Title:
TOY STORAGE BOX
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A storage box configured to operate in tandem with at least one other storage box of substantially the same construction and features, as part of a storage box system. The storage box system may be employed to reinforce neatness in children by limiting the number of puzzles, games, or other toys that a child can access at once. A storage box may include a scale, an access hatch, a locking mechanism, communication cables, and communication ports. When an item is desired from one of the storage boxes, the box containing the item is opened. Once the object box is opened, all non-opened boxes lock. The item may then be removed from the box. When the item is returned to the object box and the object box is closed, all non-opened boxes unlock.



Inventors:
Yeung, Yeung (RICHMOND, CA)
Application Number:
14/273890
Publication Date:
11/12/2015
Filing Date:
05/09/2014
Assignee:
YEUNG YEUNG
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D55/14; B65D21/02; B65D25/56; B65D51/24
View Patent Images:
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20130313274DISHWASHER BASKET ASSEMBLYNovember, 2013Crookshanks et al.
20120012489Packaging Article and DeviceJanuary, 2012Mongan et al.
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20060175326Polymeric containers and container assemblies with cohesiveAugust, 2006Kirkland et al.
20110240667MODULAR DISPLAY RACKOctober, 2011Noble Colin
20140082914Beverage Container HolderMarch, 2014Flores



Primary Examiner:
WAGNER, JENNY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MALLOY & MALLOY (MIAMI, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A storage container system comprising: a plurality of storage boxes each including an interior storage area; each of said plurality of storage boxes further comprising an access hatch and a locking mechanism associated with said access hatch; said locking mechanism structured to dispose a corresponding one of said access hatches in a locked mode and an unlocked mode; each of said access hatches disposed in communicating relation with said locking mechanism of at least one other of said plurality of said storage boxes; and each of said access hatches structured to selectively dispose said access hatches of the other of said plurality of storage boxes in a locked mode and an unlocked mode, dependent at least in part on an open or a closed mode of at least one of said access hatches.

2. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of storage boxes further includes a detection assembly interactive with a corresponding interior storage area and structured to be determinative of at least a presence or non-presence of an object in said corresponding storage area.

3. The storage container system as recited in claim 2 wherein each of said detection assemblies is disposed in communicating relation with said locking mechanism of at least one of the other of said plurality of storage boxes and structured to selectively maintain said access hatch of said one other storage box, in a locked mode and an unlocked mode, dependent at least in part on the presence and non-presence of an object in a corresponding one of said storage areas.

4. The storage container system as recited in claim 3 wherein each of said access hatches is cooperatively structured and operatively connected with said locking mechanism of at least one other of said plurality of storage boxes; said access hatch of at least one of said plurality of storage boxes being maintained in said locked mode, concurrent to at least one other of said access hatches disposed in said unlocked mode.

5. The storage container system as recited in claim 4 wherein each of said detection assemblies is cooperatively structured and operatively connected with said locking mechanism of at least one other of said plurality of storage boxes; said access hatch of at least one of said plurality of storage boxes being maintained in said locked mode, concurrent to at least one other of said access hatches being disposed in said unlocked mode.

6. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein said detection assembly comprises a scale disposed on said storage box in weight-determining relation to at least one object disposed within said interior storage area.

7. The storage container system as recited in claim 6 wherein at least one of said plurality of storage boxes further comprises a user interface structured and configured to allow a user to set a predetermined weight range of said scale.

8. The storage container system as recited in claim 7 wherein said user interface and said scale are cooperatively structured and operatively connected to allow said predetermined weight range to be set with reference to the weight of at least one object placed in weight-determining relation to said scale.

9. The storage container system as recited in claim 8 wherein said user interface is further configured to allow a user to indicate that the at least one object placed in weight-determining relation to said scale is consumable.

10. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 further comprising at least one communication port disposed on an exterior surface of each of said plurality of storage boxes.

11. The storage container system as recited in claim 10 further comprising at least one communication cable disposed integrally with at least one of said plurality of storage boxes in an extendible relation thereto; said communication cable including a connector disposed distally on said at least one communication cable; said connector cooperatively structured and dimensioned with said at least one communication port to provide a releasable, communicative connection therebetween.

12. The storage container system as recited in claim 11 wherein said communicative connection provides communication of an open or closed mode of said access hatch of one of said plurality of storage boxes to said locking mechanism of at least one other of said plurality of storage boxes.

