Title:
Flexible Case For Optical Media
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A flexible case is configured to hold an optical medium. The case includes a front casing, a rear casing, and a spine coupling the front casing to the rear casing. The case includes a plurality of sidewalls, and at least one of the sidewalls defines a flex region. The case has increased flexibility at the flex region.



Inventors:
Baumgartner, Ryan J. (Fulda, MN, US)
Miller, Dion D. (Edgerton, MN, US)
Application Number:
12/204532
Publication Date:
03/05/2009
Filing Date:
09/04/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/57
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ACKUN, JACOB K
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MERCHANT & GOULD P.C. (MINNEAPOLIS, MN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A flexible case comprising: a first casing including a generally planar first backing; a second casing comprising: a generally planar second backing including a first surface; a first sidewall extending at least partially in a direction normal to the first surface, the first sidewall defining a first flex region; and a second sidewall extending at least partially in a direction normal to the first surface, the second sidewall defining a second flex region, wherein the first and second flex regions are aligned with a flex axis; and a spine coupling the first casing with the second casing.

2. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the first and second sidewalls are selected from left and right sidewalls, or top and bottom sidewalls, and wherein the first and second sidewalls are generally parallel.

3. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the first flex region divides the first sidewall into a first portion and a second portion, wherein the first portion is spaced from the second portion.

4. The flexible case of claim 3, wherein the first portion is spaced from the second portion a distance in a range from about 1 inch to about 3 inches.

5. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the first flex region is a region having no wall portion, a region having a wall portion with reduced height relative to the first sidewall, a region having a wall portion with reduced width relative to the first sidewall, or a region having a material with increased flexibility relative to the material of the first sidewall.

6. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein when the flexible case is arranged in a closed position, the flexible case has increased flexibility about the flex axis as compared to flexibility about a non-flex axis.

7. The flexible case of claim 6, wherein when the flexible case is subjected to a flex test, such that that flex axis of the flexible case is aligned at an edge of a generally flat surface, the flexible case is movable between a rest position and a flexed position without permanently damaging the flexible case.

8. The flexible case of claim 7, wherein when the flexible case is moved between the rest position and the flexed position, a distal end of the flexible case is displaced a distance in a range from about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches.

9. The flexible case of claim 7, wherein the flexible case has a flex angle in a range from about 20 degrees to about 30 degrees as measured between the rest position and the flexed position.

10. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the flexible case is flexible about a second flex axis generally perpendicular to the common flex axis.

11. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the first casing further comprises a media tray including a hub, and wherein the first and second casings fold at the spine to define an open position and a closed position, wherein when the flexible case is in the closed position, the flexible case defines an interior volume sized to support an optical medium on the hub therein.

12. The flexible case of claim 11, wherein the optical medium is of a type having an aperture with an aperture diameter in a range from about 14 mm to about 16 mm.

13. The flexible case of claim 1, further comprising a cover sheet extending across exterior surfaces of the first casing, the second casing, and the spine to support printed material between the exterior surfaces and the cover sheet.

14. The flexible case of claim 1, wherein the first and second sidewalls define portions of corner supports.

15. A case for holding an optical medium, the case comprising: a first casing having a first interior surface and a first pair of sidewalls connected to and extending from the first interior surface and at least partially in a direction generally normal to the interior surface, the first pair of sidewalls including a first sidewall and a second sidewall, wherein the first sidewall defines a first flex region and wherein the second sidewall defines a second flex region; a second casing having a second interior surface and a second pair of sidewalls connected to and extending from the second interior surface and at least partially in a direction generally normal to the second interior surface, the second pair of sidewalls including a third sidewall and a fourth sidewall, wherein the third sidewall includes a third flex region and wherein the fourth sidewall defines a fourth flex region, wherein the first, second, third, and fourth flex regions are aligned along a flex axis; and a spine coupling the first casing with the second casing, wherein the first and second casings are movable between an open position and a closed position, and wherein when the case is in the closed position the case defines an interior space sized to support the optical medium therein.

16. The case of claim 15, wherein the first casing further comprises first, second, third, and fourth corner supports, wherein the first pair of sidewalls are portions of the first, second, third, and fourth corner supports, and wherein each of the corner supports defines a protrusion and a recess, and wherein when the case is in the closed position, the second pair of sidewalls are received in the recesses and adjacent the protrusions of the corner supports.

17. The case of claim 16, wherein the protrusions and the second pair of sidewalls are counter tapered to resist unintentional disengagement of the second pair of sidewalls from the protrusions when the case is in the closed position.

18. The case of claim 15, wherein the first casing further comprises a pin extending from the first sidewall, and wherein the second casing further comprises a receptacle arranged and configured to receive the pin when the case is in the closed position to resist unintentional separation between the first and second casings.

19. A method of making a flexible case, the method comprising: forming a first sheet of material including a first surface and a second surface opposite the first surface to define a front casing, a rear casing, and a spine, the front casing and the rear casing including a plurality of sidewalls connected to and extending from the first surface, wherein at least two of the plurality of sidewalls include flex regions aligned along a flex axis; and fastening a second sheet of material across the second surface.

20. The method of making a flexible case, wherein forming the first sheet comprises thermoforming, and wherein the first sheet of material is polyvinyl chloride having a thickness in a range from about 0.005 inches to about 0.02 inches.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/969,725 filed on Sep. 4, 2007 and entitled FLEXIBLE CASE FOR OPTICAL MEDIA, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present disclosure is related to media cases, and more particularly to flexible media cases, such as for holding optical media.

BACKGROUND

Digital data is commonly stored on optical media, such as a compact disc (CD) or a digital versatile disc (DVD), sometimes also referred to as a digital video disc. Such optical media is typically in the form of a flat polycarbonate plastic disc having a recording surface on one side and a printed surface on the other, although some optical media include recording surfaces on both sides. Various types of digital data can be stored on such optical media, including movies, music, documents, software applications, or a variety of other types of digital data. An aperture is typically formed in the center of the optical media for connection with a drive mechanism of an optical reader, such as a CD-ROM drive, CD player, DVD player, or other optical readers. Such optical readers typically include a light source (such as a laser) and an optical detector. The optical detector (sometimes called an optical pickup) detects variations in optical reflections from the optical media to read the data stored on the disc. Optical discs come in a variety of sizes and shapes, including standard (about 120 mm diameter), mini (about 80 mm diameter), business card, and other non-standard sizes and shapes. Writeable and rewriteable optical media are also available.

It is often desirable to protect optical media in a case or other enclosure. One type of case that has gained popularity is referred to as a jewel case. A jewel case is typically a three piece plastic case measuring 142 mm×125 mm×10 mm. It includes two opposing transparent halves hinged together at a joint and a media tray connected to one of the halves that is configured to hold a CD. The joint includes two brittle arms. Jewel cases are typically formed of injection molded polystyrene. Both the structure and the material used to make jewel cases causes them to be prone to cracking and breaking.

Another common case is referred to as keep case (sometimes also referred to as an AMARAY® case). A keep case is typically slightly taller than a jewel case, and includes two opposing halves connected together by a spine. One or both halves of the keep case typically includes a tray for holding the optical medium. Keep cases are commonly formed of a polypropylene plastic that is less brittle than the polystyrene plastic used to form jewel cases. Both jewel cases and keep cases are designed to resist bending and flexing to protect the optical media contained within the case.

