Patent application title: Storage apparatus for decorative light strings
Karen Lee Beusch (Tacoma, WA, US)
IPC8 Class: AA47B8100FI
Class name: Supports: racks special article electrically powered
Publication date: 2012-12-27
Patent application number: 20120325757
A storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights provides a planar
body having a first side, an opposing second side, a top, a bottom, a
first lateral edge and a second lateral edge, the body defining plural
parallel elongated spaced apart slots communicating with the top and
extending proximate the bottom but not communicating therewith, the
plural parallel elongated slots separated by plural parallel rectilinear
1. A storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights having plural
spacedly arrayed light sockets on an electrically conductive wire, each
socket having a diameter and carrying a light bulb, the storage apparatus
comprising in combination: a planar body having a first side, an opposing
second side, a top edge, a bottom edge and spaced apart lateral edges; at
least one slot defined in the body, the at least one slot having a slot
opening communicating with the top edge of the body and extending to a
slot end proximate the bottom edge of the body but not communicating with
the bottom edge and the at least one slot has a first lateral edge and a
spaced apart second lateral edge with a generally uniform width between
the first lateral edge and the second lateral edge between the slot
opening and the slot end; and the width of the at least one slot between
the first lateral edge and the second lateral edge is large enough to
allow the wire to pass there-through but is smaller than the diameter of
each of the plural light sockets.
2. The storage apparatus of claim 1 wherein the body is planar.
3. The storage apparatus of claim 1 wherein the body is in the shape of a boot having a toe portion extending from one lateral edge and a heel portion extending from a second lateral edge.
4. The storage apparatus of claim 1 further comprising: plural parallel slots defined in the body, the adjacent plural parallel slots separated by an elongate parallel support.
5. The storage apparatus of claim 1 further comprising a handle extending from the body for grasping during in use.
6. A method of storing a string of decorative lights having a plurality of spacedly arrayed light sockets on an electrically conductive wire, each socket having a diameter and carrying a light bulb on a storage apparatus for decorative light strings, the method comprising the steps: placing a plug end of the string of decorative lights adjacent a slot opening communicating with a slot defined in a planar body with the plug end on a first side of the planar body and the wire passing through the slot which has a generally uniform width that is less than the diameter of the light sockets; sliding the plug end and wire along the slot until the plug end reaches a slot end and the plug end is on the first side of the body and the wire extends through the slot between a first lateral side of the slot and a second lateral side of the slot; placing a light socket next along the wire from the plug end adjacent the slot opening with the light socket on the first side of the body and the wires communicating with the light socket passing through the slot; sliding the light socket and wires along the slot until the light socket reaches the slot end and the light socket is on the first side of the body and the wires extend through the slot between the first lateral side and of the slot and the second lateral side of the slot; repeating the placing and sliding process with each next adjacent light socket along the electrically conductive wire to lace the light sockets onto the storage apparatus; and placing a second plug end of the string of decorative lights adjacent a slot opening and sliding the second plug end and wire along the slot until the second plug end is distal from the slot opening and securing the second plug end in place.
 This application is related to U.S. Utility patent application Ser. No. 12/454,909 expressly abandoned on Jan. 6, 2011 to avoid publication, and to U.S. Design Pat. D630,931 issued on Jan. 18, 2011.
BACKGROUND OF INVENTION
 1. Field of Invention
 This invention relates to storage apparatus and more particularly to a holder for strings of decorative lights, such as Christmas tree lights.
 2. Background and Description of Prior Art
 Strings of decorative lights, such as Christmas tree lights, have long been used to decorate indoor and outdoor Christmas trees, window frames, doorframes, house eaves, driveways, walks, and numerous other areas during festive seasons. Such light strings are also commonly used to decorate for special events such as weddings and to provide ambiance for areas such as outdoor cafes and pool areas.
 Decorative light strings come in a variety of sizes and lengths and typically carry dozens and sometimes hundreds of spacedly arrayed light sockets each containing an electrically powered light bulb therein. When first purchased, such light strings generally come in boxes, are coiled up in an organized fashion, and the individual sockets and light bulbs are held in place by disposable plastic frames that positionally maintain the sockets, bulbs and wire in an organized fashion. Such plastic frames are conducive to automated coiling of the wires and placement of the sockets and bulbs in a controlled environment, but unfortunately, are not conducive for use by users trying to re-wind or re-coil the light strings and re-insert the sockets and bulbs into the plastic frames after a first use.
