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Publication numberUS20070215663 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/376,459
Publication dateSep 20, 2007
Filing dateMar 15, 2006
Priority dateMar 15, 2006
Also published asWO2007109078A2, WO2007109078A3
Publication number11376459, 376459, US 2007/0215663 A1, US 2007/215663 A1, US 20070215663 A1, US 20070215663A1, US 2007215663 A1, US 2007215663A1, US-A1-20070215663, US-A1-2007215663, US2007/0215663A1, US2007/215663A1, US20070215663 A1, US20070215663A1, US2007215663 A1, US2007215663A1
InventorsIan Chongson, Stewart Chongson
Original AssigneeChongson Ian S, Chongson Stewart P
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Water resistant case for electronic devices
US 20070215663 A1
Abstract
The invention is a water resistant case for carrying a variety of devices, particularly portable electronic devices, such as portable music players. The case is allows a user to protect a valuable device from damage by water, abrasion and or impact, yet provides for full use of the features of an individual device while the device is protected by the case. The case is embodied as a water resistant or waterproof bag, or pouch with a window, an interior compartment, an exterior and sealable closures for sealing the storage compartment from the outside environment. The case typically provides a tactile sensitive window for viewing a screen and manipulating the controls of a device. In addition a capability is provided for input and output from the device, such as output to stereo headphones. Other accessory components allow securing the case to a person or vehicle. Thus, there is great flexibility in adaptation of components and adapting the case to particular applications.
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Claims(23)
1. A water resistant case for a portable device, comprising
a) a water resistant back panel and a water resistant front panel, each having an outer exterior surface and connected to one another to define a case interior volume adapted to house a device, said case having a closed bottom and a top case aperture for accessing said case volume;
b) a securing mechanism attached to the back panel;
c) said front panel having a window allowing manipulation of a device housed within said case interior volume;
d) said case is adapted to transmit a signal between case exterior and a device housed in case interior volume; and
e) a case aperture closure capable of providing a water tight seal when said closure is engaged.
2. The case of claim 1 wherein said front panel and said back panel are constructed of water resistant fabric.
3. The case of claim 1 wherein said case interior contains shock absorbing material.
4. The case of claim 1 wherein closure of said case aperture closure renders the case sufficiently water proof to prevent entry of liquid water upon immersion of the case.
5. The case of claim 1 wherein said securing mechanisms allows the case to be secured or removed from one or more of a user, a vehicle, an article of clothing, or another object.
6. The case of claim 1 wherein said window on said front panel is translucent and flexible, allowing manipulation of a touch sensitive control panel.
7. The case of claim 1 wherein said securing mechanisms allows the case to be secured or removed from one or more of a user, a vehicle, an article of clothing, and another object.
8. The case of claim 1 wherein said adaptation to transmit a signal between case exterior and a device housed in case interior volume is an input/output connector with at least two ports, wherein at least one port is disposed in the interior of said case, and at least one port is disposed at the exterior of said case.
9. The case of claim 8 wherein said input output connector is constructed to resist the entry of liquids through said input output connector.
10. The case of claim 1 wherein said input output connector is constructed of corrosion resistant materials.
11. The case of claim 1 wherein said case aperture closure further comprises one or more of a resilient zipper seal, an attachable flap and a roll seal.
12. The case of claim 11 wherein said roll seal is secured by hook loop fasteners affixed to said flap.
13. The case of claim 1 wherein the adaptation to transmit a signal between case exterior and a device housed in case interior volume further comprises a wireless transponder.
14. A sealable, reusable pouch for a portable device, said pouch comprising:
(a) a fabric bag having a closed lower end, an open, sealable mouth, defining a storage compartment and a pouch exterior;
(b) a provision for communication between the pouch exterior and pouch contents in the storage compartment;
(c) a shock absorbing component disposed inside the pouch; and
d) a water tight seal for providing a water tight seal to the mouth of said case mouth when said seal is closed, wherein the sealed pouch is capable of excluding water to a depth of 10 meters.
15. The pouch of claim 14 and further comprising a shock absorbing mechanism in said storage compartment providing a cushioning effect for a device disposed in the storage compartment when said case is subjected to an impact.
16. The pouch of claim 14 wherein a valved compartment of open cell resilient foam is disposed in the bottom of the storage compartment.
17. The pouch of claim 14 wherein said bag of the storage compartment is formed of a combination of rigid material, resilient fabric, and shock absorbing resilient material.
18. The case of claim 2 wherein said front panel and said back panel surfaces of the case interior are formed of a combination of rigid material and shock absorbing resilient material.
19. The pouch of claim 14 further comprising a shock absorbing mechanism sufficient for absorbing the distributed kinetic energy of the case and device together when said case and device fall from 1 meter at normal gravity.
20. The case of claim 1 wherein said front panel and said back panel surfaces are connected by a gusset.
21. The case of claim 20 wherein said gusset is made of pleated flexible material and extends from the case closure around the edges of said front panel and said back panel.
22. The case of claim 14 wherein the provision for communication between the pouch exterior and pouch contents further comprises an input output connector is provided with at least two ports, wherein at least one port is disposed in the storage compartment of said case, and at least one port is disposed at the exterior of said case.
23. A waterproof case for a portable electronic device, comprising a waterproof back panel and a waterproof front panel connected with a waterproof seal to one another, each having an outer surface and, defining a case interior volume adapted to house said device, an upper case aperture, a lower case bottom and a case exterior, a securing mechanism attached to the case, a front panel with a translucent control window allowing manipulation of an electronic device carried in the interior volume of said case, an input output connector with at least two interconnected ports, wherein at least one port is disposed in the interior volume of said case, and at least one port is disposed at the exterior of said case, a case aperture closure with a zipper seal and a roll seal capable of providing a water tight seal when said closure is engaged, such that the portable electronic device housed in the case interior volume can be connected to one input output port, sealed within the case interior by engaging the case aperture closure, and be controlled or utilized while said portable electronic device is protected from water damage.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

