Patent application title: ELASTIC BEAD AND LOOP FASTENER
Francesca B. Kuglen (Oakland, CA, US)
Tom Robbins (Hayward, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB65D6300FI
24 17 B
Class name: Bale and package ties, hose clamps packet holders closed loops
Publication date: 2013-01-17
Patent application number: 20130014351
An elastic bead and loop fastener comprises a length of flexible material
having at least one loop and a plurality of interconnected beads
extending from the loop, each of the beads having an outer diameter
greater than the inner diameter of the center opening of the loop, each
adjacent pair of beads interconnected by a connector section having a
diameter no greater than the inner diameter of the center opening and
spaced apart a distance slightly greater than the width of the loop,
wherein one or more beads can be pulled through the center opening to
capture the loop between a selected pair of adjacent beads thereby
forming a flexible closed fastener having an adjustable circumference.
1. An elastic bead and loop fastener comprising: a length of flexible
material having at least one loop and a plurality of interconnected beads
extending from said at least one loop, each of said at least one loops
having two sides, a width and a center opening, each of the two sides of
said loop having a sloped inner surface, said center opening having an
inner diameter, each of said beads having an outer diameter slightly
greater than the inner diameter of said center opening, each adjacent
pair of said plurality of beads interconnected by a connector section
having a diameter no greater than the inner diameter of said center
opening, each of said beads having two tapered shoulders, the opposed
shoulders of each pair of adjacent beads spaced apart a distance slightly
greater than the width of said loop, such that one or more beads can be
pulled through said at least one loop to dispose one of a selected pair
of adjacent beads on each of said two sides of said at least one loop
thereby closely capturing said at least one loop between the shoulders of
said pair of adjacent beads to form said length of flexible material into
a closed band configuration having a selected perimeter.
2. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: the tapered shoulders of each of said adjacent pairs of said plurality of beads form smooth transitions with said connector section.
3. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: the sloped inner surface of said at least one loop and the tapered shoulders of each of said plurality of beads mutually slide over each other to facilitate passage of each of said beads through said loop.
4. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: said at least one loop comprises a plurality of loops.
5. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: at least one of said plurality of beads is interposed between one or more adjacent pairs of said plurality of loops.
6. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: said flexible material has a low coefficient of friction.
7. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: said flexible material is silicone.
8. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: the sloped inner surfaces of said loops have an elliptical profile.
9. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 wherein: said connector sections each have a diameter slightly less than the inner diameter of said center opening.
10. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 further comprising: an elongated tip extending from said plurality of interconnected beads.
11. The elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 further comprising: a finger grip extending from the other end of the loop.
12. A method for closing the elastic bead and loop fastener of claim 1 comprising: forming a fastener into a fastened configuration by inserting each of two opposing tips of a two tip fastener through a loop equidistant from the opposing tip.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/507,090 filed on Jul. 12, 2011.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 This invention is directed to flexible fasteners and particularly to elongated fasteners formed of elastic material having one or more loops and one or more spaced apart beads for pulling through the loops.
 Elongated fasteners used to bind together a group of similar articles are well-known. For example, cable ties are commonly used to bundle together a group of computer cables. One group of fasteners comprises a line or thin cord of flexible material on which is provided a series of teeth each of which has a tapered forward end and a flat back end, and a "one-way" head having an opening through which to pass the cord and teeth. The head is equipped with flexible jaws which open when the tapered forward end of each tooth is passed through the head and which close after the tooth has passed through the head. Pulling the cord in the reverse direction brings the flat back end of the nearest tooth into abutment with the closed jaws which makes it difficult or impossible to remove the cord from the head.
 A variation on this theme is the traditional cable tie which consists of an elongated strip or strap having a rack of slanted gears on one longitudinal surface. One end of the cable tie is provided with a head having a slot and a ratchet mechanism. As the strap is passed through the head, the ratchet mechanism will allow teeth to pass through in the forward direction but prevent them from being pulled backwards.
 Another flexible fastener consists of an elongated cord of relatively hard polyethylene having a series of spaced apart beads or spheres and a flat head having a keyhole type slot. The slot has a large opening, a short longitudinal channel extending away from the beads, and a smaller opening connected to the large opening through the channel. The large opening is sized for easy passage therethrough of the cord and beads; the channel has a cross-dimension very slightly smaller than the diameter of the cord; and the small opening has a diameter slightly larger than the cord but smaller than the beads. Due to the ability of polyethylene to elastically deform, the cord can be forced through the channel after which the cord and channel will return to their original shapes. The fastener is closed by first passing the cord through the large opening until a pair of adjacent beads straddles the opening, then pressing the cord laterally through the channel from the large opening into the small opening. The cord will not pass in the reverse direction through the channel back to the large opening unless it is again forced and is firmly retained lengthwise in the small opening between the pair of beads. The closed cord cannot be expanded because the beads cannot pass through the small opening. The fastener can be closed by reversing the above steps.
