|Publication number||US20060108252 A1|
|Application number||US 11/249,084|
|Publication date||May 25, 2006|
|Filing date||Oct 11, 2005|
|Priority date||Oct 11, 2004|
|Publication number||11249084, 249084, US 2006/0108252 A1, US 2006/108252 A1, US 20060108252 A1, US 20060108252A1, US 2006108252 A1, US 2006108252A1, US-A1-20060108252, US-A1-2006108252, US2006/0108252A1, US2006/108252A1, US20060108252 A1, US20060108252A1, US2006108252 A1, US2006108252A1|
|Original Assignee||Lax Michael R|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Referenced by (3), Classifications (12), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of U.S. provisional patent application No. 60/617,989, filed Oct. 11, 2004, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.
This invention relates to a lockable container having merchandising features for securing assets and, more particularly, to a lockable container that has a slot for hanging on a merchandising rack as well as an integral locking mechanism.
Currently, there are many containers that can be hung on merchandising racks and used to secure storage media such as, for example, digital versatile discs (“DVDs”), compact discs (“CDs”), and video games. A typical container that is displayed on a merchandising rack is usually part of a casing that includes a hole in its top section for hanging on a peg of a merchandising rack. Such a container may therefore be displayed in a live retail, rental or any other merchandising environment, where potential customers and consumers can handle and examine the storage container to determine, for example, whether to buy or rent the asset stored therein. Because many potential customers may handle the casings that include such containers, it is necessary to deter potential thieves from stealing a container and the asset stored therein. This may be achieved through different means.
One approach involves placing a locking device such as a security tag (e.g., an electronic article surveillance (“EAS”) tag or radio frequency identification (“RFID”) tag) within the container or casing as an external security apparatus that wraps around the casing and the peg which is part of the merchandising rack. This approach, however, has some limitations. For example, a potential thief may tamper with and cut off such a device, thereby liberating the casing and container from the peg. Moreover, the containers and casings themselves may not be firm enough and may be easily penetrable by, for example, using a tool to flex, rip or cut through the plastic sleeves of such containers and casings. Thus, it would not be overly difficult for a potential thieve to steal the asset stored in the container without removing the security tag or stealing the casing or container itself. Some casings accordingly include several protective layers or sleeves that may be made from firm material. Other casings that utilize blister packaging or clamshell packaging techniques may be used instead. However, such casings hey are relatively expensive, environmentally unfriendly and bulky in size.
Furthermore, even if the container is not stolen, certain complications may arise due to the fact that the locking device is separate from the container or casing. For example, the locking device must either be cut off by the retailer at the point of purchase or by the consumer at home. This device is then discarded, which is not environmentally friendly. In addition, in order to lock the container or casing in a live retail or rental environment, a retailer must first insert the lock into or attach the lock to the container or casing. When the container or casing is unlocked by a retailer, the lock is either reused, stocked, restocked, or discarded. This can lead to, for example, increased costs, administrative complications, and environmental problems.
Accordingly, it would be desirable to provide a stand-alone container that has an integral locking mechanism and is firm, cost effective, user and environment friendly and not overly sized for securing assets and hanging in a merchandising environment.
In accordance with the present invention, a stand-alone container that has an integral locking mechanism and is firm, cost effective, user and environment friendly and not overly sized for securing assets and hanging in a merchandising environment and methods of use are provided. Such assets may include, for example, storage media (e.g., DVDs, CDs, video games, memory cards or any other suitable storage media), jewelry, pharmaceutical products, razor blades, printer cartridges, or any other item of value. The container of the present invention may also be used to secure items such that others are prevented from accessing the item, whether or not the item is of particular value. For example, the lockable container of the present invention may be used to secure violent or adult movies or video games in the home, such that children are unable to access the items. However, for simplicity, the present invention will be described herein as securing an “asset.”
In some embodiments of the present invention, a container for securing an asset therein and for hanging in a merchandising environment is provided. The container includes a first cover having a first opening and a second cover coupled to the first cover and having a second opening. The first and second covers are configured to move between an open configuration and a closed configuration in which, when the asset is present in the container, the container encloses the asset. The first and second openings are aligned with each other to form a slot that passes through the container when the first and second covers are in the closed configuration. The container also includes a locking member that is configured to move between an unlocked configuration in which the first and second covers can move to the open configuration, and a locked configuration in which the first and second covers are locked in the closed configuration.
In some embodiments of the present invention, the openings are located on recesses in each of the first and second covers. These recesses butt up against each other so that the openings are contiguously aligned with each other to form the slot when the first and second covers are in the closed configuration. Moreover, one of the covers in the container may include a plurality of clips for retaining and securing at least one asset.
