US 20030141300 A1
A crate locking device for holding plastic storage crates together making a solid storage unit. The crate locking device has a dove-tail configured protuberances along its outer periphery. The dove-tail protuberances are evenly spaced along the four sides such that opposing sides are reversed mirror images of each other. Two adjacent dove-tail protuberances are spaced from each other to receive a dove-tail protuberance from an adjacent crate locking device. The dove-tail configuration prevents lateral movement of adjacent crate locking devices relative to each other.
1. A crate locking device for receiving a rectangular receptacle having a predetermined length and width, said locking device comprising:
a rectangular frame having an inner periphery with an inner length and inner width configured for receiving the rectangular receptacle, and an outer periphery, said rectangular frame has a plurality of protuberances spaced along said outer periphery, wherein each of said protuberances having the same shape.
2. The crate locking device of
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9. The crate locking device of
 The invention relates to a locking device for connecting multiple storage crates, and in particular to provide a solid storage unit from the multiple storage crates.
 Stacking milk crates or other similarly shaped crates provide an inexpensive and versatile storage system. Typically the crates are stacked up individually in an unstable pile that cannot be too high or too wide and still remain standing. When the crates are individually stacked any minor shifting of one of crates can result in a domino effect and topple adjacent crates. Further, when the crates are made from a plastic material, the crates are light and therefore items stored in a vertically adjacent crate may not be adequately supported by a lower crate.
 It is the intent of the invention to address the aforementioned concerns by providing a crate locking device for receiving a rectangular receptacle such as a milk crate. The crate locking device includes a rectangular frame having an inner periphery with an inner length and inner width configured for receiving the rectangular receptacle. The rectangular frame has an outer periphery having a plurality of protuberances spaced along therefrom, wherein each of the protuberances have the same shape.
 In another aspect of the invention, at least two of the adjacent protuberances are spaced from each other for receiving a protuberance of an adjacent crate locking device.
 In another aspect of the invention, the spacing between two adjacent protuberances define a cavity having a shape corresponding to the shape of the protuberance for receiving a protuberance of an adjacent crate locking device and providing locking connection between the adjacent crate locking devices.
 In another aspect of the invention, one of the opposing parallel sides of the frame has protuberances aligned in a reversed mirror image configuration relative to the other opposing parallel side of the frame to provide linear continuity of the adjacent peripheral sides of connected crate locking devices.
 In another aspect of the invention, the inner periphery of the frame has a predetermined depth and the frame has a planar base positioned at the midpoint of the depth of the inner periphery for receiving and stabilizing the rectangular receptacle within the crate locking device.
 In yet another aspect, the planar base has at least one centered cut out for displaying decorative images therethrough.
 Other objects, advantages and applications of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art when the following description of the best mode contemplated for practicing the invention is read in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.
 The description herein makes reference to the accompanying drawings wherein like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views, and wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the crate locking device according to the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a plan view of the crate locking device of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken along lines 3-3 of FIG. 2; and
FIG. 4 is a perspective view of multiple crate locking devices connected to stacked crates.
 The crate locking device of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 1-3. FIG. 4 shows a plurality of the crate locking devices connected together with a plurality of rectangular crates 100 (shown in phantom) disposed thereon.
 The crate locking device 10 has a tray configuration. The tray configuration includes a base plate 12 having a top planar surface 14 and a bottom planar surface 16. A flange 18 extends perpendicular from both sides of the base plate 12 around the entire peripheral edge of the base plate 12. As a result, the upper and lower planar surfaces 14 and 16 respectively are recessed relative to the external edges 22 of the flange 18. The recessed surfaces 14 and 16 of base plate 12 provide a shelf for receiving a rectangular crate thereon. The shelf restricts movement of the rectangular crate 100 and diminishes chances of the crate 100 from toppling over even if stacked too high.