SUMMARY

A flexible case is configured to hold an optical medium. In one embodiment the case includes a front casing, a rear casing, and a spine connecting the front casing to the rear casing. The case includes a plurality of sidewalls, and at least one of the sidewalls defines a flex region. The case has increased flexibility at the flex region.

One aspect is a flexible case includes a first casing, a second casing, and a spine. The first casing includes a generally planar first backing. The second casing includes a second backing, a first sidewall, and a second sidewall. The second backing is generally planar and includes a first surface. The first sidewall extends at least partially in a direction normal to the first surface and defines a first flex region. The second sidewall extends at least partially in a direction normal to the first surface and defines a second flex region, wherein the first and second flex regions are aligned with a flex axis. The spine couples the first casing with the second casing.

Another aspect is a case for holding an optical medium. The case comprises a first casing, a second casing, and a spine. The first casing has a first interior surface and a first pair of sidewalls connected to and extending from the first interior surface and at least partially in a direction generally normal to the interior surface. The first pair of sidewalls includes a first sidewall and a second sidewall, wherein the first sidewall defines a first flex region and wherein the second sidewall defines a second flex region. The second casing has a second interior surface and a second pair of sidewalls connected to and extending from the second interior surface and at least partially in a direction generally normal to the second interior surface. The second pair of sidewalls includes a third sidewall and a fourth sidewall, wherein the third sidewall includes a third flex region and wherein the fourth sidewall defines a fourth flex region. The first, second, third, and fourth flex regions are aligned along a flex axis. The spine couples the first casing with the second casing, wherein the first and second casings are movable between an open position and a closed position, and wherein when the case is in the closed position the case defines an interior space sized to support the optical medium therein.

Yet another aspect is a method of making a flexible case. The method includes forming a first sheet of material including a first surface and a second surface opposite the first surface to define a front casing, a rear casing, and a spine, the front casing and the rear casing including a plurality of sidewalls connected to and extending from the first surface, wherein at least two of the plurality of sidewalls include flex regions aligned along a flex axis; and fastening a second sheet of material across the second surface.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example case in an open position.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the example case shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 1, in a closed position.

FIG. 6 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 1, wherein the case is in a flexed condition.

FIG. 7 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 1, in the closed position.

FIG. 8 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 1, wherein the case is in a flexed condition.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of another example case in an open position.

FIG. 10 is a front view of the example case shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 11 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 12 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 13 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 9, wherein the case is in a closed position.

FIG. 14 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 9, wherein the case is in the closed position.

FIG. 15 is a front perspective view of another example case in an open position.

FIG. 16 is a front view of the example case shown in FIG. 15.

FIG. 17 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 15.

FIG. 18 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 15.

FIG. 19 is a front perspective view of another example case in an open position.

FIG. 20 is a top view of the example case shown in FIG. 19.

FIG. 21 is a right side view of the example case shown in FIG. 19, including an optical medium.

FIG. 22 is a front view of another example case arranged in an open position.

FIG. 23 is a rear view of the example case shown in FIG. 22.

FIG. 24 is a front view of another example case arranged in an open position and including a secondary closure device.

FIG. 25 is a rear view of the example case shown in FIG. 24.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Optical media are often packaged in a box or case to protect the optical media during shipping, such as when shipped by a mail processing and delivery service. Examples of mail processing and delivery services include the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Express, United Parcel Service, DHL, private couriers, and the like. Mail processing services often use automated processing machines to efficiently sort and direct mail. These machines exert bending forces on the mail along the width or length dimensions of the case or both dimensions depending on the type of machine and the orientation of the case. If a mailed case cannot bend adequately to be processed by the processing machines, other often less efficient mail handling processes must be used. As a result, some mail processing and delivery services provide reduced fees if a piece of mail is able to meet certain flexibility requirements.

One test that can be used to determine whether or not a case is adequately flexible is illustrated and described below with reference to FIGS. 6 and 8. During this test, a bending force is applied to the case to determine whether or not the case can sufficiently bend without being damaged. In some embodiments, damage includes ripping, tearing, cracking, or otherwise breaking. In other embodiments, damage includes permanent creasing or permanent bending, such that the case does not automatically return to a generally straight orientation. In other embodiments, damage is measured by determining whether an optical medium within the case is damaged or disengages from a media tray.

Nearly all materials have some degree of flexibility, or ability to deform. Deformation is sometimes categorized into three types, including elastic deformation, plastic deformation, and fracture. Elastic deformation is a reversible deformation in which no permanent change occurs in the material. Plastic deformation often follows elastic deformation, and involves a permanent change to the material, such as stretching or bending of the material. A fracture is the physical separation in a material that is not reversible. Some embodiments of the flexible case are damaged when they exceed the range of elastic deformation. Other embodiments of the flexible case are damaged when they exceed the range of plastic deformation. Still other embodiments of the flexible case are considered damaged when the optical medium contained within becomes damaged.

It has been found that a case can be designed that is both flexible and adequately protects an enclosed optical medium from damage. These benefits are realized by some embodiments according to the present disclosure.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an example case 100 in an open position. In the illustrated embodiment, case 100 includes front casing 102, rear casing 104, and spine 106. Front casing 102 includes backing 110, sidewalls 112, lateral flex regions 114 and 116, and longitudinal flex regions 118 and 120. Rear casing 104 includes backing 130, sidewalls 134, lateral flex regions 174 and 176, and longitudinal flex regions 170 and 172.

In some embodiments, front casing 102 is generally a front half of case 100 that is configured to engage with rear casing 104 to at least partially enclose an optical medium (not shown in FIG. 1). Front casing 102 includes backing 110 having an interior surface 122 and an exterior surface 124 (not visible in FIG. 1). In one embodiment, backing 110 is formed of a single layer of material. Alternatively, backing 110 is formed of multiple layers of one or more materials. Example materials for backing 110 include plastic, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), vinyl, fabric, leather, paper, cardboard, paperboard, wood, or various other suitable materials and combinations of materials. In the illustrated embodiment, backing 110 is a generally planar surface in the absence of an applied force.

Sidewalls 112 extend from interior surface 122, and in the illustrated embodiment include top sidewall 140, bottom sidewall 142, right sidewall 144, and left sidewall 146. (In this example, the terms “left” and “right” refer generally to the respective sides of case 100 as viewed from the front, when case 100 is in the closed position, such as shown in FIGS. 5 and 7.) In some embodiments, sidewalls 112 extend generally in a direction normal to interior surface 122, and toward backing 130 of rear casing 104 when case 100 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, sidewalls 112 partially enclose sides of front casing 102. In some embodiments, sidewalls 112 provide support to backing 110 to maintain backing 110 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In the illustrated embodiments, sidewalls 112 include flex regions. In this embodiment, flex regions are flexible locations within sidewalls 112 that enable front casing 102 to flex or bend along or around a respective flex axis.

Top and bottom sidewalls 140 and 142 include longitudinal flex regions 118 and 120, respectively. Longitudinal flex regions 118 and 120 are located adjacent to flex axis A1. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A1 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to top and bottom edges of backing 110. Similarly, right and left sidewalls 144 and 146 include lateral flex regions 114 and 116. Lateral flex regions 114 and 116 are located adjacent to flex axis A2. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A2 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to right and left edges of backing 110.