None

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to a variety of cases, bags, pouches and the like developed to cushion and protect objects and devices placed inside against damage from the elements, and shock from dropping or impact. The present invention provides for a sealable, reusable case, storage compartment and pouch. More particularly the present invention relates to a protective enclosure for electronic devices carried in a storage compartment.

As users of portable electronic devices are aware, it is desirable to protect the device from damage or accidental injury that may occur during routine use of the device. MP3 players, for instance, are often used during heavy exercise or other physical activity, as described above, and will be apparent to those skilled in the art. There is a continuing difficulty in balancing the desire to protect the device from damage with the need to have access to the input and output functions of the device. To be particularly useful, a protective case must provide protection, allow manipulation and control of the device, and provide for input and output of signals to and from the encased device.

A wide variety of protective cases exist and are produced. Unfortunately, no existing case provides for the requirements desired by users of portable electronic devices that commonly utilize valuable devices in adverse environments, and require the ability to use and control the device while the device is protected from environmental insult. In particular there are a wide a variety of hard “clam shell” cases for electronic devices, with an external actuating means. For instance, U.S. Patent Application No. 2005/0174727 discloses a waterproof protective enclosure for interactive electronic devices such as PDAs, iPods, and MP3s. This case has a viewing panel, and is nominally watertight, with a rigid case having hinges for folding and closing the halves of the case, providing for a gasketed seal between the haves of the case, an out put jack, and a tactile control flat-panel. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 6,456,487 discloses an enclosure for electronic devices such as PDAs providing moisture protection, a touch screen display screen, mobile electronic terminals, and electronic connectors between PDAs and the enclosure. A heavier, rigid case for tablet or notebook computers is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,871,138. Generally, all such cases often provide for enclosing a few very similar devices, and provide a level of environmental protection, a display screen, a stylus sensitive panel and inlet and outlet electronic ports

These cases, unfortunately do not easily allow a variety of devices to be utilized with a particular case, and presumably a different case must be provided for each model of the wide variety of devices marketed.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,915,934 discloses a protective enclosure with a line-out device adapted for use with electronic componentry, and providing for storage areas for electronic devices, a viewing window detail, a strap, and weather resistant capability. This device is similar to a wide variety of backpacks and purses that provide minimal protection from shock or the elements, with the design of the enclosure focusing on a provision for carrying the enclosure and providing an output jack. Other cases are known which are primarily designed as carry cases, such as that disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,604,630, providing a lightweight, water resistant carry case for equipment such as an ultrasound machine, and is representative of soft-side carry cases with protective features. Such cases provide only moderate environmental protection, such as protection from rare accidental splashes.

Thus, there remains a need for adaptable cases for carrying portable electronic devices providing protection for the device from water and soiling, protecting the encased device from impact damage, while allowing the device to be controlled and utilized. A case providing the protective aspects desired, while providing for a flexible, tactilely and aesthetically pleasing exterior is desired by many users of portable devices.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention is embodied in a case for carrying portable devices, said case having a back panel and a front panel connected to one another, defining a case interior, a case aperture, and a case exterior; a case securing mechanism attached to the back panel for the purpose of securing or removeably attaching the case to a user, person or other object; a front panel with a window that allows for manipulation of an electronic device carried in the case interior, an input output connector with at least two ports, with one port disposed into the interior of the case, and at least one port is disposed towards the exterior of the case; and a case aperture closure capable of providing a water tight seal when the closure is engaged.

The invention is embodied in a case that offers various combinations of elements, including for example, a sealing system combining three water excluding mechanisms, a waterproof flexible pocket for the device, an external I/O port and a control window.

In an alternative embodiment of the invention the case is a sealable, reusable pouch for a carrying a portable device. The pouch may be comprised of a fabric outer bag having a closed lower end, an open, sealable mouth, defining a storage compartment and a pouch exterior, providing for communication between the pouch exterior and pouch contents carried in the storage compartment. The pouch may be embodied to include a shock absorbing component disposed inside the pouch and a water tight seal for providing a water tight seal to the mouth of said case mouth when said seal is closed, thus the sealed pouch is capable of excluding water from the storage compartment when immersed in water to a depth of 10 meters.

The invention is further embodied in a waterproof case for a portable electronic device, comprising a waterproof back panel and a waterproof front panel connected with a waterproof seal to one another, each having an outer surface and, defining a case interior volume adapted to house said device, an upper case aperture, a lower case bottom and a case exterior, a securing mechanism attached to the case, a front panel with a translucent control window allowing manipulation of an electronic device carried in the interior volume of said case, an input output connector with at least two interconnected ports, wherein at least one port is disposed in the interior volume of said case, and at least one port is disposed at the exterior of said case, a case aperture closure with a zipper seal and a roll seal capable of providing a water tight seal when said closure is engaged, such that the portable electronic device housed in the case interior volume can be connected to one input output port, sealed within the case interior by engaging the case aperture closure, and be controlled or utilized while said portable electronic device is protected from water damage.

