Patent application title: Tamper Proof Boat Drain Plug
John Pitts (Fountain Valley, CA, US)
Matthew Pitts (Westerville, OH, US)
Matthew Burrows (Lake Elsinore, CA, US)
IPC8 Class: AB63B1300FI
Class name: Ships valves boat plugs
Publication date: 2011-10-27
Patent application number: 20110259255
A boat plug has external threads that mate with a boat hole housing, and
an end keyed to operate the plug. In preferred embodiments the key has a
first end portion that mates with the plug, and a second end portion that
mates with a driver. The first end portion, and the corresponding recess
in the plug, can advantageously have depths of no more than 1 cm, and
more preferably no more than 5 mm. In other aspects of preferred
embodiments, the first end portion comprises a recess having
irregularities, and independently the second end portion comprises a nut.
1. A plug system for a boat having a housing that defines a drain hole,
comprising: a plug having external threads that mate with the housing,
and an end having a first keyed portion; and a key having (a) a second
keyed portion that mates with the first keyed portion, and (b) a driving
2. The plug system of claim 1 wherein the first keyed portion has a depth of no more than 1 cm.
3. The plug system of claim 1 wherein the first keyed portion has a depth of no more than 5 mm.
4. The plug system of claim 1 wherein the first keyed portion comprises a recess.
5. The plug system of claim 1 wherein the driving portion comprises a nut.
4. The plug system of claim 1 wherein the first keyed portion includes a recess having irregularities.
 This application claims priority to provisional application Ser.
No. 61/328506 filed Apr. 27, 2010.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The field of the invention is boat plugs.
 Many boats have drain plugs for removing water from the interior of the boat. Conventional drain plugs are highly susceptible to theft and vandalism since anyone with access to the boat can unscrew the plug. If a boat is launched into the water without the drain plug in place, the boat interior can be damaged by water and eventually the boat could completely sink.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,797,442 to McRae ('442) seeks to remedy this problem by providing a drain plug that requires at least two individuals to remove plug. While this prevents a single person from vandalizing the boat, it still allows for unauthorized removal of the drain plug by two thieves working together. Further, the drain plug assemble in '442 cannot be easily implemented to existing boat drain plugs.
 U.S. Pat. No. 3,279,838 to Hamilton, U.S. Pat. No. 4,569,259 to Rubin, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,269,208 to Kolvites all discuss tamper-proof screws or fasteners that require a special (non-conventional) tool for removing and installing the screw. However, these screws are not specially adapted to provide a water tight seal and cannot be readily implemented to convert existing conventional drain plugs into a tamper-proof plug.
 These and all other extrinsic materials discussed herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety. Where a definition or use of a term in an incorporated reference is inconsistent or contrary to the definition of that term provided herein, the definition of that term provided herein applies and the definition of that term in the reference does not apply.
 Unless the context dictates the contrary, all ranges set forth herein should be interpreted as being inclusive of their endpoints and open-ended ranges should be interpreted to include only commercially practical values. Similarly, all lists of values should be considered as inclusive of intermediate values unless the context indicates the contrary.
 Thus, there is still a need for drain plug system that is tamper-proof and can easily replace already-existing boat drain plugs.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The inventive subject matter provides apparatus, systems and methods in which a boat plug has external threads that mate with a boat hole housing, and an end keyed to operate the plug.
 In preferred embodiments, the key has a first end portion that mates with the plug, and a second end portion that mates with a driver. The first end portion, and the corresponding recess in the plug, can advantageously have depths of no more than 1 cm, and more preferably no more than 5 mm, which should assist in making the plug tamper proof. In other aspects of preferred embodiments, the first end portion comprises a recess having irregularities, and independently the second end portion comprises a nut.
 Various objects, features, aspects and advantages of the inventive subject matter will become more apparent from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments, along with the accompanying drawing FIGURE.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
 FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of a plug cooperating with a drain hole housing and a plug operating key 16.
 The invention provides apparatus and systems for tamper-proof boat drain plugs. The plug system comprises a plug and a key. The plug has external threads for mating with a housing that defines a drain hole on a boat. The plug also has a key portion that is sized and dimensioned to mate with the key. The key has a key portion for mating with the key portion on the plug. The key also has a driving portion for facilitating applying a torque to the plug.