In some embodiments, rear casing 104 is generally a rear half of case 100 that is configured to engage with front casing 102. Rear casing 104 includes backing 130 having an interior surface 150 and an exterior surface 152 (not visible in FIG. 1). In one embodiment, backing 130 is formed of a single layer of material. Alternatively, backing 130 is formed of multiple layers of one or more materials. In some embodiments, backing 110 and 130 are formed at the same time of the same material or materials. In embodiments having multiple layered backing 110 and/or 130, the edges of the layers are fastened together, such as by heat sealing, folding, adhesive, or other known methods of fastening material layers.

Sidewalls 134 extend from interior surface 150, and in the illustrated embodiment include top sidewall 160, bottom sidewall 162, right sidewall 164, and left sidewall 166. In some embodiments, sidewalls 134 extend generally in a direction normal to interior surface 150, and toward backing 110 of front casing 102 when case 100 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, sidewalls 134 partially enclose sides of front casing 102. In some embodiments, sidewalls 134 provide support to backing 130 to maintain backing 130 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In the illustrated embodiments, sidewalls 134 include flex regions that enable rear casing 104 to flex or bend along the respective flex axis.

Top and bottom sidewalls 160 and 162 include longitudinal flex regions 170 and 172, respectively. Longitudinal flex regions 170 and 172 are located adjacent to flex axis A3. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A3 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to top and bottom edges of backing 130. Similarly, right and left sidewalls 164 and 166 include lateral flex regions 174 and 176. Lateral flex regions 174 and 176 are located adjacent to flex axis A3, in the same way that lateral flex regions 114 and 116 are located adjacent to flex axis A3. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A3 also extends through and generally perpendicular to right and left edges of backing 130.

In the illustrated embodiment, rear casing 104 also includes media tray 132. In one embodiment, media tray 132 includes edge supports 180 and 182 that support edges of an optical medium. Media tray 132 also includes hub 184. Hub 184 includes a generally circular projection that is sized to releasably engage within an aperture in the optical medium to hold the optical medium in place in media tray 132. In some embodiments, the hub has an outer diameter in a range from about 10 mm to about 20 mm, and preferably in a range from about 14 mm to about 16 mm. An optical medium typically has an aperture with a diameter in a range from about 10 mm to about 20 mm, and preferably in a range from about 14 mm to about 16 mm. Other embodiments include other dimensions. The illustrated embodiment of media tray 132 is configured to hold a circular optical medium. Other embodiments are configured to hold optical media having other shapes. Optionally, one or more recesses 186 are formed in media tray 132 to provide easier access to the edge of the optical medium, such as to remove the optical medium from media tray 132.

In the illustrated embodiment, spine 106 connects front casing 102 with rear casing 104. In the illustrated embodiment, spine 106 connects between sides of backing 110 and backing 130. In some examples, when case 100 is in an open position, spine 106 extends in the same plane as backing 110 and backing 130. In some examples, spine 106 is formed of the same material or materials as backing 110 and backing 130. In yet further examples, spine 106 is formed of the same piece of material or materials as backing 110 and backing 130. When case 100 is closed, spine 106 folds at axis A4 and A5 (shown in FIG. 2) to allow front casing 102 and rear casing 104 to engage with each other at sidewalls 112 and 134, respectively. In this closed position (not shown in FIG. 1), spine 106 forms a side of case 100.

FIG. 2 is a front view of example case 100 in an open position. Case 100 includes front casing 102, rear casing 104, and spine 106. Front casing 102 includes backing 110, sidewalls 140, 142, 144, and 146, lateral flex regions 114 and 116, and longitudinal flex regions 118 and 120. Rear casing 104 includes backing 130, media tray 132, sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166, lateral flex regions 174 and 176, and longitudinal flex regions 170 and 172.

Case 100 is shown in FIG. 2 in the open position. In the illustrated embodiment, case 100 is able to fold at spine 106 into a closed position. More specifically, case 100 is able to fold along axes A4 and A5. In some embodiments, however, spine 106 does not include folds at any particular location, but rather spine 106 bends to enable case 100 to be placed into the closed position. In other possible embodiments, spine 106 includes a single fold, or more than one fold located anywhere along or adjacent to spine 106.

The illustrated embodiment of case 100 is configured such that sidewalls 140, 142, 144, and 146 are able to engage with sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166, respectively. In this embodiment, sidewalls 140, 142, 144, and 146 each include a recess 202 and a protrusion 204. Recesses 202 are region of sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166, and are adjacent to protrusions 204. Protrusions 204 extend a greater distance from backing 110 than recesses 202. In the illustrated embodiment, recesses 202 are generally along an external side of sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166 and protrusions 204 are generally along an internal side of sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166. In some embodiments, recesses and protrusions are formed on one or more of the sidewalls. In other embodiments recesses 202 are arranged at an internal side of one or more sidewalls and protrusions are arranged at an external side of one or more sidewalls.

In the illustrated embodiment, protrusions 204 are arranged and configured to fit against internal sides of sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166, such that protrusions 204 frictionally engage with the internal sides of sidewalls 160, 162, 164, and 166 to hold case 100 in a closed position (shown in FIG. 5).

In some embodiments, case 100 includes one or more pins and receptacles that operate to engage front casing 102 with rear casing 104. In the illustrated embodiment front casing 102 includes a pair of receptacles 201, and rear casing 104 includes a pair of pins 203. Pins 203 are positioned at corners of sidewalls (e.g., at the intersections of sidewalls 160, 162, and 164) and extend away from backing 130. Receptacles 201 are positioned at the intersections of sidewalls (e.g., sidewalls 140, 142, and 144) and are shaped to receive and frictionally engage with pins 203. In some embodiments, pins 203 are slightly larger than receptacles 201 to provide an interference fit when engaged. In some embodiments, one or more pairs of pins 203 and receptacles 201 are not required because the sidewalls of front and rear casings 102 and 104 provide sufficient engagement. In other embodiments, a separate engagement mechanism or fastener is used to connect front casing 102 with rear casing 104, such as a label, tab, or adhesive tape.

Some alternative embodiments do not include pins and receptacles. Rather, in some embodiments the intersections of sidewalls 140, 142, and 144 mirror the intersections of sidewalls 140, 142, and 146 and of sidewalls 160, 162, and 164 mirror the intersections of sidewalls 160, 162, and 166.

In some embodiments, sidewalls 140, 142, 144, and 146 are segmented into two or more segments to define flex regions 118, 120, 114, and 116, respectively. In some embodiments, sidewalls 140, 142, 144, 146, 160, 162, 164, and 166 provide stability to casing 102 and 104, and at least partially resist bending and flexing of backing 110. Flex regions 118, 120, 114, 116, 170, 172, 174, and 176, on the other hand, are arranged and configured to allow case 100 to bend and flex. In the illustrated embodiment, flex regions include either a reduced sidewall or no sidewall, such that backing 110 and 130 has increased flexibility in these regions. As a result, some embodiments of case 100 exhibit increased flexibility over conventional media cases. Flex regions are illustrated and described in more detail herein.

Example dimensions for the illustrated embodiment of case 100 are shown. W1 is the overall width of case 100 when in the open position, as shown. W1 is typically in a range from about 3 inches to about 18 inches, and preferably from about 10 inches to about 14 inches. W2 is the width of front casing 102. W2 is typically in a range from about 2.5 inches to about 9 inches, and preferably from about 5 inches to about 7 inches. W3 is the width of spine 106. W3 is typically in a range from about 0.2 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches. W4 is the width of rear casing 104. W4 is typically in a range from about 2.5 inches to about 9 inches, and preferably from about 5 inches to about 7 inches. H1 is the height of case 100. H1 is typically in a range from about 3 inches to about 20 inches, and preferably from about 6 inches to about 9 inches.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the example case 100. Case 100 includes front casing 102, rear casing 104, and spine 106. Front casing 102 includes backing 110, sidewall 140, and longitudinal flex region 118. Rear casing 104 includes backing 130, hub 184, sidewall 160, and longitudinal flex region 170.