The invention is further embodied in a case for carrying portable electronic devices providing a flexible fabric storage compartment that can be sealed so as to be water and or gas tight, an external I/O port allowing connection of output devices such as headphones and a tactile sensitive control window allowing manipulation of the device while the device remains in a environmentally isolated compartment.

Advantages of the present invention include previously unavailable features of a resilient, fabric case for carrying devices that provides protection from the outside environment, allows for secure carrying of the case while engaged in strenuous activity, and the ability to fully utilize the input output capabilities of the encased device, while providing for control of the encased device.

Further advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description contained herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention, reference should be had to the following detailed description taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 shows a front perspective view of a case with the water tight closure engaged;

FIG. 2 shows a back view of one embodiment of a case;

FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of a case opened for inserting a device;

FIG. 4 shows a right facing cross section of a closed case;

FIG. 5 shows a user of the case with the case secured to the user's arm;

FIG. 6 shows a user of the case with the case secured to the user's belt; and

FIG. 7 shows a user of the case with the case secured by a lanyard around the user's neck.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The invention is embodied in a case for carrying portable electronic devices that protects the device from water and soiling while allowing the device to be controlled and utilized.

The invention is exemplified by a case made of waterproof material and with a sealable pocket for holding the device. The case is designed for securely carrying portable electronic devices that require an output jack such cellphones, PDA's, MP3 players, iPods, global positioning systems (GPS), notebook computers, wearable computers, tablet computers and computer drives. The device is embodied with a pocket with a translucent window of material that is touch sensitive (i.e. tactile), allowing the user to view the screen and manipulate the controls of the device (for instance the click wheel of an iPod). The case has a waterproof output jack that serves as an output port for headphones or the like. The case of the invention most typically is embodied in a case that provides one, two, three, or more case closure sealing mechanisms, with the number being dependent on the security required for the water proof closure. An iPod or other electronic device is sealed within the case pocket and connected to an internally disposed input jack, with headphones plugged into an externally disposed output jack. The inventive case most typically provides for multiple means of securing the case to a person, or bicycle, for instance. Particular embodiments contemplated include, for example, an armband, a belt, belt loops, loops with snap-rings, and loops with a lanyard. In particular the case provides for both the ability to manipulate and or control the encased device and provides a sealed case capable of excluding liquids and environmental hazards.

A portable music player, as may be used with the inventive case, typically is used to play music through headphones or portable speakers. The headphones are plugged into a jack connected to a line out connector from the device output. Typically the head phones are stereo headphones and are plugged into a stereo mini-jack connected to the line out such that two channels of audio signal are carried from the device through the line out jack to the headphones, where sound is produced.

Turning now to FIG. 1, certain specific embodiments of the invention are described. The invention is embodied in a sealable case 50. FIG. 1 shows a front perspective view of a case with the water tight closure engaged. Case 50 is constructed, for instance, with a front panel 52, and a back panel 54. Front panel 52 and back panel 54 are connected to one another defining a case aperture 70 a case interior 72, and a case exterior 74 (further identified in FIG. 3). In a preferred embodiment of the invention case front panel 52 and case back panel 54 are connected through means of gusset 56 fixed in position by stitching 58.

Case aperture 70 is closed by a case aperture closure 60 capable of providing a water tight seal when the case aperture closure is in an engaged position. Case aperture closure 60 is shown in the engaged position in FIG. 1. In another embodiment of the invention a means of ensuring that case aperture closure 60 is maintained in the closed or engaged condition, case aperture closure flap 61 is removeably attachable to closure 60 and affixed to front panel 52. Closure flap tab 62 allows a user to easily disengage flap 61, at the user's option. In one embodiment of the invention, flap 61 is removeably engaged with closure 60 by application of hook-loop fasteners to the flap engaging surface 64 and closure engaging surface 65 of flap 61 and closure 60, respectively. It is apparent from the invention, that flap 61 could conversely be affixed to closure 60 and removeably attachable to front panel 52. As shown, stitching 58 secures flap 61 to front panel 52 and similarly hook-loop fastener to flap 61. A wide variety of other means are available to construct and or assemble the parts of case 50.

The case front panel 52 may be constructed with a window 76. As shown in FIG. 1 a device 77 may be removeably disposed in the case interior 72. Case 50 is sized and adapted for containing, using, and controlling the particular embodiment of device 77. FIG. 1 shows a portable electronic device such as an Apple® iPod™ portable music player disposed in the case interior 72. A variety of other devices, including portable electronic devices, are adaptable for use with the case of the invention. In an embodiment of the invention, window 76 is constructed of translucent or transparent material that is touch sensitive, allowing a user of a portable device carried in case 50 to, for instance, view a screen 78 and or manipulate the controls, as at 79 of the device. Window 76 is preferably of sufficiently tactile material to allow manipulation of, for instance, the click wheel of an iPod™, buttons or touch screen on a PDA, and or switches or paddles on other devices. Thus front panel 52 may be constructed with a window allowing manipulation of an electronic device carried in the interior of case 50.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention case 50 has a waterproof jack 80 that functions as an input/output port (I/O port) for headphones or the like. In another embodiment of the invention jack 80 is connected to a cable disposed in the case interior, allowing connection of a connector jack to devices disposed inside the case interior 72, connecting jack 80 to the particular device, such as device 77. Thus, jack 80 will typically function as an input/output connector with at least two ports, wherein at least one port is disposed in the interior 72 of case 50, and at least one port is disposed at the exterior 74 of case 50. Further description of the various and optional characteristics of the I/O port of the case are disclosed below.

