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Shoulder guard attachment for a hanger

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Title: Shoulder guard attachment for a hanger.
Abstract: A shoulder guard attachment for use with a hanger having a hooked neck and upper support regions angling outwardly away therefrom. The shoulder guard attachment comprises a rigid base having an open J-shape when viewed from the side and being substantially arcuate in cross-section. The base has a narrower first end with a smaller radius of curvature and a wider second end having a larger radius of curvature. A locking clip extends inwardly from an inner surface of the base and is provided with a slot that interlocking receives the support region of the hanger therein. The base preferably is snap-fitted onto the hanger to provide a wider and more gently-curved profile to the support regions thereof so that different types of garments can be adequately supported thereon and puckers and dimples in the shoulder area of the garment will be substantially eliminated. ...


- Canton, OH, US
Inventor: Fred M. Wallace
USPTO Applicaton #: #20080169319 - Class: 223 98 (USPTO) - 07/17/08 - Class 223 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20080169319, Shoulder guard attachment for a hanger.

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CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This is a standard utility patent application claiming priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/880,559, filed Jan. 16, 2007, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

This invention generally relates to clothes hangers. More particularly, the invention relates to clothes hangers used by the dry-cleaning industry. Specifically, the invention relates to a shoulder guard attachment that is detachably connectable to a standard plastic or wire hanger so that it may be used to hang a variety of different types of garments.

2. Background Information

One of the problems faced by the dry-cleaning industry is the need for a variety of differently sized and shaped clothes hangers for hanging different types of garments. A dress shirt, for example, needs a totally different type of hanger to a silk blouse, which in turn needs a totally different hanger from a suit jacket. Ideally, the dry cleaner selects the most appropriate hanger for the job. So for example, a thin wire hanger would be used for the dress shirt, a slightly wider and more rounded plastic hanger would be used for the silk shirt, and a much wider and stronger hanger would be needed for the suit jacket. The drawbacks of stocking these differently sized and shaped hangers are obvious. The first drawback is the increased cost involved in purchasing smaller quantities of a wider variety of hanger types. Secondly, the dry-cleaning establishment has to set aside a decently sized storage area for storing the various hanger styles. Thirdly, the employees spend a considerable number of man-hours to select and locate the appropriate hanger for the job.

A number of devices have been proposed in the prior art to address this issue. These devices have all centered around attachments that are applied over a hanger, most particularly the industry standard wire hanger, to alter the overall profile and width of the hanger. Most particularly, the devices alter the shape and size of those regions of the hanger that support the collar and shoulder areas of a garment. These attachments have become known as shoulder guards. The most commonly used shoulder guards are manufactured from box-board and are provided to the dry cleaner as card blanks. A number of different card-blank-type shoulder guards have been disclosed in the prior art, such as in U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,988,022; 5,139,184; and 5,577,645 all issued to Seitz; U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,927,572; 6,019,262; and 6,269,989 all issued to Kiselik; and 6,581,810 issued to Ho.

Typically, the blank is folded into the appropriate shape and draped around the wire hanger. Cooperating components on the blank are interlocked, stapled or otherwise secured together to hold the folded blank on the hanger. While card-blank-type shoulder guards solve the problem of having to purchase a wide variety of different hanger styles and to store the same, they are still time consuming to fold into the appropriate shape and to apply to the wire hangers. Furthermore, some of these shoulder guard devices may impart undesirable creases and form shaped areas in the garments that are hung thereon. Furthermore, the blanks for articles such as heavy coats can be cumbersome and not easily supported on a thin wire hanger.

To solve these and other problems, various plastic shoulder guards have also been developed and utilized in the industry. Examples of such devices are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,353,839 issued to McFall; 2,597,509; and 2,601,442 issued to Mallory; 6,655,521 issued to Tiss et al; and U.S. Publication No. 2005/0252938 to Schapiro. All of the devices other than those patented by Mallory are full-hanger devices where the profile of the hanger from the neck area to the end of the shoulder area is covered by the shoulder guard and the profile thereof is changed by the device.

