Title:
SIDE HANDLE LUGGAGE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An article of luggage is described and includes a container with wheels attached thereto. A handle is also provided. In contrast to conventional handles which extend from the center of the back surface of a piece of luggage, and parallel thereto, the described handle extends from the side of the luggage, and is oriented substantially perpendicular to the back surface. This allows, for example, the user to wheel the container behind him/her, while gripping the handle at the user's side, rather than requiring that the user either have the luggage not follow directly behind the user, or place his/her hand behind him to keep the luggage positioned behind the user. The handle may be stored along side or base of the luggage. The handle can include a grip that pivots to allow a user to selectively change the angle of the grip relative to the luggage.



Inventors:
Hymas, Ammon Bruce (Orem, UT, US)
Application Number:
12/418524
Publication Date:
12/10/2009
Filing Date:
04/03/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
190/109, 190/115
International Classes:
A45C5/14; A45C3/00; A45C13/30
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060180422Luggage bottom frameAugust, 2006Lin
20050092567Multi-compartment caseMay, 2005Hallberg
20080308369Luggage transport systemDecember, 2008Louis
20090145710LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURED SUITCASEJune, 2009Roncato
20050121121Multi-functional carrying bagJune, 2005Wang
20020023811Briefcase and work table combinationFebruary, 2002Silvano
20020014753Wheel system for traveling bodyFebruary, 2002Cheng
20090255092Handle with a hidden beltOctober, 2009Huang et al.
20040251102Fast check anti-terrorism luggageDecember, 2004Kirincic
20060180624Clip-on accessories for carrying caseAugust, 2006Sadow et al.
20020027052Luggage with wheels and with telescoping handle intermediate side wallsMarch, 2002Godshaw et al.



Primary Examiner:
MAI, TRI M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Fabian Vancott (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An article of luggage comprising: a container portion, said container portion being defined by at least: a base; a first side surface having a first width; and a second side surface having a second width, wherein said second width is substantially greater than said first width; at least two wheels attached at or proximate said base; and a handle attached to said container portion, wherein said handle is attached to said container portion along said first side surface having said first width smaller than said second width, and such that said handle is parallel to said first side surface.

2. The article of luggage recited in claim 1, wherein said handle comprises: at least one extension members; and a grip portion attached to said at least one extension member.

3. The article of luggage recited in claim 1, wherein said grip and said at least one extension members are rigid, and said grip is configured to have an angled position in which a first end of said grip is closer to said container portion than a second end of said grip, said first end and said second end of said grip being separated by the length of said grip.

4. The article of luggage recited in claim 2, wherein said grip portion has a first end connected to a first extension member, and a second end connected to a second extension member.

5. The article of luggage recited in claim 4, wherein at least one of said first extension member and said second extension member includes one or more locking mechanisms to selectively lock in place.

6. The article of luggage recited in claim 5, wherein said one or more locking mechanisms simultaneously lock at least one of said first and second extension members such that said first and second extension members have different lengths.

7. The article of luggage recited in claim 1, wherein said handle includes a grip having first and second ends separated by the length of said handle, and wherein said grip is configured to float between different angles, and such that said length of said handle has different angles relative to said first side surface.

8. An article of luggage, comprising: a container portion having at least: a base; a first side wall; and a second side wall; two wheels proximate said base of said container portion, wherein said two wheels are spaced apart such that a first wheel is positioned proximate said first side, and a second wheel is distanced from said first side; and an extendible handle, wherein said extendible handle is positioned at said first side of said container portion, said extendible handle comprising: at least one extension member connected to said container portion; and a grip at a distal end of said at least one extension member, wherein said grip has first and second ends, and wherein said first and second ends are configured such that at least when said container portion is tilted to rest on said two wheels, said first end of said grip is positionable closer to said container than said second end of said grip.

9. The article of luggage recited in claim 8, wherein said at least one extension member includes two extension members.

10. The article of luggage recited in claim 9, wherein said two extension members are selectively extendible from said container portion, and are selectively extendible to different lengths relative to each other.

11. The article of luggage recited in claim 9, wherein said grip is pivotally connected to each of said two extension members.

12. The article of luggage recited in claim 9, wherein at least one of said two extension members locks in place at an extended position.

13. The article of luggage recited in claim 9, wherein both of said two extension members lock in place at an extended position, and such that when locked, said grip is angled relative said base of said container, with said first end being closer to said base than said second end.

14. The article of luggage recited in claim 8, wherein said grip floats within a track at said distal end of said one or more extension members.

15. The article of luggage recited in claim 8, wherein said at least one extension member is exactly one extension member.

16. The article of luggage recited in claim 15, wherein said grip is supported by said exactly one extension member at only one end of said grip.

17. The article of luggage recited in claim 16, wherein said grip is pivotally supported at said only one end of said grip, and is pivotable to have a closed handle portion that is next to, inside, or around said exactly one extension member.

18. An article of luggage, comprising: a substantially rectangular container portion, said substantially rectangular container portion having: a front; a back; a first side; a second side, wherein the each of said first and second sides interfaces with both said front and said back, wherein said first and second sides have widths that are less than widths of said front and back; and a top; and a bottom; two fixed wheels connected to said substantially rectangular container portion, wherein a first wheel is connected proximate an interface between said back, first side, and bottom, and wherein a second wheel is connected proximate an interface between said back, second side, and bottom; and a handle assembly generally connected to said first side, wherein said handle assembly comprises: two extension members configured to retract to a storage position within said container portion and to expand from said storage position to at least one operating position, wherein at least a first of said two extension members can expand or retract at least partially independent of a second of said two extension members, such that said first extension member is extendible to a length that is different than a length to which said second of said two extension members is extended; and a grip attached to said two extension members at distal ends of each of said at least two extension members, wherein said grip is configured to rotate relative to said container portion such that when said first and second of said two extension members are extended to different lengths, said grip is positioned such that one end along a length of said grip is closer to said container than a second end along said length of said grip.

