US 20010052595 A1
A portable fencing system for creating a temporary or semi-permanent barrier or boundary comprising a selected, substantially continuous section of generally flat, flexible fencing material being a selected length and width and a selected number of supports parts having a length and a base at one end, said fencing material comprising at least one reflective strip along said length and an active lighting. The system may further comprise a power source, and a container for transportation and/or storage of the system. In some embodiments, the system may comprise these parallel reflective strips equally spaced across the width. In some embodiments, the active lighting may comprise a single lighting element comprising a number of interconnected light emitting sources, and in other embodiments, a number of discrete light emitting sources. In any case, the lighting may be processed by a suitable power source such as alternating or direct current, one or more batteries, a generator, photo-cells and the like. Auxiliary light sources, such as warning beacons or flashes, may be used with the fencing system as well.
1. A light emitting fence comprising:
a fence structure having a pattern of body elements defining a plurality of openings;
a number of lights affixed to said fence structure in a desired pattern;
a support structure removably and operably attached to said fence structure, the support structure for supporting the erected fence.
2. The light emitting fence of
3. The light emitting fence of
4. The light emitting fence of
5. The light emitting fence of
6. The light emitting fence of
7. The light emitting fence of
8. The light emitting fence of
9. The light emitting fence of
10. The light emitting fence of
11. The light emitting fence of
12. A light emitting fence, the fence comprising
a length of flexible, plastic mesh;
at least two support posts;
means for attaching the mesh to the support posts to form a unified fence structure which is maintained in substantially vertical orientation by the support posts; and
at least one light removably and operably attached to the mesh.
13. The light emitting fence of
14. The light emitting fence of
15. A modular lighted fence comprising:
a length of fence;
an at least one light affixed to the fence; and
an integral fence support.
 This application claims the priority benefit of a U.S. Provisional Application, Ser. No. 60/189,718, filed Mar. 15, 2000.
 The present invention relates to structures, materials, and methods for forming and/or defining boundaries and/or areas. More particularly, the present invention relates to a fencing or barrier material and method including a portable structure, the structure including one or more active light emitting elements.
 Fencing and barrier materials and systems are familiar and well-known. Fences are known that include construction materials such as wood and metal, and have permanent support structures with members buried in the ground. Less permanent and more easily constructed fence structures are also known. These temporary, easily constructed fences or barriers may be formed of wood or metal, but may also include plastic materials may be used as well. The plastic materials vary in design and style. A uniform pattern of holes might be incorporated into the fence material taking the shape of flat or oblong ovals, round holes, square grids, diamonds, or other patterns. Temporary, easily constructed fences or barriers of this nature are frequently used for controlling silt, sand, snow, and also may be used for safety and warning purposes.
 It is further known to apply reflective tape to different types of fencing to make it more visible under poor lighting conditions. This tape is generally applied in horizontal, vertical, or other patterns of strips across the fencing in such a manner that it reflects light and makes the fence more visible. Making warning fences or barriers more visible creates safer conditions for those people who approach the fence or barrier during the day or night, including drivers, workers, children, etc.
 One prior art fence system is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,887,856 (Everly). This fence includes upright poles with clear or tinted lenses. Behind the clear or tinted lenses are arc lighting systems disposed in the poles. This fencing system further has a long lens incorporated into the slat structure of the fencing material. The described fencing serves the purpose for which it was made, but is limited by the difficulty in erecting the fence, by the delicate nature of the light bulbs and the elongated solid lenses, and by the generally non-portable nature of the system. This prior art fence also required connection to a power source to all of the lighting means enclosed therein.
 Another lighted barrier that is well known in the art includes a sawhorse structure with a flashing light on the top. The flashing light is often circular or square and may include a bulky box which contains the battery and other control equipment. The heavy box is attached on top of the sawhorse. This barrier and light serve a purpose but are hindered by the fact that the barrier and the light are both rather heavy and bulky. Furthermore, many sawhorses would need to be placed together in order to form a substantially uniform barrier, both an expensive and time consuming operation. A need exists, therefore, for a better, low cost, and easily constructed fencing material that includes light emitting elements viewable under poor lighting conditions.
 A need exists for a safe and low cost fencing material that is easy to position and/or erect and has an active light emitting system, including light reflective strips disposed thereon. This fencing material should be constructed so that it is easily installed or deployed, taken down, stored, and transported.
FIG. 1 is a front view of an erected portion of the present invention apparatus.
FIG. 2 is a sectional front view of an erected fence of the present invention apparatus.
FIG. 3 is an overhead view of the present invention apparatus while erected.
FIG. 4 is a front view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention while erected.
FIG. 5 is a side view of the light of the present embodiment while erected.