In the illustrated embodiment, sidewall 140 includes recess 202 and protrusion 204. In addition, sidewall 140 includes edges 302 and 304 that define sides of flex region 118. In the illustrated embodiment, edges 302 and 304 include a gradual slope. An advantage of some embodiments having gradually sloping edges 302 and 304, as opposed to edges formed at a right angle to backing 110, is that the sloping edges 302 and 304 provide increased space for flexing at flex region 118. In other words, edges 302 and 304 will not contact each other to inhibit flexing unless front casing 102 is severely flexed at flex region 118. A6 is an angle formed by edge 302 and backing 110. In some embodiments, A6 is typically in a range from about 10 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 20 degrees to about 45 degrees. In some embodiments, edge 304 includes a similar slope to edge 302, except that it slopes in the opposite direction, as shown. In other embodiments, edges 302 and 304 are curved or irregular.

In the illustrated embodiment, rear casing 104 includes sidewall 160 having edges 306 and 308. In this embodiment, edges 306 and 308 also have a gradual slope, similar to edges 302 and 304 of sidewall 140. Edges 306 and 308 define opposite edges of flex region 170, to allow rear casing 104 to flex at flex region 170. Some other embodiments include edges 306 and 308 that are curved or irregular.

Example dimensions will now be described with reference to the illustrated embodiment. T1 is the thickness of backing 110. T1 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 0.2 inches, and preferably from about 0.04 inches to about 0.08 inches. In some embodiments, the thickness of backing 110 is the same as the thickness of spine 106, and backing 130. Other embodiments include other thicknesses. T2 is the overall thickness of sidewall 140. T2 is typically in a range from about 0.2 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.3 inches to about 0.7 inches. T3 is the thickness of sidewall 140 at recess 202. T3 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. T4 is the thickness of protrusion 204. T4 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. T5 is the thickness of sidewall 160. T5 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. L1 is the distance between edges 306 and 308. L1 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 3 inches, and preferably from about 0.2 inches to about 0.5 inches.

FIG. 4 is a right side view of example case 100 in the open position. In the illustrated embodiment, case 100 includes backing 130, sidewall 164 (of rear casing 104), sidewall 146 (of front casing 102), and hub 184. Sidewall 164 includes edges 402 and 404. Edges 402 and 404 are sloped, having an angle A6 with backing 130. In some embodiments, angle A6 is typically in a range from about 10 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 20 degrees to about 45 degrees.

Example dimensions are illustrated for some embodiments. T6 is the thickness of backing 130. T6 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 0.2 inches, and preferably from about 0.04 inches to about 0.08 inches. T7 is the thickness of sidewall 164. T7 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. T8 is the overall thickness of case 100 when in the open position. T8 is typically in a range from about 0.2 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.3 inches to about 0.7 inches. L2 is the distance between edges 402 and 404. L2 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 5 inches, and preferably from about 1 inch to about 3 inches.

Although some embodiments of case 100 have tapered edges 404 and 406, other embodiments include other designs. For example, edges 404 and 406 are alternatively oriented approximately 90 degrees to backing 130. Other embodiments include edges 404 and 406 that are curved or irregular. In another embodiment, flex region 174 includes a plurality of teeth. The teeth are protrusions extending from backing 130 and along a line passing through sidewall 164, and having a thickness, for example, approximately equal to T7. The teeth add strength to flex regions 174 but include spaces between the teeth to enable the flex region to bend. In another embodiment, sidewall 164 extends entirely across flex region 174 but is thinner within flex region 174. In another embodiment, sidewall 164 extends entirely across flex region 174 but is shorter within flex region 174. In another embodiment, sidewall 164 is formed of a different material within flex region 174 than in non-flex regions. For example, sidewall 164 is formed of a fabric, paper, elastic, plastic or other flexible type of material within flex region 174. Although these example alternate embodiments are described with reference to flex region 174, all or some of the other flex regions can be similarly designed and constructed.

FIG. 5 is a top view of example case 100 in a closed position. In the illustrated embodiment, case 100 includes front casing 102, rear casing 104, and spine 106. Front casing includes 110 and top sidewall 140. Rear casing includes backing 130, top sidewall 160, and hub 184. Top sidewall 140 and top sidewall 160 each include flex regions 118 and 170, respectively.

Example case 100 is shown in the closed position in which spine 106 is folded along axes A4 and A5, such that front casing 102 and rear casing 104 come together to at least partially enclose media tray 132, such as shown in FIG. 2, and an optical medium, if any. In the illustrated embodiment, sidewalls (e.g., 140) of front casing 102 and sidewalls (e.g. 160) of rear casing 104 engage with each other when in the closed position.

Flex region 118 of front casing 102 is aligned with flex region 170 of rear casing 104 along axis A7 that runs along a center of flex regions 118 and 170. The alignment of flex regions 118 and 170 enables case 100 to have a flexible region at a location of both front casing 102 and rear casing 104, such that casing 102 can flex in that region. In this embodiment, all flex regions of front casing 102 are aligned along an axis with a corresponding flex region in rear casing 104. As shown in FIG. 1, each flex region is also aligned with another flex region on an opposite side of case 100. For example, flex regions 118 and 170 are aligned along axes A1 and A3 with flex regions 120 and 172. Such alignment and pairing of flex regions is not required in all embodiments.

Example dimensions are illustrated for some embodiments. T9 is the overall thickness of case 100. T9 is typically in a range from about 0.3 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.4 inches to about 0.8 inches. W5 is the overall width of case 100. W5 is typically in a range from about 2.5 inches to about 9 inches, and preferably from about 5 inches to about 7 inches.

Case 100 has increased flexibility at flex regions (e.g., 170 and 118) than at non-flex regions. In this example, flex regions are generally aligned along axis A7. A non-flex region is a region of case 100 that is aligned with sidewalls and does not include a flex region, such as the region aligned with non-flex axis NF. Case 100 has greater flexibility along axis A7 than along the non-flex axis NF.

FIG. 6 is a top view of example case 100, such as shown in FIG. 5. Some embodiments of case 100 include flex regions, such as flex regions 118 and 170. Flex regions enable case 100 to flex at or around the flex region. Flexibility characteristics of the example case 100 are illustrated in FIG. 6 with respect to a lateral flex test. In this example, case 100 is placed partially on top of a generally flat surface 600, such that approximately half of case 100 is above the flat surface 600 and approximately half of case 100 extends out from the edge of flat surface 600. A force F1 is applied to the portion of case 100 above flat surface 600 to prevent that portion from moving. For example, a block, clamp, or human hand can be used to press down on the portion of case 100 at any location above surface 600. A second force F2 is then applied to an end (or other location) of the portion of case 100 that extends out from the edge of the flat surface 600. The force F2 causes case 100 to bend at flex regions 118 and 170. The amount of flexing can be measured by angle A8 and distance D1.

