BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to compact disc storage containers and more particularly, to transparent storage containers capable of holding more than one compact disc.
2. Description of the Prior Art
Various types of planar discs are in use at the present time to record and store information which is to be retrieved by various means, such as by optical or magnetic means. Typical of such discs are compact discs in which information is digitally recorded by use of a laser beam and then read optically by a laser beam. Such discs are used to record audio information, such as musical renditions, video information such as visual images and digital information for use as read only and other memories for use in various applications, such as computer applications. In most instances, at the present time, such discs are sold with information already recorded thereon. In other applications, such discs are sold in blank form and are used by the customer to record information thereon. In the latter case, for example, optical discs are sold for use as computer storage media and are used in hard disc storage systems. As used herein, the term compact disc or CD is intended to encompass all such discs, whatever their size, for all known or proposed uses.
Compact discs containing laser recorded information are typically packaged in injection molded plastic enclosures designed to hold one or more CDs for protecting the discs during storage and shipment. Enclosures commonly used at the present time, such as the well known “jewel box,” comprise a three piece assembly consisting of a base or bottom element, an insert or tray in the base/bottom element for positioning and supporting the disc in the base/bottom element, e.g., by a center projection (commonly referred to as a “rosette”) which engages the periphery of the aperture in the center of the disc, and a lid or cover which is hinged to the base/bottom element and is closed thereon after the disc is mounted therein on the tray. The enclosure is, typically, at least partially transparent and graphics relating to the disc and containing trademark and sales promotional information are usually inserted in such a manner as to be visible through the enclosure.
In recent years a need has arisen to package more than one, usually two, compact discs in each storage container. The most apparent packaging solution, increasing the length or thickness of the conventional jewel box to accommodate the additional disc or discs, has proven unacceptable to both industry and the consumer. Industry already has a very substantial investment in automated packaging equipment designed specifically for the conventional sized jewel box. Any change in the storage container size would require the construction and installation, at very considerable expense, of a separate automated packaging line designed for the new storage container. It would also require that manufacturers warehouse multiple storage container sizes. Moreover, larger storage containers take up considerably more retail shelf space and, accordingly, reduce the available shelf inventory in retail stores. Consumers, like retailers, find that the larger size storage containers take up more space and are more difficult to store. As a result, there has been a growing consensus that multiple disc storage containers be based upon the identical dimensions of the conventional jewel box.
One of the most commercially popular multiple disc storage containers is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,284,243—Gelardi et al, which discloses a two CD tray for insertion into a conventional jewel box. Such jewel boxes comprise a base provided with raised peripheral edges and a lid, hinged to the base, provided with depending side walls which are complementary to the raised edges of the base. The cover is hinged to the base via lugs which extend inwardly from opposite side walls of the cover and are received in apertures formed in opposite raised edges of the base. Importantly, the lugs extend only part way through the apertures since these same apertures are used for mounting the two CD tray on the base. The tray comprises a generally flat leaf having first and second CD mounting rosettes on opposite faces of the leaf. A shelf is formed along one side of the leaf and includes a rising portion extending upward from the leaf and an elevated portion generally parallel to the leaf, with the two portions hingedly connected via a living hinge. A pair of side plates depend from opposite ends of the elevated portion of the shelf and include outwardly extending stubs for insertion into the aforementioned apertures such that, within the apertures, the stubs extend toward the lugs. With the stubs engaged within the apertures and the bottom surface of the elevated shelf portion in contact with the upper ends of the raised edges, the shelf is rigidly held in place on the base with the tray capable of pivoting 180° about the living hinge.
The Gelardi et al two CD tray utilizes a living hinge to provide access to both CDs by pivoting of the tray. In order for a living hinge to function it must be formed of a material, such as non-crystalline styrene, styrene-polypropylene and styrene-polyethylene copolymers, which is flexible and can be repeatedly pivoted without breaking. However, such materials are not transparent and the marketplace is presently demanding transparent storage containers molded from transparent materials, such as crystalline polystyrene, to provide additional viewing surfaces for advertising and graphics. The problem with the use of highly transparent materials such as crystalline polystyrene is that the material is extremely brittle and fractures quite easily. Therefore, such a brittle material cannot be used as the living hinge in the Gelardi et al two CD trays.
One approach to providing a highly transparent two CD storage container formed of crystalline styrene is disclosed in PCT International Publication No. WO 96/23304 which discloses the use of a crystalline styrene tray very similar to the tray of Gelardi et al. A line of weakness or fold line, as in Gelardi et al, is defined between the elevated and rising portions of the shelf. However, by the process of overmolding, a flexible sheet of synthetic material is adhered over the line of weakness and to the surfaces of the elevated and rising portions. Since the tray is molded of brittle crystalline styrene, the first time that the tray is pivoted, the line of weakness fractures, leaving only the overmolded flexible sheet to serve as the hinge, permitting the tray to pivot 180°. An important difficulty with this approach is that it makes the molding process difficult and slow and, therefore, is prohibitively expensive.
Another approach is to configure the two CD tray as in Gelardi et al except, in lieu of a living hinge, utilize a pair of spaced apart molded mechanical hinges to pivotally join the tray to the shelf. One embodiment of this approach is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,915,550—Gartz which shows a two CD tray insert for mounting and nesting within the base of a conventional jewel box. The insert comprises a tray having disc receiving planar surfaces on opposite sides thereof and a rosette centrally disposed on each of the planar surfaces to receive and hold CDs on both sides of the tray. A shelf is non-pivotably, substantially rigidly mounted to the base of the jewel box and the tray is pivotably mounted, via a pair of mechanical hinges, to the tray. Specifically, a pair of flanges formed integrally with the tray extend rearwardly from opposite sides thereof, through cutouts in the shelf into pivotable engagement with plates which depend from the shelf. Apertures/pins on the ends of the rearwardly extending flanges engage pins/apertures on the plates for permitting the tray to pivot 180° for accessing CDs on both sides of the tray. The problem with this approach is that the extreme brittleness of crystalline polystyrene has caused mechanical hinge designs proposed to date to fail as a result of processing on automated packaging lines, frequent opening and closing associated with normal use of a CD storage container, shipping or when inadvertently dropped or struck against a hard surface.
It will be appreciated that despite the marketplace demand for highly transparent multiple CD storage containers and the considerable efforts to date directed at solving the problems arising from the brittleness of the crystalline styrene material from which these containers are typically made, a fully satisfactory multiple CD storage container has not yet been developed. This is because containers proposed to date have either been uneconomical to manufacture or unreliable in use. Accordingly, there remains a need for a simple, inexpensive to manufacture, relatively sturdy transparent multiple CD storage container.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is therefore a primary object of the present invention to provide a multiple CD storage container which can be injection molded of a transparent, highly brittle plastic material yet which is inexpensive to manufacture and sufficiently durable to withstand the rigors of normal manufacturing, packaging, shipping and consumer usage of a CD storage container.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a multiple CD storage container which utilizes a tray for holding two CDs which fits and is mountable within an unmodified conventional single disc jewel box.
It is also an object of the present invention to provide a multiple CD storage container including a two CD tray mounted to a jewel box in a particularly sturdy and reliable pivotable arrangement which is highly durable and minimizes breakage in use despite being formed of transparent, highly brittle plastic material.
It is another object of the present invention to provide a sturdy, durable mounting arrangement for a two CD tray in the base of a conventional jewel box including mounting flanges on the tray having upwardly opening pivot bores for receiving and pivotably retaining pivot pins therein.
It is still another object of the present invention to provide a multiple CD storage container including a shelf substantially rigidly mounted in the base of a conventional jewel box by shelf attaching means for pivotably mounting a multiple CD tray thereto in such a manner that the tray is pivotable through a 180° arc for providing access to CDs mounted on both sides thereof, the shelf having reinforcing plates depending from opposite sides thereof and spaced from the shelf attaching means for rigidly reinforcing the shelf while permitting the shelf attaching means to flex, as needed, to engage the jewel box base.
The foregoing and other objects are achieved in accordance with the present invention by providing a tray for holding multiple discs within a storage container having a container cover and a container base, the tray comprising:
A. a leaf having first and second opposite sides, each side incorporating a disk engagement means for engaging and holding a disc, said leaf being dimensioned to fit within said base when said container is closed;
B. an elongate shelf adapted to be pivotably connected to said leaf along one edge thereof, the shelf having attaching means for substantially rigidly attaching it to said base; and
C. hinge means between the shelf and the leaf for providing relative rotational movement therebetween, whereby discs engaged on either the first or second sides of said leaf can be accessed by rotating the leaf about said hinge means when the container is open; wherein
D. at least one flange is cantilevered from said one edge of said leaf and extendstoward said shelf;
E. at least one elongate pivot pin is supported from the underside of said shelf, the longitudinal extent of said pin being generally parallel to the longitudinal extent of said shelf, said pin being spaced below the underside of said shelf, and
F. the free end of said flange has an upwardly opening pivot bore therein, said bore penetrating said flange in a direction substantially parallel to said one edge of said tray and being dimensioned to receive and pivotably retain said at least one pivot pin which is downwardly inserted therein, whereby said leaf is pivotable through 180° about said at least one pivot pin for providing access to discs engaged on either side of said leaf.
In another aspect of the invention, there is provided such a tray wherein said attaching means comprises first and second shelf attachment means provided on first and second opposite sides of the shelf, said first and second attachment means comprise first and second end plates supported by and depending from said shelf, each of said end plates having a mounting pin projecting outwardly therefrom for engaging mounting apertures in said base for non-pivotably and substantially rigidly mounting said shelf to said base, said tray further including reinforcing means comprising first and second reinforcing plates provided on said first and second opposite sides of said shelf, said reinforcing plates depending from said shelf and being mounted forward of and spaced from the corresponding end plates on each side of said shelf for rigidly reinforcing the underside of said shelf while permitting said end plates to flex inwardly and outwardly, as needed, to engage said mounting pins in said mounting apertures.