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Publication numberUS20030150566 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/074,222
Publication dateAug 14, 2003
Filing dateFeb 12, 2002
Priority dateFeb 12, 2002
Publication number074222, 10074222, US 2003/0150566 A1, US 2003/150566 A1, US 20030150566 A1, US 20030150566A1, US 2003150566 A1, US 2003150566A1, US-A1-20030150566, US-A1-2003150566, US2003/0150566A1, US2003/150566A1, US20030150566 A1, US20030150566A1, US2003150566 A1, US2003150566A1
InventorsFrank Ciano
Original AssigneeCiano Frank J.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Vehicle protector
US 20030150566 A1
Abstract
A compact, foldable, transportable vehicle protector for parked vehicles. Panels are connected, side-by-side, by alternating folding lines or hinges to form a structure capable of standing freely in any position around the vehicle. The folding lines or hinges further allow the panels to fold onto each other, forming a vehicle protector that is compact, stowable and transportable. When the device is positioned around the vehicle, it protects the vehicle from dents, scratches and other damage occurring from what many consider minor bumps.
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Claims(7)
What is claimed:
1. An apparatus for protecting a vehicle, said apparatus comprising:
a plurality of adjacent panels, each of said panels connected to at least one other said adjacent panels by at least one hinge means;
wherein said hinge means are such that the fold direction of each successive said panel is alternately folded.
2. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said panels consist of impact resistant material.
3. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said panels consist of soft pliable material.
4. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said panels each contain foldable supports.
5. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein said supports lock in a folded position.
6. An apparatus according to claim 4, wherein said supports lock in an extended position.
7. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein said panels are constructed like an accordion.
Description
    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • [0001]
    The present invention relates to methods and devices for protecting a parked vehicle from dents, scratches and other damage occurring from contact with other objects. Parked vehicles can be damaged outside a garage by runaway shopping carts, foul balls, pedestrians, other car doors, etc. Parked vehicles can also be damaged in a garage by falling bicycles and other garage items, the opening of adjacent car doors, etc. The present invention discloses a device to protect the body of a vehicle by being positioned around a parked vehicle.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • [0002]
    Several attempts have been made in the past to provide devices for protecting automobiles from damage. However, the devices currently available tend to focus on protecting only the side door area of automobiles. Furthermore, the devices currently available have several disadvantages that are overcome by the design and construction of the present invention. Specifically, they lack the capacity to protect the whole vehicle, or specific areas, from damage. Also, the devices presently available are not mutable or freestanding. Rather, such devices protect only vehicle doors by, for example, either attaching to the vehicle or being suspended from above.
  • [0003]
    Referring first to FIGS. 1a and 1 b, depicted is a vehicle side door protector according to Marks U.S. Pat. No. 6,062,617 (“Marks”). In particular, FIGS. 1a and 1 b depict a protector for side doors of parked vehicles wherein the protector attaches to and is removable from the automobile. Marks discloses a foldable protector device as shown in FIG. 1b. The Marks' protector comprises a plurality of rectangular panels 11 arranged in a side-by-side relationship as shown in the unfolded position in FIG. 1a. Panels 11 are held together by hinges 12, which also lock the panels in the device's open position. Marks also discloses a binder 13 which serves as a backing when panels are in the folded position (i.e., in a book like position) and as the mechanism to attach the protector to the vehicle. This design suffers from many disadvantages. First, the design limits the Marks device to protecting only the side door area of the vehicle. Therefore, even attaching two Marks devices to a vehicle leaves most of the vehicle unprotected. Second, the Marks device is specifically designed to attach to an automobile. Thus, if dust, dirt or other impurities are on the devise, the vehicle's finish could be scratched or otherwise damaged when the device is attached to the vehicle. Finally, the Marks device discloses panels that only fold in one direction (see FIG. 1b). This feature does not provide enough support to use the device as a freestanding mechanism. The device disclosed in Marks does not allow for a freestanding unit nor does it enable protection for the entire vehicle.