Example angles and dimensions are provided to illustrate the flexibility of one embodiment of case 100. In this example, angle A8 is the angle at which case 100 can bend without permanently damaging case 100. Angle A8 is typically in a range from about 0 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 5 degrees to about 45 degrees, and more preferably from about 20 degrees to about 30 degrees. Flexing within the more preferred range does not typically result in damage to the optical medium. D1 is a distance of displacement of an end of case 100 when bent, without causing permanent damage to case 100. D1 is typically in a range from about 0 inches to about 3 inches, and preferably from about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches. In some embodiments, D1 is in a range from about 1 inch to about 1.5 inches.

Other embodiments of case 100 are larger or smaller than that illustrated in FIG. 6. Some of these embodiments will have an increased or decreased displacement due to the increased size. As a result, some embodiments have a flexibility that is defined by an amount of displacement per unit of length. For example, some embodiments have a displacement in a range from about 0.2 inches of displacement per inch of bending length to about 0.5 inches of displacement per inch of bending length. The bending length is, for example, the distance that case 100 extends out from the edge of flat surface 600. Other embodiments have a displacement in a range from about 0.3 inches per inch of bending length to about 0.4 inches per inch of bending length.

However, bending of case 100 is not uniform along case 100 in all embodiments. Rather, the flex regions 118 and 170 have an increased flexibility as compared with the structural regions (e.g., those regions including structural sidewalls). In some embodiments, the flexibility of case 100 across the flex regions per unit of bend length is typically in a range from about 1.5 to about 100 times the flexibility of case 100 per unit of bend length in the structural regions, and preferably from about 30 to about 70 times.

In some embodiments the same flexibility test illustrated in FIG. 6 can be repeated with case 100 flipped over, such that rear casing 104 rests on surface 600 and forces F1 and F2 are applied to front casing 102. Some embodiments of case 100 are adequately flexible in either orientation.

FIG. 7 is a right side view of example case 100 in the closed position. In the illustrated embodiment, case 100 includes front casing 102, rear casing 104, and spine 106. Front casing includes sidewall 144. Sidewall 144 includes edges 702 and 704 that define edges of flex region 114. Rear casing 104 includes sidewall 164. Sidewall 164 includes edges 402 and 404 that define edges of flex region 174.

Flex region 114 of front casing 102 is aligned with flex region 174 of rear casing 104 along axis A9 that runs along a center of flex regions 114 and 174. The alignment of flex regions 114 and 174 enables case 100 to have a flexible region at a location of both front casing 102 and rear casing 104, such that casing 102 can flex in that region.

FIG. 8 is a right side view of example case 100, such as shown in FIG. 7. Some embodiments of case 100 include flex regions, such as flex regions 114 and 174. Flex regions enable case 100 to flex at or around the flex region. The flexibility is illustrated in FIG. 8 with respect to a longitudinal flex test. In this example, case 100 is placed partially on top of a generally flat surface 800, such that approximately half of case 100 is above the flat surface 800 and approximately half of case 100 extends out from the edge of flat surface 800. A force F1 is applied to the portion of case 100 above flat surface 800 to prevent that portion from moving. For example, a block, clamp, or human hand can be used to press down on the portion of case 100 at any location above surface 800. A second force F2 causes case 100 to bend at flex regions 114 and 174. The amount of flexing can be measured by angle A10 and distance D2.

Example angles and dimensions are provided to illustrate the flexibility of one embodiment of embodiment of case 100. In this example, angle A10 is the angle at which case 100 can bend without permanently damaging case 100. Angle A10 is typically in a range from about 0 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 10 degrees to about 60 degrees, and more preferably from about 20 degrees to about 45 degrees. In some embodiments, angle A10 is in a range from about 20 degrees to about 30 degrees. D2 is a distance of displacement of an end of case 100 when bent, without causing permanent damage to case 100. D2 is typically in a range from about 0 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.5 inches to about 1.5 inches. In some embodiments, D2 is in a range from about 1 inch to about 1.5 inches. The flexibility can also be defined as an amount of deformation per unit of bend length. Bend length is, for example, the length of case 100 that extends out from the edge of surface 800. For example, the deformation is in a range from about 0.2 inches per inch of bend length to about 0.5 inches per inch of bend length, and preferably from about 0.3 inches per inch of bend length to about 0.4 inches per inch of bend length.

In some embodiments the same flexibility test illustrated in FIG. 8 can be repeated with case 100 flipped over, such that rear casing 104 rests on surface 600 and forces F1 and F2 are applied to front casing 102. Some embodiments of case 100 are adequately flexible in either orientation.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of another example case 1000 arranged in an open position. Case 1000 includes front casing 1002, rear casing 1004, and spine 1006. Front casing 1002 includes backing 1010, corner supports 1012, lateral flex regions 1014 and 1016, and longitudinal flex regions 1018 and 1020. Rear casing 4004 includes backing 1030, sidewalls 1034, lateral flex regions 1074 and 1076, and longitudinal flex regions 1070 and 1072.

In some embodiments, front casing 1002 is generally a front half of case 1000 that is configured to engage with rear casing 1004 to at least partially enclose an optical medium (not shown in FIG. 9). Front casing 1002 includes backing 1010 having an interior surface 1022 and an exterior surface 1024 (not visible in FIG. 9). In one embodiment, backing 1010 is formed of a single layer of material. Alternatively, backing 1010 is formed of multiple layers of one or more materials. In the illustrated embodiment, backing 1010 is a generally planar surface in the absence of an applied force.

Corner supports 1012 extend from interior surface 1022, and in the illustrated embodiment form a plurality of sidewalls, including top sidewall 1040, bottom sidewall 1042, right sidewall 1044, and left sidewall 1046. In some embodiments, corner supports 1012 extend generally in a direction normal to interior surface 1022, and toward backing 1030 of rear casing 1004 when case 1000 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, corner supports 1012 partially enclose sides of front casing 1002. In some embodiments, corner supports 1012 provide support to backing 1010 to maintain backing 1010 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In the illustrated embodiments, corner supports 1012 define flex regions. In this embodiment, flex regions are flexible locations between corner supports 1012 that allow case 1000 to flex or bend along or around a respective flex axis.

Top and bottom sidewalls 1040 and 1042 each include a space for longitudinal flex regions 1018 and 1020, respectively. Longitudinal flex regions 1018 and 1020 are located adjacent to flex axis A11. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A11 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to top and bottom edges of backing 1010. Similarly, right and left sidewalls 1044 and 1046 include lateral flex regions 1014 and 1016. Lateral flex regions 1014 and 1016 are located adjacent to flex axis A12. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A12 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to right and left edges of backing 1010.

In some embodiments, rear casing 1004 is generally a rear half of case 1000 that is configured to engage with front casing 1002. Rear casing 1004 includes backing 1030 having an interior surface 1050 and an exterior surface 1052 (not visible in FIG. 9). In one embodiment, backing 1030 is formed of a single layer of material. Alternatively, backing 1030 is formed of multiple layers of one or more materials. In some embodiments, backing 1010 and 1030 are formed the same material or materials. In embodiments having a multi-layered backing 1010 and/or 1030, the edges of the layers can be fastened together, such as by heat sealing, folding, adhesive, or other known methods of fastening material layers.

Sidewalls 1034 extend from interior surface 1050, and in the illustrated embodiment include top sidewall 1060, bottom sidewall 1062, right sidewall 1064, and left sidewall 1066. In some embodiments, sidewalls 1034 extend generally in a direction normal to interior surface 1050, and toward backing 1010 of front casing 1002 when case 1000 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, sidewalls 1034 partially enclose sides of front casing 1002. In some embodiments, sidewalls 1034 provide support to backing 1030 to maintain backing 1030 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In the illustrated embodiments, sidewalls 1034 include flex regions that enable case 1000 to flex or bend along the respective flex axis.