In some embodiments of the present invention, the locking member in the container may be entirely internal to the container when the locking member is in the unlocked configuration. The container may include a locking mate arrangement that is operatively coupled to at least one of the covers such that it is engaged by the locking member when the locking member is in the locked configuration. The locking member is configured to be acted upon by an external key arrangement to selectively position the locking member into one of the locked configuration and the unlocked configuration with respect to the locking mate arrangement.
In some embodiments of the present invention, the container may be constructed from plastic, metal, wood, polymer, thermoplastic resin, polypropylene, ABS, polycarbonate or any combination thereof. At least one of its covers may have a transparent portion configured to permit a potential customer to view the asset in the container. At least one of these covers may have printing and artwork that is applied by thermal transfer film.
In some embodiments of the present invention, the container may have a spine or hinge having a longitudinal axis that is coupled to the covers. Moreover, the first cover may include first and second bottom enclosure walls that are disposed opposite each other and that extend substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The first cover may also include a third bottom enclosure wall that is disposed opposite the hinge and that extends substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis. Similarly, the second cover may include first and second top enclosure walls that are disposed opposite each other and that extend substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis, as well as a third top enclosure wall that is disposed opposite the hinge and that extends substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis. These enclosure walls may be disposed so that, when the second cover is closed upon the first cover, each top enclosure wall overlaps a corresponding one of the bottom enclosure walls, thereby defining, along with the hinge, a compartment for enclosing the asset.
In some embodiments of the present invention, a container that includes a spine and a slot positioned at a point along an axis that is parallel to the spine and that does not extend beyond the length of the spine is provided. The container also includes a locking member located opposite the spine and configured to move between an unlocked configuration and a locked configuration in which, when the asset is present in the container, the container encloses and locks the asset. The locking member preferably has a length that is substantially the same as the length of the spine.
In some embodiments of the present invention, a container that includes a hinge having a longitudinal axis and being coupled to two covers is provided. The first cover includes first and second enclosure walls disposed opposite each other and extending substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal axis. The first cover also includes a third enclosure wall disposed opposite the hinge and extending substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis. The second cover is configured to be closed upon the first cover thereby defining, along with the hinge and the first, second and third enclosure walls, a compartment for enclosing the asset. The container also includes a locking member located opposite the hinge and configured to move between an unlocked configuration and a locked configuration in which, when the asset is present in the container, the container encloses and locks the asset. Finally, the container includes a slot that traverses the compartment.
Further features of the invention, its nature and various advantages will be more apparent from the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description.
In accordance with the present invention, a lockable stand-alone container for securing assets that has a slot for hanging on a merchandising rack as well as an integral locking mechanism and methods of use are provided.
The container is a stand-alone container, and therefore is not part of a casing that includes a hole that is separate from, or is not part of, the container. A slot for hanging on a peg of a merchandising rack passes through the container itself.
The locking mechanism of the present invention is integral with the container, and therefore remains with the container, regardless of whether the container is locked or unlocked. Thus, the container may be both locked and unlocked without removing any portion of the locking mechanism (e.g., a locking member) from the container. Accordingly, there is no need to reuse, restock, recycle or discard any portion of the locking mechanism.
The locking mechanism of the present invention may or may not be internal to the container, and therefore may or may not be situated entirely within the container when the container is either open or closed. An internal locking system makes it more difficult for an individual to tamper with the locking mechanism.
When locked, the lockable container of the present invention may be hung and displayed, for example, in a live retail or rental environment. Customers may handle the container without gaining access to its contents. Once the customer decides to purchase, rent, or lease the contents of a particular lockable container, the customer may bring the container to a checkout counter. At the checkout counter, an employee or other authorized user may unlock the lockable container using a key arrangement so that the customer can gain access to its contents.
Since the integral locking mechanism of the present invention may be selectively positioned into either a locked or unlocked position, the lockable container of the present invention may be used in applications that do not require the container to be locked.
First cover 2 includes opening 12 while second cover 4 includes opening 14. First and second covers 2 and 4 are configured to move between an open configuration and a closed configuration. When asset 6 is present in container 1 in the closed configuration, the container encloses the asset. Moreover, first and second openings 12 and 14 are aligned with each other to form a slot that passes through the container when first and second covers 2 and 4 are in the closed configuration. (It should be noted that first cover 2 may also be referred to as a “base portion” of container 1 since it is the portion of the container within which the asset reside. Second cover 4 may also be referred to as a “cover.”)
Container 1 may be locked to secure asset 6 within the container. In particular, container 1 includes an internal locking member 8 and a locking mate arrangement 9. Locking member 8 and locking mate arrangement 9 are configured for engagement such that first cover 4 is secured to second cover 2, thereby securing asset 6 within container 1 in the closed configuration.