19. The article of luggage recited in claim 18, wherein said grip includes at least two pockets, including a first pocket aligned with a distal end of said first extension member, and a second pocket aligned with a distal end of said second extension member, wherein said pockets are sized to receive said first and second extension members and to permit said first and second extension members to move laterally therein, while the angle of said grip changes by at least ten degrees.

20. The article of luggage recited in claim 19, wherein said handle assembly includes advertising indicia on at least one of said two extension members or said grip.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This Application claims the benefit of, and priority to, U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 61/042,530, filed on Apr. 4, 2008 and entitled “IMPROVED HANDLE FOR LUGGAGE,” which application is hereby incorporated herein by this reference, in its entirety.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The embodiments disclosed herein generally relate to handling systems. More particularly, embodiments of the invention relate to luggage and handles for such luggage.

2. Background of the Invention

In the present, many forms of transportation exist and allow people to travel between locations near and far in only a matter of hours. Often, such trips are for extended periods and require the user to pack additional clothing, toiletries, and other items to be used during that stay. Much of the luggage (e.g, suitcases, travel bags, etc.) that are used for such packing continue to employ designs that have been around for many years—if not decades. Such luggage is the source of great frustration as the luggage can be difficult to pack, carry, and move.

To alleviate some of the difficulties with transporting luggage, early designs involved carriers that had wheels and could be loaded with luggage. By rolling the carrier with the luggage thereon, the user may more easily move luggage, thereby alleviating some of the difficulty in transporting luggage. Later designs incorporated the carrier idea directly into the luggage, by placing wheels at the base of the luggage. For instance, a common design has been to place two wheels at back corners of an article of luggage. A handle or strap may also be attached such, and a user can tilt the luggage on the back wheels to place the bulk of the weight on those two wheels, and then pull (or sometimes push) the luggage using the handle or strap. More recently, luggage has been made to incorporate four wheels—one at each corner of a rectangular base of an article of luggage—to allow the user to pull or push an article of luggage without tilting the luggage onto two wheels.

In connection with the wheels, such luggage typically includes some sort of handle that extends from the luggage and can be grasped by the user to push or pull the luggage. The most common arrangement seems to be the use of an extendible handle that retracts when it is not in use, and then can be extended when needed by a user. Since the initial use of wheeled luggage, such a handle has been included on the back of the luggage and has an elongate handle that extends parallel to the back of the luggage. In operation, the user can pull in a direction generally perpendicular to the luggage to cause the luggage to tilt back onto two wheels, at which time it can be rolled about.

The nearly universal design and placement of the handle parallel to the back of the luggage appears to be a vestige from the days when carts where used to carry the luggage to-and-fro. Such design has, however, provided its own source of frustration for luggage users.

For example, when a user tows luggage that has a handle attached to the middle of the back surface of the luggage, the user's body does not flow in a natural movement. In particular, when a user walks, the user's hands typically sway at the user's sides, and have the user's fingers or knuckles generally parallel to the ground. Existing handles for luggage, however, do not conform to such natural movement. Specifically, the user must choose between having his arm at his side, or angling his arm backward so that the luggage is centered behind him. In the former case, the user may have his arm at his side, while the luggage is then not centered behind him. Specifically, the luggage is centered at the user's side rather than directly behind the user. As a result, when a user walks through doorways, up escalators, through crowds of people, and the like, the user must be mindful of the luggage extending to the user's side so that he does not bump into anything or anyone.

In the latter case, where the user angles his arm backward to center the luggage behind him, the user may eliminate some of the concern with bumping into things and people, as the luggage may follow about directly behind the user. However, by angling the arm backward, the user's arm is in an unnatural and awkward position. This can also cause the user to strain to walk in a straight line, or to cause the luggage to follow in a straight line. Further, when the user's hand is positioned in either position, a handle parallel to the back surface means that the user must put his arm and hand behind him and twist his hand to maintain a grip of the handle, thereby preventing the user from a natural motion and position of the hand.

Additionally, luggage with extendible handles often has handles that are integrated within the luggage container space so that the handle is not damaged during travel. In a typical design, a handle may have one or two telescoping rods that extend within the luggage container itself. When packing the luggage, the user may place the luggage on the ground on its back surface, and open the luggage. The user may then place their clothes in the luggage. With the luggage itself, the one or two bars both take up space within the luggage, and also create an uneven surface that causes the user to strategically place his clothes around the bars. Clothes may thus get wrinkled and users can get frustrated by having to pack around the bars.

Accordingly, what is desired is an improved luggage handle that allows a user to walk in a more natural motion and/or which reduces difficulty when packing the luggage.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

In general, embodiments described in this application relate to luggage and handles for handling and transporting the same. For instance, exemplary embodiments relate to a handle that is placed on the side of an article of luggage to allow the luggage handle to be positioned at the side of the user, while the user then totes the luggage directly behind him. In other embodiments, the luggage may additionally, or alternatively, have a handle that pivots or is inclined so that when a user tilts an article of luggage, the handle can allow the user to walk with the user's hand in a more natural position.

According to one aspect of the invention, a suitcase is described and includes a container for storing items, and wheels attached to the bottom of the container. A handle is also provided. In contrast to conventional handles which extend from the center of the back surface of such a container/suitcase and parallel thereto, the invention includes a handle which extends from the side surface of the container/suitcase, and is oriented such that it is substantially perpendicular to the back surface. This allows, for example, the user to wheel the container behind him/her, while gripping the handle at the user's side, rather than requiring that the user either have the luggage not follow directly behind the user, or place his/her hand behind him to keep the luggage positioned behind the user.

According to other aspects, the handle can telescope from the suitcase. Alternatively, or in addition thereto, the handle may be stored at the side or base of the suitcase and can expand from such a storage position. Additionally, the handle can include a grip that pivots to allow a user to selectively change the angle of the grip relative to the suitcase.

According to one embodiment, an article of luggage is described that includes a container portion defined by at least a base, a first side surface having a first width, and a second side surface having a second width, in which the second width is greater than the first width. For example the second width may be one and a quarter to three times greater than the first width. The first side may thus be considered a side surface, while the second side is a back surface. At least two wheels may be attached near the base, and a handle can be attached to the container. The handle may be attached along the first side (i.e., the one with the smaller width), and such that the handle is parallel to the first side.