Top and bottom sidewalls 1060 and 1062 include longitudinal flex regions 1070 and 1072, respectively. Longitudinal flex regions 1070 and 1072 are located adjacent to flex axis A13. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A13 is an axis extending through and generally perpendicular to top and bottom edges of backing 1030. Similarly, right and left sidewalls 1064 and 1066 include lateral flex regions 1074 and 1076. Lateral flex regions 1074 and 1076 are located adjacent to flex axis A13, in the same way that lateral flex regions 1014 and 1016 are located adjacent to flex axis A13. In the illustrated embodiment, flex axis A13 also extends through and generally perpendicular to right and left edges of backing 1030.

In the illustrated embodiment, front casing 1002 and rear casing 1004 include media tray 1031 and media tray 1032, respectively. Media trays 1031 and 1032 form opposite sides of a media receptacle for supporting one or more optical media. In one embodiment, media tray 1031 includes edge supports 1071, 1073, 1075, and 1077, which are each formed in one side of corner supports 1012. Media tray 1031 also includes center support 1079. Media tray 1032 includes 1081, 1083, 1085, and 1087, which are each formed in one side of corner supports 1034. Edge supports are each configured to support an adjacent edge of an optical medium. Media tray 1032 also includes hub 1084 that is sized to releasably engage within an aperture in the optical medium to hold the optical medium in place in media tray 1032. Center support 1079 is configured to engage with hub 1084 to reduce the chance of the optical medium becoming inadvertently disengaged from hub 1084.

Spine 1006 connects front casing 1002 with rear casing 1004. Spine 1006 also connects between sides of backing 1010 and backing 1030. In some examples, when case 1000 is in an open position, spine 1006 extends in the same plane as backing 1010 and backing 1030. In some examples, spine 1006 is formed of the same material or materials as backing 1010 and backing 1030. In yet further examples, spine 1006 is formed of the same piece of material or materials as backing 1010 and backing 1030. When case 1000 is closed, spine 1006 folds at axis A14 and A15 (shown in FIG. 9) to allow front casing 1002 and rear casing 1004 to engage with each other at corner supports 1012 and sidewalls 1034, respectively. In this closed position (shown in FIGS. 13 and 14), spine 1006 forms a side of case 1000.

One method of making case 1000 is as follows. This method can also be used to make other example cases described herein (such as case 100 or case 2000). First, a sheet of material is thermoformed to form the desired features, such as shown in FIG. 9, including corner supports 1012 and 1032 and media trays 1031 and 1032. Alternatively, the features are formed by other processes, such as molding, carving, cutting and the like. As one example, the material is a sheet of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). In some embodiments, the PVC has a thickness that is typically in a range from about 0.001 inches to about 0.2 inches, and preferably from about 0.005 inches to about 0.02 inches. Alternatively, other materials are used, such as plastic, vinyl, paper, fabric, wood, metal, or other materials. Next, a second sheet of material is connected across exterior faces of the first sheet. The second sheet is connected to the first sheet, such as by heat sealing the edges. Alternatively, an adhesive or other fastener is used. As one example, the second sheet is made of vinyl. In some embodiments, the vinyl is typically in a range from about 0.001 inches to about 0.2 inches, and preferably from about 0.04 inches to about 0.08 inches.

If desired, one edge (such as a top edge) of the second sheet can remain unconnected, such as to enable a sheet of printed material to be inserted between the first and second sheets. Alternatively, a third sheet is connected to the second sheet, with one edge remaining unconnected, to enable a sheet of printed material to be inserted between the second sheet and the third sheet. Neither a second sheet nor a third sheet is required in all embodiments. In addition, there is no requirement that case 100 be made from sheets, and can instead be made from liquid or solid materials in some embodiments.

Some embodiments of case 1000 will include features the same or similar to case 100 thoroughly discussed herein. Therefore, these features and alternative embodiments are not separately repeated with reference to case 1000. In addition, some embodiments of case 1000 have similar dimensions as case 100 described herein. For example, some embodiments of case 1000 are flexible, such as shown and described with reference to FIGS. 6 and 8.

FIG. 10 is a front view of the example case 1000 in the open position. Case 1000 includes corner supports 1012 and 1034. Corner supports 1012 and 1034 include one or more sidewalls, such as sidewalls 1040, 1042, 1044, 1046, 1060, 1062, 1064, and 1066. Corner supports 1012 include recess 1100 and protrusion 1102. Corner supports 1034 include recess 1104. Protrusions 1102 of corner supports 1012 are sized and shaped to fit within recesses 1104 of corner supports 1034. In some embodiments, sides of protrusions 1102 and recesses 1104 are counter tapered relative to each other to resist disengagement of protrusions 1102 from recesses 1104. An example taper of protrusion 1102 is shown in FIG. 12, where protrusion 1102 tapers outward. Recesses 1104 can also include a taper, such that the edges taper inward. These counter tapers provide additional resistance to unintentional disengagement when case 100 is in the closed position. In one embodiment, the edges typically have a taper in a range from about 1 degree to about 15 degrees, and preferably from about 3 degrees to about 7 degrees.

FIG. 11 is a top view of the example case 1000 in the open position. Case 1000 includes front casing 1002, rear casing 1004, and spine 1006. Some embodiments have dimensions as illustrated. T10 is the thickness of front casing 1002. T10 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.2 inches to about 0.8 inches. T11 is the thickness of sidewall 1040 from backing 1010 to recess 1100. T11 is typically in a range from about 0.05 inches to about 1 inch, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. T12 is the thickness of rear casing 1004. T12 is typically in a range from about 0.05 inches to about 1 inch, and preferably from about 0.1 inches to about 0.4 inches. Angle A10 is an angle formed by edges of sidewall 1040 adjacent to flex region 1018. Angle A10 is typically in a range from about 10 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 20 degrees to about 45 degrees. L10 is the distance of flex region 1018 between portions of sidewall 1040. L10 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 3 inches, and preferably from about 0.2 inches to about 0.5 inches.

FIG. 12 is a right side view of the example case 1000 in an open position. Case 1000 includes backing 1030, sidewall 1064, protrusion 1102 (of front casing 1002), hub 1084, and center support 1079 (of front casing 1002). Example dimensions are illustrated for some embodiments. Angle A11 is the angle formed between an edge of sidewall 1064 and backing 1030. A11 is typically in a range from about 10 degrees to about 90 degrees, and preferably from about 20 degrees to about 45 degrees. Angle A12 is the taper or draft formed by the edge of protrusion 1102 and a line normal to a surface of backing 1010 (shown in FIG. 11). A12 is typically in a range from about 1 degree to about 15 degrees, and preferably from about 3 degrees to about 7 degrees. L11 is the distance of flex region 1074 between portions of sidewall 1064. L11 is typically in a range from about 0.01 inches to about 5 inches, and preferably from about 1 inch to about 3 inches.

FIG. 13 is a top view of the example case 1000 in a closed position. Case 1000 includes front casing 1002, rear casing 1004, and spine 1006. Front casing 1002 includes backing 1010, sidewall 1040, and center support 1079. Rear casing 1004 includes backing 1030, sidewall 1060, and hub 1084. When in the closed position, the some embodiments have a thickness T13. T13 is typically in a range from about 0.2 inches to about 4 inches, and preferably from about 0.3 inches to about 1 inch.

FIG. 14 is a right side view of the example case 1000 in the closed position. Case 1000 includes front casing 1002, rear casing 1004, and spine 1006. Front casing 1002 includes backing 1010, sidewall 1044, and center support 1079. Rear casing 1004 includes backing 1030, sidewall 1064, and hub 1084. Flex regions 1014 and 1071 are also shown.

FIGS. 15-18 illustrate an example case 2000, according to the present disclosure. FIG. 15 is a front perspective view of example case 2000 in an open position. FIG. 16 is a front view of example case 2000 in the open position. FIG. 17 is a top view of example case 2000 in a closed position. FIG. 18 is a right side view of case 2000 in the closed position. Case 2000 includes front casing 2002, rear casing 2004, and spine 2006. Front casing 2002 includes corner protrusions 2012 that protrude toward an interior of case 2000. Front casing 2002 also includes media tray 2010 with center support 2011 that is configured to engage with hub 2032. Flex regions 2040 are formed in front casing 2002 between corner protrusions 2012. Rear casing 2004 includes corner recesses 2020 separated by elevated regions 2022. Sidewalls 2024 extend around the edges of rear casing 2004. Rear casing 2004 also includes media tray 2030 with hub 2032. In this embodiment, flex regions are not included in rear casing 2004 because sidewalls 2024 are thin enough so as to provide adequate flexibility to case 2000 with flex regions 2040 being formed in only front casing 2040. In other embodiments, rear casing 2004 can include flex regions at various locations along sidewall 2024.

Case 2000 is shown in FIGS. 15 and 16 in an open position, and in FIGS. 17 and 18 in a closed position. When in the closed position, corner protrusions 2012 are received into corner recesses 2020 and engage with sides of elevated regions 2022 and sidewalls 2024. In some embodiments, corner protrusions 2012 and/or elevated regions 2022 and/or sidewalls 2024 include tapered edges, such as to resist unintentional disengagement of front casing 2002 from rear casing 2004. Some embodiments of example case 2000 benefit from having a reduced thickness, such as illustrated in FIG. 18. The thickness of example case 2000 is illustrated as T20. T20 is typically in a range from about 0.1 inches to about 2 inches, and preferably from about 0.2 inches to about 0.5 inches.

FIGS. 19-21 illustrate an example embodiment of case 3000. FIG. 19 is a perspective view of example case 3000 arranged in an open position. FIG. 20 is a top view of example case 3000, also arranged in an open configuration. FIG. 21 is a right side view of case 3000 arranged in a closed position. Case 3000 is nearly the same as example case 1000, such as shown in FIGS. 9-14, except that case 300 includes an alternative hub configuration. Case 3000 includes front casing 3002, rear casing 3004, and spine 3006, which are similar to front casing 1002, rear casing 1004, and spine 1006 previously described herein.

One of the problems that can arise with a flexible case design is that an optical medium (e.g., optical medium 3050 shown in FIG. 21) stored within the flexible case can sometimes come disengaged from the media hub. This can occur, for example, when forces applied during bending are sufficient to overcome the frictional and/or interference fit of the hub with the optical medium. If disengagement occurs, the optical medium might slide out from the media tray, which can result in damage to the optical medium or possibly separation of the optical medium from the flexible case.

In addition to the embodiments described herein, case 3000 illustrates another embodiment having an alternative hub and center support configuration. Rear casing 3004 includes hub 3010. Hub 3010 includes a central orifice defined by interior surface 3012. Hub 3010 also includes an external surface 3014. Hub 3010 is configured to releasably engage within an aperture in the optical medium, such as by a frictional and/or interference fit with the optical medium.

Front casing 3002 includes center support 3020. Center support 3020 includes an extension region 3022, pin 3024, and support ring 3026. Extension region 3022 is, for example, a frustoconical region extending from the interior surface of front casing 3002. Extension region 3022 extends center support 3020 out from the interior surface and toward the optical medium 3050, when case 3000 is in a closed position. Pin 3024 and support ring 3026 extend from extension region 3022 opposite from the interior surface of front casing 3002. Pin 3024 is, for example, a generally cylindrical protrusion having a closed end. Pin 3024 includes an engagement surface 3028 that surrounds pin 3024. Engagement surface 3028 is arranged to engage with interior surface 3012 of hub 3010 when case 3000 is in a closed position.

Center support 3020 further includes support ring 3026 connected to extension region 3022 and generally spaced from and surrounding pin 3024. Support ring 3026 includes interior surface 3030 facing toward engagement surface 3028 of pin 3024. Interior surface 3030 is arranged to engage with external surface 3014 of hub 3010, to resist inadvertent disengagement between hub 3010 and center support 3020.

When case 3000 is in the closed position, hub 3010 is inserted into center support 3020, such that hub 3010 is engaged between pin 3024 and support ring 3026. The optical medium is held in position by hub 3010. Support ring 3026 provides a force to a side of the optical medium 3050 (shown in FIG. 21), opposite rear casing 3004, to provide additional, resistance to inadvertent disengagement of the optical medium from hub 3010.

In the illustrated embodiment, front casing 3002 and rear casing 3004 include media tray 3031 and media tray 3032, respectively. Media trays 3031 and 3032 form opposite sides of a media receptacle for supporting one or more optical media. In some embodiments, media trays 3031 and 3032 are the same as media trays 1031 and 1032 described herein.

FIG. 22 is a front view of another example case 4000 arranged in an open position. Case 4000 includes front casing 4002, rear casing 4004, and spine 4006. Front casing 4002 includes backing 4010, sidewalls 4012, lateral flex regions 4014 and 4016, and longitudinal flex regions 4018 and 4020. Rear casing 4004 includes backing 4030, corner supports 4034, lateral flex regions 4074 and 4076, longitudinal flex regions 4070 and 4072, and media tray 4032 including hub 4084.

Front casing 4002 includes backing 4010 having an interior surface 4022 and an exterior surface 4024 (not visible in FIG. 22). Sidewalls 4012 extend from interior surface 4022 at least partially in a direction normal to a interior surface 4022. Sidewalls 4012 include top sidewall 4040, bottom sidewall 4042, right sidewall 4044, and left sidewall 4046. (Right and left are defined by viewing exterior surface 4024 in a front view when case 4000 is arranged in the closed position.) In some embodiments, sidewalls 4012 extend generally in a direction normal to interior surface 4022 and toward backing 4030 of rear casing 4004 when case 4000 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, sidewalls 4012 partially enclose sides of front casing 4002. In some embodiments, sidewalls 4012 provide support to the backing 4010 to maintain backing 4010 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In some embodiments, flex regions are defined by portions or edges of sidewalls 4012. In this embodiment, flex regions are flexible locations between edges of sidewalls 4012 that allow case 4000 to flex or bend along or around a respective flex axis.

In some embodiments, sidewalls 4012 include ribs 4013. In this embodiment, ribs 4013 formed in an external side of sidewalls 4012 to provide added strength and stability to case 4000, such as to increase the strength of sidewalls 4012 against buckling or crushing. In other embodiments, ribs include other shapes or configurations and can be included on any one or more surfaces of sidewalls 4012. In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 or portions of corner supports 4034 (such as sidewalls 4060, 4062, 4064, and 4066) include ribs 4013.