 As a result, storage and organization of decorative light strings is a yearly and seasonally occurring problem that lacks a satisfactory solution.
 One common storage practice is for strings of decorative lights, having been "taken down" for the season, to be "dumped in a pile" for storage pending the next holiday season. A second common storage practice is to loosely coil the string of lights in a coiled loop and secure the coiled light string with an end portion of the light string itself, or with an external fastener such as a zip-tie or a rubber band.
 Unfortunately, such storage practices more frequently than not result in a severely tangled condition of the light strings when a next holiday season arises, and such tangled condition requires considerable effort to straighten out the strings of lights prior to use. Further, the untangling process frequently leads to breakage of wires and electrical connections causing portions of the strings to not illuminate, and subjects the individual bulbs to breakage.
 Even if the strings of lights do not become excessively tangled, a further difficulty arises when the strings of lights are to be "put up" for use. After light strings are straightened out, that portion of the string which is not yet attached to the surface to be decorated, or placed upon a Christmas tree, is difficult to control and manage while the light sting is being installed. When a user attempts to "gather" the string of lights into a manageable "bundle" that can be handled during the decorating process the result is commonly more tangling.
 Further, as decorative light strings become more complex, such as the relatively new "icicle-type" light strings that have multiple short strands of lights depending from a "main wire", and longer due to reduced requirements for electricity of LED type lights, the winding, unwinding and storage of such decorative light strings has become even more problematic and difficult.
 Finally, what was once predominantly a problem occurring only during the Christmas season has expanded to other holidays as the popularity and prevalence of such decorative light strings has increased to include decorating for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, 4th of July, Halloween and other holidays and special events such as weddings. In addition, many of these newer decorative light strings carry ornaments on the sockets and bulbs that illuminate when the decorative string is powered on, for instance, flags, candles, shamrocks, martini glasses and the like. The presence of such ornaments that are breakable exacerbates the storage and handing issues discussed previously.
 What is needed is a simple storage apparatus for decorative light strings that allows a user to easily and simply store decorative light strings. The apparatus must make the "taking down" of the light string easier and ensure organized and secure storage of the light string and should also make the "putting up" of the light strings easier by keeping the length of the light string that is not yet secured/fastened to the location being decorated, organized, manageable and not tangled.
 The apparatus should be lightweight to be held in one hand while the user's other hand may be used to lace the light string onto the storage apparatus and unlace the light string from the storage apparatus.
 Finally, it would be beneficial if the storage apparatus itself should be decorative to promote the spirit of the season.
 In providing such a storage apparatus, it is:
 a principal object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights, which provides convenient, untangled and secure storage of strings of decorative lights.
 a further object to provide an apparatus to keep Christmas tree lights stored in an orderly fashion such that the light strings do not become tangled during storage.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that makes "putting up" light strings easier.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that makes "taking down" light strings easier.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus that controls the free length of a string of decorative lights during the "putting up" and "taking down" processes.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that can be used and utilized while wearing gloves.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that does not become brittle or easily breakable when exposed to cold temperatures.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that is easily handled.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that is planar to minimize required storage space.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that has a festive holiday appearance.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that reduces risk of bulb breakage and prevents tangling during the storing process and during storage.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that has no moving parts, handles, locks or attachments.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that will accommodate various sizes and lengths of decorative light strings.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that allows the user to quickly visualize, indentify and replace broken or damaged light bulbs and ornaments prior to "putting up" the light string.
 a further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that is constructed from renewable resources and is recyclable.
 a still further object to provide a storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights that is of new and novel design, of rugged and durable nature, of simple and economic manufacture and one that is otherwise well suited to the uses and purposes for which it is intended.
 Other and further objects of my invention will appear from the following specification and accompanying drawings which form a part hereof. In carrying out the objects of my invention it is to be understood that its structures and features are susceptible to change in design and arrangement with only one preferred and practical embodiment of the best known mode being illustrated in the accompanying drawings and specified as is required.
BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF DRAWINGS
 In the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof and wherein like numbers refer to similar parts throughout:
 FIG. 1 is an orthographic first side view of my storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights showing a string of decorative lights carried thereon.
 FIG. 2 is an orthographic second side view of my storage apparatus for strings of decorative lights showing a string or decorative lights carried thereon.
 FIG. 3 is an orthographic view of the "toe edge" of the apparatus of FIG. 2, less the string of decorative lights.
 FIG. 4 is an orthographic view of the "heel edge" of the storage apparatus of FIG. 2 less the string of decorative lights.