The handle itself may include at least one extension member and a grip that attaches to the at least one extension member. The grip and/or extension members may also be rigid or flexible. Even when the grip is rigid, it may be configured to have an angled position relative to the container, such that a first end of the grip is closer to the container than a second end of the grip. The ends of the grip may be separated by the length of the grip. The first end may be closer to a top or base of the container.

The grip may also attach such that the first end attaches to one extension member and the second end of the grip attaches to another extension member. Locking mechanism may also be used to selectively lock the first and/or second extension members in place. The locking mechanism can simultaneously lock at least one extension member so that the extension members have different lengths. The grip may also float between different angles, which can be measured by comparing the length of the grip to the first side surface.

In another embodiment, a piece of luggage includes a container with a base, a first side wall, and a second side wall. Two wells proximate the base may also be included and spaced such that a first wheel is near the first side and a second wheel is distanced from the first side. An extendible handle may also be included and positioned at the first side of the container. Such an extendible handle may include at least one extension member connected to the container, and a grip at a distal end of the extension member(s). The grip may have first and second ends configured so that when the container is tilted to rest on the two wheels, the first end of the grip is positionable closer to the container than the second end of the grip. In some cases, the distance between the first and second ends is the elongate length of the grip.

A variety of configurations of extension members are possible. For example, two extension members can be used. With two extension members, they may be selectively extendible from the container and to different lengths relative to each other. The article of luggage may also have a grip that is pivotally connected to the two extension members, and/or at least one of the extension members can lock in place at an extended position. Both of the extension members may also lock into place. For example, the extension members can lock in a manner that causes the grip to be angled relative to the base of the container, with the first end of the grip being closer to the base than the second end.

In other embodiments, there is exactly one extension member. The grip may also float within a track at the end of the one or more extension members. In one example, the grip is supported by exactly one extension member, and is supported at only one end of the grip. The grip may be pivotally connected to the one end of the grip so that the grip is pivotable to have a closed handle position that is next to, inside, or around exactly one extension member.

In another embodiment, an article of luggage is disclosed that includes a substantially rectangular container portion. That portion has a front, back, top, bottom, and two sides. The sides have widths less than the widths of the front and back. Two fixed wheels are connected to the container, with the two wheels both being at the interface between the back and bottom. One wheel is next to the first side, and the other is next to the second side. A handle assembly is connected generally at the first side and has two extension members and a grip. The extension members retract to a storage position within the container and can also expand to an operating position. One of the extension members can expand or retract at least partially independent of the other, such that the first extension member can extend to a length that is different than the extended length of the second extension member. The grip is attached at distal ends of the extension members and can rotate relative to the container, so that two ends of the grip are different distances from the container when the extension members are extended to different lengths.

The grip can facilitate movement of the extension members. For instance, the grip may have pockets formed therein that align with the extension members. The pockets are sized to not only receive the extension members, but also to permit the extension members to move laterally within the pocket, and so that the angle of the grip can change by at least ten degrees. The handle assembly may also include advertising indicia on the extension members, grip, or other portions thereof.

These and other aspects of embodiments of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A more particular description of various aspects of the embodiments of the invention illustrated in the appended drawings will now be rendered. Understanding that such drawings depict only exemplary embodiments of the invention and illustrate example scales but are not drawn to scale for all embodiments, and are not therefore to be considered limiting of the scope of the invention in any way, various features of such exemplary embodiments will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIGS. 1A and 1B depict an exemplary article of luggage according to the present invention, in which the article of luggage has a side-positioned handle that can be in retracted and extended positions;

FIG. 2 is a side view of an example article of luggage similar to that in FIGS. 1A and 1B, in which a grip is angled;

FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate views of an example mechanism for releasing a grip such as that in FIG. 2, so the grip can be angled;

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of an example grip;

FIG. 5 is a side view of an example grip;

FIG. 6 illustrates an alternative embodiment of an article of luggage that has an extendible handle with a single extension member;

FIG. 7 illustrates another example embodiment of an article of luggage with an extendible handle having a single extension member; and

FIGS. 8A and 8B are side views of another alternative embodiment of an article of luggage with a side-positioned handle in retracted and extended positions;

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Reference will now be made to figures wherein like structures will be provided with like reference designations. It is to be understood that the drawings are diagrammatic and schematic representations of various embodiments of the invention, and are not to be construed as limiting the present invention, nor are the drawings necessarily drawn to scale.

With reference first to FIGS. 1A and 1B, one embodiment of an article of luggage 100 is illustrated. Note that, as contemplated herein, “luggage” or “article of luggage” is intended to include a variety of objects. For example, luggage is intended to include suitcases, duffle bags, golf and ski carriers, and a wide variety of other containers that have handles integrated therewith for transport and/or handling. In the exemplary embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, luggage 100 includes a container 110, one or more wheels 118 connected to container 110, and a handle assembly 122 (also referred to herein as a “handle”) connected to container 110. Wheels 118 and handle assembly 122 are collectively configured to facilitate handling and/or movement of container 110.

In particular, in this embodiment, a container 110 is illustrated as having a general rectangular shape defined by four side surfaces 112a-d, a bottom surface 114, and a top surface 116. While exemplary only, the particular embodiment of container 110 illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B, is generally representative of a suitcase that may be used when traveling or when otherwise needed to store clothing, personal items, or any other desired object. For example, container 110 may be representative of a Pullman-type suitcase, or it may represent a smaller suitcase. For instance, Pullmans come in many sizes, and container 110 may range from a carry-on size (e.g., up to about 22 inches), to a larger size that usually cannot be carried-on to an airplane (e.g., 26 to 29 inches).

Container 110 may be any suitable shape or size. In the illustrated embodiment, side surfaces 112a-d and top and bottom surfaces 114, 116 define a rectangular container. In particular, side surfaces 112a, 112c are about parallel and have a width that is shorter than the width of side surfaces 112b, 112d, which are also parallel to each other. In other embodiments side surfaces 112a, 112c may have a width that is larger than the width of side surfaces 112b, 112d.