It should be noted that, although locking member 8 is illustrated as being coupled to first cover 2, this is merely illustrative, and locking member 8 may be coupled to either first cover 2 or second cover 4. Additionally, although locking mate arrangement 9 is illustrated as being joined to second cover 4, this is merely illustrative, and locking mate arrangement 9 may be joined to one or both of first cover 2 and second cover 4.
In examples in which container 1 is used to secure storage media (e.g., DVDs, CDs, or any other suitable storage media), container 1 may be sized similarly to, for example, a standard library case. In such an example, container 1 may work with current manufacturing automation, and may posses similar wall heights, disc position, and booklet size as a standard library case. Alternatively, container 1 need not have dimensions that are substantially larger than the storage media. For example, container 1 may be only slightly larger than the storage media to the extent it is capable of entirely enclosing the storage media while allowing room for the slot formed by openings 12 and 14 to be unobstructed when the storage media is present in the container. For example, if the storage media is a DVD or a CD, the dimensions of container 1 may correspond to those of the storage media where the slot passes through the container such that it is aligned with the center hole (i.e., the opening in the center of the storage medium) of the DVD or CD.
Preferably, container 1 is constructed of any durable material suitable to secure asset 6 within container 1 and prevent unauthorized persons from breaking the container to gain access to the asset. Container 1 may be constructed of, for example, plastic, metal, wood, a polymer, a thermoplastic resin (such as polypropylene, ABS, or polycarbonate), or any other suitable durable material.
Container 1 may include at least one transparent portion (not shown) to permit a potential customer to view the contents of the container, for example, asset 6. In such an embodiment, if container 1 is used to contain an item for sale, a potential customer may view the contents before deciding whether to purchase asset 6. Container 1 may include, for example, a transparent jacket (not shown) arranged on the outside of the container for displaying information materials in connection with the asset 6 to the potential customer. For example, if container 1 is used to secure a DVD movie, the transparent jacket may include a miniature pictograph, title, or any other suitable information in connection with the DVD movie.
Locking member 8 is configured to detachably couple to locking mate arrangement 9 to secure first cover 2 to second cover 4. For this purpose, one or both of locking member 8 and locking mate arrangement 9 may be configured to be acted upon by an external key arrangement, as described below. The interaction of the external key arrangement and container 1 selectively positions internal locking member 8 in either a locked position or an unlocked position, and thereby couples or decouples locking member 8 and locking mate arrangement 9, respectively.
Container 10 may consist of a single compartment that may retain different types and sizes of assets. Container 10 may alternatively include several compartments formed by the first and second covers in conjunction with trays 15 or 17. Each one of trays 15 and 17 is configured to receive and retain a storage medium (not shown) or other asset. For purposes of illustration,
First cover 22 may for example include resilient clips 19 for receiving and retaining a storage medium (not shown) in a casing (or alternatively only the casing) or other asset in one of trays 15. When a storage medium and/or casing is present in container 10, it may be secured in one of trays 15 by applying a downward force to the storage medium or casing which engages and causes resilient clips 19 to bend. Thereafter, resilient clips 19 resume their original positioning due to their natural resiliency and the storage medium and/or casing is secured within tray 15. To remove the storage medium and/or casing, a user may apply a force upon the storage medium or casing and cause resilient clips 19 to bend, thereby releasing the storage medium and/or casing. Thus, the storage medium may be safely placed upon and removed within tray 15 without being damaged.
First cover 22 may alternatively or simultaneously include one or more universal trays 17 for receiving and retaining a storage medium. Each universal tray 17 may include one or more molded-in clips for retaining various sizes of assets such as flash media (e.g., SD memory cards, compactflash memory cards, memory sticks, etc.)