13. The storage container system as recited in claim 11 wherein said communicative connection provides communication of a presence or non-presence of an object in said storage area of one of said plurality of storage boxes to said locking mechanism of at least one other of said plurality of storage boxes.

14. The storage container system as recited in claim 11 wherein said connector and said communication port are cooperatively structured and dimensioned to provide an at least partially tamper-resistant connection.

15. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of storage boxes further comprises an indicator structured and configured to indicate a locked mode or unlocked mode of said storage box.

16. The storage container system as recited in claim 15 wherein said indicator comprises at least one light emitting diode.

17. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of storage boxes is at least partially comprised of translucent material thereby providing visual confirmation of objects disposed in said interior storage area of any one of said plurality of storage boxes.

18. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein at least one of said plurality of storage boxes further comprises a positive reinforcement unit which operatively provides an encouraging effect to a user of said storage container system.

19. The storage container system as recited in claim 18 wherein said positive reinforcement unit is configured and disposed to dispense items to an exterior of said storage box.

20. The storage container system as recited in claim 18 wherein said positive reinforcement unit is configured and disposed to emit sound audible by a user of said storage container system.

21. The storage container system as recited in claim 1 wherein at least one of said plurality of storage boxes comprises at least one attachment member, disposed exteriorly on said at least one storage box, structured and configured to securably retain said at least one storage box in a predetermined position.

22. The storage container system as recited in claim 21 wherein said attachment member comprises at least one suction cup disposed on said one storage box in attaching relation to at least one other of said plurality of storage boxes.

23. A storage container system comprising: a plurality of storage boxes each including an interior storage area; each of said plurality of storage boxes further comprising an access hatch and a locking mechanism associated with said access hatch; said locking mechanism structured to dispose a corresponding one of said access hatches in a locked mode and an unlocked mode; each of said access hatches disposed in communicating relation with said locking mechanisms of each of the other of said plurality of storage boxes and structured to selectively dispose said access hatches of each of the other of said plurality of storage boxes in a locked mode and an unlocked mode, dependent at least in part on an open or a closed mode of at least one of said access hatches; each of said plurality of storage boxes further including a detection assembly interactive with a corresponding storage area and structured to be determinative of at least a presence or non-presence of an object in said corresponding storage area; and each of said detection assemblies disposed in communicating relation with said locking mechanisms of each of the other of said plurality of storage boxes and structured to selectively maintain said access hatches in a locked mode and an unlocked mode, dependent at least in part on the presence and non-presence of an object in a corresponding one of said storage areas.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The invention is directed toward storage boxes as well as storage box systems which reinforce characteristics of neatness in children.

2. Description of the Related Art

Currently, there exists at least some objects and methods which provide for the storage of children's toys as well as facilitating the cleaning up or organization thereof. One method is known which facilitates the gathering up of small articles after their use. This method comprises a box-like storage device, which unfurls into a play mat, upon which the small articles may be used. Afterwards, the play mat is folded back into the box-like storage device, including the small articles thereupon, which end up inside the box-like storage device. Such a method, however, provides no reasonable guarantee that a child, upon terminating a play session, will fold up the box to neatly store the small articles.

Another device provides a lockable container with time-controlled remote control. Such a device limits access to items only during predetermined times. While the device can limit the amount of toys a child can play with at once, the device still provides no reasonable guarantee that a child, upon terminating a play session, will return items to the device.

These and other problems known in the art are solved by the present invention, as disclosed further below.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is directed toward a storage box configured to operate in tandem with at least one other storage box of substantially the same construction and features, as part of a storage container system. In one embodiment, the storage container system may be employed to reinforce neatness in children by limiting the number of puzzles, games, or other toys that a child can access at one time.

Generally, it is envisioned that parents, caretakers, day care centers, and the like will employ two or more storage boxes in a play area or perhaps a child's bedroom. Furthermore, the plurality of boxes are in communication with each other, whether through wireless or wired means. A number of toys, books, puzzles, games, and other objects may be disposed inside each of the boxes. When one box is opened, such as when a child desires to play with a toy disposed therein, the other non-opened boxes lock, or otherwise secure the access hatches disposed on each box, such that the contents of only one box may be accessed at a time.