As will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, particularly in view of the disclosure herein, typical luggage that includes a container, wheels, and a handle assembly would include its handle assembly on side surface 112d. In particular, typical luggage includes a handle that is centered on the back surface which would, in this embodiment, be side surface 112d. Normally, for luggage that includes only two wheels, the back surface has a handle centered thereon, and is the only side surface which is adjacent both wheels.

As can be seen in the illustrated embodiment, article of luggage 100 according to the present invention has not included handle assembly 122 on or adjacent side surface 112d, but has instead placed handle assembly 122 adjacent and parallel to side surface 112a. In FIG. 1A, for example, handle assembly 122 is shown to be fully retracted within a handle enclosure 124 that is generally parallel to, and adjacent to, side surface 112a. FIG. 1B, however, illustrates handle assembly 122 in an extended position such that handle assembly 122 generally extends from side surface 112a.

As noted previously, container 110 may have a rectangular shape. In the illustrated embodiment, for example, side surface 112a is a shorter side when compared to side surface 112d. Placement of handle assembly 122 along shorter side 112a provides a variety of features not found within, and satisfying a long felt need because of, typical luggage that places a handle assembly along longer side 112d.

For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2, it can be seen that handle assembly 122 extends from a position along, or proximate to, side surface 112a. In this case, handle assembly 122 includes two extension members 128 that extend outward from handle enclosure 124. In particular, extension members 128 include, in this embodiment, telescoping members 120a-c sequentially extend in a distal direction from container 110. A grip 132 may further be connected at the distal end of telescoping member 120c and configured to allow a user to grasp a hold thereof for maneuvering luggage 100.

As can be seen in the illustrated embodiment, container 110 optionally includes one or more wheels 118 connected to, or proximate to, bottom surface 114. Wheels 118 are merely representative in nature and can be any suitable wheel. For instance, wheels 118 may be fixed to roll in two directions (e.g., forward and reverse). Alternatively, wheels 118 may swivel to allow luggage 100 to roll in any direction. Wheels 118 may also be powered to allow the user to more easily pull or push luggage 100. There may also be two wheels 118 spaced along a back surface 112d in the illustrated manner. Optionally, the opposing front surface 112b may have supports 120 instead of wheels. In other embodiments, however, front surface 112b may not have any supports, or may also have one or more wheels such that three or four wheels 118 are connected to container 110 proximate bottom surface 114. Indeed, in another example four wheels 118 are utilized so that the user can position handle assembly 122 on the user's right or left side, as desired.

In this particular embodiment that includes two wheels 118 that are spaced apart such that one wheel 118 is positioned near the interface between side surfaces 112a, 112d and bottom surface 114, and the other is positioned near the interface between side surfaces 112c, 112d, and bottom surface 114, container 110 is configured to be moved by tilting it rearward (i.e., so that side surface 112d gets closer to the ground). As can be seen, when container is tilted in this manner, handle assembly 122 also tilts rearward. In particular, grip 132—which may have a elongate length—tilts rearward such that the rear end of grip 132 (i.e., the end closest to side surface 112d) gets closer to the ground.

When luggage 100 is tilted in this manner, the user can grasp on to grip 132 and begin to pull luggage 100. Unlike typical luggage, however, which requires that the user either not pull the luggage directly behind him by keeping his arm behind him and to his side, or that the user angle his harm backward so as to keep the luggage directly behind him, luggage 100 requires no such contortions by the user. Specifically, inasmuch as grip 132 of handle assembly 122 is already positioned at the side of container 110, when a user grasps on to grip 132 and begins to pull, the user's hand can remain at user's side, while luggage 100 will then follow directly behind the user. Furthermore, because handle assembly 122 is placed at the side—as opposed to the back—of container 110, when a user places container on back surface 112d to load container 110, there are no posts or other obstructions on back surface 112 to create additional difficulty in packing.

Notably, luggage 100, container 110, and handle assembly 122 are merely exemplary to show certain aspects of the present invention, and are thus not necessarily limiting of the present invention. For example, a wide variety of other features, shapes, and configurations of luggage 100, container 110, and handle assembly 122 are contemplated. By way of example, luggage according to the present invention can be expandable, or may not be expandable, and/or need not be a rectangular Pullman-type luggage. For instance, luggage 100 could be a duffle bag. In such case, the duffle bag may include only two end surfaces and a single side surfaces. Accordingly, it is not necessary that luggage 100 be rectangular. Indeed, even with a duffle bag, handle assembly 122 may be positioned at a side, rather than at a center position by, for example, placing handle assembly 122 such that it is adjacent only one wheel 118, while a second wheel 118 is displaced and distanced therefrom.

Furthermore, handle assembly 122 need not be extendible, or may extend in a manner other than in a telescoping fashion. For instance, handle assembly 122 may be hinged so that one or more pieces fold into other pieces, rather than slide telescopically relative thereto. Also, while two extension members 128 are illustrated, there may be more or fewer extension members. In one embodiment, for example, there is only a single extension member extending from container 110, and a grip then connects thereto.

Additionally, handle enclosure 124 may be formed in any suitable manner. For example, handle assembly 122 can extend from an opening or pocket formed in the side of container 110. Note, however, that whereas typical luggage has a handle that extends parallel to and/or from the back side 112d of container 110, this example embodiment includes a handle assembly 122 extending parallel to and/or from the side surface 112a of container 110. Thus, handle assembly 122 is on a side of container and not near, in this example, the wheel 118 that is at the interface between side surfaces 112c and 112d. Indeed, handle assembly 122 is on an opposite side of container 110 as compared to such wheel, and is instead positioned merely near wheel 118 that is at the interface between side surfaces 112a and 112d.