By varying the number, locations and/or sizes of the various clips in container 10, the latter can be modified to retain different assets of different types, shapes and sizes without changing other properties of the container. For example, clips may be molded into at least one of the covers of container 10 so that the container can store a variety of formats of flash media formats. Alternatively, some of the clips may be slideable. It should be noted that trays 15 and 17 are merely illustrative and that any suitable mechanism may be used to receive and retain a storage medium within container 10. For example, if the storage medium is a DVD or a CD, exemplary hubs described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 09/696,614, filed Oct. 25, 2000 and U.S. patent publication No. 2002/0023853, published Feb. 28, 2002, which are hereby incorporated by reference herein in their entireties, or hub 38 described below and shown in
Container 10 may include one or more of the security features described, for example, in Lax U.S. Pat. No. 6,561,347, incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. For example, container 10 may include “overlapping walls” which protect the top and bottom edges of the container from tampering. As shown in
First and second covers 22 and 24 are configured to move between an open configuration and a closed configuration. When the storage medium is present in container 10 in the closed configuration, the container encloses the storage medium. Moreover, first cover 22 includes a recess 26 that extends inwards while second cover 24 includes a recess 28 which also extends inwards. Each of recesses 26 and 27 has an opening, namely, openings 27 and 28, respectively. When first and second covers 22 and 24 are in the closed configuration, recesses 26 and 28 butt up against each other so that openings 27 and 29 are contiguously aligned with each other to form slot 21 (see
Like the illustrative lockable container described hereinabove in connection with
First cover 32 may include two resilient document retaining members 51 and 53 which may be used to retain documents, such as a booklet related to the storage media secured within container 30. Second cover 34 may receive and retain a storage medium or other asset with a hub 38, which is shown in more detail in
When the storage medium is present in container 30, it may be placed upon hub 38. The storage medium's central hole is placed around resilient members 40. (It should be noted that while four resilient members 40 are shown, this is merely illustrative, and any suitable number of resilient members may be used.) A downward force is applied to the storage medium which causes resilient members 40 to bend further inwardly into voids 42, due to the engagement of the opening of the storage medium with resilient members 40. Upon the application of sufficient downward force upon the storage medium, resilient members 40 bend inwardly far enough such that the circumference around resilient members 40 is less than the circumference of the storage medium's center hole, thereby allowing the storage medium to be placed upon frustum 44. At this point, resilient members 40 resume their original positioning due to their natural resiliency, and the storage medium is retained on frustum 44. To remove the storage medium, a user may apply a force upon hub 38, allowing the user to lift the storage medium off of the hub. Thus, the storage medium may be safely placed upon and removed from hub 38 without being damaged.
It should be noted that hub 38 of
Like the illustrative lockable container described hereinabove in connection with
Locking member 100 includes at least one spring-arm arranged on an end of the locking member that is configured to magnetically couple with an external magnetic key arrangement (see, for example, key arrangement 300 of
As shown in
The double engagement portions of locking member 100 (i.e., portions 112-126) are configured to engage associated tabs of first cover 32 and second cover 34 of container 30 (see
Single engagement portions 106, 108, and 110 are configured to engage tab portions 82, 84, and 86 of second cover 34 and corresponding respective tabs 88, 90, and 92 of first cover 32.
Each engagement portion (i.e., engagement portions 106-126) includes a locking trench and a release trench. The various locking trenches are designed so that when container 30 is closed and the tab portions on first cover 32 are aligned with the corresponding tab portions on second cover 34, locking member 100 slides into the locked position so that each locking trench catches and traps the corresponding tab portions therebetween, preventing the corresponding tab portions from being separated. This alignment prevents container 30 from being opened.
In particular, engagement portions 106, 108, and 110 each have locking and release trenches 128 and 130, 132 and 134, and 136 and 138, respectively. Engagement portions 112 and 114 include locking trenches 140 and 142, respectively. With regard to release trenches for engagement portions 112 and 114, the engagement portions share a “release trench” 93 in container 30 (see
A simplified example of the interaction between tabs of first and second covers 32 and 34 and locking and release trenches of locking member 100 is as follows. When first cover 32 is closed upon second cover 34, tabs 66 and 68 face corresponding tabs 50 and 52, respectively, and tab 88 faces corresponding tab 82. In this position, tabs 50 and 66 sit within and traverse release trench 93 (i.e., space 93) of container 30, tabs 52 and 68 sit within and traverse release trench 93 of container 30, and tabs 88 and 82 sit within and traverse release trench 130 of single engagement portion 106. Because the tabs sit within the release trenches and are able to traverse the trenches, the container can be opened (see, for example, locking member 100 in an unlocked position in
To lock container 30, locking member 30 is made to slide in a direction that engages the corresponding tabs with the appropriate locking trenches. This traps the corresponding tabs within the locking trenches and prevents the tabs from separating and, consequently, the container from opening. In other words, the container may not be opened, since the associated tabs of first cover 32 are prevented from freely traversing the various release trenches when the first cover is pulled away from second cover 34. For example, when locking member 30 is slid into the locked position, the corresponding tabs 50 and 66 are caught within locking trench 140 of double engagement portion 112, corresponding tabs 52 and 68 are caught within locking trench 142 of double engagement portion 114, and corresponding tabs 82 and 88 are caught within locking trench 128 of single engagement portion 106. The locking trenches prevent tabs 66 and 68 of first cover 32 from separating from corresponding tabs 50 and 52, respectively, of second cover 34, and prevent tab 88 of the first cover from separating from corresponding tab 82 of the second cover. The remaining tab portions are similarly caught within the corresponding locking trenches to securely lock the container in a closed position.