The two patents to Mallory disclose abbreviated clip-type shoulder guard attachments that are applied to only the shoulder areas of a wire hanger. The clip, covered by the U.S. Pat. No. 2,597,509 patent, is made from a flat, flexible piece of material that is cut into a substantially pear-shaped member. A slot is cut in the narrower end of the flexible member and a pair of shaped arms are cut into the wider end of the member. The wire of the hanger is positioned in the slot and the arms are bent downwardly to engage the lower cross piece on the hanger. This device, while appearing simple in design, has several flaws. Firstly, the clip extends outwardly beyond the end of the hanger and terminates in a sharp edge. This sharp edge will tend to create a shaped rim area in the garment and will create folded regions in the sleeves thereof. Secondly, the flexible nature of the clip itself will cause it to become crushed by heavier garments that may be hung on the hanger. If that problem is addressed by making the clip out of a less-flexible material, the increased severity of the shape of the clip will create an increased number of unwanted creases and lines in the garment.

Mallory's U.S. Pat. No. 2,601,442, shows an abbreviated clip-type shoulder guard attachment that is secured at the shoulder area of a wire hanger. The clip is again formed from a substantially flat piece of material, in this case metal, that is shaped to be slightly curved in cross section. The metal clip has a wire bracket attached to its lower surface to engage the wire on the hanger and to thereby secure the clip thereto. The clip is designed to be applied to the upper wire regions of the hanger so that the end of the clip terminates inwardly of the outer ends of the hanger. Consequently, this clip is designed to provide a slightly wider profile to the shoulder-end areas of the upper wire hanger, but because of its placement and design will likely still create shaped areas and creases in any garment draped thereover.

There is therefore a need in the art for an improved shoulder guard that may be quickly and easily attached to a standard plastic or wire hanger and will change the profile of the shoulder area of the hanger so that it will not create unintended shaped areas and creases in garments hung on the hanger and will also tend to eliminate puckers and dimples in garments hung on the hanger.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The device of the present invention is a shoulder guard attachment for use with a hanger having a hooked neck and upper support regions angling outwardly away therefrom. The shoulder guard attachment comprises a rigid base having an open J-shape when viewed from the side and being substantially arcuate in cross-section. The base has a narrower first end with a smaller radius of curvature and a wider second end having a larger radius of curvature. A locking clip extends inwardly from an inner surface of the base and is provided with a slot that interlocking receives the support region of the hanger therein. The base preferably is snap-fitted onto the hanger to provide a wider and more gently-curved profile to the support regions thereof so that different types of garments may be adequately supported thereon and puckers and dimples in the shoulder area of the garment will be substantially eliminated.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The preferred embodiments of the invention, illustrative of the best mode in which applicant has contemplated applying the principles, are set forth in the following description and are shown in the drawings and are particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.

FIG. 1 is a front view of a hanger with the shoulder guard attachments of the present invention connected thereto;

FIG. 2 is an exploded front view of the hanger and the shoulder guard attachments of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective bottom view of one of the shoulder guard attachments;

FIG. 4 is left side view of the shoulder guard attachment shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional end view of the shoulder guard attachment being brought into the proximity of a support region of the hanger;

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional end view of the locking clip of the shoulder guard attachment engaging the support region of the hanger;

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional end view of the locking clip fully engaged with the support region of the hanger;

FIG. 8 is a right side view of the shoulder guard attachment engaged on the hanger;

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional front view of the shoulder guard attachment and hanger through line 9-9 of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a front view of an alternative embodiment of a hanger with a shoulder guard attachment integrally molded therewith; and

FIG. 11 is a cross-sectional view of the hanger through line 11-11 of FIG. 10.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIGS. 1-2, there is shown a hanger 10 supporting a garment 12 thereon. Hanger 10 is a standard hanger made from wire or plastic and shaped to include a hook-shaped neck region 14, upper support regions 16, 18; outer ends 20, 22 and a crosspiece 24.

In accordance with a specific feature of the present invention, two clip-type shoulder guard attachments are secured to hanger 10 and are generally indicated at 26. Shoulder guard attachments 26 are connected to hanger 10 so that they will support the shoulder areas 28 of garment 12 thereon.