While one may think that the positioning of handle assembly 122 on the side of container 110 could cause instability when moving luggage 100, tests example articles of luggage with handles on the side of the suitcase, similar to that illustrated in the figures, have not shown any decrease in the stability of a suitcase having a handle on the side as opposed to a handle centered on the back of the luggage. Indeed, the opposite has been found. An unexpected result of the handle on the side is that a line of force is created between the grip and the bottom corner opposing the grip (e.g., the interface between base 114 and side surfaces 112b, 112c) that actually improves the stability and handling f luggage 100 as it is being used.

Furthermore, as handle assembly 122 on the side of luggage 100 is extended and luggage 100 is tilted so that it can be rolled on its wheels 118 behind the user, the handle assembly 122 can extend to the right side of the user (in the case of luggage 100). Since the handle assembly 122 orients grip 132 perpendicular to a typical configuration which has the handle essentially flush and/or parallel with back surface 112d, grip 132 can be placed directly on the side of the person. A user can thus hold grip 132 and walk with a standard walking motion, without the need to hold his/her hand behind him or to continually monitor luggage 100 to make sure it isn't getting in the way of other travelers, is fitting through doorways or around corners, etc. In short, handle assembly 122 on the side of luggage 100 provides a natural walking motion without the concerns and discomfort of conventional rolling luggage.

Turning now to FIG. 2, another example of an article of luggage according to some aspects of the present invention is illustrated. In this embodiment luggage 200 similar to that illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B is illustrated, but another optional aspect is illustrated and described. In particular, it can be seen in this example that luggage 200 includes an angled handle assembly 222.

In particular, luggage 200 includes a container 210 that is connected to one or more wheels 218 and a handle assembly 222. Handle assembly 222 extends from container 210 in any suitable manner, such as that described above with respect to FIGS. 1A and 1B, where handle assembly 222 can extend from a side, rather than a back, surface of container 210.

It can be seen that handle assembly 222 can also include two extension members 228, although a single extension member may alternatively be used. At the distal ends 229 of extension members 228 is a grip 232 configured to allow a user to grasp a hold thereof. In FIG. 2, container 210 is illustrated as being tilted so as to rest on wheels 118. Further, when tilted in this manner, it is also seen that grip 232 may be angled such that it remains substantially parallel to a ground surface on which luggage 200 is rolled.

In particular, grip 232 is angled with respect to container 220. For instance, in the illustrated embodiment grip 232 has an elongate length running about parallel to a side of container 210. Grip 232 thus has a first end 234 and a second end 236. In the case where grip 232 tilts or angles, it can be seen that first end 234 is positioned closer to container 210 than is second end 236. More particularly, the angle defined by grip 232 is such that first end 234 is closer to top surface 116 than is second end 236, and is also closer to bottom surface 114 than is second end 236. Thus, the angled configuration of grip 232 can be defined relative to a flat surface on which luggage 200 rolls, or relative to container 210 itself.

Angled handle assembly 222, including grip 232, also provides a variety of features. According to one feature, an angled handle assembly 222 such as that illustrated in FIG. 2 can increase the comfort of the user. For instance when grip 232 is angled and positioned at the side of luggage 200, the user can walk with luggage 200 directly therebehind, and can also walk such that the user's hand holding onto grip 232 remains about parallel to the ground. That is to say that when the user grasps around grip 232, the user's knuckles may remain parallel to the ground, as compared with being angled and/or orthogonal with respect thereto, as found in typical luggage or even with a handle as illustrated in FIGS. 1A and 1B.

Grip 232 may be angled at any of a variety of different angles, may change between angles, or may be fixed at one or only a few angles, as desired. For example, grip 232 can be set at an angle between −25° and +25°, although other angles may be utilized. For instance, grip 232 may, in some embodiments, vary anywhere from about ±10° to 60°, although a greater or lesser angle may still be used.

Grip 232 may be configured such that it is stored and extended in an angled configuration, and such stored angled configuration may be the same or different than that of grip 232 at the extended position. As such, extension members 228 could telescope or otherwise extend while grip 232 remains angled relative to container 210. Alternatively, grip 232 may be stored at a horizontal position (or a different angle), and then extended at such same configuration. When handle assembly 222 reaches a maximum length, handle assembly 222 may be adjusted to move one extension member 228 back toward container 210, to create an angle with grip 232. Alternatively, handle assembly 222 may be extended to less than a maximum length, and then one extension member may be moved to the maximum or other length to angle grip 232.

Once angled, grip 232 may also be fixed in this position, or may be allowed to float between a range of different angles. For instance, in one embodiment, only one of extension members 228 locks in place. As the user then tips container 210 and begins to move luggage 200, grip 232 may float to different angles based on the position desired by the user, the height of the user, the angle of the ground, or any other factor.

Of course, grip 232 may also be fixed at one or more angles. Turning to FIGS. 3A and 3B, for example, one embodiment of a locking mechanism is illustrated which can be used to lock a grip at one or more defined angles. In particular, FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrate a handle assembly 322 that may be connected to a suitable piece of luggage, or any other desired container or storage device. In this embodiment, handle assembly 322 includes two extension members 327, 328 that can selectively extend and selectively retract, and which are connected to a grip 332. Alternatively, only one of extension members 327, 328 may be configured to extend or retract to cause grip 332 to move to an angled configuration.

In the illustrated embodiment, extension members 327, 328 each comprise three telescoping members 330a-c, although more or fewer may be utilized if desired. Telescoping member 330a-c may also have a plurality of openings 334a-e thereon, and which are configured to mate with corresponding locking pins 336. In particular, as telescoping members 330a-c extend, locking pins 336 may come into alignment with one or more of openings 334a-3 to selectively keep telescoping members 330a-c extended to a particular length.

In the illustrated embodiment, it can be seen that extension member 327 may have more openings than extension member 328. While exemplary only, this is one manner in which handle assembly 322 may cause grip 332 to have its angled configuration. For example, telescoping members 330a-c may be extended fully to the position illustrated in FIG. 3A. At this position, handle assembly 322 has grip 332 in a substantially horizontal position. Grip 332 also includes, in this embodiment, a release button 338. Release button 338 may be connected to one or more resilient members (not shown) or other linkage members (not shown) that connect release button 338 with locking pins 336. In particular, by depressing button 338, pins 336 may be retracted to allow telescoping members 330a-c to be retracted.