FIG. 6 is a front view of a strip of lights of the present embodiment while erected.
 The present invention comprises a fencing or barrier material typically installed or erected in a generally vertical manner with respect to the surface on which it is installed. Furthermore, the present invention is typically arranged in varying lengths across the surface to define an edge, area or boundary. The material is available in units of varying lengths, and may be quickly and easily erected or constructed. In addition, each unit is designed for assembly or deployment in any desired pattern.
 The fence or barrier material of the present invention can be adapted to serve as a safety, snow, sand, or warning barrier fence. It may be placed around construction areas, bushes, dangerous pits, holes, cliffs, dangerous equipment, frozen lakes with open water, recreation areas, athletic fields and indoor or outdoor events, and the like, or used in any other manner that would have utility, both outdoors and indoors.
 One embodiment of the present invention may comprise a light emitting fence including a fence structure having a pattern of body elements defining a plurality of openings, a number of lights affixed to said fence structure in a desired pattern, a support structure removably and operably attached to said fence structure, the support structure for supporting the erected fence.
 Another embodiment of the present invention may comprise a light emitting fence including a length of flexible, plastic mesh, at least two support posts, a means for attaching the mesh to the support posts to form a unified fence structure which is maintained in substantially vertical orientation by the support posts, and at least one light removably and operably attached to the mesh.
 Another embodiment of the present invention comprises a modular lighted fence including a length of fence, an at least one light affixed to the fence, and an integral fence support.
 Any references to front and back, right and left, top and bottom, and upper and lower are intended for convenience of description, not to limit the present invention or its components to any one positional or spatial orientation. As used herein, the terms “fencing,” “barrier,” “fencing material,” or “safety fence” are intended to mean and/or encompass structures, devices or apparatus for forming or defining areas, lines, borders, boundaries and the like.
 As illustrated in FIGS. 1-3, the present embodiment of the present invention lighted fence 8 will be herein described. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the present embodiment lighted fence 8 may include a fence structure 10, one or more lights 12, and a one or more support structures 14. The fence structure 10 may include a front side 16 and a back side 18. The support structures 14 may be disposed on the surface on which the fence 8 is to be erected; the fence structure 10 may be attached to the support structure 14. The lights 12 may be fixedly attached in a pattern along the front side 16 of the fence structure 10. As illustrated in FIG. 2, the lights 12 in the present embodiment may be placed along a substantially horizontal axis running the length of the fence. The fence structure 10 may be approximately four feet tall and a few tenths of an inch thick, though in alternative embodiments the fence structure 10 may be shorter or thicker depending on the desired qualities. The present embodiment support structure 14 of the present embodiment may be a square shaped support structure 14 approximately 2 inches on a side and approximately five feet in height. The manner in which the present embodiment fence 8 may be erected is further described below.
 With regards to FIGS. 1 and 2, the fence structure 10 of the present embodiment lighted fence 8 will be further described. The fence structure 10 of the present embodiment may include a pattern of holes 20 formed by the body of the fence structure 10. The holes 20 of the present embodiment, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-4 may be oval in shape. The holes 20 may be approximately three and one quarter inches high and one and one half inches across. In alternative embodiments, the holes 20 disposed in the fence structure may instead be larger, smaller, or of different shapes. Other shapes may include diamonds, circles, squares, triangles, or, in other embodiments, the lighted fence 8 may not include any holes 20 at all. The holes 20 of the present embodiment may be useful so that the fence does not catch wind after it has been erected in an outdoor setting. Providing holes 20 may allow wind to pass through the fence structure thereby not providing a strain on the posts 14, and thus a allowing smaller and lighter support structure 14 to be utilized; snow, sand etc., will also not build up against and place strain on the fence. In alternative embodiments the fence may be a fence 8 that is non-flexible and designed to be a barrier against wind, snow, sand, etcetera.
 The fence structure 10 of the present embodiment may be made substantially of a high density polyethylene (HDPE). This material may be light weight and flexible so that the present invention lighted fence 8 is light, easily transported, easily constructed, and able to withstand rough treatment. Furthermore, HDPE may be relatively cheap to construct and may provide material that resists the elements of nature for a long period of time with minimal maintenance. In further embodiments, the fence structure 10 may be comprised of other materials known to those skilled in the art, including polypropylene (PPE) or various co-polymers. In still further embodiments, the fence structure 10 and the support structure 14 may be constructed of metals, fibers (natural or synthetic) or other materials known to those skilled in the art. The fence structure 10 and the support structure 14 of the present embodiment may be formed by plastic extrusion, though in alternative embodiments the fence structure may be made by other methods, such as molding.