Shoulder guard attachment 26 is shown in greater detail in FIGS. 3-9. Attachment 26 is molded or otherwise formed from a substantially rigid material such as plastic. When viewed in profile, such as in FIG. 9, shoulder guard attachment 26 is substantially an open J-shaped member comprising a first region 26a which is substantially straight and a second region 26b which extends outwardly from first region 26a and is curved. When this J-shaped member is viewed in cross-section, such as in FIG. 6, shoulder guard attachment 26 is substantially arcuate or C-shaped in cross section. This arcuate cross-sectional shape is maintained along the entire length “L” (FIG. 4) of attachment 26, but the degree of curvature changes from the first end 30 of attachment 26 to the second end 32 thereof. First end 30 has a width “X” (FIG. 4) which is narrower than the width “Y” of second end 32. Furthermore, the radius of curvature of first end 30 is smaller than the radius of curvature of second end 32. Thus, attachment 26 tapers in width and becomes more curved as one moves from second end 32 toward first end 30. Furthermore, as shown in FIG. 8, first end 30 of shoulder guard attachment 26 is narrower and attachment 26 flares outwardly away from first end 30 toward second end 32 thereby effectively broadening the width and contour of hanger 10. Thus, upper support regions 16, 18 of hanger 10 have a wider and more rounded-profile proximate outer ends 20, 22 for the shoulder region 28 of garment 12 to rest upon.

Shoulder guard attachment 26 has an outer surface 34, an inner surface 36 and side edges 38, 40. All of the first and second ends 30, 32, outer surface 34 and side edges 38, 40 are rounded so that no sharp lines are presented on attachment 26 to create shaped regions within garment 12. Outer surface 34 preferably is also textured in some manner to provide a rougher garment-engaging surface so that garment 12 does not accidentally slide off hanger 10.

In accordance with another specific feature of the present invention, a plurality of locking clips 42, 44 and 46 extend outwardly away from inner surface 36 of attachment 26. Locking clips 42, 44 extend outwardly away from the inner surface of the first region 26a of attachment 26 and are positioned to engage one of upper support regions 16, 18 of hanger 10. Locking clip 46 extends outwardly away from the inner surface of the second region 26b and is oriented and positioned to engage one of outer ends 20, 22 of hanger 10. Locking clips 42, 44 are substantially identical to each other. Locking clip 46 differs from locking clips 42, 44 in that it is longer and therefore extends further outwardly away from inner surface 36 of attachment 26. Furthermore, locking clips 42, 44 are substantially parallel with each other and locking clip 46 is not parallel with clips 42, 44 and is, instead, oriented at an angle relative thereto. All of locking clips 42, 44 and 46 extend beyond side edges 38, 40 of attachment 26.

Each of locking clips 42, 44, 46 is provided with an inverted V-shaped terminal end 48 and a keyhole slot 50 provided at the apex of the V-shape. The V-shape of the terminal end 48 acts as a guide for the support regions 16, 18 of hanger 10. Slot 50 provides a mechanism for securing the support region 16, 18 of hanger 10 to locking clip 42, 44, 46. Each keyhole slot 50 has a first wider region 50a (FIGS. 5&6) and a second narrower region 50b. First wider region 50a is sized to interlock to a first hanger that has a support region 18a which has a first diameter. Second narrower region 50b is sized to interlock to a second hanger different hanger that has a support region 18b (FIG. 7) that is of a smaller diameter. Thus, a single shoulder guard attachment 26 can be connected to at least two different hangers that have different diameter support regions 18a, 18b. It will be understood that slot 50 could be alternatively shaped to include at least one more region (not shown) of a third diameter so that guard attachment 26 could be attached to yet another hanger having support regions of a different diameter.

It will be understood that locking clips 42, 44, 46 may alternatively be provided with a slot 50 that comprises only a single region for receiving the support region of a hanger therein. So, for instance, a single rounded hole such as hole 50a may be provided in the clip to receive support region 18b therein. In this instance, the clip would be manufactured so that hole 50a could expand to accommodate differently sized support regions.