  • [0004]
    Another type of vehicle protector is disclosed in Barnett U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,750,767 (“Barnett”). Barnett, like Marks, discloses an attachment device for guarding one side of an automobile. Referring now to FIG. 2, shown is the Barnett device attached to one side of automobile 21. Protective pad 10 has a forwardly extending pad 22, center pad 23 and rearwardly extending pad 24. Pads 22, 23 and 24 are held by downwardly extending support band 15 which is secured at the top of automobile door 27. This design has several disadvantages as well. First, the Barnett design must be attached to the automobile. This creates problems when attempting to protect automobiles or vehicles of different sizes and shapes. Also, even if attached correctly, the Barnett device leaves much of a vehicle unprotected. In addition, if dust, dirt or other impurities are on the device, the vehicle's finish could be scratched or otherwise damaged when the device is attached to the vehicle. Accordingly, a need exists for a device which can protect vehicles of different sizes and shapes, which need not be attached to the vehicle, and which offers protection to the entire vehicle.
  • [0005]
    Further, U.S. Pat. No. 6,240,681 to Lyles et al. (“Lyles”) and U.S. Pat. No. 6,112,478 to Piper (“Piper”) disclose suspended vehicle protectors. These suspension device are encumbered by lack of mobility and the inability to protect the vehicle from danger outside the garage, as well as certain dangers inside the garage. That is, things such as falling garage items like bicycles and toys still present a threat to the vehicle when suspension devices are used. Lyles and Piper are further disadvantaged because they are not foldable, compact nor transportable. Therefore, a need exists for a device that is foldable, compact, transportable, easy to erect, and is not suspended or attached to a vehicle.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • [0006]
    The present invention describes an apparatus that enables a person to easily, quickly and strategically protect any vehicle from damage while parked in any area. The apparatus is constructed of panels which can be alternately folded onto each other for easy storage. In this way, the apparatus may be easily transported within the vehicle to any parking location. Upon arrival at a parking location, a person may quickly and easily unfold the vehicle protector to an adequate length and contour to protect all vulnerable areas of the vehicle.
  • [0007]
    An important aspect of the present invention is the way the device folds in alternate directions for two specific purposes. First, by folding in alternate directions, the present invention may be easily stored and transported. Second, the apparatus may be positioned to stand independently on any surface and its contour may be changed to maximize stability, as well as body area coverage of the vehicle.
  • [0008]
    The present invention discloses a device with varying length and contour. The present device is lightweight, fast and easy to erect or position, easy to remove and store, and stands with no external support along a vehicle. The present device requires little storage space because it is foldable.
  • [0009]
    Further, the present device is freestanding and is not required to make contact with the vehicle it is protecting, thereby eliminating any possibility that dirt or dust could be caught between the device and vehicle, scratching the vehicle's finish.
  • [0010]
    It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a lightweight, inexpensive, and transportable vehicle protector for use with any vehicle, regardless of the vehicle's size or shape.
  • [0011]
    It is another object of the present invention to provide a vehicle protector that can be easily manufactured at low cost.
  • [0012]
    Still another object of the present invention is to provide a novel vehicle protector for preventing damage from numerous objects which may come into contact with the vehicle.
  • [0013]
    Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a vehicle protector capable of protecting the entire vehicle from objects which may come into contact with it.
  • [0014]
    It is a further object of the present invention to provide a vehicle protector with optional legs or feet for further stability.
  • [0015]
    Other objects, features, and characteristics of the present invention, as well as the methods of operation and functions of the related elements of the structure, and the combination of parts and economies of manufacture, will become more apparent upon consideration of the following detailed description with reference to the accompanying drawings, all of which form a part of this specification.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • [0016]
    A further understanding of the present invention can be obtained by reference to a preferred embodiment set forth in the illustrations of the accompanying drawings. Although the illustrated embodiment is merely exemplary of systems for carrying out the present invention, both the organization and method of operation of the invention, in general, together with further objectives and advantages thereof, may be more easily understood by reference to the drawings and the following description. The drawings are not intended to limit the scope of this invention, which is set forth with particularity in the claims as appended or as subsequently amended, but merely to clarify and exemplify the invention.
  • [0017]
    For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the following drawings in which:
  • [0018]
    [0018]FIG. 1a shows a side view of a prior art vehicle side door protector according to Marks U.S. Pat. No. 6,062,617, shown in a locked and extended condition.
  • [0019]
    [0019]FIG. 1b shows a perspective view of the prior art vehicle protector of FIG. 1a in a partially folded position.
  • [0020]
    [0020]FIG. 2 shows a side view of an automobile protected by a prior art vehicle protector according to Barnett U.S. Pat. No. 4,750,767.
  • [0021]
    [0021]FIG. 3 shows a side view of the preferred embodiment of the vehicle protector according to the present invention as positioned to protect a vehicle.
  • [0022]
    [0022]FIG. 4 shows the vehicle protector of FIG. 3 in a completely folded state.