In some embodiments, during the molding or stamping process of container 30, locking member 100 may be fabricated offline and assembled, if necessary. Locking member 100 may subsequently be inserted into container 30 during the last stage of the molding or stamping process, prior to closing the container and before a film is attached.
Locking member 100 sits in second cover-34 in a lock-receiving space 94 (
As shown in
In this manner, a first magnetic arrangement of a magnetic key arrangement (e.g., magnetic key arrangement 300 of
For example, first and second magnetic arrangements of a magnetic key arrangement (see, for example, magnetic key arrangement 300 of
In some embodiments of the present invention in which spring arms 102 and 104 are integrally formed (e.g., molded) with locking member 100, the spring arms may need to be rotated out of alignment with the longitudinal axis of the locking member so that magnetic inserts 174 and 172 are properly positioned within the spring arms. The process of rotating each of spring arms 102 and 104 out of alignment with locking member 30, however, may cause an unwanted bias on the spring arms, thereby causing locking heads 170 and 168 to be displaced outward in a direction perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the locking member. Accordingly, each spring arm 102 and 104 may be provided with hooks 184 and 180, and hook catches 186 and 182, respectively. In this manner, spring arms 102 and 104 may be properly positioned after inserting magnetic inserts 174 and 172, respectively, so that the spring arms do not protrude perpendicularly to the longitudinal axis of locking member 100.
As shown in
As shown in
In an exemplary embodiment, first and second magnetic arrangements 304 and 306 are magnets or the like designed to interact with metallic inserts 172 and 174 (
It should be noted that although key arrangement 300 of the present invention shows first and second magnet arrangements 304 and 306, the number of magnets and combinations thereof may be increased as desired. For example, key arrangement 300 may include three magnets, rendering it extremely difficult for a thief to properly manipulate three magnets to unlock container 30.
Magnetic key arrangement 300 may include exemplary security features such as, for example, a key-lock feature, a key-lock counter-mount feature, a benefit-denial feature, or any combination thereof. These features will be described in detail hereinbelow.
The “key-lock” feature of the present invention locks magnetic key arrangement 300 closed, thereby preventing its use to unlock container 30 if, for example, a cash register is unmanned or if a store is closed. In some embodiments, channel 302 includes a blocking member or bar 308, operatively connected to a key assembly 310. Key assembly 310 is structured and arranged to move blocking member 308 into a locked position (
To move blocking member 308 into the locked position (
To unlock magnetic key arrangement 300 (
The “key-lock counter-mount” feature of the present invention permits magnetic key arrangement 300 to be securely and detachably coupled to, for example, a retail store checkout counter. Magnetic key arrangement 300 may be releasably attached by use of a second key arrangement 314 that locks and unlocks magnetic key arrangement 300 to the counter. Second key arrangement 314 works in connection with a permanent mounting plate 316 that is permanently affixed to a checkout counter using any suitable method.
In some embodiments, magnetic key arrangement 300 may be releasably attached to mounting plate 316 by a bottom cover 318. Bottom cover 318 may include hook portions 320 that are constructed and arranged to slidingly engage into associated catch portions 322 formed in mounting plate 316. Hook portions 320 may be strong enough so that a potential thief can not forcibly remove magnetic key arrangement 300 from mounting plate 316. For example, hook portions 320 may include reinforced walls for increased strength.
Second key arrangement 314 includes a second blocking member or bar 324 that is constructed and arranged to traverse grooves 326 and 328 of bottom cover 318 and mounting plate 316, respectively. Grooves 326 and 328 are aligned in a linear relationship when bottom cover 318 of magnetic key arrangement 300 is slidingly engaged to mounting plate 316. When second bar 324 traverses grooves 326 and 328, bottom cover 318 is prevented from sliding out of engagement with mounting plate 316.
To move second bar 324 into a locked position in which magnetic key arrangement 300 is locked to a checkout counter, bottom cover 318 is slid into engagement with mounting plate 316. An appropriate key is then inserted into second key assembly 314 and turned. Bar 324 is then released, thereby causing the bar to extend into and traverse grooves 326 and 328. To unlock magnetic key arrangement 300 from the counter, the appropriate key is inserted into key assembly 314 and turned in a direction that moves bar 322 out of grooves 326 and 328. Magnetic key arrangement 300 may then be slid out of engagement with mounting plate 316.
The “benefit denial” feature of the present invention may be used in addition to, or in combination with, either of the key-lock or key-lock counter-mount features described hereinabove. With the benefit denial feature, if a thief tries to forcibly tamper with magnetic key arrangement 300 (e.g., by trying to remove it from a retail store checkout counter), magnetic key arrangement 300 is made to “fall apart,” rendering it useless. In some embodiments, magnetic key arrangement 300 may be manufactured such that forceful tampering with the unit will cause magnets 304 and 306 to fly together, breaking the unit and rendering it unusable. Magnetic key arrangement 300 may also be manufactured such that it can not be easily reassembled without certain assembly tools.