 FIG. 5 is an orthographic top downward looking view of the apparatus of FIG. 1 less the string of decorative lights.
 FIG. 6 is an orthographic bottom upward looking view of the storage apparatus of FIG. 1 less the string of decorative lights.
 FIG. 7 is an enlarged orthographic view of a socket carrying a light bulb.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 A storage apparatus for decorative light strings generally provides body 10 having a first side 11 an opposing second side 12, a top portion 13, a bottom portion 14, and defines plural parallel slots 19 communicating with the top portion 13 and extending proximate the bottom portion 14 but not communicating therewith.
 In the preferred embodiment, the body 10 has the configuration of a boot (FIGS. 1 and 2) which adds the feature of a toe portion 15 and a heel portion 16 at first and second lateral edges 32, 33 respectively proximate the bottom portion 14. A cuff 18 is carried proximate the top portion 13 of the body 10, extending laterally outwardly from the first 32 and second 33 lateral edges. The boot configuration adds a festive holiday appearance to the storage apparatus, and allows the body 10 to be used as a holiday decoration. The toe portion 15 further functions as a handle which a user may grasp during use, and the toe portion 15 is sufficiently large to allow such grasping even when a user is wearing gloves to protect his/her hands from cold temperatures which are common during winter decorating seasons and which may reduce finger dexterity.
 In the preferred embodiment, the body 10 is formed of a rigid planar material, such as but not limited to, wood, metal, plastic, composites, and the like. It is preferable that the body 10 be formed of a material that is made of a recycled material, or is recyclable. It is further preferable that the body 10 be formed of a material that will withstand cold temperatures without becoming brittle or subject to breakage as might occur during installation and removal of Christmas lights during a winter season. Further, the material should be resistant to warm temperatures without melting or deforming as might occur when the apparatus is stored in confined spaces when not in use. Finally, it is preferable that the material be moisture resistant.
 Each slot 19 defines a slot opening 20 communicating with the top 13 of the body 10, and each slot 19 extends generally downwardly toward the bottom portion 14 of the body 10 and terminates at a slot end 23. Each slot 19 has a first lateral side 21 and a second lateral side 22 separated by a generally uniform width 24. The plural slots 19 defined in the body 10 are in spaced apart parallel orientation. Adjacent slots 19 define a general rectilinear support 31 therebetween, which provides spacing for light bulbs 27 to reduce bulb breakage by minimizing light bulb 27 to light bulb 27 contact.
 A typical string of decorative lights 26 has a length of electrically conductive wire 29 and two opposing plug ends 30, typically with one plug end 30 being a female-type electrical plug (not shown), and typically one plug end 30 being a male type 30a electrical plug. In some types of light strings 26, the male and female type electrical connections may be combined into single plug end 30 carried at one end of the wire 29.
 Plural sockets 28 for light bulbs 27 are spacedly arrayed on the wire 29 and the sockets 28 may have a variety of configurations, such as, but not limited to, plug-in friction type electrical fittings, threaded electrical fittings, and other known types of electrical connectors.
 The sockets 28 commonly have a generally barrel shaped configuration with an open end portion (not shown) communicating with a medial channel (not shown) in which a base portion (not shown) of a light bulb 27 is carried and positionally maintained. Known electrical contacts (not shown) are carried within the medial channel (not shown) and are in electrical connectivity with the wire 29 so as to electrically communicate with the base portion (not shown) of a light bulb 27 carried within the socket 28 to cause illumination of the light bulb 27 when the light string 26 is connected to a source of electrical energy.
 Each socket 28 has a diameter 34 (FIG. 7) that is larger than the width 24 of the slots 19 and larger than the diameter (not shown) of the wire 29. When the socket 28 and wires 29 are laced upon the body 10, the sockets 28 and light bulbs 27 are positionally retained on one side 11, 12 of the body 10 while the wires 29 communicating with the socket 28 are passed into the slot openings 20 and thereafter moved downwardly along the length of the slot 19 between the first lateral side 21 and the second lateral side 22 toward the slot ends 23, on the side 11, 12 of the body 10 opposite the sockets 28 and light bulbs 27.
 The width 24 of slot 19 is a critical dimension. During the placing/lacing of the light strings 26 onto the body 10 the sockets 28 carrying the light bulbs 27 are positionally maintained on one side 11, 12 of the body 10, while the wires 29 extending from socket 28 to socket 28 are carried on the opposing side 11, 12 of the body 10. The diameter 34 of the sockets 28 prevents the sockets 28 from moving from one side 11, 12 of the body 10 to the opposing side 11, 12 of the body 10 without first being moved out of the slot 19 through the slot opening 20.