  • [0023]
    [0023]FIG. 5a shows a perspective view of an alternate embodiment of the vehicle protector according to the present invention comprising accordion-like panels.
  • [0024]
    [0024]FIG. 5b shows a top view of the alternate embodiment shown in FIG. 5a.
  • [0025]
    [0025]FIG. 6a shows a side view of yet another alternate embodiment of a single panel of the vehicle protector of FIG. 3 having folding supports.
  • [0026]
    [0026]FIG. 6b shows an end view of the panel of the alternative embodiment shown in FIG. 6a.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
  • [0027]
    As required, a detailed illustrative embodiment of the present invention is disclosed herein. However, techniques, systems and operating structures in accordance with the present invention may be embodied in a wide variety of forms and modes, some of which may be quite different from those in the disclosed embodiment. Consequently, the specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are merely representative, yet in that regard, they are deemed to afford the best embodiment for purposes of disclosure and to provide a basis for the claims herein which define the scope of the present invention. The following presents a detailed description of a preferred embodiment (as well as some alternative embodiments) of the present invention.
  • [0028]
    Referring first to FIGS. 3-6 generally, the present invention, referred to as reference number 35, is a foldable, free-standing, transportable vehicle protector 35 preferably comprising a series of connected side-by-side panels 31, constructed of any material suitable to absorb impact to the vehicle. The panels 31 are preferably connected at folding lines 32 which alternate in folding direction. The vehicle protector 35, when folded, forms a compact, lightweight, transportable and stowable device.
  • [0029]
    The device according to the present invention is best viewed in FIG. 3, which discloses a basic, average-sized foldable, freestanding, transportable protector for multiple sides of a vehicle. Also, FIG. 4, depicts the vehicle protector of FIG. 3 in its completely folded, compact form for easy stowing and transportation. FIGS. 5a and 5 b show an alternate embodiment of the vehicle protector comprising accordion-like panels that, when folded, provide an even more compact structure than the embodiment shown in FIG. 4. Finally, FIGS. 6a and 6 b show yet another alternate embodiment of the invention with added supports, such as folding legs or feet.
  • [0030]
    Referring first to FIG. 3, shown is a side view of the preferred embodiment of the present invention. Vehicle protector 35 is positioned to protect three of the four sides of vehicle 34. Alternatively, vehicle protector 35 may be positioned to protect one, two, or all of the sides of vehicle 34. Vehicle protector 35 comprises panels 31 connected at folding lines 32. The number of panels 31 may vary to allow for protection of vehicles of different shapes and sizes. For example, to protect the entire vehicle 34, approximately twenty or more panels 31 may be required.
  • [0031]
    Each panel 31 is preferably square or rectangular in shape and connected in a side-by-side position as shown in FIG. 3 so that it is foldable onto itself by hinges or any other flexible means. Also, the height of each panel 31 is preferably about the height of the hood and/or trunk of the vehicle to be protected. Consequently, taller panels 31 will be desired for larger vehicles. The length of each panel 31 is preferably a few inches shorter than the height of each panel 31. However, the preferred length of each panel 31 will be the length which maximizes support for the structure in its free-standing mode. The thickness of each panel 31 will generally be very thin to minimize the overall weight of vehicle protector 35 while still retaining enough thickness to maximize protection against dents, scratches and bumps. The preferred thickness of panels 31 is approximately ″.
  • [0032]
    Still, panels 31 may be constructed of any lightweight and inexpensive material suitable to absorb impact to the vehicle, including but not limited to various light, porous, semi-rigid or spongy materials.
  • [0033]
    Vehicle protector 35 is shown standing independently in its protective position, self supported due to slight, alternate folds at folding lines 32. Alternately, folding lines 32 may be hinges or another connection means which would allow the folding of panels 31 in alternate directions. Folding lines 32 allow side panels 31 to fold and unfold, as well as to change the angle and positioning of each panel to achieve desired standing ability and maximum vehicle protection. Importantly, the folding direction alternates at each successive connection of each panel 31. The slight, alternate folds provide support from natural occurrences (e.g., wind) that may compromise the device's ability to remain standing. The present invention allows a user to determine the strength of vehicle protector 35. For instance, if there exists a need for greater support on any particular day or in any particular situation, the user may shorten the length of vehicle protector 35 by increasing the angle of the alternate folds along folding line 32. This will maximize the support given at the contact points of opposing folding lines 32.