Referring to FIGS. 5-9, each shoulder guard attachment 26 is connected to hanger 10 in a similar manner. The following description relates to connecting a shoulder guard attachment 26 to upper support region 18 and outer end 22. It will be understood, however, that a second shoulder guard attachment 26 is connectable to upper support region 16 and outer end 20 in a similar fashion. Attachment 26 is brought into the proximity of hanger 10 in such a manner that locking clips 42, 44 are proximate upper support region 18 and locking clip 46 is proximate outer end 22 of hanger 10. All of the locking clips 42, 44, 46 engage the support region 16, 18 of hanger 10 in the same manner. The following description refers to locking clip 42 only, but it will be understood that locking clips 44, 46 function in the same manner. Attachment 26 is pushed in the direction of arrow “A” and this causes upper support region 18 to contact terminal end 48 of locking clip 42. The V-shape of terminal end 48 guides upper support region 18 into slot 50. The upper support region 18 enters first wider region 50a of slot 50. If the hanger has a first diameter support region 18a, then the support region becomes captures in region 50a and is tightly retained therein. If the hanger has a smaller second diameter support region 50b, then as attachment 26 continues to be pushed in the direction of arrow “A”, upper support region 18b slides out of region 50a and enters second narrower region 50b of slot 50. FIG. 7 shows that when upper support region 18b is in second narrower region 50b, the support region thereof is tightly retained within locking clip 42. When shoulder guard attachment 26 is engaged on hanger 10, the first region 26a of attachment 26 extends along a portion of upper support region 18. The second region 26b of attachment 26 extends outwardly beyond outer end 22 of hanger 10 and terminates a distance below crosspiece 24.

Once attachment 26 is fully secured to hanger 10, the garment 12 is placed thereon. FIG. 1 illustrates that shoulder guard attachment 26 is positioned to support shoulder region 28 of garment 12 and to extend for a short distance into the upper sleeve region 29 of garment 12. Shoulder guard attachment 26 therefore provides a wider, gentler sloping transition for a shoulder 28 and sleeve 29 of the garment 12 and tends to eliminate puckers and dimples from the shoulder regions of garments that are hung on the hanger. Furthermore, because the shoulder guard attachment 26 has a gentle, open J-shape, the attachment 26 presents no sharp terminal edges that could create unwanted shaped and creased areas in garment 12.

It will be understood by those of ordinary skill in the art that a variety of differently sized shoulder guard attachments 26 may be connected to hanger 10 to allow hangers to be used to support different types and weights of garments. Thus, the dry cleaner may purchase a first size of shoulder guard attachments 26 that have first end widths of “X” and second end widths “Y” for supporting a lighter weight garment and purchase a second type of shoulder guard attachment (not shown) that has a first and second end widths that are proportionately greater than “X” and “Y” so that the attachment can support heavier garments. The dry cleaner therefore simply selects the appropriate size and width shoulder guard attachment 26 and snaps it quickly into place on hanger 10. If it appears that the shoulder guard attachment 26 is too broad or too narrow for the selected garment, the dry cleaner can simply grasp the attachment 26 and pull it in the opposite direction from arrow “A” and disconnect it from hanger 10. A different attachment can then be snapped into place.

Furthermore, because the shoulder guard attachment 26 is manufactured from a durable, rigid plastic, it may be returned to the dry cleaner, sanitized and reused. This would both reduce costs for the dry cleaner and be more environmentally friendly that currently known card-blank type shoulder guards.

FIGS. 10 & 11 illustrate a plastic molded hanger 110 into which the shoulder guard attachment 126 has been incorporated. Thus, the upper support regions 116, 118 each include an additional open J-shaped attachment 126 that extends slightly above and outwardly beyond the outer ends 120, 122 of hanger 110. The terminal ends 132 of attachments 126 terminate beneath crosspiece 124 of hanger 110. Although not shown in these figures, it will be understood that the tapered shape and external contours of shoulder guard attachments 126 are substantially similar to shoulder guard attachment 26. However the locking clips have been omitted and the attachment 126 is not detachable from hanger 110.

It will also be understood that while the shoulder guard attachment of the present invention has clips that are engageable with one of the upper support regions 16, 18 or outer ends 20, 22; said clips could also be formed so as to, instead, interlockingly engage the crosspiece 24 of the hanger.

In the foregoing description, certain terms have been used for brevity, clearness, and understanding. No unnecessary limitations are to be implied therefrom beyond the requirement of the prior art because such terms are used for descriptive purposes and are intended to be broadly construed.

Moreover, the description and illustration of the invention are an example and the invention is not limited to the exact details shown or described.

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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20080169319 A1
Publish Date
07/17/2008
Document #
11971436
File Date
01/09/2008
USPTO Class
223 98
Other USPTO Classes
223 85
International Class
41D27/22
Drawings
6



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