 Another fastener consists of a cord formed of soft and flexible plastic material extending from a flap or head section. A series of spaced apart beads is disposed along the length of the cord and the head section has a single aperture including a diameter slightly smaller than any of the beads. The beads are widely spaced apart relative to the width of the head section. Each bead has a spherical shape and meets the cord at an abrupt angle. The fastener is closed by forcing one or more of the beads and connecting cord through the aperture, thereby causing the aperture to expand just enough to allow the bead to pass through it, whereupon the cord is removably retained in the aperture between two beads.
 There is thus a need for an improved elongated flexible fastener in which the cord can be securely positioned in the head, yet can be adjusted in two directions for tightening and loosening the fastener, wherein the spacing between securement points along the cord is as small as possible thereby maximizing adjustability of the fastener, and that provides an easy and smooth transition between securement points for ease of use.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1A is a plan view of an elastic bead and loop fastener according to the invention.
 FIG. 1B is an elevation view of the bead and loop fastener shown in FIG. 1.
 FIGS. 2A-2C show the elastic bead and loop fastener of FIGS. 1A and 1B in various stages of forming the fastener into a fastened configuration.
 FIG. 3A is a close-up sectional view of one of the loops taken along lines 3A-3A of FIG. 2A and of one of the beads in the tip of the elastic bead and loop fastener shown in FIG. 2A, showing the tip of the fastener in position for insertion in the loop.
 FIG. 3B is similar to FIG. 3A and shows a close-up view of a bead passing midway through the loop.
 FIG. 3C is similar to FIG. 3B and shows a close-up view of a loop captured between two adjacent beads.
 FIG. 4A shows the bead and loop fastener of FIG. 3C in a fastened configuration being stretched from side-to-side.
 FIG. 4B is a close-up view of a joint formed by a loop and two adjacent beads of the fastener shown in FIG. 4.
 FIG. 5 is a plan view of a second embodiment of an elastic bead loop fastener similar to that shown in FIG. 1, but including a plurality of loops.
 FIG. 6 is a plan view of a third embodiment of an elastic bead and loop fastener having tips on opposite ends of the fastener.
 FIG. 6A is a plan view of a longer embodiment of the fastener shown in FIG. 6 formed into a fastened configuration having dual joints.
 FIG. 7 is a plan view of a fourth embodiment of an elastic bead and loop fastener in which loops are provided on each end of the fastener.
 FIG. 8 shows an elastic bead and loop fastener fastened around a pony tail.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATED EMBODIMENTS
 An elastic bead and loop fastener, referred to generally at 10 in FIG. 1, comprises a plurality of interconnected beads 12, at least one loop 14, an elongated cylindrical tip 16 on one end, and a finger grip 18 on the opposite end. Each loop 14 is toroidally shaped defining a ring portion 20 and a center opening 22. Each pair of adjacent beads 12 is interconnected by a connector section 24 thereby forming a chain of beads 26. One end of the chain of beads 26 is connected to the loop 14 by a connector section 24. The tip 16 extends from the other end of the chain of beads 26. The finger grip 18 extends from the loop 14 opposite the chain of beads 26.
 Referring now to FIG. 3A, each side of the ring portion 20 of loop 14 has a tapered inner surface 28, and each bead 12 has tapered forward and rear shoulders 30 and a diameter 31 slightly greater than the diameter 34 of the opening 22. The connector section 24 has an outer diameter 32 slightly smaller than the diameter 34 of the opening 22. Similarly, tip 16 has a diameter 36 slightly smaller than the diameter 34 of the opening 22.
 The fastener is employed by bending the fastener until the tip 16 is positioned adjacent the loop 22 as shown in FIGS. 2A and 3A, and then introducing into and pulling the tip 16 through the center opening 22 of the loop 14 until the shoulder 30 of the first bead 12 touches the inner surface 28 of the center opening 22. Thereafter, due to the elasticity of the material, pulling on the tip 16 from the other side of the loop 14 causes the loop 14 to expand slightly and the bead 12 to compress just enough to allow the bead 12 to pass through the loop 14, as shown in FIGS. 2B and 3B. The tapered inner surface 28 of opening 22 and the tapered shape of the shoulder 30 of bead 12 mutually cooperate to facilitate smooth entry of the bead 12 into the loop 14. Once the bead 12 has passed completely through the loop 14, the bead 12 and the loop 14 return to their original shapes as shown in FIG. 3C. Passage of the first bead 12 through the loop 14 causes the loop 14 to be captured between two adjacent beads 12A, 12B in a closed configuration, as shown in FIGS. 2C and 3C. The perimeter of the closed fastener can be made smaller by pulling additional beads 12 through the loop 14. In this manner the fastener can be fastened around an object or objects which it is desired to hold together, such as the ponytail P shown in FIG. 8, and the closed fastener may be tightened or loosened by pulling the desired number of beads 12 through the loop 14. The fastener can easily be opened by pulling all the beads 12 backwards through the loop 14 until the latter is released from the chain of beads 26.
