US 20010002003 A1
A case having exterior walls and, optionally, a closeable flap defining an interior chamber sized to releasibly receive a portable electronic apparatus. Indicating members are carried on an exterior wall of the case for indicating the position of a pushbutton on the electronic device disposed within the interior of the case and permitting actuation of the pushbutton through the exterior wall of the case. The indicating member may be indicia formed on the case simulating the shape of the underlying pushbutton and/or a symbol defining the function of the pushbutton and/or depressions or projections on the exterior wall at the location of each pushbutton on the electronic device.
1. A case for receiving an electronic device having at least one manipulatable external pushbutton, the case comprising:
exterior walls defining an interior cavity for receiving an electronic device; and
pushbutton indicating means, carried on one of the exterior walls and substantially alignable with a pushbutton on the electronic device when the electronic device is disposed within the interior of the case, for indicating the position of and for allowing manipulation of the pushbutton through the exterior wall of the case.
2. The case of
the interior cavity is sized to receive a remote keyless vehicle transmitter.
3. The case of
one of the exterior walls include a flap having a free end closeable over an open end of the interior cavity of the case to retain an electronic device in the interior cavity of the case.
4. The case of
the flap is formed as an integral, unitary extension of one exterior wall of the case.
5. The case of
a fastener for securing one end of the flat to an exterior wall of the case to retain the flap over the open end of the interior of the case.
6. The case of
an aperture formed in the flap permitting attachment of the electronic device disposed within the interior of the case to an external article.
7. The case of
indicia formed on an exterior wall of the case.
8. The case of
the indicia is in the shape of a pushbutton.
9. The case of
the indicia is a symbol defining the function of the associated pushbutton.
10. The case of
a formed member on one wall of the case simulating the shape of the pushbutton.
11. The case of
a formed member on the exterior wall of the case; and
a symbol applied to the exterior wall in proximity with the formed member defining the function of the pushbutton.
12. The case of
enlargements formed in the exterior wall of the case projecting outward from the exterior wall.
13. The case of
enlargements extending inward from the plane of the exterior wall of the case.
14. The case of
a raised projection formed on the exterior wall of the case surrounded by a depressed outer periphery disposed below the plane of the exterior wall of the case.
15. The case of
an open end is formed in one exterior wall of the case; and
the electronic device is a telephone pager having a display visible through the open end wall of the case.
16. The case of
the case is formed of leather.
17. The case of
the case is formed of a treated animal skin.
 This application claims the benefit of the filing date of Provisional Application Serial No. 60/092,984, filed Jul 16, 1998, in the name of Nickole C. Kuzdak, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates, in general, to cases or enclosures and, more particularly, to cases for receiving portable electronic apparatus having manipulatable exterior pushbuttons or switches.
 2. Description of the Art
 The average person typically uses one or more portable electronic devices on a daily basis. Such devices include pagers, cellular telephones, remote vehicle keyless entry transmitters, hand-held tape recorders, etc. All such portable electronic devices are characterized by a hard plastic case containing internal circuits and mechanisms for operating the particular device. Pushbuttons or other activating means are typically mounted on one or more exterior surfaces of the housing for providing user selection of input functions to operate the device. Certain of these devices, such as cellular telephones and pagers have a visual LCD or LED display for displaying messages and other alphanumeric information. A handheld, portable tape recorder has a pivotal tape receiver for receiving and expelling tape.
 All such devices also include a snap-in or pivotal cover allowing access to storage batteries for replacement of the batteries as needed.
 Cases formed of leather, vinyl, fabric, etc., have been constructed to cover such portable electric devices and provide a measure of protection to the rather delicate circuits contained in such devices. Such cases are usually provided in only a few colors which may not always provide an attractive appearance or match the surroundings in which such devices are used, such as a vehicle interior, a home or office, etc. The following detailed description of one such electronic device and the problems associated with the construction of a case for the device will be understood to apply equally to all types of small, portable electronic devices, such as those described above.
 Remote keyless entry transmitters are a popular option for current vehicles as they enable the vehicle driver to unlock and/or lock the vehicle doors while the driver is outside of the vehicle. Typically, a small housing having dimensions of approximately 1″ square thick contains transmitter circuitry and a small battery power source. Several pushbuttons are mounted on one side of the housing for separate door lock and door unlock operations. Additional vehicle functions may also be controlled by separate pushbuttons provided on the housing, such as a trunk release pushbutton and a vehicle horn or alarm pushbutton.
 Depression of any pushbutton when the driver is located a short distance from the vehicle causes the transmitter to transmit a radio frequency coded signal to a receiver mounted within the vehicle. The receiver decodes the signal and activates the appropriate vehicle operating circuit to lock or unlock the doors, release the trunk lock and/or activate the vehicle horn.
 The housing has an aperture at one end which receives a key ring or enables the housing and the entire remote keyless transmitter device to be mounted on the driver's key ring.
 However, in interests of economy, the transmitter housing is typically provided in only one or two non-descript colors, such as black or other neutral colors, such as gray, etc. These colors do not always match the color of the interior vehicle trim in which the transmitter is used. This can cause an unsightly appearance when the transmitter housing hangs from the key ring and the ignition key is in the vehicle ignition. This unsightly appearance is also inappropriate with the lush, expensive interiors frequently found on more expensive luxury vehicles.
 Further, during handling of the transmitter, such as the driver's act of putting his or her key ring carrying the remote keyless transmitter into and out of his or her pocket or purse, it is common for one of the transmitter pushbuttons to be inadvertently depressed. This could cause an unwanted operation of one of the vehicle circuits to inadvertently lock or unlock the vehicle doors, open the vehicle trunk and/or activate the vehicle horn.
 Thus, it would be desirable to provide an enclosure or case for a portable electronic apparatus which provides both decorative and protective functions and which can be made from a variety of materials and colors to provide an aesthetic appearance consistent with the expense or luxury level of the surroundings in which the apparatus is used or the luxurious appearance the user wishes to portray. It would also be desirable to provide an enclosure for a portable electronic apparatus which enables the pushbuttons on the apparatus to be manipulated when the apparatus is in the case.
 The present invention is an enclosure or case, which receives and protects a portable electronic apparatus, such as a remote vehicle keyless transmitter, electronic pager, etc., while still allowing manipulation of the electronic device external pushbuttons through the case.
 In one aspect of the present invention, the case includes exterior walls defining an interior cavity for receiving an electronic device and pushbutton indicating means carried on at least one exterior wall and substantially alignable with a pushbutton on the electronic device when the electronic device is mounted within the interior cavity of the case for indicating the position of the pushbutton and allowing actuation of the pushbutton through the exterior wall of the case.
 In a specific aspect, the present invention defines a case in the form of an enclosure having a front wall, a rear wall, bottom wall, opposed side walls, an open top end and a closeable flap to define an interior chamber sized to releasibly receive a portable electronic apparatus. Preferably, the flap is formed as an extension of one of the front and rear wall of the case and is foldable over the opposed case wall and releasibly joined thereto by means of suitable fasteners, such as snap fasteners, hook and loop fasteners, etc.
 The indicating means is provided on one or more walls of the case to align with and to indicate both the position and, preferably, the function of the pushbuttons on the electronic apparatus when the apparatus is mounted within the case. The indication means may be provided by a variety of processes, including embossing, various printing methods and combinations thereof.
 According to another aspect of the present invention, an aperture is formed in the flap permitting attachment of the electronic device to a key or key ring through the aperture.
 The case is formed of any of a variety of flexible materials to provide an aesthetic appearance for the electronic apparatus. Exotic animal hides or skins may be employed as well as other luxurious materials to provide a luxurious appearance for the case.
 Aside from the aforementioned aesthetic appearance feature, the case of the present invention also has a protective function in that the case covers the depressible pushbuttons of the electronic apparatus to prevent inadvertent depression of any of the pushbuttons during handling of the electronic apparatus.