Case 50 is optionally supplied with a securing mechanism 84. Securing mechanism 84 may be attached to the case back panel 54. As shown in FIG. 1, in one embodiment of securing mechanism 84, elastomeric belt 86 with size adjustment buckle 88 is removeably attached to back panel 54.

Referring now to FIG. 2, a back view of one embodiment of the equipment case 50 of the invention is shown. Back panel 54 is embodied in FIG. 2 as a flat sheet of resilient cloth or other material. Gusset connector 56 connects back panel 54 to front panel 52, hidden in FIG. 2. Similarly to FIG. 1, as shown in FIG. 2, stitching 58 connects gusset 56 to back panel 54 and to front panel 52.

As shown in FIG. 2, one or more of a securing mechanism 84 is attached to the back panel 54. Strap connector 90 is shown attached to back panel 54 and or alternatively to gusset 56 by stitching 58, other common means. Strap connector 90 allows the use of one of several alternative securing mechanisms such as by threading belt 86, as shown in FIG. 1, through strap slots 92. A belt 86, shown in FIG. 1, is typically constructed of resilient and or elastomeric material, such as, for instance, Spandex®, Lycra®, or other elasticized cloth material. Belt 86 can be sized for attachment to the arm or waist of the user by a means such as belt adjustment buckle 88, or by making different lengths of belt 86 available to end users. In another embodiment of the invention, the strap slots 92 are used to accommodate the existing belt of the user, such as, for instance, a belt worn with trousers, or a tool or accessory belt used by law enforcement or utility workers.

In a preferred embodiment, as shown in FIG. 2, case 50 may be constructed with multiple means of securing the case to a user, person, or bicycle, for instance. For example, belt 86 may be sized as an armband. An additional securing mechanism is embodied as one or more eye ring loops 96 with an eye 98, slot 100 and attaching tab 102, threaded through slot 100. Attaching tab 102 is optionally permanently attached to back panel 54 by stitching for instance, or alternatively, may be removeably attached through use of snaps, ties, hook loop fasteners, or the like. In one of several possible alternative embodiments of the invention, case 50, as shown in FIG. 2 is constructed with two attached eye rings. Thus secondary securing means, such as a lanyard, snap rings, carabiners, or the like can be utilized in combination with the one or more eye rings to increase the security of attachment, and or the ease of attaching or removing the primary securing means.

Case 50 is further and optionally adaptable to provide both a water tight case interior 72, along with an open pocket 104 that allows only moderate protection from the elements, but increases the accessibility of items placed in pocket 104. Pocket 104 may be integrally formed as part of strap connector 90, so that pocket flap 106 and strap connector 90 are multifunctional. For instance, securing the pocket flap bottom 108 to the case back panel 54 while leaving the pocket flap top open, creates pocket 104, utilizing elements of strap connector 90. Alternatively, pocket 104 can be lined with water resistant material in order to separate the path of belt 86 threaded through strap slots 92 from the interior of pocket 104. Thus, pocket 104 may offer moderate protection of a device or other items carried in pocket 104 from the elements, while allowing easy access to those stored items.

Turning now to FIG. 3, FIG. 3 shows a perspective view of a case 50 opened for inserting a device 77. As shown in FIG. 3, case 50 is embodied as a soft-sided bag or pouch, with such bag providing advantages for use with portable electronic devices, including the option to connect an internally carried device with an i/o port, to releaseably seal the bag interior from the external environment, to protect the contents held in the case interior from shock, abrasion, liquids and other damage, and to provide for means to secure the contents of the bag or pouch to other objects. Front panel 52 and back panel 54 together define a case aperture 70, enclose a case interior, shown generally at 72, and the case exterior shown generally at 74. Case aperture 70 when open, allows objects such as device 77 to be disposed into the case interior 72.

A device 77 may be removeably disposed in the case interior 72. Comparison of a removed device 77 in FIG. 3 with an internally disposed device, as shown in FIG. 1, demonstrates an important aspect of the invention, allowing users to easily insert and remove devices from the case. As shown in FIG. 3, the case front panel 52 has a window 76. Window 76 is constructed of translucent, tactile material, allowing a user to view the screen 78 when the device is inserted in the case and thus reliably locate and manipulate the controls 79 in response in part to visual feedback from the device, such as displayed on screen 78.

Jack 220 provides for an I/O port accessible from the outside of the case located generally at 222. In a preferred embodiment of the invention port 222 is a female stereo-mini plug, allowing connection to the most common portable headphones available on the consumer electronics market. Jack 220 may be located on front panel 52 as shown, or alternatively at other locations, for instance, on back panel 54, on gusset 56, or as otherwise suitable for a particular application. Primary considerations for locating jack 220 is a preference to locate jack 220 where it is easily accessible to users, and also to locate jack 220 where integrity of the case can be maintained, avoiding structural weakening, and or leaks. When used for electrical connections, port 222 of jack 220 is in electrical connectivity with cable 224 that is removeably disposed in the case interior 72, allowing electrical connection of a connector jack 226 to a compatible device port 228 provided by devices disposed inside the case interior 72, thus electrically connecting jack 220 to the particular device, such as device 77. In a typical application, port 222 is female three conductor stereo-mini electrical connector, cable 224 is a coaxial three conductor cable, connector jack 226 is embodied as a male three conductor stereo-mini electrical connector and device port 228 is a female three conductor stereo-mini electrical connector. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a variety of physical and or electrical connections are available to connect or allow interaction between a device within the case interior 72 and an auxiliary device or user located outside the case.

