Title:
Suspension apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Apparatus for displaying merchandise is suspended from overhead ceiling structures. The display apparatus includes a suspension beam supported by a support hook which attaches to the ceiling support grid members of a drop-style ceiling. The suspension beam includes an elongated channel defined by opposing sides connected by a central web. Display hooks are mounted in apertures in the web and locked into position by the opposing sides of the channel. Promotional graphic displays and/or merchandise may be supported on the hook structures mounted on the suspension beam.



Inventors:
Belokin, Paul (Denton County, TX, US)
Belokin, Martin P. (Denton County, TX, US)
Belokin, Norman P. (Denton County, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/640149
Publication Date:
06/19/2008
Filing Date:
12/18/2006
Assignee:
Displays by Martin Paul, Inc. - Creative Center
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47F5/08
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050274684Method and apparatus for a collapsible multi-compartment storage and display centerDecember, 2005Swanson
20080000863MODULAR CLOSET SYSTEMS AND METHOD FOR CONSTRUCTING A STORAGE STRUCTUREJanuary, 2008Dibello
20070131633FOLDABLE SET OF SHELVESJune, 2007Ferm
20090014399ROTATABLE BATHROOM ACCESSORYJanuary, 2009Bott
20040182808Garment hangar systemSeptember, 2004John Sr.
20060169654Multiple toothbrush holder apparatus and method for the prevention of bacterial growth in toothbrushesAugust, 2006Camacho-pantoja J. A.
20080302748EXPANDABLE MODULAR SHELF SYSTEMDecember, 2008Tsai
20100025345CIGARETTE DISPLAY SYSTEMFebruary, 2010Takashima et al.
20090152221Modular Wine Rack SystemJune, 2009Hynes
20080314846STORAGE RACK FOR POT AND PAN LIDSDecember, 2008Klein et al.
20070023372BRACKET AND POINT OF SALE DISPLAY FOR JEWELRYFebruary, 2007Davison et al.



Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JACK A. KANZ (RICHARDSON, TX, US)
Claims:
1. Apparatus for supporting and displaying merchandise comprising: (a) a suspension beam comprising: (i) an elongated body having parallel opposing sides connected by a central web which cooperates with said opposing sides to define a channel extending along at least a portion of the length of said body; and (ii) at least one aperture in said central web; (b) a display hook removeably mounted on said suspension beam comprising: (i) a base adapted to project through said aperture and engage said central web; and (ii) a hook prong projecting from said base between said parallel opposing sides of said beam; and (c) a support connector adapted to be attached to a ceiling support grid member and including means depending therefrom adapted to engage and support said suspension beam.

2. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said suspension beam comprises an elongated body having parallel opposing sides connected by a central web which cooperates with said opposing sides to define parallel channels on opposite sides of said beam.

3. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said suspension beam further comprises a plurality of elongated bodies connected together in an end-to-end relationship.

4. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said display hook comprises: (i) an elongated base portion having inner and outer edges sized to nest in said channel; (ii) a prong depending from said outer edge; and (iii) a foot sized to mate with said aperture projecting from said inner edge, said foot supporting a toe which projects in substantially the same direction as the inner edge of said base portion and spaced from said inner edge a distance which approximates the thickness of said central web.

5. Apparatus as defined in claim 4 further comprising a boss projecting from said inner face and sized to mate with an aperture in said central web.

6. Apparatus as defined in claim 1 wherein said display hook comprises: (i) a base in the form of an inverted U with opposing sides defining a gap sized to accommodate said central web; and (ii) a prong depending from at least one of the sides of said base.

7. Apparatus as defined in claim 6 wherein prongs depend from both sides of said base.

Description:

This invention relates to methods and apparatus for holding and displaying merchandise. More particularly, it relates to assemblies suspended from overhead structure of a retail store or the like and used to display merchandise, thereby utilizing formerly unused space and providing ready customer access to the displayed goods.

Various constructions of display arrangements such as multi-faceted display stands provided with one or more shelves, bins, receptacles or the like for goods to be displayed are widely used. Display stands of this type are intended for use in store aisles and at similar locations where potential customers may approach the display stand from different directions or move about the stand to examine the goods on display and have ready access for removal and purchase.

Convenience stores have highly refined the art of displaying the maximum amount of goods in the minimum amount of floor space. Such stores typically have several aisles of open shelf displays, a number of refrigerated sections behind glass doors, and counter space for hot and cold drink dispensers and unpackaged goods such as doughnuts and the like. The open shelf displays, however, are rarely over five feet in height and the space above counters is generally unused. Thus, there remain substantially large volumes of space above the shelves and aisles in such stores which are not used for display of goods or advertising because display assemblies for holding and displaying goods or advertising displays in the open space above counters, above display shelves and elsewhere have not heretofore been available. Convenience stores generally do not have floor space to spare for the typical floor-mounted display stands used by larger supermarkets, hardware stores and the like, but often have large amounts of open space above and between aisles of fixed display shelves which are unused or underutilized.

Convenience stores typically have overhead structures comprising drop-style suspended ceilings which use a grid of supports spanning the ceiling space. Such drop-style suspended ceilings include a plurality of parallel supports suspended from the interior superstructure of the building. The support members are generally in the shape of an inverted T having horizontal base portions supported by a vertical portion. Ceiling tiles are supported on the grid of support members. Spacing of grid supports is standardized and the standard grid pattern provides adequate support for the suspended displays contemplated herein.

Most prior suspension apparatus for display of merchandise has been unsatisfactory for a variety of reasons. Most lack either adequate support and/or stability. Some are difficult to assembly and use and some are simply too expensive to be of practical use. A need thus exists for apparatus which promotes display of merchandise in the space above floor stands, counter tops, fixed display shelves and in other open spaces which overcomes the deficiencies of prior devices. The displays must provide product and/or promotion presentation at a position convenient for customer access and, preferably, act in a manner to attract the attention of the customer as well as presenting and maintaining the display in its most preferred orientation and position. However, the display assembly must be easy to assemble and use and must be inexpensive and reliable. The displays must also be adaptable to display various types of merchandise without major modification of the display apparatus and should be easily reconfigured for use in supporting and displaying a variety of goods. Such displays should also provide a stable support for suspended merchandise so that the goods supported thereon remain displayed in the most attractive manner.

In accordance with the present invention display apparatus is provided which includes a suspension strand suspended from overhead structure and supporting a plurality of product display hooks. The suspension strand is preferably one or more vertically elongated beams or the like made of suitable lightweight material such as plastic. The suspension strand is supported from the ceiling grid support by a connector attached to the base of the grid support member and locked into place by the ceiling tiles. In the preferred embodiment, the connector incorporates a display panel for advertising graphics or the like. Display hooks are mounted in the suspension strand or interconnected therewith to provide means for suspending and displaying advertising graphics and/or products individually or in pre-packaged arrangements. The display hooks may be removeably attached to the suspension strand to permit mounting the hooks at adjustably variable elevations on the suspension strand so that the product may be supported and displayed at any convenient level. By suspending the display apparatus from overhead structure, the display apparatus of the invention may be conveniently positioned to take advantage of otherwise unused space and present merchandise in a convenient location for customer access. The novel display apparatus thus supports and presents merchandise products and/or advertising materials at convenient customer access positions in a place of business. The suspended display apparatus takes advantage of space above counter tops, etc., which is otherwise unused and, since it is suspended, permits limited movement to attract customers. However, the suspension strand is mounted so as to limit axial rotation, ensuring that the goods mounted thereon will remain positioned essentially in the as-mounted orientation to maintain the goods in the most attractive display arrangement. The apparatus of the invention is formed of simple, inexpensive mass-produced parts which can be easily and readily assembled into useable display assemblies which may be disassembled and reconfigured as desired to display a wide variety of products and materials in otherwise unused space.

Other features and advantages of the invention will become more readily understood from the following detailed description taken in connection with the appended claims and attached drawing in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of apparatus for supporting and displaying merchandise in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 2 is a fragmentary view, partially in cross-section, illustrating mounting of the display hooks in the vertical beam of the invention;

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the ceiling support grid illustrating attachment of the support connector of the apparatus of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a preferred embodiment of a support connector for attaching the suspension strand to a ceiling support grid;

FIG. 5 is a side view of the support connector of FIG. 4 illustrating placement of the support connector on the ceiling support grid;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the support and display apparatus of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a fragmentary view, partially in cross-section, illustrating the attachment of a display hook to the suspension beam in the apparatus of FIG. 6; and

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the invention employing a plurality of interconnected suspension beams.

The drawing is incorporated into and forms part of the specification to illustrate exemplary embodiments of the invention. For clarity of illustration, like reference numerals designate corresponding elements throughout the drawing. It will be recognized that the principles of the invention may be utilized and embodied in many and various forms. In order to demonstrate these principles, the invention is described herein by reference to specific preferred embodiments. The invention, however, is not limited to the specific forms illustrated and described in detail.

While the invention is described and illustrated herein as apparatus for supporting and displaying “merchandise,” “product,” etc., these and similar terms are intended to be given their broadest possible meaning and may include anything from food products to beverages to hardware and the like, packaged or unpackaged. Likewise, the term “hook” is used in its broadest sense to mean any receptacle on, to or through which merchandise or promotional material may be supported or suspended. Similarly, spatial orientation and directional terms such as “vertically,” “upwardly,” downwardly,” “horizontally,” “laterally,” “inner,” “outer,” “above,” below,” etc., are used in their normal sense in reference to the apparatus of the invention oriented in its normal intended use position.

A preferred embodiment of the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 1-5 with the display assembly supported from conventional overhead drop-style ceiling structure. In the embodiments illustrated, a suspension beam 12 is suspended from a standard drop ceiling support grid 14 with a support connector 11. The upper portion of the support connector 11 illustrated is in the shape of a U with substantially parallel horizontally extending sides 101 and 102 connected by a base 100. Top side 101 is spaced from bottom side 102 a sufficient distance to permit the horizontally projecting base 14A of the ceiling support grid member 14 to fit therebetween (see FIG. 5). A locking lip or flange 103 projects upwardly from the free end of top side 101 and a support shank 104 depends from the free end of bottom side 102. As illustrated in FIG. 5, the length of top side 101 should be sufficient to permit the horizontally projecting base 14A of ceiling support grid 14 to project into the space between top side 101 and bottom side 102 and permit flange 103 to be positioned adjacent the vertically extending portion 14B of ceiling support grid member 14. In the preferred embodiment, the bottom side 102 is at least as long as the top side 101 and the support shank 104 depends from the free end (or near the free end) of bottom side 102. In this configuration the weight supported by support shank 104 is suspended approximately directly below the vertically extending portion 14B of ceiling support grid member 14 to avoid imparting an unnecessary twisting load on the ceiling support grid member 14.

A support hook 105 depends from support shank 104 and is adapted to engage the upper end of suspension beam 12. In the embodiments illustrated, the support hook 105 is simply a hook structure adapted to engage an aperture in the upper end of vertically elongated suspension beam 12 and thus support the suspension beam 12 and anything attached thereto.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4 the shank 104 is in the form of an enlarged disc or plate having a relatively large flat surface 106 which may be used to support or display advertising graphics and the like. Obviously, the enlarged portion may be used to support active or passive displays and may be shaped as desired.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1-5 the support connector 11 is secured to the ceiling support grid member 14 by inserting the base portion 14A of the grid support member 14 between the top side 101 and the bottom side 102 to position the locking flange 103 parallel with and adjacent the vertically extending portion 14B of the grid member 14. Ceiling tile 20 is then lowered into place in its normal position between parallel grid support members 14. When so positioned, the ceiling tile 20 rests on the top surface of top side 101 of the support connector 11 and adjacent the locking flange 103. The ceiling tile 20 thus locks the support connector 11 in place and prevents undesired movement or removal of the support connector 11. Since the support connector 11 is supported on the grid support member 14 and locked into place by the ceiling tile 20, the support connector 11 may be placed at any desired location in a conventional drop-style ceiling installation quickly and easily without necessity of using any tools or the like. It will be appreciated that the suspension beam 12 may thus depend from selected positions in overhead structure to traverse space which is ordinarily and otherwise unoccupied.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the suspension beam 12 is a relatively thin elongated beam or the like made from suitable lightweight material such as plastic or the like. Such lightweight plastics provide suitable tensile strength to support the display and may be advantageously formed of colored materials, if desired. The suspension beam 12 is preferably a dual channeled rod having a central web 21 connecting oppositely disposed side members 22, 23 which cooperate with central web 21 to define parallel oppositely disposed vertical channels 25.

An aperture 13 is formed in the central web 21 near the upper end of suspension beam 12 to accommodate support hook 105. Accordingly, when support connector 11 is attached to the support grid 14 and suspension beam is supported on hook 105, the beam 12 depends from hook 105 (which is positioned in aperture 13) and the side members 22, 23 substantially prevent axial rotation of beam 12 around hook 105.

It should be recognized that support connector 11 is the preferred means for supporting beam 12 in accordance with the invention. Any other support means which supports the beam 12 and permits it to depend substantially vertically from overhead structure may be used if desired.

In the embodiment of FIGS. 1 and 2 display hooks 30 are provided to support advertising materials or product (not illustrated) on the suspension beam 12 of the display apparatus. In the embodiment illustrated, display hook 30 comprises a base 31 in the form of an inverted U, the sides 31a, 31b of which define a central gap 31c between sides 31a and 31b. The width of gap 31c is sized to accommodate central web 21.

As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, elongated apertures 18 are formed in central web 21 at spaced locations along the vertical length of the beam 12. One end of a display hook 30 is inserted into and through aperture 18 and the gap 31c of base 31 fitted over the lower edge of aperture 18 to removeably secure the display hook 30 in the aperture 18. When so mounted, hook prongs 32 depending from sides 31a and 31b are nested in and project outwardly from channels 25. The display hooks 30 are thus securely and rigidly mounted on suspension beam 12 and positioned to support and display products suspended thereon. Since the display hooks 30 are rigidly affixed to the suspension beam 12, and since suspension beam 12 is suspended from support hook 105 and substantially precluded from axial rotation about support hook 105 by channel sides 22 and 23, product suspended from display hooks 30 cannot rotate about the vertical axis of suspension beam 12 and thus remains displayed in the as-mounted orientation.