Each storage box may include a detection assembly for confirming whether the appropriate contents of the box are inside of the box. This may include, for example, a scale or other weight detection means disposed in or on the bottom surface of the box, or otherwise operatively associated therewith. It is also envisioned that other methods of object detection may be appropriately utilized such as, for example, optical methods. As such, objects placed in the box will rest on the scale or otherwise be disposed to activate other types of detection facilities. The scale or other detection facility ensures that, should a child remove an object and then close the box, none of the non-opened boxes will unlock, precluding the child from accessing the contents of more than one box. The boxes are appropriately configured such that a child must return the appropriate item to the opened box and close the opened box in order to unlock the non-opened boxes and access the contents of a non-opened box.

The storage boxes may also be structured and configured to receive electrical power from a wall outlet, or via communication cables supplied therewith. In such an embodiment, a first box may be connected to a wall outlet to draw electrical power, and each subsequent storage box may be connected in series, via communication cables. The communication cables may also be configured to transmit data pertaining to the status of each storage box and its contents, such as, whether a box is open, closed, locked, unlocked, and whether the contents of the box are appropriately stored. Such data may also be communicated wirelessly with appropriate transmitting and receiving hardware.

These and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become clearer when the drawings as well as the detailed description are taken into consideration.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature of the present invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a storage box in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention in a locked disposition.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a storage box in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention in an unlocked disposition.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a plurality of toy storage boxes in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention which are configured in one possible arrangement.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the rear portion of a storage box in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of one possible arrangement of a plurality of storage boxes in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of one possible arrangement of a plurality of storage boxes in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention.

Like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

As stated above, the invention is directed toward a storage box 100 configured to operate in tandem with at least one other storage box 100 of substantially the same construction and features, as part of a storage box system 10. In one embodiment, the storage box system 10 may be employed to reinforce neatness in children by limiting the number of puzzles, games, or other toys that a child can access at one time, such as during a single play session.

With reference to FIG. 1, a storage box 100 in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention is depicted in a locked disposition. The storage box 100 may be constructed of at least partially transparent or translucent material such as clear plastic sheeting. Such transparent or translucent properties facilitate visual confirmation of the contents of the storage box 100. The storage box 100 may also utilize any other appropriate box construction methods, such as corner brackets made of wood or metal, and be held to gather by any appropriate fastening method, such as by adhesives or other fasteners.

The storage box 100 may include a detection assembly 110 including, but not limited to a scale 111. Further, when the scale 110 is used as the detection assembly, it may be disposed on or comprise at least a part of the bottom portion of the storage box 100. As a result, items placed in weight-determining relation to the detection assembly 110, will rest on, or otherwise transfer their weight to, the scale 111. For example, items may be arranged in or on an organizing rack or smaller box configured to be stored inside the storage box 100. In further embodiments, the detection assembly 110 may incorporate other methods of object detection such as, for example, optical object confirmation methods.

The storage box 100 may also include an access hatch 120 disposed on the storage box 100 and configured to allow access the interior storage area 105 of the storage box 100. By way of example, the access hatch 120 may be configured by hinging the front face of the storage box 100 along one edge, such as the top edge. As a result, the front face of the storage box 100 is capable of rotating upward or outward, presenting the interior storage area 105. For purposes of clarity, the term “open” refers to an open mode of the access hatch, whereby the interior storage area 105 is presented to a user; the term “closed” refers to a closed mode of the access hatch, whereby access to the interior storage area 105 by a user is prevented.

The storage box 100 may also include a locking mechanism 130 capable of disposing the storage box 100 between a locked mode and an unlocked mode. For the purposes of clarity, the term “locked mode” may refer to fixing the access hatch 120 in a rigidly secure fashion by means of a locking mechanism 130 but, may also refer to any other disposition in which the access hatch 120 is unable to be opened. To further elaborate, the storage box 100 may be disposed in a locked mode by disposing the access hatch 120 flush against the storage box 100, providing no grip with which to lever the access hatch 120 open.

Accordingly, in the same embodiment, the storage box 100 may be disposed in an unlocked mode by disposing the access hatch 120 slightly ajar, providing a grip with which to lever the access hatch 120 open. Such locked and unlocked modes may be accomplished by a variety of methods, including, but not limited to, magnets, electromagnets, actuated hinges, spring hinges, and the like. By way of further, non-limiting example, a hinge may be provided and configured such that the access hatch 120 naturally rests in a slightly ajar disposition. An electromagnet may be provided at the bottom of the access hatch 120 which, upon entering a locked mode, activates to seal the access hatch 120 flush against the storage box 100.