For security, any of the known EAS or RFID tags (e.g., an AM or RF non-deactivatable security tag) (not shown) may be mounted on mounting plate 318 or within outer casing 330 of magnetic key arrangement 300. In such an embodiment, an AM or RF detector may be placed within a retail store to detect if an unauthorized user attempts to steal magnetic key arrangement 300 or, for example, if a stolen magnetic key arrangement is brought into the store. The non-deactivatable tags may set off alarms, notifying security personnel.
In some embodiments, magnetic key arrangement 300 may be configured to communicate the locking state of lockable container 30 to a user in an audible manner, tactile manner, optical manner, visual manner, or any combination thereof. For example, magnetic key arrangement 300 may include any number of indicators or verification redundancies (e.g., audible, visual, tactile, or optical indicators, or any combination thereof) to indicate the locked or unlocked status of container 30. In one example, magnetic key arrangement 300 may include a speaker arrangement (not shown) for communicating an audible indicator to the user. In another example, magnetic key arrangement 300 may be configured to transmit a tactile indicator to the user, such as a vibration signal through the lockable container. In yet another example, magnetic key arrangement 300 may include at least one light source (e.g., LED, lamp, or any other suitable light source) for communicating an optical indicator to the user.
In some embodiments, magnetic key arrangement 300 may include an “identification, serialization, and web server with database” feature. A bar code (not shown), for example, may be placed on outer casing 330 of magnetic key arrangement 300. The bar code may show, for example, one or more of the product number or serial number, the name or ID number of the store or other authorized user, the date the product was sold, leased or the like to the authorized user, or any other suitable information. This allows stolen magnetic key arrangements to be traced through a database containing serial numbers, manufacturing information and store ID of the key arrangement distributed to retailers, replicators, or the like. The stolen magnetic key arrangement may then be traced back to the last listed authorized user.
To lock container 30 by orienting locking member 100 in the locked position, side edge 97 of container 30 is positioned within channel 302 in the orientation shown in
To unlock container 30 by engaging locking member 100 in the unlocked position, side edge 97 of the container is positioned within channel 302 (
As an alternative to the method of unlocking container 30 shown in
As discussed above, the recessed openings included in the covers of container 30 align with each other to form slot 3234 that passes through the closed container as shown in
Container 30 may include one or more of the security features described, for example, in Lax U.S. Pat. No. 6,561,347, incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. For example, container 30 may include overlapping walls which protect the top and bottom edges of the container from tampering. As shown in
Container 400 includes a first cover 402, a second cover 404, and a spine 406 disposed therebetween. Second cover 404 may retain a storage medium (not shown). First cover 402 and second cover 404 are pivotally coupled to spine 406 to form a living hinge. The living hinge allows first and second covers 402 and 404 to be rotated toward each other so that the first and second covers can meet and couple to one another to enclose and, therefore, secure the storage medium or other asset.
First cover 402 may include two resilient document retaining members 408 and 410 which may be used to retain documents, such as a booklet related to the storage media secured within container 400. Second cover 404 may include a hub 412 to retain a storage medium. An illustrative hub is described hereinabove in connection with
First and second covers 402 and 404 may include a plurality of loops that interact with locking member 500 to lock container 400 in the closed position. Locking member 500 is inserted into container 400 so that it is capable of sliding in directions 414 and 416 (see
Locking member 500 may include molded spring arms 502 and 504 which, as more fully described hereinbelow, are used to prevent locking member 500 from sliding into the unlocked position when locked and into the locked position when unlocked. It should be noted that spring arms 502 and 504 may take on any other suitable arrangements so long as they meet the objectives of the present invention. For example, for locking member 500, molded spring arms 502 and 504 may be metal leaf springs (not shown) that are included as part of second cover 404 of container 400, rather than as part of locking member 500.