Jack 220 in one embodiment, is shown to be formed of a single piece of resilient material that is integrally formed to provide an air or water tight seal of the connection between port 222 and cable 224. Jack assembly 220 in another embodiment comprises a protruding boot 230 that surrounds and supports port 222, and a flange 232 that forms a seal at 234 around a jack aperture occupied by jack boot 230, allowing port 222 to be maintained at the case exterior 74, and cable 224 in the case interior 72.

The invention provides for a case with a case aperture closure capable of providing a water tight and or pressure resistant seal when the case aperture closure is engaged. Turning now to a more thorough description of the case aperture closure system, as embodied in FIG. 3, the case aperture closure typically possesses more than one independent closure system to provide for a secure seal between the case interior 72 and the outside environment. An advantage the invention that is provided by no existing case is a closure system which provides for multiple reliable closures, such closures providing a pressure tight or water resistant seal alone or in combination, that are easily manipulated and secured by users, including users with limited dexterity, and that provide for redundancy in means of forming a water resistant seal in case of the failure in any one of the closure systems provided.

The case aperture closure, shown generally at 60, of case 50 is embodied in one or more mutually compatible sealing mechanisms. Case 50 is embodied with three such mechanisms, including a zipping waterproof closure shown generally at 240, a roll-up type sealing closure, shown generally at 250, and a fold-back sealing closure, shown generally at 260. Each of these closures will be treated in turn.

Closure 240 is embodied as a pressure resealable zipper top, or a so-called zipper-lock bag seal. Examples of typical pressure resealable zipper seals are disclosed in, for example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,186,786 to G. F. Kirkpatrick, filed Sep. 29, 1978; U.S. Pat. No. 4,363,345 to G. H. Schreibner, filed Nov. 18, 1991; and U.S. Pat. No. 5,009,828 to J. O. McCree, filed Oct. 11, 1989, the disclosures of which are incorporated by reference. A closure such as that shown at 240, includes Zip-lock® type seals, and wide a variety of zipper-like pressure recloseable closures are well known. A typical closure of this type is found in U.S. Pat. No. 4,363,345. The zipper-like closure has engaging ridges, as at 242 for engagement of a female zipper fastener element with an opposing male fastener element. A variety of embodiments of a pressure resealable zipper seal to be used as part of the case are contemplated, including a different numbers of engaging ridges 242 forming the zipper seal, provision for a release grip ridge, as at 246, and the optional use of a zipper seal slider to assist in securely sealing and opening the pressure resealable zipper seal. As shown in FIG. 3, the upper edge of the front panel and back panel function as gripping flanges which assist in separating the zipper-like pressure recloseable closure. Alternatively, a zipper slider can be provided to assist a user in opening and closing closure 240.

The inventive case, as embodied in FIG. 3 utilizes a roll-up type sealing closure, as at 250. The roll-up closure functions by pressing the portions of front panel 52 and back panel 54 along the plane 3-3 in close apposition, with front panel 52 and front panel 54 in the region of plane 3-3 forming the structural portion of the roll-up type seal of the invention, front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254. Returning briefly to FIG. 1, the roll-up seal 252 is shown in the engaged position, shown generally at 256. As shown in FIG. 1, a pressure resistant, water tight seal is formed by rolling the opposed surfaces of the front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254 that are shown in an unrolled state in FIG. 3.

It will be apparent that in order to function as a roll-up seal, the material forming the roll-up seal must be sufficiently flexible to be rolled. As such, it is contemplated that the roll-up seal will be constructed of a fabric, for instance, a textile fabric, a waterproof fabric, plastic or plasticized sheeting, or the like. It will also be apparent that the number of rolls accommodated by rolling the opposed surfaces of the front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254 can be varied, by varying the relative length of said front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254, and by varying the thickness or flexibility of the fabric forming rolling the opposed surfaces of the front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254.

Referring briefly again to FIG. 1, the fold-back sealing closure as used with the invention is shown in the engaged position, generally at 260. Fold-back case aperture closure flap 61 is removeably attachable to closure 60, for instance by hook-loop fasteners, such as those sold under the tradename Velcro™. It is apparent that other means are available for removeably engaging aperture closure flap 61 with closure 60, including, for example, releaseable adhesive, snaps or clips.

Returning now to FIG. 3, case aperture 70 is closed by a case aperture closure 60 capable of providing a water tight seal when the case aperture closure is in an engaged position. Fold-back case aperture closure 260 is shown generally in the open or disengaged position in FIG. 3. Fold-back case aperture closure flap 261 is removeably engageable with the face of back panel seal portion 254 by application of hook-loop fasteners to flap engaging surface 264 and closure engaging surface 265 of back panel seal portion 254. In FIG. 3, case aperture closure flap 261 is shown disengaged from the closure engaging surface 265, and remaining attached to front panel 52. Case aperture closure flap 261 is shown constructed so as to be removeably attachable to front panel 52, including at the option of the user. Closure flap tab 262 allows a user to easily disengage flap 261, at the user's option. Closure flap tab 262 provides a gripping point for users to disengage flap 261 in order to assist in disengaging the flap 261 when it is in the fully engaged position. The size of closure flap tab 262 can be modified to fit various applications, such as to increase grip when wet, or to allow gripping by a gloved hand, for instance. It is apparent from the invention, that flap 261 could conversely be affixed to closure 60 and removeably attachable to front panel 52. As shown, stitching 58 secures closure flap 260 to front panel 52 and similarly hook-loop fastener to flap 261.

FIG. 4 shows a right facing cross section of a closed case, along line 4-4 of FIG. 1. Case 50 may be constructed, as in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4 with case front panel 52 and case back panel 54 connected by gusset 56 fixed in position by stitching 58, thus providing a case interior 72, and a case exterior 74. The case aperture is shown in FIG. 4 in the closed or engaged position, by engagement of the case aperture closure system, shown generally at 270. The case front panel 52 is constructed with a window 76. Device 77 is disposed in the case interior 74. Case 50 is shown with a waterproof jack 80 with connector port 222 electrically connected to cable 224 disposed in the case interior, electrically connecting port 222 to male connector 226, and plugged into connector port 228 of device 77.

Case aperture closure system 270 is in the closed or engaged condition, and demonstrates three compatible closure mechanisms, including a pressure engageable zipper closure shown generally at 240 in the sealed condition, a roll-up type sealing closure, shown generally at 250, in the rolled or sealed condition and a fold-back sealing closure, shown generally at 260 in the engaged position i.e. a closed condition. Closure 240 as a pressure resealable zipper reveals in cross section engaging ridges 242 and 244, affixed to the back panel and front panel respectively. The roll-up type sealing closure, as at 250, being rolled up to create a seal, wherein front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254 are held in tight apposition, and if sufficient tightly held, in a water and or pressure tight apposition with one another. Thus the roll-up type seal 250 helps to assure that even if the zipper closure 240 fails, or is inadequately sealed, a reliable seal of the case interior is still maintained. Moreover, engagement of the roll-type closure seal will, as shown, serve to reinforce the closure engagement of the zipper-type seal 240, preventing its accidental disengagement. As will be apparent, the creation or maintenance of a reliable roll-up seal may be enhanced by increasing the rolls formed by front panel seal portion 252 and back panel seal portion 254 or alternatively or in addition, by adding a flap closure, clip or other feature to provide for the maintenance of the tightly rolled seal.

Additionally, in FIG. 4, the fold-back sealing closure, generally at 260, is shown in the engaged or closed condition. Fold-back case aperture closure flap 61 is removeably affixed in position by engagement of hook-loop fasteners, such fasteners positioned on the face of back panel seal portion 254 by application of hook-loop fasteners present on flap engaging surface 264 and closure engaging surface 265 of back panel seal portion 254.

Case 50 is shown with two independent securing mechanisms 76. A belt or other strap may be inserted through strap connector 90 is shown attached to outside back panel 354 providing strap slot 92. A second securing mechanism is provided by eye ring loops 96 with an eye 98, and attaching tab 102 passing through a slot in eye ring loop 96. Attaching tab 102 is shown attached to outside back panel 354 by stitching 58. Case 50, as shown, provides a water and or pressure tight case interior 72, along with an externally accessible open pocket 104 providing moderate protection from the elements with increases the accessibility to items placed in pocket 104. Pocket 104 may be integrally formed by outside back panel 354, with attachments for strap connector 90.

When a user of portable devices, such as portable electronic devices, wishes to protect a device securely from the elements or environmental hazards, maximum protection can be obtained by using elements of the inventive case. The device is connected to the i/o port, and slid into the open case, as shown in FIG. 3, and one or more of the case closures are engaged, such as by sealing a zipper closure, tightly rolling the roll-up closure, and then engaging the flap closure to maintain the other closures in a sealed condition. Thus, the device can be protected from damage during use from, for example abrasion, dropping, or impact shock, and be utilized in an environment where dousing, and or immersion in water or other liquids is possible. For instance, a user may wish to protect a valuable device from potential rainfall or from dropping when traveling or engaging in outdoor activities. As an example a MP3 music file player can be secured in the water proof case interior, such as at 72 in FIG. 4, and other items, such as identification, money, or credit cards, which are less sensitive to damage can be placed in accessory pocket 104. Additional security and protection can be provided by utilization of the securing mechanisms provided by the case, to secure the case to the user or other object.

Another advantage of the case of the invention is provision for a variety of compatible means of securing the case to an object of the user's choice. FIG. 5 shows a user 400 of a case such as shown in FIGS. 1 and 3, for instance, wherein an elastomeric strap 86 secures sealed case 50 to the arm 402 of user 400. Headphone cable 404 is connected to jack 80, allowing transmission of signal to earpiece 406. The window of case 50 allows the user to easily control and or manipulate the enclosed device, while the case is secured to the user. Thus, should user 400 engage in rigorous activity, case 50 remains secured to the user's arm, while still allowing use of the device to play music, for instance. User 400 can engage in outdoor activities, such as free play, jogging, running, cycling and watersports such as boating, without excessive concern of a valuable portable device being damaged as a result of the activity, or from environmental insult.

As shown in FIG. 6, user 400 is employing an independent securing mechanism provided by eye ring loops 96 to secure case 50 to the belt or waistband 408 of user 400. A case secured to the belt as in FIG. 6 may be more useful in situations where physical movements are moderate, such as while performing repairs to outdoor equipment, or riding in open vehicles, such as golf carts or construction equipment. Connection of headphone cable 404 to jack 80 allows transmission of signal from a device carried in the case interior to an output device, such as earpiece 406. With the variety of connectors available for use with jack 80, it will be apparent that a similar variety of input and out put devices can be used with the inventive case. On a case so provided with connectors, user 400 can seal a telecommunications device such as a cellular telephone or personal data assistant, or a voice activated computer, inside case 50, and following connection of an appropriate headset, fully control the device by using an i/o headset, such as those commonly used with cellular telephones.

FIG. 7 shows a user 400 of the case 50 with the case secured by a lanyard 410 around the user's neck 412. Lanyard 410 is removeably attacheable to eye rings 96 through use of snaps, tying, snap-rings, or the like. Again, the device may be controlled through the window of case 50, and provide input and output through cabling 414, connected with a module, such as earphone 416. Use of a lanyard with the inventive case provides optional comfort for user 400, and may also be used to provide additional security for user 400, by allowing case 50 to be carried inside the clothing of the user. In certain situations, valuable devices may be hidden from view, and sealed within case 50, with outside pocket 104 allowing the user to place needed documents, such as passports or money in the accessible pocket. Foreign travelers commonly use similar cases to carry important and or valuable items out of sight. Law enforcement personnel similarly may on occasion need to carry important electronic devices unobtrusively, while maintaining accessibility. The inventive case provides for carrying valuable devices and documents in a secure and protected location.

A case carried by a user such as that shown in FIGS. 5-7 may occasionally be dropped or propelled from the user's control. Most commonly a case might be dropped during the process of securing or unsecuring the case from the user's control. Thus, there is a need for the case of the invention to provide for shock and impact protection. A number of shock absorbing mechanisms are available for increasing the utility of the case. As one example, a valved compartment of open cell resilient foam may be fixed to the bottom of the case interior, i.e. to the closed end of the case storage compartment. Such a valved chamber or compartment can modulate the release of gas contained within open cell foam, allowing for a slow release of gas when an impact is absorbed, and then allowing the compartment to refill spontaneously, once the impact has passed. Alternatively inner and outer layered bags may be provided lining the storage compartment, with air or an inert gas is confined in the space between the inner and outer bags, or passage of the gas controlled by a pressure relief valve between multiple chambers. Thus, this contained air or inert gas acts as a cushion for protecting the contents of the storage compartment against impact damage. In order for the case window to function tactily for controlling a device, typically a layered bag system would necessarily be maintained at a minimum thickness to provide for device control. Again alternatively, the case front panel and case back panel forming the storage compartment can include both flexible or resilient material and or resilient fabric formed in a combination with a rigid material that provides for puncture protection or other point source impact protection along with strategically placed shock absorbing resilient material.

A variety of shock absorbing mechanisms are known in the art, including commercially available systems such as the Tec Air™ system sold by the Computer Luggage Co., and as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,884,768 and European Patent No. 0 797 939. Additional and similar features are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,131,734 and 6,334,534.

Case 50 is preferably made of waterproof material. In other embodiments of the invention, the case may be made of materials that are merely water resistant. The invention is embodied in a case that is both flexible, allowing the accommodation of a variety of sizes and shapes of items in the case interior, and capable of being made waterproof. As used herein water resistant refers to material that is capable, at least, of resisting or impeding the passage of liquid water by mass flow, capillary or wicking action. Thus, water resistant material may not prevent all passage of liquid water under pressure. Water tight refers to connections between components that are at least water resistant. As defined herein, waterproof refers to the capability of withstanding immersion in water or other non-corrosive or non reactive liquid other than water. Such immersion could be as little as splashing or dropping the case on or in water, or by submersion to a depth of, for instance, 10 cm, 1 m, 10 m, 50 m, or 100 m. The physical laws pressure provide that the deeper the depth of submersion in water, the greater the water pressure will be that the case must withstand in order to exclude water from the case interior. The water restricting elements of the case will necessarily be adapted to better withstand water pressure that is anticipated for use with a particular case design. Waterproof material can range from gas proof to gas permeable, including such breathable fabrics and fabric coatings such as Gore-Tex®. The case may in certain applications be constructed to be not only waterproof, but also gas proof, such that gases cannot escape the sealed case.

An advantage of the present case over any available fabric case is the ability to thoroughly protect a device carried in the case when engaged in a variety of water and snow sports. The case is particularly useful to canoeists, kayakers, boaters, rafting venturers, surfers, sailboarders, beach combers, distance swimmers, and fisherman. When a waterproof embodiment of the case is sealed, and all aperture closures engaged, a device can be used in these activities without worry of damage. A kayaker or raft venturer, for instance can be thrown from the water craft and submerged, and if the case is secured to the user, the device will be protected from water damage. Moreover, in most embodiments, there will be sufficient gas contained within the sealed case to provide positive buoyancy, allowing the case to float to the surface of the water, and be easily retrieved. The case can be specifically designed to contain sufficient floatation material to maintain positive buoyancy. Alternatively, for cases embodied to allow use in deep water diving, buoyant components can be minimized to allow the case to have neutral or negative buoyancy, i.e. to sink.

In certain applications, it is desired that the case by humidically sealed, such that water vapor cannot pass through to the interior of a sealed case (and conversely, out of the sealed case). Such application may be useful when devices must be used in environments with high humidity, exposure to which the enclosed device may be damaged. In other applications, there may be a desire to allow excess humidity to exit the case in the form of water vapor. Thus, the case body can be alternatively waterproofed by lamination of breatheable fabric or coatings to the structural fabric of the case panels, and allow gas or water vapor in the case exterior to equilibrate with the case interior. In another alternative embodiment, small grommets of breathable material can be affixed to the case to allow gas exchange.

The case is adaptable to use with a variety of i/o jacks, including, but not limited to electrical and or other physical connections, such as fluidic (e.g., air, pressure, hydraulic), optical (e.g., infrared, fiber optic, laser), and electromagnetic (e.g., microwave, telephonic, radiofrequency (RF)). For electrical connectivity, a common male female jack combination is known as a ‘stereo-mini’ connector, with the female stereo-mini line out jack forming a modular connection with the male stereo-mini jack connector on the headphone set. Alternatively, the modular connector may be of a variety of different modular connectors, such as for instance, USB male female connectors, iPod docking connectors, S-video connectors, mini RCA jacks, RCA jacks, video connectors, or adaptor connectors. Other types of connections are contemplated by the invention, including electrically isolated connections, such as RF connections, wireless network connections, optical connections, pressure transducers, and any other connection that may be useful with a device to be carried within the case of the invention.

In a preferred embodiment of the invention, a stereo-mini connector jack is provided, as at jack 80, that is constructed in such a manner as to avoid or prevent the entry of liquids into a sealed case, such as by wicking through a stranded wire cable openly connected to the port of the connector jack. In light duty applications, a water proof connection is produced by use of standard connector jacks, and standard solder connections, as unless water is forced into the connector under great pressure, such as would occur from deep immersion the insulation typically associated with speaker or headphone cabling forms a sufficient seal for excluding water. In other embodiments of the equipment case, the jack connectors utilized with the case enclosure can be equipped with, for instance, rubber gasketing, O-rings, and or resilient seals to exclude water from traveling along the connector cable. Alternatively, specialized pressure resistant connector jacks can be utilized that are specifically designed to provide a stronger barrier against water entry into the case interior. Such connector jacks are known to artisans, in particular to applications use in deep water diving, or high altitude work. One example of a pressure resistant connector jack known in the art is shown in FIG. 20 of U.S. Patent Publication US 2005/0174727.

Stitching 58 can be of solid or rubberized thread to make the connection between from panel, gusset and back panel more water resistant, or alternatively, for example, stitching 58 can be coated with a sealant, waterproofing agent, resilient gasket material, or further sealed by heat treatment, rubberizing, or by glues or other adhesives.

In another embodiment of the invention gusset 56 can alternatively, for example, be pleated to allow expansion of the case interior, be formed of different material than the back panel and front panels, and or be attached to the front panel and back panel by means other than sewing, such as by heat sealing, molding or gluing. In an alternative embodiment, the case of the invention is constructed of a single sheet of material, rather than as separate pieces joined by a gusset. A case can be easily constructed from an elongated piece of waterproof material, by folding the material and affixing two additional sides to produce a pouch shaped as case 50 of FIG. 1, possessing a case interior, a case aperture, and a case exterior, but without a gusset.

The particular means employed to form a case interior, a case aperture and a case exterior are not specifically limited so long as a closeable case aperture is available to allow insertion of a device, and seal of the closure to limit the entry of water, liquids, solids, gases, solvents, dust, dirt or corrosive substances. Those skilled in the art of the fabrication of cases will recognize that in certain applications, gusset 58 can be dispensed with, allowing front panel 52 to be connected to the back panel 54, one another defining a case interior, a case aperture and a case exterior. A further embodiment of the invention is to form the case interior by closing one end of a tube of resilient material and forming or attaching a case closure at the other end delimiting a case interior, a case aperture and a case exterior. Other means to form the enclosed case according to the invention will be obvious to artisans.

“Attached” according to the present invention includes affixation by means of sewing, stitching, fastening with an adhesive, adhesive bonding, double-face adhesive means, heat sealing, welding, high frequency or ultrasonic welding, crimped seals, or other means known to artisans. “Fabric” according to the present invention refers to any generally planar flexible material and includes, but is not limited to any type of textile or non textile fabric, whether woven, molded, extruded, spun, or cast or other material generally considered fabric by users, so long as the fabric is capable of generally conforming to the shape of an object pressed against said object.

While the invention has been described with reference to various embodiments, those skilled in the art will understand that various changes may be made and equivalents may be substituted for elements thereof without departing from the scope and essence of the invention. In addition, many modifications may be made to adapt a particular situation or material to the teachings of the invention without departing from the essential scope thereof. Therefore, it is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims. In this application all units are in the metric system and all amounts and percentages are by weight, unless otherwise expressly indicated. Also, all citations referred herein are expressly incorporated herein by reference.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification224/650, 224/236, 224/673, 224/222, 383/108, 224/257, 224/930
International ClassificationA45F3/14, B65D30/00, A45C13/30, A45C1/04
Cooperative ClassificationA45C1/04, A45C13/30, A45C2011/001, A45C11/22, A45C13/008
European ClassificationA45C13/30, A45C13/00W, A45C1/04, A45C11/22