 With reference again to FIGS. 1A and 1B, the finger pull 18 is useful to hold the loop 14 in position in order to introduce the tip 16 into the center opening 22 and while one or more beads 12 are being pulled through the loop 14. While the illustrated embodiment shows finger pull 18 in the shape of a flap or tag, an effective finger pull 18 could be in other shapes that provide a suitable gripping surface.
 An unexpected property of the invention is that if the fastener, while fixed in the closed or fastened configuration with loop 14 captured between beads 12B and 12C, is stretched such as indicated by the arrows shown in FIG. 4A, the "outer" bead 12B immediately adjacent the loop 14 is deformed at an angle by loop 14 so that the shoulder 30 of outer bead 12B is brought into direct abutment with the inner surface 28 of the loop 14. See FIG. 4B. The outer bead 12B is therefore restrained from passing through loop 14 by further stretching of the closed fastener save by application of substantially greater force than is needed to pull a bead 12 perpendicularly through the loop 14, such as shown in FIGS. 2A-2C. The fastener in the fastened configuration is thus surprisingly secure when being stretched.
 The fastener is suitably constructed from a silicone polymer due to that material's favorable combination of strength, elasticity and low coefficient of friction. A silicone polymer fastener is soft, strong, and highly flexible, will not stick to itself or almost any other substance, and can be used and reused indefinitely.
 As mentioned above, FIG. 8 shows an elastic bead and loop fastener being used as a hair tie. A fastener constructed according to the specifications discussed above is ideal for use as a hair tie because it will not stick to or grab hair like a rubber band, and it can be easily fastened around and unfastened from around a gathered quantity hair.
 A second embodiment of an elastic bead and loop fastener, referred to generally in FIG. 5 at 40, is similar to the embodiment discussed above except that, instead of one loop 14, a plurality of loops 14 are interspersed at intervals along the chain of beads. This "multiple loops" embodiment provides additional options for forming a closed band 36 as discussed above since the tip 16 and following beads 12 may be pulled through any one of the plurality of loops 14. Moreover, each loop 14 can be pulled through any other loop 14 since the loop being pulled through another loop will elastically collapse, and the loop through which another loop is being pulled will expand, each sufficiently to allow one loop to pass through another.
 A third embodiment of an elastic bead and loop fastener, referred to generally in FIG. 6 at 50, is similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 5 except that, instead of a finger grip 18 on one end of the device and a tip 16 on the other, each end is provided with a tip 16. A double closure of a longer variant of this embodiment 52, having five loops, is shown in FIG. 6A in which loops 54A, 54B, disposed at opposite ends of the fastener, are captured between adjacent pairs of beads 56A, 56B, respectively, thereby having a fastening strength twice as great as if only one bead and loop joint were used.
 A fourth embodiment of an elastic bead and loop fastener, referred to generally in FIG. 7 at 60, is similar to the embodiment shown in FIG. 6 except that, instead of a tip 16 on each end, loops 14 are provided.
 Multiple fasteners can be joined together in an unlimited number of patterns for numerous purposes. Elastic loop and bead fasteners can be connected together end-to-end to extend the length of single fasteners and multiple fasteners can be interlinked to form elastic ropes, nets or decorative items such as a simple necklace or bracelet.
 An elastic bead and loop fastener can be made in many sizes ranging from small to quite large for a variety of fastening tasks requiring a range of retention strengths. One suitable size is appropriate for use as a hair tie. A larger size might be appropriate for industrial uses.
 Elastic loop and bead fasteners have numerous advantages over prior art flexible fasteners. They are quick and easy to put into use, neat in appearance, and simple to understand. They are self-contained and do not need accessories or mating parts. They are readily adjustable, easily removable, and can be reused indefinitely. The invention can be manufactured and sold at modest prices, in a variety of sizes to suit a variety of applications, and can be produced in many different colors. Finally, since the material used to make the fastener has a markedly low coefficient of friction, it is well suited to be used as a hair tie since it will not stick to hair like a rubber band will.
 There have thus been described and illustrated certain preferred embodiments of an elastic bead and loop fastener according to the invention. Although the present invention has been described and illustrated in detail, it is clearly understood that the same is by way of illustration and example only and is not to be taken as limiting, the spirit and scope of the present invention being limited only by the terms of the appended claims and their legal equivalents.