 Extending laterally from the flange 18 along each of the four sides are locking means 24 in the form of protuberances 24. Along each peripheral edge of the crate locking device 10, a plurality of protuberances 24 are equally spaced from adjacent protuberances 24 by a predetermined distance. Adjacent protuberances 24 each have a space 26 therebetween configured to be essentially the mirror image of the protuberances 24. Further, the dimension of the space 26 defined by the adjacent wall of the protuberances 24 and the portion of the flange between the adjacent protuberances is configured to accommodate another protuberance 24 from an adjacent crate locking device 10 therein. This feature is shown in FIG. 4 at 30, where adjacent crate locking devices 10 are interconnected and latched together by the protuberances 24 along one peripheral side.
 In order to interlock adjacent crate locking devices 10, the positioning of the protuberances 24 along opposing peripheral edges are offset with respect to each other. In other words, the positioning of the protuberances 24 along one peripheral edge is in the reversed mirror image of the positioning of the protuberances 24 on the opposing lateral edge. As a result, when two adjacent crate locking devices are oriented in the same direction and are interlocked together by their respective protuberances 24, the lateral peripheral edges of the adjacent crate locking device 10 are essentially on the same plane and form a continuous storage unit. This feature is shown in FIG. 4 at 32. Of course, a pair of crate locking devices 10 may be interlocked together so that the pair of adjacent devices 10 are not on the same plane by selectively offsetting the protuberances 24 and spaces 26; or by orientating the two adjacent devices 10 in different directions.
 Although the protuberances 26 may be any design or configuration, the preferred design is shown in the drawings as a dove-tail configuration. The dove-tail configuration includes side walls 40 (as detailed in FIG. 2) extending from flange 18. The side walls diverge from each other as the side walls 40 extend from flange 18; and terminate at an end wall 42. The end wall 42 is parallel from the flange portion from which the associated side walls 40 extend. Each end wall 42 is spaced from its adjacent flange portion by the same distance. Each protuberance 24 may have hollow center portion 46, having a through aperture between the side walls 40 and end wall 42. As an alternative, the protuberances 24 may be solid with the center area 46 either flush with the side walls 40 and end wall 42 or recessed from the side walls 40 and end wall 42. If the protuberances 24 either have a recessed center area 46 or a through aperture in the center area 46, the crate locking device 10 can be hung on a wall by the protuberances 24 as discussed hereinafter.
 To lock two adjacent crate locking devices together, a crate locking device 10, must approach another crate locking device 10, located on an essentially horizontal base, from a vertical direction so that the protuberances 24 along one side of the first crate locking device can slide between the protuberances 24 along one side of the second crate locking device. Once the protuberances 24 from adjacent crate locking devices are enmeshed, as shown at 30 in FIG. 4, the crate locking devices cannot be laterally separated from each other. Adjacent protuberances 24 along any one peripheral side of the crate locking device having the disclosed dove-tail configuration provide only a narrow gap 44 between adjacent end walls 42, so that an enmeshed protuberance 24 from an adjacent crate locking device cannot laterally be removed between the narrow gap 44. Therefore, although the angular dove-tail configuration is the preferred embodiment, it is also possible to accomplish the locking technique if the side walls 40 are curved.
 The base 12 may be a solid planar member to provide support for the crates 100; or as shown in FIGS. 1-4, the base 12 may have a decorative aperture 50 cut therein. The decorative aperture 50 or apertures are provided to display decorative images such as pictures or photographs. The crate locking device 10 can then be used as a frame for a picture mounted behind the crate locking device. The picture can be mounted to either of the upper or lower planar surface 14, 16 respectively by conventional means. The crate locking device 10 can be hung on a wall by a picture hanger or nail inserted in the hollow or recessed center area 46 of a protuberance 24.
 The crate locking device 10 of the present invention provides inexpensive storage means and especially provides a useful decorating and storing device for college students living away from home. The crate locking device 10 provides a portable and sturdy storage assist device as well as providing a means for decorating the dormitory or college apartment room.
 While the invention has been described in connection with what is presently considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the disclosed embodiments but, on the contrary, is intended to cover various modifications and equivalent arrangements included within the spirit and scope of the appended claims, which scope is to be accorded the broadest interpretation so as to encompass all such modifications and equivalent structures as is permitted under the law.