Alternatively, a locked mode may be defined by an affirmative locking action provided by the locking mechanism 130, which rigidly secures the access hatch 120 in a closed disposition. Accordingly, in the same embodiment, an unlocked mode may be defined by an appropriate reverse locking action. As a non-limiting example, such affirmative and reverse locking action may be accomplished with appropriate structure, such as by hook and loop, or post and notch. Furthermore, in the same embodiments, a grip (not depicted) may be provided on the access hatch 120 to facilitate opening.

In the use of a storage container system 10 a plurality of storage boxes 100 is provided. Each storage box 100 is preferably communicatively connected with at least one other storage box 100 in order to dispose the access hatches 120 of the other storage boxes 100 between locked and unlocked modes at appropriate times. It will be appreciated that this communicative connection can be accomplished according to a variety of methods for example via wired or wireless communication standards.

For example, in order to accomplish such a communicative connection, a storage box 100 may be provided with at least one communication cable 140 and at least one communication port 150. In such an embodiment, a first storage box 200 may receive electrical power from a wall outlet via a communication port 150, and each subsequent storage box 100 may be connected thereto via communication cables 140 connected to respective communication ports 150. It will be appreciated that the communication cable 140 is capable of transmitting, and the communication port 150 is capable of receiving, both electrical power as well as one or more communication signals pertaining to the various modes of each storage box 100, i.e. open, closed, locked, unlocked, etc. In further embodiments, the communication signal may also include information relative to the presence or non-presence of an object 1000 in an interior storage area 105 of at least one of the plurality of storage boxes 100. In yet further embodiments the storage box 100 can include more than one communication cable 140, more than one communication port 150, or more than one of each, in order to further facilitate connection between respective storage boxes 100.

The communication cable 140 may be disposed integrally with a storage box 100, in an extensible relation thereto, such that the communication cable 140 is stored inside the storage box 100, but may be extended for connection to a communication port 150 disposed on another storage box 100. This configuration facilitates the process of placing each storage box 100 in communication with another by simply extending the cord of one storage box 100, and connecting it to the communication port 150 of the next storage box 100. It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that a plurality of storage boxes 100 may be connected in series or parallel configuration, depending upon the provided configuration of communication cables 140 and communication ports 150, or the desired arrangement of storage boxes 100.

As represented in FIG. 4, the communication cable 140 terminates in a connector 141 that is cooperatively structured and dimensioned with the communication port 150 to provide an at least partially tamper-resistant connection therebetween. As a non-limiting example, and with further reference to FIG. 4, the connector 141 may be configured in a two-prong configuration that is structured and dimensioned to be first inserted into the communication port 150 and then rotated, to provide a releasably secure reception thereof. An at least partially tamper-resistant connection may also be accomplished with a variety of connection types, the disconnection of which is not readily apparent to, or would be not easily accomplished by, a child.

It will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that the precise means and method of establishing a communicative connection between a plurality of storage boxes 100 is of a secondary concern relative to the present invention. Any appropriate method may be utilized. By way of non-limiting example, a number of sensors, transducers, actuators, etc. (not pictured) may be deployed in any combination in relation to the access hatch 120, locking mechanism 130, detection assembly 110, and communication port 150. A computerized or other processing unit (not pictured) may be disposed to receive signals from those components and further, may be capable of sending signals to another storage box 100 via a communication cable 140 with a connector 141 inserted in a communication port 150 disposed on the other storage box 100. Communication to another storage box 100 may also be accomplished by way of wireless methods, such as an appropriately disposed antenna and receiver assembly (not pictured).

Having described the main structure of a storage box 100, it will now be beneficial to discuss the operation of a storage container system 10 utilizing a plurality of storage boxes 100. In such an embodiment, at least two storage boxes 100 are in communication with each other. When an object 1000 is desired from one of the plurality of storage boxes 100, the storage box 100 containing the object 1000, hereinafter referred to as the object box 210, is opened. Once the object box 210 is opened, all non-opened boxes 220 lock. The object 1000 may then be removed from the object box 210. Once the object 1000 is removed, the object box 210 enters an un-lockable state, whereby if the access hatch 120 of the object box 210 were to be closed, the locking mechanism 130 of the object box 210 would not actuate, and the non-opened boxes 220 would remain locked. When the object 1000 is returned to the object box 210, the object box 210 returns to a lockable state. When the object box 210 is closed, all non-opened boxes 220 unlock.