Also, when the user depresses release button 338, the user may apply pressure to one side of grip 332. For example, the user may depress release button 338 and apply downward pressure to first end 340 of grip 332. In doing so, the user may also hold second end 342 at its current position. When the downward pressure is applied, first end 340 may apply pressure to telescoping member 330a, which forces locking pin 336 to move downward, out of opening 334a, and into 334b. In contrast, the locking pin 336 in telescoping member 330a of extension member 328 may remain in opening 334a. As the locking pins and telescoping members thus move in this manner, grip 332 can be caused to move and selectively lock into an angled position such as that illustrated in FIG. 3B, and such that extension member 327 has a length less than the length of extension member 328. Of course, the procedure could also be reversed and extension member 328 could be moved downward, or either extension member 327, 328 could be moved upward to cause grip 332 to become angled.

Moreover, while the example embodiment shows only openings 334b-d on extension member 327, they may alternatively be on extension member 328, or both extension members may have additional openings that facilitate locking of grip 332 in an angled configuration.

It should be noted that while the use of locking pins, release buttons, and openings is not new for telescoping members in luggage, the particular combination illustrated and described herein is not found within the art. In particular, the traditional luggage with locking pins and openings typically includes only a few openings that are spaced relatively far apart. For example, a openings may be placed six to twelve inches apart. With the openings located at these positions, the grip cannot be rotated to cause locking pins to lock in both positions with the grip at an angled configuration. The distance between the locking pin openings is simply too great.

Such luggage also actively prevents an angled configuration as well for a variety of other reasons. For example, grips of such luggage typically have an opening which is barely large enough for the extension member connected directly thereto. The opening provides very little side-to-side play. As such, if someone attempts to rotate the grip into an angled configuration, the walls of the openings will prevent any substantial angle, let alone the locking at an angle. When combined with locking pin openings that are far apart, the grip itself also prevents any substantial angle from being obtained.

Further still, the grip will typically receive a telescoping member, but will not secure it in a pivotal or other manner that allows grip to be positioned at any substantial angle. Specifically, telescoping members of traditional luggage are essentially locked in place, or allowed to slide in-and-out, but not move pivotally, or slide side-to-side in a manner that would allow the grip to move to a substantial angle.

Thus, the described embodiments contemplate uses of openings or other mechanisms that allow grip 332 to be positioned at a substantial angle. For example, with respect to FIGS. 3A and 3B, openings 334a-e may be positioned to be only a few inches apart (e.g., 1 to 4 inches), so that they are close enough to allow grip 332 to rotate and still lock pins 336 in place.

Furthermore, grip 332 is itself configured to allow itself to be positioned at one or more angled positions. For example, FIG. 4 illustrates the underside of an exemplary grip 432 suitable for use with the present invention. As shown in FIG. 4, grip 432 can include pockets 434 for receiving extension members connected to an article of luggage. In the illustrated embodiment, grip 432 includes posts 436a, 436b, in which pockets 434 are formed, and which receive the extension members. Pockets 434 and posts 436a, 436b are sized such that a received extension member can move between a plurality of different positions. For example, in the illustrated embodiment, extension members may be in a first position 428a. In this position, for example, the extension members may cause grip 432 to be in a substantially horizontal position. When the user desires to move grip 432 to an angled or inclined position, the extension members can be repositioned such that they move to second position 428b.

As can be seen, when the extension members move between first and second positions 428a, 428b, they remain within pockets 434 and posts 436. Thus, grip 434 defines structure to allow the extension members to move laterally within grip 434. Such lateral movement may be accomplished in a variety of ways. For example, the lateral movement may be obtained by pivotally connecting the extension members within grip 434. Thus, as the extension members pivot about a pivot point, portions of the extension member displaced from that pivot point undergo rotational motion that also causes a lateral displacement. Additionally, or alternatively, the extension members may be attached to a carrier or slider that doesn't operate based on, or solely on, pivotal movement, and can allow the extension members to slide relative to each other.

FIG. 4 illustrates an example where pockets 434 may allow extension members to move such that grip 432 can move in a single direction from a horizontal position to one or more inclined positions. It should also be appreciated that pockets 434 may be formed to allow movement in both directions so that grip 432 can be inclined at positive or negative angles. Thus, pockets 434 could just as easily be illustrated as extending in both directions from the first position 428a.

For example, FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of another example embodiment of a grip 532 that is configured to allow selective movement of grip 532 between one or more positions (e.g., one or more angled positions, a horizontal position and an angled position, or a combination. Whereas FIG. 4 illustrates pockets 434 formed wholly within the bottom of posts 436a, b, FIG. 5 illustrates a channel 534 that passes through the side of posts 536. Posts 536 are configured to receive and connect to extension member 528. Once received therein, extension member 528 is attached at a pivot 540 within grip 532. Pivot 540 thus allows a user to selectively alter the angle at which extension member 528 is received within post 536. As the angle within post 536 changes, the angle of grip 532 may also change to accommodate the angle of the luggage and thereby provide a comfortable grip for the user of the luggage. Pivot 540 may be 540 such that when a user depresses button 538, pivot 540 is released and extension member 528 can move. Alternatively, pivot 540 may not be linked to any release button. For example, pivot may be free to move at any time, while extension member 528 may have one or more locking pins that prevent it from rotating. Thus, release button may not selectively activate pivot, but may selectively allow extension member 528 to pivot. Whichever the case, once released, extension member 528 may rotate through any angle allowed within channel 534.

In some cases, such as that illustrated in FIG. 5, channel 534 extends through all, or substantially all of post 536, such that channel 534 is open when viewed from the side. In other cases, however, one or both sides of post 536 may be wholly or partially closed. For instance, a finger guard or other mechanism may be positioned at the inside of post 536 to prevent a user from inadvertently putting a finger inside grip 532 and getting pinched as grip 532 rotates. Accordingly, channel 534 may also be appropriately considered a pocket in which extension member moves laterally-regardless of whether such lateral movement is from pivotal, sliding, or other motion.