Rear casing 4004 includes backing 4030 having an interior surface 4050 and an exterior surface 4052 (not visible in FIG. 22), corner supports 4034, and media tray 4032 including hub 4084. Corner supports 4034 extend from interior surface 4050, and in the illustrated embodiment form a plurality of sidewalls, including top sidewall 4060, bottom sidewall 4062, right sidewall 4064, and left sidewall 4066. In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 extend from backing 4030 at least partially in a direction normal to interior surface 4050, and toward backing 4010 of front casing 4002 when case 4000 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 partially enclose sides of rear casing 4004. In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 provide support to backing 4030 to maintain backing 4030 generally planar in the absence of an applied force. In some embodiments, flex regions are defined by portions or edges of sidewalls 4012. In this embodiment, flex regions 4070, 4072, 4074, and 4076 are flexible locations between edges of corner supports 4034 that allow case 4000 to flex or bend along or around a respective flex axis.

In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 include recesses 4100 and protrusions 4102. Protrusions 4102 extend a greater distance away from interior surface 4050 than recesses 4100. Protrusions 4102 of corner supports 4034 are sized and shaped so as to fit adjacent to interior surfaces of sidewalls 4012 when case 4000 is in the closed position. In some embodiments, corner supports 4034 and sidewalls 4012, when closed, have a frictional or interference fit with each other to resist disengagement so as to maintain case 4000 in the closed position. In some embodiments, sides of protrusions 4102 and interior sides of sidewalls 4012 are counter-tapered relative to each other to provide further resistance disengagement of protrusions 4102 from sidewalls 4012 when in the closed position.

Rear casing 4004 includes media tray 4032. Media tray 4032 is a media receptacle for supporting one or more optical media. Media tray 4032 includes edge supports 4071, 4073, 4075, and 4077, which are each formed in one side of corner supports 4034. Media tray 4032 also includes hub 4084 that is sized to releasably engage within an aperture in the optical medium to hold the optical medium in place in media tray 4032.

Spine 4006 connects front casing 4002 with rear casing 4004. Spine 4006 also connects between sides of backing 4010 and backing 4030. In some embodiments, backing 4010 and 4030 are pivotally connected to spine 4007. In some embodiments, when case 4000 is in an open position, spine 4006 extends in the same plane as backing 4010 and backing 4030. When case 4000 is closed, spine 4006 folds to allow front casing 4002 and rear casing 4004 to engage with each other at sidewalls 4012 and corner supports 4034, respectively. When in this closed position, spine 4006 forms a side of case 4000.

FIG. 23 is a rear view of the example case 4000 in the open position. Case 4000 includes front casing 4002, rear casing 4004, and spine 4006. Front casing 4002 includes backing 4010 having an exterior surface 4024. Rear casing 4004 includes backing 4030 having an exterior surface 4052. Case 4000 also includes cover sheet 4200.

In some embodiments cover sheet 4200 is provided to cover at least part of exterior surfaces 4024 and 4052 of backing 4010 and 4030. Cover sheet 4200 functions in some embodiments to hold a sheet of printed material between cover sheet 4200 and backing 4010 and 4030. In one example, backing 4010 includes a top edge 5002, a bottom edge 5004, a side edge 5006, and a side edge 5008.

In this example, cover sheet 4200 is fastened to backing 4010 at side edge 5006 and to backing 4030 at side edge 5008. Side edges 5006 and 5008 are not fastened to backing 4010 or 4030 in some embodiments. In other embodiments, any three edges of cover sheet 4200 are fastened to backing 4010 and/or backing 4030. Further, in some embodiments cover sheet 4200 is fastened to spine 4006. In some embodiments, cover sheet 4200 is only fastened to backing 4010 and 4030 at edges to allow one or more sheets of printed material to be inserted between cover sheet 4200 and backing 4010 and 4030. In this way, cover sheet 4200 supports the one or more sheets of printed material along exterior surfaces 4024 and 4052 so that they are visible through cover sheet 4200. In some embodiments, cover sheet 4200 is transparent, to permit printed material to be seen through cover sheet 4200.

Cutout regions 5010 are formed in top edge 5002 and bottom edge 5004 in some embodiments. Cutout regions 5010 allow an edge of a sheet of printed material to be more easily grasped to remove the sheet of printed material from behind cover sheet 4200. In some embodiments, cutout region 5010 has a semicircular shape, although other shapes are used in other embodiments. A benefit of the semicircular shape is that it does not include sharp corners, thereby increasing the strength and resistance to tearing of cover sheet 4200. Some embodiments do not include cutout region 5010.

FIGS. 24-25 illustrate an example secondary closure device 5100. FIG. 24 is a front view of case 4000 in the open position. FIG. 25 is a rear view of case 4000 in the open position. Case 4000 includes front casing 4002, rear casing 4004, and spine 4006.

In some embodiments, case 4000 further includes a secondary closure device 5100. The secondary closure device 5100 operates to connect right sides of front and rear casings 4002 and 4004 together when case 4000 is in the closed position. In one example, secondary closure device 5100 includes flap 5102, fastener 5104, and fastener 5106. Flap 5102 is connected to the right side of rear casing 4004 and extends from rear casing 4004 in a direction away from front casing 4002 when case 4000 is in the open position. Flap 5102 is typically formed of a flexible material, such as fabric or a flexible plastic. One or more fasteners are used to releasably connect flap 5102 to front casing 4002. In this example, the fastener includes a pair of fasteners 5104 and 5016.

Fastener 5104 is connected to flap 5102 and spaced from rear casing 4004. In some embodiments fastener 5104 is contained within flap 5102. In other embodiments fastener 5104 is fastened to an exterior surface of flap 5102. In yet another embodiment, fastener 5104 extends through flap 5102.

Secondary closure device 5100 also includes fastener 5106 in some embodiments. In some embodiments, fastener 5106 is connected to or formed integral with backing 4030 of rear casing 4004. In other embodiments fastener 5106 is connected to another layer, such as to cover sheet 4200. In other embodiments, fastener 5106 is connected to backing 4030 but extends through an aperture in one or more other layers, such as through cover sheet 4200. Once case 4000 is placed into the closed position, secondary closure device 5100 is operable to maintain case 4000 in the closed position. A removal force is applied to one or more of fastener 5104, 5106, or flap 5102 to disengage fastener 5106 from front casing 4002. After disengagement of the secondary closure device 5100, case 4000 can be arranged in the open position, such as to access or insert an optical medium in case 4000.

A variety of suitable fasteners can be used. In one embodiment, fasteners 5104 and 5106 are magnets. Placement of fastener 5104 in the vicinity of the oppositely polarized fastener 5106 causes fasteners 5104 and 5106 to engage with each other. The fasteners are releasable by applying a removal force to fastener 5106 relative to fastener 5104. Other examples of fasteners include hook and loop fasteners, snaps, buttons, string, latches, clips, or other fasteners. In some embodiments only a single fastener 5104 or 5106 is needed. In other embodiments two or more fasteners are provided. In some embodiments fastener 5104 is flap 5102, such as in an embodiment where flap 5102 is a string and fastener 5106 is a string connection device.

Although specific flex region designs have been described, various other flex region configurations are used in other embodiments to perform the same function. In addition, flex regions need not be located along central axes (e.g., A1, A2, or A3 shown in FIG. 1) of the case (e.g., 100, shown in FIG. 1), but rather could be located at any desired location, and in any number of locations.

The above specification, examples and data provide a complete description of the manufacture and use of the composition of the invention. It is noted that all of the features characterized herein need not be incorporated within a given arrangement for the arrangement to include improvements according to the present disclosure.