches either using a male female coupling or by way of a cuff as between two females. For example, in a span of 31.5 feet, two 8 foot females and a third 7.5 foot female could be positioned linearly and end to end with respect to one another, with cuffs coupling the ends of the females to provide a 23.5 continuous span. Next, an 8 foot male, with a 6 inch protrusion, could be joined to either end of the continuous female span, thereby completing the span at 31.5 feet. Naturally, where welded plugs 10PG such as shown in FIG. 6 are included, the non-coupling end of the male rail in this example would include such a plug as would only one end of the female that is farthest from the male. Still other combinations of the aspects described herein will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, where the inventive scope is therefore instead depicted in the following claims.