US 20040129846 A1
A device is provided for mounting decorative lights has a ribbon-shaped body having a front face, a rear face, and two ends. One end has a spiral curvature of sufficient size, shape and resilience to enable the spiral end to be opened and placed upon a rail or post having at least one substantially flat side. The spiral has at least one flat segment that is positioned on the spiral to press against the substantially flat side of the rail or post preventing the device from being dislodged by common winter winds. A hook at the second end defines one or more openings of sufficient size to receive a decorative light socket, a rope light or an electrical cord. Straight surfaces can be provided on each of the hook end and the spiral that are opposite one another so that a decorative light socket can be held between the straight surfaces.
1. A holder for hanging decorative lights on a rail or post having at least one substantially flat side, the holder comprising:
a ribbon-shaped body having a front face, a rear face, and two ends;
one end having a spiral curvature with a proximal point adjacent to the body, wherein the spiral curvature adjacent the proximal point is formed by a plurality of flat segments on the front face, the spiral end being of sufficient size, shape and resilience to enable the spiral end to be opened and placed upon a rail or post having at least one substantially flat side, such that one of the flat segments of the spiral end presses against the at least one substantially flat side of the rail or post; and
a hook at the second end, the hook defining at least one space of sufficient size to receive at least one of a decorative light socket, a rope light and an electric cord.
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16. A holder for hanging decorative lights on a rail or post having at least one substantially flat side, the holder comprising:
a ribbon-shaped body having a front face, a rear face, and two ends;
one end having a spiral curvature with a proximal point adjacent to the body and a straight surface; and
a hook at the second end, the hook defining at least one space of sufficient size to receive at least one of a decorative light socket, a rope light and an electric cord, the hook having a distal end having a straight surface, wherein the straight surface of the hook and the straight surface of the end having a spiral curvature are opposite one another such that the two straight surfaces define an opening between the hook and the end having a spiral curvature.
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 1. Field of the Invention
 The present invention relates to a device for hanging decorative lights from a rail, post or gutter.
 2. Description of the Prior Art
 Many people decorate their homes with strings of decorative lights during holiday seasons, particularly during the Christmas season. Lights can be mounted on the exterior of a house or commercial building in many ways. A large number of hooks and hangers for cords, wires, and especially Christmas lights have been proposed in the past. One type of hook has an elongated body with a spiral curvature at one end and a hook at an opposite end. U.S. Pat. No. 5,141,192 discloses such a hook that is particularly useful for hanging strings of decorative lights from gutters. This hook, or light holder, has a ribbon-shaped body with a hook at one end of the device. The hook end is designed to retain a wire or cord portion of a string of Christmas lights, not a light socket, and is generally sized so as to accommodate at least one cord. The second end of the device has a spiral curvature with a proximal point adjacent to the body, the spiral end forming a curve whereby the spiral continues beyond the proximal point. The spiral end is thus adapted to fit over a portion of a gutter lip and has sufficient size, shape and resilience to enable the spiral end to grip the gutter lip. The central body of this gutter hook extends straight downward from the spiral while the adjacent wall of the gutter curves inward. Consequently, the light string being held by the hook at the lower end of the body is spaced some distance away from the exterior surface of the gutter.
 Structures having an elongated body with a hook at one end and a spiral at the other end have been proposed for hanging a variety of items ranging from a hat, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 1,501,807 to Pteschel, to a small floral arrangement, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,418,496 to Koistinen. In Petschel's hat supporting hook the spiral end presses against a flat surface while the hook end fits on the top edge of a chair. The brim of the hat in held between the spiral and the flat surface against which the spiral presses. The support structure for small floral arrangement disclosed by Koistinen holds the small floral arrangement on the end containing the hook while the spiral end is placed over the end of a pew so that the spiral engages the vertical flat side of that end. The device is made of a resilient plastic or metal and is sized so that the spiral uncoils as it is placed over the end panel. The spiral exerts a clamping force against the vertical surface thereby holding the floral support structure on the pew.
 We and others have placed hooks similar to those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,141,192 on a deck rail in the same manner as Koistinen placed his floral support on the end of the pew. Then we attached a string of decorative lights to the hook end of the device. The hooks hold the lights in place as long as the decorative light string was not subjected to much wind. But, when it was windy the force of the wind dislodged the spiral end of the hooks from the rail. Consequently, there is a need for a hook for decorative lights that will hold the light string on a deck rail, post and similar structures without becoming dislodged by the winds that are common during the Christmas holiday season. At the same time the hook has to be easily mounted and removed without damaging painted surfaces.
 In recent years there has been a trend toward the development of a single hook that can hold a string of decorative lights anywhere a homeowner may desire to place them. Two popular places for mounting decorative lights on the exterior of a house are on the gutter and on a deck or railing. Consequently, there is a need for a hook that will securely hold decorative lights on gutters or on commonly sized lumber used in deck rails and posts.