 The unique case of the present invention provides both a protective and decorative appearance for a portable electronic device, such as a remote vehicle keyless transmitter, electronic pager, etc. The case may be formed of any suitable material to provide a luxurious appearance as well as possible color match to a vehicle interior. At the same time, the case provides an indication of the location of the pushbuttons on the interior mounted electronic device and allows manipulation of the pushbuttons due to the flexible nature of the exterior walls of the case. This not only permits the interior mounted electronic device to be utilized in a normal fashion; but, at the same time, minimizes inadvertent actuation of one of the pushbuttons as would typically occur when the case and the electronic device are handled during insertion of or removal from a user's pocket, purse, etc., or thrown onto a table, desk, etc.
 The various features, advantages and other uses of the present invention will become more apparent by referring to the following detailed description and drawing in which:
FIG. 1 is an exploded, perspective view of a first embodiment of a case according to the present invention used with a remote vehicle keyless entry transmitter;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an opposite surface of the case shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a central, longitudinal cross-sectional view of the case of FIGS. 1 and 2 with a remote transmitter mounted therein;
FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of a second embodiment of the case according to the present invention;
FIG. 5 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a case according to the present invention;
FIG. 6 is a perspective view of yet another embodiment of a case according to the present invention;
FIG. 7 is a top, planar view of the embodiment of the case shown FIG. 6; and
FIG. 8 is an exploded, perspective view of another embodiment of a case according to the present invention adapted for use with an electronic pager.
 Referring now to the FIGS. 1-7 in particular, there are depicted various embodiments of a case for a portable, electronic apparatus, such as by example, a remote keyless entry transmitter 10. The case is designed to provide both an aesthetic appearance and protective features for the remote keyless transmitter 10, hereafter referred to as the transmitter 10.
 Referring now to a first embodiment of a case 24 shown in FIGS. 1-3, the case 24 is formed with opposed major front and rear surfaces or walls 26 and 28, respectively, opposed side walls or side wall portions 30 and 32, a closed bottom 34, an open top end 36 formed at one end of the front end rear surfaces 26 and 28 and the opposed side walls 30 and 32, and an elongated closure member or flap 38.
 It will be understood that regardless of the specific construction described hereafter, each of the front and rear surfaces 26 and 28, the side walls 30 and 32, the bottom wall or end 34 and the flap 38 may be constructed of individual members or pieces which can be joined together by any suitable means or process, such as by stitching, to form the case 24 shown in FIGS. 1-3. However, in a preferred embodiment, the case 24 is constructed with the front and rear surfaces 26 and 28 and the flap 38 formed as an elongated, single piece, unitary member of a suitable material described hereafter. The side walls 30 and 32 are formed as integral, unitary extensions of the rear surface 28.
 One edge of the side walls 30 and 32 are folded inward to form each side wall 30 and 32 into a generally concave shape as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 and then joined to the front surface 26 by suitable means, such as heat or dielectric bonding, stitching, adhesives, etc., with stitching being shown only by example. In this manner, the side walls 30 and 32 space the front surface 26 a short distance from the rear surface 28 and at the same time form the bottom wall or portion 34 between the front surface 26 and the rear surface 28.
 The width of the side walls 30 and 32 and the bottom surface 24 is selected to form an interior chamber or cavity 36 within the case 24 extending from an open top end 36 and having appropriate dimensions for snugly and releasibly receiving the remote keyless transmitter 10.
 An aperture 40, preferably in the form of an elongated slot, is formed in the flap 38 generally adjacent the open top end 36 of the case 24. The aperture 40 has a size and shape to enable the key ring 22 or the end portion of the transmitter housing 12 carrying the key ring aperture 21 to extend outward through the flap 38 to enable the case 24 and the transmitter 10 to be attached to a key ring 22 in a normal fashion.
 Means are provided for releasibly attaching a free end 44 of the flap 38 to the rear surface 28 of the case 24. Any suitable joining means may be employed, for example, a two-part releasible snap fastener, shown in FIGS. 1-3 which has a first snap receiver 46 mounted on the flap 38 and a second snap projection 46 mounted on rear surface 28 of the case 24. As described later and shown in FIG. 5, mating hook and loop members, commonly known as VELCRO, may be employed. Further, a slit is the rear surface 28 or an exterior loop may be used to releasibly receive the free end 44 of the flap 38.