While the foregoing discussion generally relates to embodiments in which luggage handle assemblies can be extended and selectively locked into place at horizontal and/or angled configurations, it should be appreciated that this is exemplary only. In particular, in other embodiments, only a portion of the handle assembly locks into place when the handle assembly and grip are used to handle and/or move the luggage. For instance, a single extension may be locked while another is allowed to “float” between different lengths, thereby providing a variety of different available angles for the grip. In still another embodiment, two extension members may be provided and neither may lock. In this manner, both extension members may “float” between different lengths to accommodate a variety of different grip angles.

Additionally, while the foregoing also describes embodiments in which the extension member changes angle within the grip, this is also not necessary. For example, as noted previously, the grip may be fixed at an angle. Optionally, the grip may be configured to have an angled orientation by using one or more pivots on the extension members themselves. For example, a hinge may be placed just below the grip on each extension member. When the extension members are extended, the hinges may allow a portion of the extension member to pivot, thereby also allowing the grip to have an inclined orientation that causes one end of the grip to be closer to the luggage than another end of the grip.

Turning now to FIG. 6, another example embodiment of an article of luggage according to the present invention is schematically illustrated. In particular, FIG. 6 illustrates luggage 600 that includes a container 610, a plurality of wheels 618, and a handle assembly 622. Wheels 618 and container 610 may be structured and/or configured according to any suitable manner, including those described elsewhere herein. For instance, in this embodiment, four wheels 618 are connected at the base of container 610.

Handle assembly 622 is, in this embodiment, connected adjacent to, and parallel to, side 612a. Side 612a is, on luggage 600, a short wall, and side wall 612b is a longer wall. Thus, handle assembly 622 may be connected in the illustrated embodiment along the side of luggage 610 instead of along the back of luggage 610. Further, handle assembly 622 may also be configured in a manner suitable to allow grip 632 to rotate and/or be positioned in an angled configuration relative to container 610. In the illustrated embodiment, for instance, a single extension member 628 is positioned at a side of container 610. Extension member 628 extends distally and connects to a grip 632 that is configured to be grasped by a user. I this example, grip 632 has a semi-circular configuration, but this is exemplary only.

According to this example, extension member 628 may have a track 630 positioned on a distal end thereof. Track 630 may be configured to receive grip 632 and allow grip 632 to slide therein. For example, track 630 may have an internal bearing surface that allows grip 632 to easily slide therealong. When grip 632 slides along the interior surface of track 630, grip 632 may change its angle relative to the ground and/or container 610. For instance, when a user tilts container 610 onto two of wheels 618, whether in a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction relative to the illustrated example in FIG. 6, grip 632 may float along track 630 to an angle that is comfortable for the user and/or is generally parallel to the ground on which luggage 600 is rolled. Track 630 may limit the range of motion of grip 632, however. For example, one or more stops (not shown) may be placed on track 630 to limit the positive and/or negative incline of grip 632.

Turning now to FIG. 7, still another example embodiment of the present invention is illustrated. In particular, FIG. 7 illustrates a side view of another embodiment of an article of luggage 700 having a grip 732 that can be positioned in an angled configuration as desired by the user. In this embodiment, luggage 700 includes a container 700 and a handle assembly 722 extending therefrom. In this particular embodiment handle assembly 722 includes a handle enclosure 724 formed directly in a short side 712a of container 710. Specifically, a pocket 725 is formed in side wall 712a, and has a handle that is selectively extendible therefrom.

In particular, handle assembly 722 is retractable such that it can be fully retracted into pocket 725. In alternative embodiments, handle assembly 722 may only be partially retracted, such that at its most retracted position, a portion of handle assembly 722 remains visible and/or outside of pocket 725.

In this embodiment, handle assembly 722 includes a single extension member 728 that is optionally selectively retractable and/or extendable. For example, extension member 728 may be retracted to a stored position within, or mostly within, pocket 725. When the user desires to use and/or transport luggage 700, the user may extend extension member outward, and away from container 710. When extension member 728 reaches a distal-most position—or any intermediate position if desired—the user can grasp extension member 728, tilt container 710 on wheels 718, and then begin rolling container 710 around. In some embodiments, a grip 732 may be retracted within, positioned around, or even positioned next to extension member 728. In this embodiment, for instance, a grip is cantilevered off the distal end of extension member 728. Grip 732 may also be pivotally connected to extension member 728. For instance, grip 732 may connect to extension member 728 at pivot 714. In this manner, the user may move luggage around by grasping grip 732, and grip 732 can be rotated to a desired angle. Thus, one end of grip 732 may be moved closer to container 710 than an opposing end of grip 732.

As will be appreciated in view of the disclosure herein, handle assembly 722 further provides a user with the option of extending a length of extension member. In particular, tall people may often find that the length of a handle on a suitcase is inadequate, so they repeatedly hit their heels on the suitcase. By rotating grip 732 relative to extension member 728, the user can actually increase the length of extension member. The user may, for example, be able to rotate grip 732 to gain an additional two to six inches, thereby providing additional length that will help the user avoid hitting his heels.

As further illustrated in FIG. 7, another aspect of the invention is the possibility for advertising and/or marking luggage to indicate, for example, the manufacturer, vendor, or owner of the luggage. For instance, FIG. 7 illustrates an example in which extension member 728 is marked with advertising indicia 744. In this case, the advertising is for “LUGXURY.COM” although any other suitable advertising may be used. For example, trade names, trademarks, logos, or other markings may be used. There may also be a predefined spot for the user to include his name, address, or other contact information in the event the luggage is misplaced. Moreover, such indicia 744 may be placed on extension member 728 in any suitable manner. By way of example, advertising indicia 728 may be engraved or painted on extension member 728, may be affixed with an adhesive (e.g., vinyl lettering), or molded directly therein.