  • [0034]
    Referring next to FIG. 4, shown is the preferred embodiment invention in a folded state. Panels 31 fold on top of each other in alternate direction at folding lines 32. Latch 33 may be attached at the center edge of either of the four sides of panel 31 to secure vehicle protector 35 in its folded state. The present invention can utilize any latching means. FIG. 4 shows a button hook apparatus. This apparatus incorporates buttons 36 located at the center edge of the top and bottom sides of the two end panels 31. To secure folded vehicle protector 35, latch 33 is connected to opposing buttons 36, thereby locking vehicle protector 35. This results in an extremely compact, stowable and thus transportable protector.
  • [0035]
    Referring now to FIGS. 5a and 5 b, shown are alternate embodiment panels 50 that comprise the present invention. That is, panels 50 may be constructed as an accordion-like structure. Such a construction permits the present invention, in its folded state, to be more compact, stowable and transportable. Furthermore, the accordion-like panels 50 are able to absorb plenty of impact despite being made of thin, lightweight material. When the panels are constructed like an accordion, folding lines are not desired to connect each panel 50. Instead, the following two embodiments may be used but are mentioned as alternatives not to be deemed exclusive.
  • [0036]
    First, referring specifically to FIG. 5a, the present invention can be one long panel 50 that wraps around the vehicle and connects to itself. Although any attachment means may be used, shown is latch 53, a button hook apparatus. Preferably, latch 53 incorporates buttons 52 located at the center side edge of both stable end pieces 51. To secure long panel 50 to itself, latch 53 is connected to opposing buttons 52, thereby locking the present invention. This results in the present invention protecting the entire vehicle and supporting itself against the vehicle, fitting like a glove.
  • [0037]
    Second, referring now to FIG. 5b, several panels 50 may be employed and connected by hinges 55, preferably at a stable end piece 51. The embodiment depicted in FIG. 5b will utilize hinges 55 placed on alternating sides of stable end piece 51 to achieve an alternative folding structure consistent with the present invention. Thus, not only will each panel 50 fold onto another panel 50, but each panel 50 will fold onto itself, like an accordion.
  • [0038]
    Referring finally to FIGS. 6a and 6 b, shown is an alternative embodiment of the present invention. In this alternative embodiment, panels 60 may be constructed with supports 61. This embodiment permits added support for standing the present invention because when supports 61 are in an extended horizontal position, supports 61 provide additional opposing ground contact points to stabilize panels 60. FIG. 6a is a side view of panel 60. Support 61 will lock in its extended, horizontal position when adding support to panel 60 and lock in its folded, vertical position when the present invention is in its folded state. FIG. 6b is an end view of panel 60 and support 61.
  • [0039]
    Finally, the use of the present invention is hereinafter described in reference to FIG. 3, which is the disclosed preferred embodiment. To use the foldable, free-standing, transportable vehicle protector 35, it is first removed from its stowed position in its folded state (described above with reference to FIG. 4). Next, the vehicle protector 35 is placed in its desired position around the vulnerable areas of the vehicle 34 by expanding the vehicle protector 35 and forming it to withstand the elements and, thereby, remain standing. When any object compromises the safety of vehicle 34 from dents, scratches and other damage occurring from what many consider minor bumps, and strikes one or more panels 31, the device of the present invention will absorb the impact and protect the vehicle body.
  • [0040]
    Before moving vehicle 34 from its parking space, the vehicle protector 35 is folded and stowed in vehicle 34, the corner of a garage, or any number of other places due to the compact structure of the present invention.
  • [0041]
    While the present invention has been described with reference to one or more preferred embodiments, such embodiments are merely exemplary and are not intended to be limiting or represent an exhaustive enumeration of all aspects of the invention. The scope of the invention, therefore, shall be defined solely by the following claims. Further, it will be apparent to those of skill in the art that numerous changes may be made in such details without departing from the spirit and the principles of the invention. It should be appreciated that the present invention is capable of being embodied in other forms without departing from its essential characteristics.
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US20060277835 *May 24, 2006Dec 14, 2006Duffy James JFloor mounted automobile protection system
US20070108780 *Nov 10, 2006May 17, 2007Charles UdolphAutomatic side door protector
US20070166101 *Jan 18, 2007Jul 19, 2007Michael ScheuVehicle Shield
Classifications
U.S. Classification160/135
International ClassificationB60J11/00
Cooperative ClassificationB60J11/00
European ClassificationB60J11/00