Locking member 500 includes locking tabs 506, 508, 510, and 512 that interlock with adjacent corresponding loops 420 and 428, 422 and 430, 424 and 432, and 426 and 434, respectively, formed in each side of container 400 to lock the container in the closed position, as described in detail hereinbelow. The locking tabs and loops function similarly to the engagement and receptacle structures of container 30 and locking member 100, described hereinabove. Loops 420, 422, 424, and 426 are disposed on second cover 404, and loops 428, 430, 432, and 434 are disposed on first cover 402, so that when container 400 is in the closed position, the loops sit in an adjacent relationship. For example, when container 400 is closed and ready to be locked, loop 420 sits adjacent to loop 428, loop 422 sits adjacent to loop 430, loop 424 sits adjacent to loop 432, and loop 426 sits adjacent to loop 434. Locking tabs 506, 508, 510, and 512 are constructed and arranged to at least partially sit within the corresponding loops when locking member 500 is in the unlocked position, as shown in
Locking member 500 may be inserted into container 400 by, for example, snapping the member into the container. In some embodiments, locking member 500 includes a shoulder portion 520 that snap fits with, and sits under, tab portion 439 of container 400 (
In one example, the available working distance from the inside edge of container 400 to a booklet inserted in the container may be approximately 7.5 mm. In such an example, locking member 500 may occupy about 5 mm of the available space.
Locking member 500 is designed to be used with an external magnetic key arrangement, such as magnetic key arrangement 600 of
As shown in
Locking member 500 locks container 400 in the closed position because, as a result of the sliding action, locking tab 506 interlocks with loops 420 and 428, locking tab 508 interlocks with loops 422 and 430, locking tab 510 interlocks with loops 424 and 432, and locking tab 512 interlocks with loops 426 and 434. This locked positioning of locking member 500 is shown in
It should be noted that that any number or combination of magnets may be used to allow locking member 500 to slide in directions 414 and 416. For example, one or more magnets may be located at the end of the magnetic key arrangement, rather than at the sides as shown in
It has been found that the three-magnet magnetic key arrangement (e.g., magnetic key arrangement 600) is particularly secure because it makes it extremely hard for a thief to manipulate the magnets to unlock the container. It should be noted, however, that even though the magnetic key arrangement of the present invention shows three magnets that work with four magnetically attractable portions, the number of magnets, magnetically attractable portions, and combinations thereof may be increased to make security more efficient or decreased for efficiency or ease of manufacture. Moreover, for increased security, the magnets may be non-commercial magnets that are not readily available, and may be of different sizes, making them even more difficult to manipulate. Moreover, the magnetic key arrangement may include steel inserts on opposite edges or may be a saturated bias-type permanent magnet.
Inserts 520, 522, 524, and 526 and the corresponding magnets 604, 606, and 608 result in seven variables that may be changed to create different lock and key combinations akin to changing the cylinder of a door lock. For example, one or more of inserts 520, 522, 524, and 526 may be constructed from a metallic or semi-metallic material, or may have a varying diameter or shape. By varying one or both of the size and material of the inserts, a corresponding magnetic key arrangement requires magnetic assemblies of varying characteristics to unlock container 400. For example, if inserts 520 and 522 were constructed with small diameters, and inserts 524 and 526 were constructed with large diameters, larger decoupling magnets would be required to magnetically couple with inserts 520 and 522, whereas a relatively small decoupling magnet would magnetically couple with inserts 524 and 526.
Similarly, magnets 604, 606, and 608 may be varied in material, size, shape, and any combination thereof. For example, magnets 604, 606, and 608 may be constructed of ferrite or semi-ferrite materials to work with a particular locking member 500 having inserts 520, 522, 524, and 526 specifically designed to work with magnets 604, 606, and 608.
In one example, the force needed to lock or unlock container 400 may be small. For example, magnets 604 and 606 of magnetic key arrangement 600 may pull about a 0.6 inch stroke. The magnets may be, for example, 2 inches in diameter, 1.5 inches thick, and NEO 42.
In practice, when locked, container 400 may be displayed in a live retail or rental environment. Moreover, since locking member 500 is completely located inside container 400, it can not be accessed or tampered with by a consumer. At a checkout counter, container 400 is positioned in magnetic key arrangement 600 to unlock the container, and the consumer goes home with the entire container—nothing is removed. As a result, no separate locking device is generated that needs to be stored, reused, recycled, or discarded by the retailer or rental establishment.
As described hereinabove in connection with container 30, container 400 may be provided with at least one status window, for indicating the locked or unlocked status of the lockable container. As shown in
As shown in
In the embodiments described hereinabove, the magnetic key arrangements 300 and 600 are single units. In such embodiments, a user locks and unlocks containers 30 and 400 by properly orienting the container in the corresponding magnetic key arrangement. Alternatively, the magnetic key arrangement may be broken down into two different units. One unit may act as a coupler, and the other unit may act as a decoupler. Preferably, the coupler and decoupler are constructed and arranged so that the coupler acts as a decoupler, but not the other way around. For example, the container and the magnetic key arrangement may be “keyed” so that the decoupler can not act as a coupler. This prevents a clerk from accidentally locking a container, rendering the purchaser unable to open the container when he or she gets home. Preferably, to key the container and the decoupler, the container may include raised stops located at the bottom of the container (not shown). The decoupler may include a thin throat or track (not shown). Thus, if a clerk tries to insert the bottom of the container having the stops into the thin throat, the container will not fit. In other words, the clerk can only put the container into the decoupler in one orientation, and therefore is only able to unlock the container. Similarly, the coupler may have a wider throat which is wide enough to accommodate the bottom of the container and the stops when attempting to lock the container (not shown). Since the throat of the coupler is wider than the throat of the decoupler, the coupler also functions as decoupler.
In some embodiments, there may be two versions of magnetic key arrangement. One may be a more robust decoupler with four mounts, RFID or EAS security tags or the like, and is leased. Preferably, the security tag is either an RF or AM (acousto-magnetic) non-deactivatable tag. The other version may be a lower cost decoupler that retailers can purchase.
Preferably, distribution of the separate coupler and decoupler is controlled for security reasons. The coupler may, for example, only be given to replicators (e.g., those persons who package the container for retail sale). The decoupler may only be given to the point-of-sale retailer (e.g., checkout counters).
In particular, locking member 800 has a plurality of double engagement portions (i.e., portions 808-813) that are configured to engage associated tabs of second cover 704 of container 700. Double engagement portions 806 and 807 are configured to engage tabs 720 and 722, respectively; double engagement portions 808 and 809 are configured to engage tabs 724 and 726, respectively; double engagement portions 810 and 811 are configured to engage tabs 728 and 730, respectively; and double engagement portions 812 and 813 are configured to engage tabs 732 and 734, respectively. Moreover, container 700 has slot 790 that traverses the container for hanging on a merchandising rack. Slot 790 is formed by recessed opening 792 on first cover 702 and recessed opening 794 on second cover 704.
A difference between container 700 and container 30 is that container 700 is sized and designed to accommodate an asset such as, for example, razor blades. For example, as shown in
Still another illustrative lockable container 900 for securing an asset in accordance with the present invention is shown in
Yet another illustrative lockable container 1000 for securing an asset in accordance with the present invention is shown in
Accordingly, various embodiments of a lockable stand-alone container having a slot and an integral locking mechanism are provided. The container is advantageous because it can be hung and displayed on a merchandising rack through the slot. The container can accomodate various types of assets. Moreover, it is very difficult to penetrate the container because of the integral locking mechanism which preferably extends along the length of the container, the additional firmness obtained from the walls and the fact that the recessed slot is located within the container. The container may be used in applications requiring the container to be locked. If the container needs to be used in applications where the container is not required to be locked, the lock is simply not activated. The container and key arrangement are easy to use and do not require the administration of any additional parts such as external locks. The container is therefore environmentally friendly and is no additional cost to the consumer or retailer, and only minimally more for the manufacturer and replicator. Some adjustments may be required at the molder/replicator, which-may cost up to $0.04 per piece. Savings on the security sticker edge labels, which may no longer be needed, may offset this. The container is not bulky as it does not require additional casings, layers or sleeves and can be sized to substantially correspond to the size of the asset contained therein. Revenue from every piece may be generated through royalties.
In practice, when a container is molded and the locking member inserted therein, the container is not locked (i.e., the locking member is not in the closed position). The container may be locked anytime thereafter. When the container needs to be locked, the container may be put in the presence of a magnetic key arrangement and locked after replication (e.g., after packaged with a disc, booklet, etc.) by, for example, a replicator. The container may then be hung on a merchandising rack through the provided slot.
It will be understood that the foregoing is only illustrative of the principles of the invention, and that still other modifications can be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. For example, any of the features described hereinabove in connection with illustrative lockable containers, illustrative openings, illustrative slots, illustrative locking members and illustrative magnetic key arrangements may be present in any of the embodiments of the present invention described herein.
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US8094028 *||Dec 23, 2008||Jan 10, 2012||Mckesson Automation, Inc.||Radio frequency alignment object, carriage and associated method of storing a product associated therewith|
|US8424703 *||May 1, 2009||Apr 23, 2013||Brooks Automation, Inc.||Substrate container sealing via movable magnets|
|US20090272743 *||Nov 5, 2009||Meulen Peter Van Der||Substrate container sealing via movable magnets|
|U.S. Classification||206/470, 206/1.5, 206/308.1, 206/308.2|
|International Classification||B65D85/30, B65D73/00, A45C13/10|
|Cooperative Classification||A45C11/00, A45C2011/001, A45C13/18|
|European Classification||A45C13/18, A45C11/00|
|Dec 14, 2005||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: AUTRONIC PLASTICS, INC., NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:LAX, MICHAEL R.;REEL/FRAME:017116/0397
Effective date: 20051209