Further, while indicia 744 is illustrated on the side of extension member 728, it may be additionally, or alternatively, be placed in other locations. For instance, indicia 744 may be placed on the front or back of extension member 728 or on grip 732.

Turning now to FIGS. 8A and 8B, another example embodiment of an article of luggage 800 according to aspects of the present invention is illustrated. As shown in such figures, article of luggage 800 can also be configured to have a handle assembly 822 that connects to a suitcase or other container, and that is adjacent and/or parallel to a side (e.g., side surface 812c rather than front surface 812b or a back surface 812d). Furthermore, in the illustrated embodiment, handle assembly 822 is configured to allow luggage 800 to be rolled behind a user holding a grip 832 with his left hand, although it will be appreciated that it could just as easily be configured to be held in a user's right hand.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 8A, it can be seen that handle assembly 822 may be selectively positioned in a closed or retracted position. For example, in this embodiment, handle assembly 822 is in a retracted position and stored along bottom surface 814 of luggage 800. To move handle assembly 822 to the expanded position illustrated in FIG. 8B, a user may grasp grip 832 and pull the retracted assembly outward. In some cases, the user may need to merely pull grip 832 for handle assembly 822 to begin expanding. In other embodiments, there may be a release mechanism (e.g, release button 838a) that disengages handle assembly 822 so that it can be expanded.

According to one example embodiment, the user may grasp grip 832 and begin to expand one or more extension members 828. Such extension members may initially expand out of a storage portion 830d which is located on the bottom of luggage 800. A pivot member, such as hinge 820, may also be connected to storage portion 830d. When the user begins to expand extension member 828, hinge 820 may then be used to rotate handle assembly so that it sits approximately against side surface 812c of luggage 800. In some cases, hinge 820 may be permitted to pivot almost immediately upon beginning extension of extension member 828. In other embodiments, hinge 820 may not permit extension members 828 to pivot until all, or a specified portion, of extension members 828 has been expanded out from within storage member 830d.

It should also be appreciated that it is not necessary that there be a hinge. For example, in one embodiment storage member 830d may be structured such that telescoping members 830a-c can be wholly removed therefrom. Once removed, telescoping member 830c may then be inserted into an other location (e.g, a different opening on storage element 830d) where it can be selectively locked in place while extension member 828 is used to move luggage 800.

Extension and/or release of handle assembly 822 can be provided for in a variety of manners. For example, release button 838a may be used to release telescoping members 830a-c from storage portion 830d, so that they can begin expanding. The same release button 838b may also be used to cause or allow hinge 820 to rotate and/or to retract handle assembly 822 once use thereof is no longer desired. In other embodiments, separate release mechanisms may be employed for different aspects. For instance, in FIG. 8A, grip 832 is illustrated as having two release buttons 838a, 838b. Release button 838a may, for instance, cause release of engagement pins so that handle assembly can expand and contract. Release button 838b may then be used to permit hinge 820 to rotate. In other embodiments, release button 838b may additionally, or alternatively, be configured to allow grip 832 to rotate into an angled/inclined position, as has been described herein.

Additionally, when handle assembly 822 is positioned along side 812c of luggage 800, extension members 828 can optionally be temporarily affixed thereto so as to facilitate use of luggage 800. Any of a number of suitable attachment mechanisms may be used. In the illustrated embodiment, for instance, multiple clamps 818 are attached to side surface 812c and positioned to align with extension members 828. In one case clamps 818 have a “C” shape and are designed to flex. In particular, as telescoping members 830c are positioned against clamps 818, pressure applied to telescoping members 830 can cause the C-shape to open and telescoping members 830 can be secured therein. An opposite pressure may then be used to release telescoping members 830 from clamps 818. Of course, a variety of other connection mechanism may be used. For instance, a fabric sleeve, hook-and-loop fasteners, or other connection mechanism may be utilized.

While FIGS. 8A and 8B illustrate a handle assembly 822 that is stored below and/or extends from the bottom of luggage 800, it should be appreciated that another alternative could be a handle that folds or otherwise comes off the top of the luggage. For example, the luggage may be structured similar to that in FIG. 8A, with the storage member along the top surface of the luggage (either on the outer surface or interior surface of the top). The handle may then extend out of the storage member and upward where the grip can be grasped by the user. In some embodiments, a handle on the top of the luggage may pivot in two or more places. For instance, there may be a hinge or pivot that allows the handle to extend downward, and then a second pivot point at the bottom end of the handle, where it can then extend upward.

It will be appreciated by one skilled in the art, particularly in view of the disclosure herein, that a variety of embodiments of luggage are contemplated and within the scope of the present invention. Moreover, some features have been described only with regards to specific embodiments. It will be appreciated, however, that this has been done to simplify the disclosure herein, and that the various features described can be utilized in connection with any of the embodiments disclosed herein.

Furthermore, while various handle assemblies have been described as including extension members, it should not be interpreted to require that such members physically expand (e.g., selectively expand in a telescoping or folding manner) in all embodiments. Indeed, members that are fixed and not able to be expanded or retracted may also be considered extension members by virtue of extending in a direction away from the container to which they are attached.

Furthermore, the various figures illustrate a number of different types and sizes of articles of luggage. Such is illustrated as the embodiments herein may be utilized with a wide variety of sizes and styles of luggage. Thus, traditionally-sized luggage, briefcase sized luggage, golf club and ski carriers, and a wide variety of other types of luggage or containers may be used in connection with the various embodiments and features described herein.

Also, while the various articles of luggage illustrated and described herein may open in any suitable manner. For instance, in one example, an article of luggage opens on one side (e.g., by using a zipper or latches on the front or back of the suitcase), although another equally suitable design can employ a clamshell design in which the suitcase essentially folds in half. In such a case, a single telescoping or extension member may be used as described and/or illustrated. In still other embodiments, such as where the handle assembly is on the side of the luggage, there may be openings on both the front and the back, so that the user can access the interior of the luggage from either side. In still other embodiments, access to the interior of the luggage may be made through the top of the luggage (e.g., the briefcase luggage illustrated in FIGS. 8A and 8B).

The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive.