booKrates

4 booKrates prototype units showing both stacking configurations.

What follows are the salient parts of a U.S. Patent Application prepared solely by myself during the Fall of 2000, while I was a student at the University of Texas School of Law. The invention it describes, which I proposed to call "booKrates," was based on an idea I'd had the preceding summer, and mothered by the necessity of my own itinerant and bibliophiliac ways. I did not hear of the results of my application until March, 2002; by that time, I'd long since given up aspirations to the law, but still held onto a few of being an inventor. (I still do.) The complete application, as published by the USPTO can be viewed here. For the final disposition of that application, see the notes at the bottom of this page.


United States Patent Application 20020070641
Kind Code A1
Ragan, Sean Michael June 13, 2002

Two-way stacking and nesting book boxes with interposing slat construction

Abstract

A unitary container for the accessible storage and convenient transportation of books and/or the like featuring top and bottom surfaces which are other than solid, being composed of various longitudinal slats spaced such that, when two or more units are stacked in a bookcase configuration, the top slats of lower units interpose between the bottom slats of upper units to form an effectively solid planar shelf for the storage of books and/or the like within each upper unit. The spaces between the slats are large enough to allow this function, and at the same time small enough to provide effective containment of books and/or the like when an individual container is removed from the stack and used for transportation of said books and/or the like. Additionally, the container features conventional nesting means whereby it may be stacked and interlocked with other like containers in an alternate configuration with the planes of the rear panels parallel to the ground. The means of this alternate nesting configuration incorporate a forcing function which allows the containers to nest properly in the alternate configuration only if they are stacked alternatingly top-over-bottom and bottom-over-top, in order to insure that the center of mass of a stack of containers in the alternate configuration is more closely aligned with the center of volume of the stack itself

FIG. 7 is a front perspective illustration of two units of the
     preferred embodiment of the invention stacked in a bookcase
     configuration, showing the interposition of top and bottom slats to form
     an effectively solid planar shelf within the upper unit.


Description


BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Persons who, by vocation or inclination, must frequently move from one residence to another, and who have large libraries (for example students, professors, journalists, etc.) are faced with a problem in the convenient storage and transportation of books or the like. Traditional bookcases, being substantial pieces of furniture, are adequate for storage but less than adequate for moving, in that the books must first be unloaded from them and packed and moved separately, and also in that the bookcases themselves are often heavy and cumbersome. Traditional bookcases also tend to be expensive and, if a person only has one or two shelves of books, may provide more storage capacity than is needed.

The 1973 book Nomadic Furniture, by James Hennesey and Victor Papanek, describes a common solution to these problems, which is to employ surplus wooden packing crates (for example those sometimes used for shipping fruit) stacked on their sides in a bookcase-like configuration with their interiors exposed to the room. Books or other media stored inside may be easily accessed by reaching into the open crate, and easily moved by lifting the entire crate and carrying it in the traditional manner. This eliminates the need to unload a bookcase prior to moving by eliminating the bookcase itself, and replacing it with a stack of modular boxes which may be moved without being unloaded. It also allows for shelving space to grow more naturally with the user's library.

This approach, while adequate, is less than ideal for many reasons: 1) In today's era of increased recycling and waste-consciousness, wooden crates are increasingly difficult to find. 2) What crates may be available are often cheaply made and generally inadequate to support the significant load of large numbers of books placed on or in them. 3) Even if solidly constructed, standard wooden crates are heavier than necessary for the purpose of storing or transporting books or the like, because of material redundancies between crates when stacked in the bookcase configuration, and because of excess material when used as a moving container. 4) Standard wooden crates have no capacity to positively interlock with one another, and are thus limited in the height to which they may be safely stacked in the bookcase configuration. 5) Standard wooden crates are often poorly proportioned for books, resulting either in wasted space or in inadequate capacity for larger volumes. 6) Standard wooden crates are often aesthetically displeasing.

The prior art which most closely addresses these problems, to this writer's knowledge, is Shugart's U.S. Pat. No. 4,322,118, which discloses a six-sided container featuring top, bottom, rear, and two side panels, and a sixth, movable panel which, by means of grooves in the side and bottom panels, may be slid into place either at the front of the unit, thereby forming a sealed container for transport or storage, or at the rear of the unit, whereat it may be stored to allow access to the contents of the shelf. The unit also features pegs extending vertically from the upper surfaces of the side panels which mate with holes in the lower surfaces of the side panels of a like unit when stacked on top. The unit also features horizontally-oriented openings in the side panels which serve as handholds.

Although the device disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,322,118 goes a long way toward eliminating the shortcomings of standard wooden crates appropriated for use as bookcases, it is still deficient in that it suffers from excess weight because of material redundancies between the upper wall of the lower unit and the lower wall of the upper unit when stacked in the bookcase configuration, and because of excess material in the side walls of a single unit when used as a moving container. Moreover, the nesting system used to interlock the units when stacked in the bookcase configuration, consisting of protrusions and corresponding recesses in the upper and lower surfaces of the container's side panels, is incidental to the structure of the container itself and as such unnecessarily complicates manufacture and may be unduly subject to breakage.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, it is the object of this invention to provide a unitary container for the accessible storage and convenient transportation of books and/or the like, after the manner of surplus wooden crates described above, which eliminates excess weight by eliminating solid planar construction of the top and bottom surfaces of the container, and replacing them with various longitudinal slats spaced such that, when two or more units are stacked in the bookcase configuration, the top slats of lower units interpose between the bottom slats of upper units to form a single effectively solid planar shelf within the upper unit whereon books or the like may be stored and accessed. The slats are spaced widely enough to allow this function, and at the same time narrowly enough to provide effective containment of books or the like when a single unit is employed as a moving container.

Additionally, it is an object of this invention to reduce manufacturing costs by employing other than solid planar construction for the top and bottom surfaces of the container, and replacing it with the interposing slat construction described hereinabove as a weight-saving device, which uses fifty percent less material than solid planar construction.

It is a further object of this invention to eliminate interlocking systems which are incidental to the structure of the container itself, such as protrusions and corresponding recesses in the upper and lower surfaces of the side panels, and to replace them with an interlocking system which is integral to the structure of the container itself, specifically that system of interposing top and bottom slats described hereinabove.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a means whereby the containers may be stacked in an alternate configuration, with the planes of their rear panels parallel to the ground, wherein their contents will be retained by the force of gravity and, in lower containers, by the proximity of the rear panels of upper containers, for purposes of transportation or non-accessible storage of said contents.

It is a further object of this invention to provide a forcing function whereby the containers, when stacked in the alternate configuration described hereinabove, will only nest properly when stacked alternatingly bottom-over-top and top-over-bottom, in order to enhance stability of the stack, and hence enhance safety, by insuring that the center of mass of a group of containers stacked in this alternate configuration is more closely aligned with the center of volume of the stack itself.

These and other objects will be made manifest by providing a container with parallel opposed side panels, approximately square, joined adjacent the rear edge by a back panel or stop-board, and joined along the top and bottom edges by various slats spaced as described above to interpose when the unit is stacked with other like units and to effectively contain when the unit is carried individually, said back panel and said top and bottom slats being disposed orthogonally to the plane of said side panels, and being attached to said side panels by screws, nails, staples, pegs, glue, or other conventional means of attachment. Additionally, said side panels incorporate openings arranged to provide handholds for carrying the unit and to further reduce its weight.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings of the preferred embodiment, which are numbered identically throughout, the invention consists of right (1) and left (2) parallel opposed wooden side panels, 3/4" thick, 111/4" deep from front to back, and 12" high, incorporating two sets of ovular openings(3, 4) 4" long and 1" wide to serve as handholds and as a means to reduce weight, one set of openings (3) being disposed adjacent and parallel to the front edge of the side panels, and the second set (4) being disposed adjacent and parallel to the top edge of the side panels. The side panels are joined adjacent their rear edge by a wooden stop board (5), 3/4" in thickness, 5 1/2" in height, and 22 1/2" in width, which is attached orthogonally to the interior surfaces of the side panels by four screws(6), two in each end of the stop board, extending through the side panels and into the end grain of the stop-board.
FIG. 1 is a front perspective illustration of the preferred embodiment of the invention. FIG. 2 is a right-side plan of the preferred embodiment of the
     invention, showing the spacing of top and bottom slats for interposition,
     and some possible locations and orientations of openings in the
     side-panels to provide handholds and weight reduction.


The side panels are also joined along their top edges by three identical wooden slats (7), each 3/4" thick, 1.6" deep from front to back, and 24" long, spaced such that an identical slat may be interposed between each pair of slats, and another identical slat may be exactly fit between the frontmost top slat and the front upper edges of the side panels, and another identical slat may be exactly fit between the rearmost top slat and the rear upper edges of the side panels. These top slats are orthogonally disposed to the planes of the side panels, and are attached to the side panels by means of screws(8), two adjacent to each end of each slat, extending through the upper surface of the slat and into the upper surface of the side panels and counter-sunk into the upper surface of the slat so as not to protrude above the upper surface of the slat.

FIG. 3 is a top plan of the preferred embodiment of the invention,
     with the bottom slats omitted for clarity, showing the spacing of top
     slats, the location of screws for securing the top slats, the rabbeted
     front and rear edges of the side panels, and the disposition of the rear
     stop-board. FIG. 4 is a bottom plan of the preferred embodiment of the
     invention, with the top slats removed for clarity, showing the spacing of
     bottom slats and the location of screws for securing the bottom slats.

The side panels are also joined along the bottom edges by four identical wooden slats (9), each also 3/4" thick, 1.6" deep from front to back, and 24" long, spaced such that an identical slat may be interposed between each pair of slats, with the frontmost bottom slat positioned immediately adjacent the front lower edges of the side panels, and the rearmost bottom slat positioned immediately adjacent the rear lower edges of the side panels, so that the three spaces between the four bottoms slats will exactly accept the three top slats of another unit stacked underneath. The bottom slats are orthogonally disposed to the planes of the side panels, and are attached to the side panels by means of screws(10), two adjacent to each end of each slat, extending through the lower surface of the slat and into the lower surface of the side panels and counter-sunk into the lower surface of the slat so as not to protrude below the lower surface of the slat.

FIG. 5 is a front plan of the preferred embodiment of the invention
     when loaded, with diagonally cross-hatched areas to indicate books or
     like objects included to show the preferred disposition of such objects
     within the container. FIG. 6 is a rear plan of the preferred embodiment of the invention
     when loaded, showing the disposition of the rear stop-board with respect
     to the contents of the container.

To use the invention, books and/or the like are placed inside the container thus formed with their spines (or the equivalent) facing forward with respect to the container and their bottom edges resting on the upper surface of the bottom slats. Two or more like containers may then be stacked in a bookcase configuration by aligning the bottom slats of upper units with the spaces between the top slats of lower units, and lowering the upper units into position thusly, so that the top slats of lower units and the bottom slats of upper units interpose to form a single effectively solid planar shelf within each upper unit whereon books or the like may be slidably stored or removed. The weight of the containers and of the material they contain is sufficient to maintain a stable nesting arrangement by means of this interposition, allowing the containers to be safely stacked as high as the ceilings of most rooms will permit without need of further interlocking devices. Note that the mating faces of interposing slats may or may not be slanted at complementary angles, as shown in FIG. 8, to facilitate the self-aligning of top and bottom slats when the units are stacked in a bookcase configuration.
FIG. 7 is a front perspective illustration of two units of the
     preferred embodiment of the invention stacked in a bookcase
     configuration, showing the interposition of top and bottom slats to form
     an effectively solid planar shelf within the upper unit. FIG. 8 is a detail showing the possible slanting of the mating
     faces of interposing slats at complementary angles to facilitate
     self-aligning of the slats when the units are stacked in the bookcase
     configuration.

To move the books and/or the like so contained and arranged, each unit is lifted off the stack by means of either set of handholds (2,3), manually rotated so that the plane of the rear stop-board is roughly parallel to the ground, and carried in the manner of a standard lidless crate by means of the handholds adjacent the front edges of the side panels (3).
The preferred embodiment also incorporates rabbeted front (11) and rear (12) edges of the side panels to facilitate nesting of the units when stacked in an alternate configuration, presumably for transportation purposes, with the planes of the rear stop-boards parallel to the ground. This alternate stacking and nesting configuration, illustrated in FIG. 9, also incorporates a forcing function, provided by the juxtaposition of the rabbeted front and rear edges with respect to the frontmost and rearmost bottom slats, which allows the units to nest properly in the alternate configuration only when stacked alternatingly top-over-bottom and bottom-over-top. In the preferred embodiment, this forcing function works by providing that the frontmost and rearmost bottom slats of two units will interfere with one another and so prohibit nesting of the rabbeted front and rear edges of the two units if the two units are stacked in a bottom-over-bottom and top-over-top configuration. This feature works to insure that the center of mass of a stack of units arranged in this configuration corresponds more exactly to the centerline of the stack itself, thus enhancing the stability and safety of the units stacked in this configuration.
FIG. 9 is a side plan of four units of the preferred embodiment of
     the invention stacked in the alternate configuration, with the planes of
     their rear surfaces parallel to the ground, showing the operation of the
     forcing function whereby the load of a stack of units in this
     configuration is evenly distributed within the stack itself The dashed
     lines indicate the disposition of the contents of the containers.

It will be recognized, finally, that the foregoing is but one embodiment of an apparatus within the scope of the present invention, and that various other modifications will occur to those skilled in the art upon reading the disclosure set forth hereinbefore. Moreover, although the preferred embodiment is constructed in wood, it will be recognized that construction in other materials and by other processes, such as plastic injection molding, is not precluded from the scope of this invention.

* * * * *

The patent, alas, did not issue; in spite of what I considered an exhaustive (it was certainly exhausting) patent search prior to filing the application, there was almost identical prior art. Compare my figure 1, immediately below, to the title figure from US Patent No. 5,335,606.

My own concept for the booKrate. The concept from patent #US5335606.

This patent issued only seven years before my own application (1993) and, incredibly, to an inventor (Verlon E. Whitehead) who lives within 15 miles of me. In the summer of 2002, I wrote a letter to Mr. Whitehead, congratulating him and expressing my general amazement at the coincidence. I received a concise, but courteous, reply from his business associate, a Mr. Ron Hunt, CEO of CD3 Storage Systems, advising me that, although the unit was not currently in production, they had "chosen to move in the direction of plastic injection molding," and had already prepared oak part masters to that end. Mr. Hunt intimated that a production license might be available, but I have neither the time, money, or inclination to pursue such a business right now. Maybe someday. :)

iamanangelchaser@yahoo.com

9.28.2002

index