 The plug and key can be made of any commercially suitable materials, such as ceramics, composites, fibers, glass, plastic, elastomers and rubbers, biopolymers, wood, and metals. Preferably, the plug is made of a high-strength material, such as metal, to resist vandalism. The Preferred plugs are also inherently resistant to corrosion, or have a corrosion resistant coating, especially where the plugs might be come in contact with salt water or brine.
 FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of a plug 12 cooperating with a drain hole housing 10, and a plug operating key 16. Housing 10 has internal threads 11, and is typically located on an outer surface of a boat. When the drain hole is open, water from the interior of the boat can pass out through the hole.
 Plug 12 has a generally cylindrical shape along an axis A. Plug 12 also has external threads 13 which are capable of mating with internal threads 11 to form a water-tight seal. Preferably, plug 12 and external threads 13 are sized and dimensioned to mate with typical boat drain hole sizes, thereby allowing existing plugs to be replaced with an embodiment of the invention. Plug 12 is preferably sized such that it inserts flush into the housing, preventing access to the plug's outer surface.
 Plug 12 also has a recess 14 and optionally a protrusion 15. The circumferential shapes of recess 14 and protrusion 15 are irregular and comprise a key portion on the plug. Preferably, recess 14 and protrusion 15 are shallow, more preferably less than 1 cm, and most preferably less than 5 mm, thereby impeding an unauthorized user from mating with the recess 14 and protrusion 15. The irregularity and shallow depth of the recess and/or protrusion are intended to render the plug difficult to operate by previously known tools.
 Key 16 is configured to mate with the key portion on the plug. "Key" as used herein refers to a unique feature, or set of features, that are not readably engaged with conventional tools or objects. The key portion of the plug impedes a thief or unauthorized person from easily engaging the plug and removing the plug from the drain hole. Keys are well known in the art and have been applied to various tamper-proof screws. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a variety of configurations can be used to create a key portion. For example, the key portion of the plug could comprise male features (such as protrusions), female features (such as holes), or any combination of male and female features. Similarly, the key used to mate with the key portion of the plug could comprise male features, female features, or both.
 Key 16 has a generally cylindrical shape and has a protrusion 17 and a blind hole (not shown) within protrusion 17. Both protrusion 17 and the blind hole (not shown) have circumferential shapes that are substantially congruent to the circumferential shapes of blind hole 14 and protrusion 15, respectively. Thus, key 16 is capable of mating with plug 12. Key 16 also has a driving portion comprising a protrusion 18 generally shaped as a hexagonal nut. Protrusion 18 is capable of mating with a conventional or commercially available tool for providing a torque about axis A. Some examples of conventional or commercially available tools includes, but is not limited to, pliers and wrenches. It is also contemplated that protrusion 18 could be any shape capable of mating with a conventional or commercially available tool. Further, key 16 could comprise a hole, rather than a protrusion 18, where the hole is sized and dimensioned to mate with a conventional allen wrench.
 In another embodiment of the invention, the driving portion of key 16 comprises features that facilitate providing a torque. For example, key 16 could have extensions perpendicular to axis A.
 While it is specifically contemplated that the housing defines a drain hole on a boat, those skilled in the art will recognize that the inventive concepts taught herein can be applied to objects other than boats, such as containers.
 Thus, a tamper-proof plug system comprising a plug and key has been described.
 It should be apparent to those skilled in the art that many more modifications besides those already described are possible without departing from the inventive concepts herein. The inventive subject matter, therefore, is not to be restricted except in the spirit of the appended claims. Moreover, in interpreting both the specification and the claims, all terms should be interpreted in the broadest possible manner consistent with the context. In particular, the terms "comprises" and "comprising" should be interpreted as referring to elements, components, or steps in a non-exclusive manner, indicating that the referenced elements, components, or steps may be present, or utilized, or combined with other elements, components, or steps that are not expressly referenced. Where the specification claims refers to at least one of something selected from the group consisting of A, B, C . . . and N, the text should be interpreted as requiring only one element from the group, not A plus N, or B plus N, etc.
Patent applications in class Boat plugs
Patent applications in all subclasses Boat plugs
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