 The organized storage of the light strings 26 by using the instant inventive apparatus, places all of the sockets 28 containing the light bulbs 27 on the one side 11, 12 of the body 10. This placement eases the testing of light strings 26 prior to the installation thereof by allowing the user to energize the light string 26 by plugging the male end plug 30a into an electrical outlet (not shown) or extension cord (not shown) and then simultaneously visualizing all of the light bulbs 27 without the need to remove the light string 26 from the body 10. Further, the somewhat fixed positional maintenance of the sockets 28 containing the bulbs 27 within the slots 19 promotes ease of replacement of defective or broken light bulbs 27 and ornaments (not shown). Finally, the generally planar configuration of the body 10 minimizes the amount of storage space necessary to store the light strings 26 during the off season.
 Having described the structure of my storage apparatus for decorative light strings, its operation may be understood.
 Assuming a string 26 of decorative lights is already hanging upon a structure (not shown), and the light string 26 is to be removed therefrom, a user would hold the body 10 with one hand, typically proximate the bottom portion 14 and perhaps by the toe portion 15 would with his/her other hand, place a first plug end 30 into one of the slots 19 so that the wire 29 passes through the slot opening 20 and thereafter into slot 19 with the plug end 30 on either the first side 11 or on second side 12 of the body 10. The user would then grasp the light socket 28 next along the wire 29 from the plug end 30 and position the socket 28 adjacent the slot opening 20 so that the socket 28 will be on the same side 11, 12 of the body 10 as the previously placed plug end 30, and the wires 29 communicating with the socket 28 are within the slot opening 20. The socket 28 is then moved toward the slot bottom 23 of the slot 19 with the wires 29 extending through the slot 19 to the side 11, 12 of the body 10 opposite the socket 28.
 The next adjacent socket 28 is then positioned at an adjacent slot opening 20 on the same side 11, 12 of the body 10 as the previously positioned socket 28 with the wires 29 extending through the slot 19 between the first and second lateral sides 21, 22. The socket 28 is moved downwardly along the slot 19 with the wire 29 passing between the first lateral side 21 and the second lateral side 22, toward the toward the slot bottom 23. The process is repeated for the entire string 26 of lights so that the entire light string 26 is carried on body 10 with all of the sockets 28 and light bulbs 27 maintained on one side 11, 12 and the body 10, and the wires 29 communicating between the adjacent sockets 28 on the opposing side 11, 12 of the body 10.
 When the opposing end plug 30 is reached, the wire 29 may be laced through the adjacent slots 19 to secure the light string 26 in place. If enough room remains on the body 10, a second string 26 of lights may thereafter be positioned on the body 10 within the slots 19 in the same manner as described previously.
 Because the wires 29 are carried on one side 11, 12 of the body 10, that side of the body 10 is somewhat "soft" with fewer "hard" or rigid elements. Therefore, it is preferable that if plural storage apparatuses are filled with "taken down" light strings 26, and placed into a common storage container (not shown) that the side 11, 12 of the body 10, carrying the sockets 28 and light bulbs 27 be placed against an adjacent storage apparatus so that the side 11, 12 of the body 10 carrying the wires 29, frictionally rests against the adjacent apparatus side 11, 12 carrying the bulbs 27 and sockets 28. This methodology reduces the likelihood of bulb 27 breakage by direct bulb 27 to bulb 27 contact.
 When a decorative occasion arises, the process of "putting up" the strings 26 of lights is carried out by releasing the plug end 30 and unlacing the string of lights 26 in the reverse of the process outlined above. However, prior to the hanging of the strings 26, a user is able to test the light strings 26 by energizing the light string 26 and simultaneously visualizing whether all of the light bulbs 27 on the light string 26 illuminate when energized. If any light bulbs 27 or ornaments (not shown) need to be replaced, the user can easily identify those light bulbs 27 and replace them before "putting up" the string 26 in the desired location.
 The foregoing description of my invention is necessarily of a detailed nature so that a specific embodiment of a best mode may be set forth as is required, but it is to be understood that various modifications of details, and rearrangement, substitution and multiplication of parts may be resorted to without departing from its spirit, essence or scope.
 Having thusly described my invention, what I desire to protect by Utility Letters Patent, and what I claim is:
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