The storage container system 10 may be configured to operate relative to a predetermined weight range based on a predetermined or preset reference weight. For example, an object weighing 150 grams may be placed in a storage box 100 and the reference weight may be set with reference to the 150 gram object. Then the storage container system 10 may be configured to operate relative to a predetermined weight range centered at 150 grams, plus or minus a fraction thereof. By way of non-limiting example, in such a scenario the predetermined weight range may be 147 grams to 153 grams.

Accordingly, the storage box 100 may include a user interface 170, which can include any number and combination of buttons, switches, displays, etc. desired, in order to accommodate the functions of the storage box 100. By way of example, the user interface 170 may be appropriately configured to allow a user to set a predetermined weight range by reference to an object placed in the storage box 100. By way of further elaboration a user may press a first button to dispose the storage box 100 in a weight-setting mode. The user may then dispose an object inside of the storage box 100 and press a second button, or the first button again, to store the weight reference in a memory (not depicted). A user may then press a third button, or any other, to indicate that the object is a consumable item, such as crayons, clay, liquid bubbles, etc., thus indicating that the weight of the object will decrease with use. In such a scenario, the storage box 100 may be configured to automatically store a new weight reference each time a consumable item is replaced in the box.

The storage box 100 may also include a positive reinforcement unit 180 to encourage or reinforce use of the storage container system 10. Generally, in the use of a storage container system 10 comprising a plurality of storage boxes 100, only one storage box 100 may include a positive reinforcement unit 180, but two or more may be desired depending upon the specific configuration of storage boxes 100. In one embodiment, the positive reinforcement unit 180 is a dispensing unit which can be configured to dispense, for example, treats or tokens and the like, upon the return of an item to a storage box 100. In this embodiment, the dispensing unit may be set to only dispense after a predetermined time period has elapsed, regardless of the number of returns of items.

In another embodiment, the positive reinforcement unit 180 may be an audible noise emitter which may emit voice recordings or other pleasant noises, sounds, or music, which encourages a child to return items to the storage box 100. For example, the positive reinforcement unit 180 may be set to play a voice recording containing the words “good job cleaning up” after an item has been returned to a storage box 100. In a further embodiment the positive reinforcement unit 180 may include both the dispensing unit and the audible noise emitter.

In the arranging a plurality of storage boxes 100 for use as part of a storage container system 10, it may be desirable to secure at least some of the storage boxes 100 to each other or some other rigid attachment point. Accordingly, the storage box 100 may also include one or more attachment members 190 disposed exteriorly of the storage box 100. The attachment members 190 may be structured and disposed to attach to other attachment members 190 disposed on other storage boxes 100, as well as surfaces such as floors and walls which are desired to anchor a storage box 100 to. By way of non-limiting example, the attachment members 190 may comprise suction cups. In such an embodiment, the suction cups may be used to attach one storage box 100 to another, either by way of securing oppositely disposed suction cups to each other, or by way of securing one suction cup disposed on one storage box 100 to the exterior of another storage box 100. Similarly, the suction cups may be used to anchor a storage box 100 to a floor or wall. In other embodiments the attachment member 190s may be comprised of hook and loop, magnets, buttons, snaps, or any of a plurality of reciprocal structuring providing a releasably secure attachment method.

To facilitate use of a storage container system 10, one or more of a plurality of storage boxes 100 may include an indicator 160, which may indicate a mode of the box, such as open, closed, locked, unlocked, etc. By way of non-limiting example, the indicator 160 may include one or more light emitting diodes disposed on the exterior of the storage box 100. In this embodiment, the light emitting diodes may be configured to emit a green light, for example, when the storage box 100 is unlocked, open, or both. Accordingly, the light emitting diodes may be configured to emit a red light, for example, when the storage box 100 is locked, closed, or both.

Since many modifications, variations and changes in detail can be made to the described preferred embodiment of the invention, it is intended that all matters in the foregoing description and shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense. Thus, the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.

Now that the invention has been described,