 Another trend is the development of a decorative light holder that will hold all types of decorative lights. For many years this meant having the capability to hold mini-lights, C-7 lights and the larger C-9 lights that are typically used outdoors. In recent years rope lights and icicle lights have been popular. Rope lights are available in three diameters, the most popular being 13 mm and 9 mm. Consequently, there is a need for a decorative light holder that will support rope lights and icicle lights as well as mini, C-7 and C-9 lights.
 A device is provided for mounting decorative lights including rope lights and icicle lights as well as mini, C-7 and C-9 lights on a gutter, post or rail without using nails or screws and in a manner that the lights will not be dislodged by common winter winds. The device has a ribbon-shaped body having a front face, a rear face, and two ends. One end has a spiral curvature of sufficient size, shape and resilience to enable the spiral end to be opened and placed upon a rail or post having at least one substantially flat side. The spiral has at least one flat segment that is positioned on the spiral to press against the substantially flat side of the rail or post. A hook at the second end defines an opening of sufficient size to receive at least one of a decorative light socket, a rope light and an electric cord.
 In a preferred embodiment the body is contoured to match the shape of the front of a gutter and may be sized to extend from the lip at the top of the gutter to under the bottom of the gutter, or may extend to any point between the top and the bottom of the gutter. In a most preferred embodiment the hook at the opposite end of the body is configured to define a first opening that is sized to receive a at least two sizes of rope light and a second opening that is sized to receive an electrical cord. That second opening may receive a string or wire that holds wind chimes or, a bird feeder. Flat surfaces and a rib could be provided to improve gripping of light sockets. The bottom of that opening acts as a spring enabling the hook to grip the socket of mini, C-7 and C-9 lights. The thickness of that bottom can vary with a thickness being chosen that provides a desired spring action. The first opening is positioned so that a rope light held by the hook will be nested in a curved portion of the front wall of the gutter. Placing a rope light in the curved portion of the gutter increases the light reflected to the viewer in front of the house, allowing smaller, less expensive lights to be used. Preferably, the body is made of a clear or translucent, resilient plastic such as polycarbonate, polypropylene or polyethylene.
 These and other advantages and features of the present invention will be more fully understood with reference to the presently preferred embodiment thereof and to the appended drawings.
FIG. 1 is an perspective view of a first present preferred embodiment of our apparatus for hanging decorative lights on a rail or gutter.
FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a portion of a gutter on which a rope lights is being hung by of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a sectional view along the line III-III in FIG. 2.
FIG. 4 is an end view of the embodiment of FIG. 1 mounted on a rail.
FIG. 5 is an perspective view of a second present preferred embodiment of our apparatus for hanging decorative lights on a rail or gutter.
FIG. 6 is a sectional view similar to FIG. 3 showing the embodiment of FIG. 5 hung on a gutter.
FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a third present preferred embodiment of our apparatus for hanging decorative lights on a rail or gutter.
FIG. 8 is a side view of the embodiment of FIG. 7 gripping a decorative light socket shown in dotted line.
FIG. 9 is a sectional view taken along the line IX-IX of FIG. 8.
 A first present preferred embodiment of our apparatus for hanging rope lights on a rail or gutter shown in FIGS. 1 through 4 has a ribbon-shaped body 2 with front face 9 and a rear face 10. This apparatus, or light holder, 1 has a hook 3 at one end. The hook 3 is shaped to define a first opening 4 into which a rope light can be securely held and a second opening 5 sized to receive an electrical cord. Spiral end 6 extends from the opposite end of the body member 2, and has a proximal point 8 at some point on the curve. Proximal point 8 is adjacent body member 2, such that there is a space 7 between the inner curve of the spiral and outer curve of the spiral.
 The light holder 1 can easily be placed on a gutter 40 as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. The gutter shown in these figures has a front wall 42 and a rear wall 44 extending upwardly from a bottom 43. This gutter has a lip 46 extending toward a rear wall. As can be seen in FIG. 3, the spiral end 6 fits around the gutter lip 46 securely holding the light holder 1 on the gutter 40. The front wall 42 of the gutter has a flat portion 45 between the lip 46 and inwardly curving portion 41. The distal end of the hook 3 has a curved portion 15 that curves away from the from face 9 of the spiral portion of the device. The curved portion is spaced apart from the front face by a distance that is smaller than the first opening 4. Because the body is made from a resilient material a rope light can be easily inserted into the first opening 4 by pushing the rope light against the curved portion 15. This causes the curved portion to move away from the front face allowing the rope light to pass into opening 4. After that occurs the curved portion moves back toward face 9 and the hook securely grips the rope light. The lower opening 5 is sized to receive an electrical cord 32 shown in FIG. 2. This cord could be a power cord or the cord portion of a string of decorative lights, or icicle lights. This hook could also be used to suspend a bird feeder, wind chimes, sun catcher or other object hung on a string, cord or wire. The string, cord or wire would be held in the second opening.