It will be recognized that apertures 18 may be positioned at any and as many positions as desired along the length of the suspension beam so that display hooks 30 may be mounted at any desired elevation along the vertical length of the beam 12. It should also be recognized that the hook prongs 32 may take any desired shape as required to support various products and/or advertising materials. Furthermore, the display hook 30 need not support symmetrical hook prongs 32. Various shapes and sizes of hook prongs 32 may depend from one or both of sides 31a and 31b to accommodate such products as may be suspended from the display apparatus of the invention.

In the alternative embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7 the suspension beam 12 comprises an elongated body having parallel opposing sides connected by a central web to define opposing channels 25 extending the length of the beam as discussed hereinabove. A series of apertures 19 is formed in the central web at spaced locations along the vertical length thereof for mounting display hooks 40. Each display hook 40 comprises a base portion 41 and a hook prong 42 depending from the base portion 41. As noted above, the hook prongs 42 may take any desired form suitable for their intended purpose.

In the embodiment illustrated base portion 41 of display hook 30 is sized to nest in channel 25 and has an inner edge which lies adjacent the central web 21. A foot 43 projects laterally from the upper end of the inner edge of base portion 41. The foot 43 is adapted to fit within the dimensions of aperture 19 and includes a toe portion 44 which projects upwardly from the foot 43 in a direction substantially parallel with the inner edge of base 41 and spaced from the inner edge a distance which approximates the thickness of central web 21. The display hook 40 is mounted on beam 12 by inserting toe 44 and foot 43 into an aperture 19 in central web 21 and rotating display hook 40 downwardly so that base 41 lies nested in channel 25 adjacent one side of central web 21. In this position, toe 44 rests on the opposite side of central web 21 and locks the hook 40 in place. It will be appreciated that any downward load on prong 42 will be carried by foot 43 resting on the lower edge of aperture 19 while toe 44 prevents undesired removal of display hook 40 from suspension beam 12.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 6 and 7, a protrusion or boss 45 extends laterally from the inner edge of base 41 (in the same direction as foot 43). Boss 45 is spaced from foot 43 a distance which corresponds with the distance between apertures 19 in central web 21. Boss 45 is preferably sized to fit snugly in aperture 19 to aid in securing the display hook 40 in place and assist in supporting vertical loads exerted on display hook 40. It will be appreciated that display hooks 40 may be mounted on either or both sides of suspension beam 12 and in as many locations as may be required.

If desired, and to provide flexibility in use and variety in assembly, suspension beams 12 may be provided in relatively short sections connected together in an end-to-end relationship. As illustrated in FIG. 8 multiple lengths of suspension beams 12 may be interconnected to provide a single suspension strand by inserting the ends of an S-shaped hook 50 in an aperture 18 in the lower end of upper beam 12 and aperture 13 in the upper end of lower beam 12. If desired, S-shaped hook 50 may be sized to fit snugly in channels 25 to prevent axial rotation of the lower beam 12 with respect to the upper beam 12.

As discussed above, with support hook 105 (and S-shaped hook 50) sized to fit snugly in channels 25, axial rotation of beams 12 is substantially prevented. Thus, while the suspension strand remains flexible and suspended only from the overhead ceiling structure, axial rotation is prevented and goods mounted on display hooks 30 or 40 remain in their as-mounted orientation, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of the display supported thereon.

As noted above, the support connectors 11 may be attached at any desired location on the ceiling support grid members 14 and locked into place with the ceiling tile 20. Removable display hooks (such as hooks 30 and 40) may be positioned as desired on the suspension beams 12 and packages of merchandise (or other display apparatus) may be supported on the display hooks. Accordingly, the entire display assembly may be assembled and suspended in the desired position quickly and easily with using any tools.

All components of any of the various designs of apparatus for practicing the invention may be fabricated and assembled using readily available materials and manufacturing techniques. Furthermore, many suitable structures are readily and inexpensively available for use as the suspension beams of the invention, and all components of the apparatus may be readily manufactured using any of a wide variety of suitable materials.

While only exemplary embodiments of the invention have been illustrated and described in detail herein, it will be readily recognized that the principles of the invention may be used in various forms using a wide variety of components assembled in accordance with the teachings of this invention to achieve the benefits and advantages thereof. It is to be understood, therefore, that even though numerous characteristics and advantages of the invention have been set forth in the foregoing description together with details of the structure and function of the various embodiments, this disclosure is to be considered illustrative only. Various changes and modifications may be made in detail, especially in matters of shape, size and materials as well as arrangement and combination of parts, without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.