 A second embodiment of a case 64 according to the present invention is shown in FIG. 4. The case 64 serves the same function as the case 24 shown in FIGS. 1-3 but is constructed of a plurality of separate pieces including a front wall or surface 66, a rear surface 68 and separate side walls 70 and 72 which are joined together by any of the joining means described above, with stitching being shown by way of example only. The side walls 70 and 72 are flexible so as to be bendable into the concave shape shown in FIG. 4. A bottom wall 76 is attached to the side walls between a bottom edge of the front surface and rear surface 66 and 68, respectively.
 In this embodiment, the flaps 74 is formed as an integral extension of the front wall or surface 66. Suitable flap joining means, such as snap fasteners 46, 48 may be employed or releasibly closing the free end of the flap 74 to the rear wall or surface 68. An aperture 40 is still formed in the flap 74 for receiving the key ring or the end of the transmitter as described above.
 Yet another embodiment of a case 80 according to the present invention is shown in FIG. 5. In this embodiment, the case 80 includes a rear wall or surface 82, a front wall or surface 84 and a flap 38 formed as an integral, unitary extension of the front wall 84. The aperture 40 is formed in the flap 38 in the same manner as in the preceding embodiments.
 In this embodiment of the case 80, each of the front wall 84 and rear wall 82 are formed with elongated side portions 86 and 88 for the rear wall 82 for the front wall 84. These portions are overlapped as shown for side wall portions 86 and 90 and 88 and 92 in FIG. 5. The overlapped side walls 86 and 90 and 88 and 92 may be joined together by suitable means, such as stitching, dielectric bonding, adhesive, etc.
 In each of the embodiments shown in FIGS. 1-5, the interior chamber 36 of each of the cases 24, 64 and 80 may be lined with a suitable, soft fabric or material, such as cotton, silk, etc. The inner lining 56 is joined to the interior surfaces of at least the front and rear walls of each case 24, 64 and 68 by suitable means, such as adhesive, stitching 58 dielectric bonding as appropriate for the particular material used to form the inner liner 56. It will be understood that a similar liner 56 may be attached to the interior chamber of each case 64, 80 and 100.
FIG. 6 depicts yet another embodiment of a case 100 which functions similarly to the cases 24, 64 and 80 described above but has a slightly different construction formed of a front surface 102, a rear surface 104. Side edges of the front wall and the rear wall 102 and 104 are bend from the plane of the front wall and rear wall 102 and 104 and covered by a single, elongated strip which forms side walls 106 and 108 and the bottom walls 110. The strip is joined to the front and rear walls 102 and 104 by stitching, adhesive, dielectric or heat bonding, etc.
FIGS. 6 and 7 also depict the use of an inner reinforcement 112. The reinforcement 112 is in the form of a flexible, somewhat rigid or stiff strip, such as a cardboard or stiff paper which is inserted into the interior of the case 110 along the side walls 106 and 108 and the bottom wall 110. The reinforcement 112 contains the interior chamber within the case 110 in the desired preformed shape and faces the front wall 102 from the rear wall 104.
 Each of the cases 24, 64, 80 and 100 are provided with means for indicating the location of the depressible pushbuttons or switch means 14, 16, 18 and 20 formed on the transmitter 12 when the transmitter 12 is disposed completely within the interior chamber of each case. The indicator means comprises at least one of and potentially a combination of two distinct indicator means including formed members on one or more surfaces of the case 24 and/or printed indicia, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, specifying the particular function of each depressible pushbutton on the transmitter 10.
 The formed members 120, 122, 124 and 126, in the first embodiment as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, are formed on the front surface or wall 26 as all of the pushbuttons 14, 16, 18 and 20 on the transmitter tab are arranged on one surface of the transmitter 10. It will be understood that additional formed members may be provided on other surfaces of the case 24, such as any of the side walls 30 and 32 or the rear wall 28, bottom wall 34 or even over the curved or bent portion of the flap 38 disposed over the open top end 36 of the case 24.