 One advantage to the present embodiment is that the fence structure 10 is flexible. Because of the flexible nature of the present embodiment fence structure 10, the fence 8 may be supplied in a roll. The rolled fence 8 is easy to store, carry, and place. An alternative embodiment, substantially stiff fence structure 10 may require that the lighted fence 8 be supplied in smaller fence sections which are then erected in the desired pattern. A stiffer fence structure may allow for the lighted fence 8 to be used for different applications, such as an animal pen, a restraining wall, or other applications known to those in the art.
 With regards to FIGS. 1-3, 5, and 6, the lights 12 of the present embodiment lighted fence 8 will be herein further described. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the lights of the present embodiment may be affixed in a pattern on one side of the lighted fence 8 in a substantially horizontal line. The lights 12 may be situated at a regular interval. In alternative embodiments, the lights 12 may be disposed on the front side 16 of the fence structure 10 in any desired pattern. In further embodiments, the lights 12 may be disposed in a pattern on both the front side 16, and the rear side 18, of the fence structure 10. As may be appreciated, different light patterns may be useful for different applications. For example, the present embodiment light pattern near the top of the fence may be particularly useful if the bottom portion of the fence may be expected to be covered by snow, sand, or water. Other patterns useful for other applications may be known to those skilled in the art.
 The lights 12 of the present embodiment may be a light emitting diode (“LED”) 12. LEDs 12 may be useful in an outdoor setting and cheaply constructed to resist rain, snow, heat, cold, etcetera. LEDs useful for this purpose are well known. LEDs may also be particularly useful in the present invention because of the low power requirements. Each LED, therefore, may be useful light emitters for a substantial period of time without requiring replacement and without requiring expensive batteries. As illustrated in FIG. 5, the LEDs 12 of the present embodiment may have a substantially back 22, a slightly curved front lens 24, and a light emitting diode chip 25. The chip 25 is attached to a power source (not shown) and actually emits the light. The lens 24 and the back 22 may protect the chip 25. The back 22 may also house the insulators, power supplies, wires, etc., required for the operation of the LED. The LED of the present embodiment may have an internal power source that allows the LED to emit light for a period of time before the power source is depleted and the LED becomes non-functional. The lens 24 of the present embodiment may be substantially clear and devoid of color, though in alternative embodiments the lens 24 may be any color desired.
 The LED 12 shown in FIG. 5 may be of a particular style, but as may be appreciated, various LEDs 12, and other sorts of lights 12, compatible with the nature and scope of the present invention may utilized without altering the nature and scope of the invention. For example, the lens 24 may be flat, more rounded, of a different color, tint, or the back 22 may be a different shape as well.
 As illustrated in FIG. 5, the LED may further comprise a line in 26 and a line out 28. Furthermore, the line in 26 and line out 28 may allow connection of the lights 12 in such a manner as to control their pattern of light emission, similar in nature to strands of holiday lights. Light emission may then be set so that the lights flash in unison, the lights flash in series, or the lights flash in other patterns. Utilizing the line in 26 and the line out 28, the lights 12 may draw power from a source external to the LED itself, thus allowing the LED to function over a basically unlimited period of time. In still further embodiments, the lights 12 may be attached to a rechargeable battery and a solar recharging unit operatively integrated to the fence structure 10.
 The lights 12 may be attached to the present embodiment fence structure 10 by utilizing a suitable adhesive. Suitable adhesives should resist extremes in temperature, moisture, and should be substantially compatible with the material of the fence structure 10 and the back 22 of the light 12. As illustrated in FIG. 6, in alternative embodiments the lights 12 may be fitted onto strip 28 which is then affixed to the fence structure 10. In still further embodiments, the lights 12 may be removably fitted into a pocket 27 of the strip 28 so that the lights 12 maybe replaced if they are damaged or if the light 12 power source becomes depleted.
 As illustrated in FIGS. 1-2, the fence may be further comprised of two or more horizontal strips of reflective stripping 32. The stripping 32 of the present embodiment may be placed in a generally parallel manner at a selected vertical interval on the fence material. The reflective stripping 32 may be disposed in a pattern similar to or different than that of the lights 12. The reflective stripping 32 of the present embodiment may be two inches in height and may run substantially the length of the fence structure 10. The stripping 32 may be reflective tape of the type manufacture by 3M Company, which is made of layers of a vinyl based material with water resistant adhesive on the back side of the tape for securing the same to the fence structure 10. In yet another embodiment, the reflective stripping 32 may be operatively integrated with the plastic strip 28. Placement of the stripping 32 on the fence structure 10 near the lights 12 of the present invention may serve to enhance the brightness of the lights 12, providing even greater visibility for the fence 8 of the present invention.