 In the first preferred embodiment the first opening 4 is positioned so that when the light holder 1 is placed on a gutter 40 as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 a rope light 30 held in the opening will be adjacent the curved portion 41 of the gutter 40. When so positioned the rope light creates an illuminated gutter when the rope light is on. Direct sunlight will strike the rope light held in this position adjacent a curved portion of the gutter only when the sun is at or below the 11:00 position, indicated by dotted line 36 in FIG. 3, and there are no adjacent structures that would block the light. In most urban locations this would correspond to a time period of only a few hours. Accordingly, a rope light positioned as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 is shielded by the gutter from direct sunlight for at least two-thirds of the daylight hours. Moreover, in this protected position the rope light will be kept from being blown out of the hook by high winds.
 The light holder 1 can also be securely attached to a rail or post. As can be seen most clearly in FIGS. 1 and 4 there are three flat portions 11, 12 and 13 on the front face and at the end of the spiral 6. When the spiral end 6 is opened and the light holder is placed over a rail 30 or post as shown in FIG. 4 one of the flat portions 13 rests against the substantially flat surface 31 of the rail 30. This flat portion provides sufficient frictional contact between the spiral and the post that the light holder 1 will securely hold a string of decorative lights on the rail when the lights are subjected to winds common during the winter season.
 The light holder 1 can be made of any resilient plastic or metal that enables the spiral end to open and fit over a deck rail or other post. Typically, the rail or post will have a thickness of from one half to one and one half inch. We prefer to make the device of a clear plastic so that the light holder is less noticeable. Polycarbonate, polyethylene and polypropylene are suitable plastics.
 The light holder can be any desired length and can have multiple hooks. A second present preferred embodiment 20, shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, is sized to extend under the bottom of the gutter and support three rope lights 51, 52 and 53. This embodiment also has an elongated ribbon-shaped body 22 with a spiral 26 at one end and a hook 23 at an opposite end. The face of the spiral 26 has two flat segments 21 at the distal end. The hook 23 is shaped to define a first space 24 into which one rope light can be securely held when the light holder 10 is hung on a gutter. There is a second space 27 defined by curved portion 25, and a third space 28 defined by curved portion 29. Spaces 27 and 28 are also sized to receive a rope light 52 or rope light 51 as shown in FIGS. 4 and 7. Since the most common rope lights are 9 mm and 13 mm in diameter, the curvature of the hook is sized to receive rope lights of these diameters. Rope light 52 is held by curved portion 25 and the curved section 42 of the gutter 40 at the location where the front of the gutter meets the bottom of the gutter 44. Rope light 51 is held by curved portion 29 in space 28 at a location of the upper curved portion 41 of a gutter 40. The third rope light 53 is held by hook 23 under the bottom 44 of the gutter 40. In that position rope light 51 is protected from winds and is not exposed to direct sunlight. The rope lights 51, 52 and 53 could be the same color or different colors. A patriotic display could be created with red, white and blue lights.
 A third embodiment 60 shown in FIGS. 7, 8 and 9 is similar to the first embodiment. There is a ribbon shaped body 62 with a hook 63 at one end and a spiral end 66. There are two openings 64 and 65 in the hook portion. The spiral end has flat portions 71, 72 and 73. This embodiment differs from the first embodiment in that straight surfaces 74 and 75 are provided adjacent the space 68 between the spiral end 66 and the end 69 of the hook. The socket 81 of a decorative light 80 can be held more securely as shown in FIG. 7 than in the first embodiment. This is so because there is greater surface contact between the hook and the socket in the embodiment of FIGS. 7, 8 and 9. It should be apparent from FIGS. 7 and 8 that the bottom 67 of the hook 63 functions as a hinge when the light socket 81 is placed between surfaces 74 and 75. The spring action of this hinge can be changed by changing the thickness of bottom 67. One present preferred width of the hook is one-fourth inch. That width could be increased to increase the contact area. If the hook is a molded plastic part some shrinkage will occur as the part cools. This shrinkage may create some curvature or concavity across the width of the straight surfaces 74 and 75, particularly for hooks wider than one-fourth inch. Such concavity should also improve the gripping of the socket by the hook. For that reason surfaces 74 and 75 could be molded to be concave across their width. Since many decorative light sockets have a series of longitudinal ribs on their outer surface gripping can be further increased by providing one or more ribs 78 on straight surfaces 74 and 75 as shown in dotted line in FIG. 9.
 In the preferred embodiments the surfaces which engage the post or rail are described as flat surfaces. It should be understood that these surfaces could have some curvature along their length and across their width without departing from the present invention. That curvature could result from shrinkage in a plastic molded part or be intentional. Nevertheless, any curvature in the longitudinal direction should be minor. Furthermore, the flat surfaces could have ribs or other small surface projections.
 While we have described a certain preferred embodiment of the invention, it is to be distinctly understood that the invention is not limited thereto but may be otherwise embodied and practiced within the scope of the following claims.