 The formed members 120, 122, 124 and 126 may be formed by any suitable means, such as embossing, hot stamping, etc. Each formed member 120, 122, 124 and 126 may also have any desired shape, such as an outward projection, an inward projection or a combination of both inward and outward projections, such as a raised center projection surrounded by a depressed outward area. As shown in FIG. 1, each of the formed members, 120, 122, 124 and 126 are formed with a shape substantially identical to the shape of the underlying pushbutton, 14, 16, 18 and 20.
 The formed members may be provided without any external indicia to indicate the function of the transmitter pushbutton 14, 16, 18 and 20 located behind each formed member 120, 122, 124 and 126, respectively. However, in a first embodiment, as shown in FIG. 1, various indicia may be applied to or formed in the members 120, 122, 124 and 126 or even adjacent to each of the four members 120, 122, 124 and 126 to indicate the function of the transmitter pushbutton 14, 16, 18 and 20 disposed behind the front wall 30 within the interior of the case 24. As shown in FIG. 1, printed indicia 128, 130, 132 and 134 which may be provided by various printing, silk screening, embossing, hot stamping, pad printing, laser printing or label printing, to name a few examples, provide the same letter indicia that is normally found on the pushbuttons of the transmitter tent to indicate the function of each pushbutton, 14, 16, 18 and 20. The printed indicia may be provided in any color for easy visibility, aesthetic appeal, etc.
 As shown in the embodiment of FIG. 4, the means for permitting operation of the transmitter pushbuttons through the case 24 is achieved merely by printing the indicia 128, 130, 132 and 134 on the front surface 66 of the case 64 corresponding to the function of the pushbuttons 14, 16, 18 and 20 of the transmitter tent contained within the interior of the case 20. Any of the aforementioned printing or indicia applying methods may be used to apply the indicia 128, 130, 132 and 134.
 Thus, it will be understood that the position and/or function of the transmitter tent pushbutton 14, 16, 18 and 20 may be provided on an exterior surface of the various embodiments of the case of the present invention either by embossing, printing indicia, a combination of embossing and printing, or by any other means suitable for indicating the location of the transmitter pushbuttons 14, 16, 18 and 20 when the transmitter 10 is mounted within the various cases 24, 68, 80 or 100.
 Referring now to FIG. 8, there is depicted another embodiment of a case 140 which is constructed according to any of the embodiments described above for the cases 24, 68, 80 and 100. In the embodiment of the case 24 shown in FIGS. 1-3, case 140 is formed with a front wall or surface 26 having an elongated, flap extension 38 extending from one end. Opposed side walls 30 and 32 space the front wall 26 from a rear wall 28.
 In this embodiment, the bottom wall 34 is formed with an aperture 142 which has a shape and configuration to enable viewing of a display 144 mounted on one end of a telephone pager 146.
 As it is conventional, the pager 146 includes at least one and preferably a plurality of depressible pushbuttons 148 and 150 with pushbutton 148 enabling the selection of various functions to operate the pager 146 and pushbutton 150 enabling the telephone number of the party paging the holder of the pager 146 to be displayed on the display 144.
 According to the present invention, the case 140 is formed with two means 150 and 152 for indicating the location of the pushbutton 148 and 150 on the pager 146 when the pager 146 is mounted within the interior of the case 140. The indicating means 150 and 152 may be constructed as described above as formed members similar to formed members 120 and 122 in FIG. 1 or printed indicia such as indicia 128 and 130 in FIG. 4 or a combination of formed members 120 and 122 and indicia 128 and 130 as also shown in FIG. 1.
 All of the cases described above may be formed of a number of different flexible materials, such as leather, cloth or fabric, vinyl, as well as any exotic animal hide or skin, such as alligator, ostrich, etc., which are tanned and processed into leather. This enables a user to select the desired appearance and feel for case used to receive a particular electronic apparatus.
 Thus, there has been disclosed a unique enclosure or case for a portable electronic apparatus which removably receives the apparatus, provides both a protective and decorative appearance for the apparatus, as well as enabling the various pushbuttons on the apparatus used to control discrete functions of the apparatus to be operated directly through a wall of the case while providing a continuous closed surface over the apparatus pushbuttons.