 With reference to FIGS. 1-4, the support structure 14 will be further described herein. The support structure 14 of the present embodiment may be comprised of a number of substantially straight posts 14. The posts of the present embodiment may be formed of fiberglass. As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 3, the back side 18 of the fence structure 10 may be affixed to the post 14. Fiberglass posts 14 may provide a substantially straight post 14 that is light, flexible, strong, and resistant to extreme outdoor conditions. In alternative embodiments of the present invention, the posts 14 may be constructed of PVC, wood, steel, or other forms of plastic.
 The posts may be removably attachable to the fence structure 10 using nylon cable ties. The nylon cable ties may be wrapped around the posts 14, through the holes 20, and securely tied. In one alternative embodiment, the posts 14 of the present embodiment may be preassembled with the fence structure 10 in an integrated fashion. Integrating the posts 14 with the fence structure 10 in this manner may allow the fencing material to be quickly deployed without having to secure cables or other attachments. As may be appreciated, a number of different ways of attaching the posts 14 to the fence structure 10 may be utilized without changing the nature and scope of the present invention. For example, heavy duty twist-ties, clamps, pins, and the like may also be used. In still further embodiments, molded sleeves may be formed in the fence structure 10 so that the posts 14 may be inserted therein and then placed into the ground. In still further embodiments, each post 14 may be provided with a base 14 so that the lighted fence 8 may be constructed on a surface in which the insertion of the posts 14 may be undesirable or difficult to accomplish.
 In one embodiment, the lighted fence 8 may be provided as a rolled unit. When provided as a rolled unit, lighted fence 8 may be erected by placing the posts 14 into the ground at an interval and in a desired pattern, then unrolling the fence structure 10 along the pattern of posts 14, fixedly attaching the fence structure 10 to the posts 14. In another embodiment, the present invention may be constructed into a fence by simply unrolling the fence structure 10 with the integrated posts 14 and inserting the posts 14 into the surface on which the lighted fence 8 is erected. In still further embodiments, the fence may be directly attached to an already existing structure, such as the side of a building. In still further embodiments, the posts 14 may be inserted into stands which are placed in a pattern on the ground.
 One advantage of the present invention is that if there is no ambient light to illuminate the fence, the fence can still provide a visible barrier because of the active lights. These lights can be on constantly or set to flash in a regular or random interval to draw attention to the fence or to the area that the fence abuts. The reflecting stripping may further enhance the visibility of the present invention lighted fence.
 One advantage particular to the above described embodiment is the portability of the fence material. The fence material can easily be constructed or taken down. Once taken down, for example, the present embodiment flexible fence material can be rolled up and stored almost anywhere. Because the fence is light and can be rolled up, the fence of the present invention is extremely portable and may be stored and/or transported without taking up a significant amount of space.
 Another advantage of the present invention is its low cost of production. Whether the fencing material is made of PVC, HDPE, PPE, or co-polymer plastic extrusion, or some other type of non-metallic or metallic material, the fence is economical to manufacture, easily transported, and easily erected because it does not require heavy support structure to encapsulate the light emitting elements.
 Another advantage of the present invention is that the material of the above embodiments are substantially resistant to heat, cold, rain, snow, and other types of weather conditions that might harm other types of fencing materials. In some embodiments, the fence is also able to withstand heavy winds because of a uniform and regular pattern of holes placed in the fence material; however, in some embodiments the fence may be designed to function as a wind barrier by presenting a more solid surface. The lights and LED indicators of the invention are also durable and preferably resistant to harsh weather conditions.
 The accompanying figures and descriptive material depict and describe embodiments of the device of the present invention, including features and components thereof. With regard to fastening, mounting, attaching, or connecting the components of the present invention to form the device or apparatus as a whole, unless specifically described otherwise, the invention may incorporate or use conventional fasteners such as screws, nut and bolt connectors, machined connectors, snap rings, complementary fittings and interlocks, such as snap, threaded, tongue and groove, plug/socket arrangements and the like, clamps such as screw clamps and the like, rivets, toggles, pins and the like. Components may also be connected, if appropriate, by adhesives, welding, friction fitting or deformation. Unless specifically otherwise disclosed or taught, materials for making components of the present invention may be selected from appropriate materials such as metal, metallic alloys, fibers, fabrics, plastics and the like, natural or synthetic. In addition, ultra-violet stabilizers and other materials may be added to the construction to further enhance the durability of the fencing material while it is in use. Appropriate manufacturing or production methods may be used to produce the fencing material, e.g., casting, extruding, weaving, spinning, molding, and machining.
 Various changes, including those mentioned above, can be made without deviating from the scope of the present invention. Accordingly, it is intended that the scope of the present invention be determined by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description.