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Title:
SELF-CLOSING, SINGLE LOOP HOOK
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/160665
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A self-closing hook with a gate configured to allow full access to the interior, capture area of the hook is contemplated. The gate may swing inwardly into in a notch on the hook body, or a biasing, winged gate can swing outwardly. In either instance, the object to be captured rests in and may completely fill the capture area without impeding the closing action of the gate.

Inventors:
PISKUR, Ted (311 Indiana Avenue, Lorain, Ohio, 44052, US)
ROMANAK, Matt (13613 Eastwood Boulevard, Garfield Heights, Ohio, 44125, US)
DESHPANDE, Dhananjay (3101 Mathers Way, Twinsburg, Ohio, 44087, US)
Application Number:
US2018/020178
Publication Date:
September 07, 2018
Filing Date:
February 28, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
HORIZON GLOBAL AMERICAS INC. (47912 Halyard Drive, Plymouth, Michigan, 48170, US)
International Classes:
F16B45/02; A44B13/02; B66C1/36; F16G11/14; F16G17/00
Foreign References:
US0437380A1890-09-30
US0460367A1891-09-29
US5913479A1999-06-22
US20140373320A12014-12-25
US5758392A1998-06-02
US5480202A1996-01-02
US20050071961A12005-04-07
US20050011058A12005-01-20
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BARAONA, Robert C. (MCDONALD HOPKINS, LLC600 Superior Avenue, E.,Suite 210, Cleveland Ohio, 44114, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A self-closing hook comprising:

a lower hook body having a main portion at one terminal end and a J-shape at an opposing terminal end to define an inner capture area along a curved inner surface of the J- shape;

a biasing gate affixed to two separate attachment points in the main portion; and wherein the biasing gate is positionable in an open position or a closed position and wherein the biasing gate does not impede the inner capture area.

2. The self-closing hook of claim 1, further comprising a notch formed in the curved inner surface to receive the gate when the gate is in the open position.

3. The self-closing hook of claim 2, wherein the attachment points are formed in a curved protrusion formed in the main portion.

4. The self-closing hook of any one of claims 2 or 3, wherein a constant radius defines the curved inner surface of the J-shape and wherein, when the biasing gate is in the open position, an opening to the inner capture area is at least double the radius.

5. The self-closing hook of any one of claims 2 or 3, wherein an open hook is formed in the main portion.

6. The self-closing hook of claim 1, wherein the biasing gate moves outward and away from the opposing terminal end.

7. The self-closing hook of claim 6, wherein the main portion defines an upper hook body forming a substantially or completely closed loop.

8. The self-closing hook of claim 7, wherein the upper hook body and the lower hook body are formed from a unitary tubular member.

9. The self-closing hook of any one of claims 1, 2, 3, 6, 7, or 8, wherein the biasing gate is biased by way of offset protrusions attached at separate points on the main portion or the upper hook body.

10. The self-closing hook of claim 9, wherein the offset protrusions are attached on opposing sides of a tubular member comprising the main portion or the upper hook body.

11. A cargo netting having a plurality of hooks of any one of claims 1 , 2,3, 6, 7, or 8 attached to cord along its outermost periphery, wherein the cord is affixed to the main portion or the upper hook body.

12. The cargo netting according to claim 1 1, wherein the plurality of hooks are provided at equi-distant points along the periphery.

13. A self-closing hook comprising:

an upper hook body forming a substantially closed loop;

a lower hook body attached to the upper hook body, the lower hook body forming a partial loop with a terminal point, the terminal point spaced apart from the upper hook body to define an opening in the lower hook body along a first lateral side of the hook;

a gate biased to engage the terminal point of the lower hook and attached to the upper hook body on an opposite lateral side to the first side of the hook; and

wherein the gate moves outward, relative to the hook.

14. The hook of claim 13, wherein the gate is biased by way of offset protrusions attached at separate points on the upper hook body.

15. The hook of claim 14, wherein the offset protrusions are attached on opposing sides of a tubular member comprising the upper hook body.

16. The hook of claim 13, wherein the upper hook body and the lower hook body are formed from a unitary tubular member.

17. The hook of claim 13, wherein the lower hook body comprises one of a J-shape, a C- lape, and an e-shape.

18. The hook of claim 13, wherein the upper hook body is completely closed.

19. A self-closing hook comprising:

a J-shaped hook comprising a curved body having an interior surface defining a smooth curve, wherein a notch is provided at one end of the body along the interior surface, and

a gate attached to the body and fitting within the notch to conform to the smooth curve.

20. The hook according to claim 19, wherein the gate includes a biasing mechanism that urges the gate out of the notch so as to engage an opposing facing of the interior surface.

21. The hook according to claims 19 or 20, wherein a transversely opposed, open hook is provided on the end of the body proximate to the notch.

Description:
TITLE

SELF-CLOSING, SINGLE LOOP HOOK

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority to U.S. Patent Application Serial No.

62/464,553, filed on February 28, 2017, and titled "Self-Closing, Single Loop Hook," which is incorporated herein in its entirety. This application also claims priority to U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 62/486,084, filed on April 17, 2017, and titled "Self-Closing Single Loop Hook," which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates generally to hook and, more specifically, to a self- closing hook having a single opening that when ungated, allows for unimpeded access to the capture area defined by the inner hook. It may include a hook that may be ungated with a single, outward motion or having a single opening with a transversely opposed, open lower hook and an indent along the inner body receiving the gate in a flush position.

BACKGROUND

[0003] Attachment mechanisms comprising a closable hook have particular utility in applications where items need to be frequently secured and released. For example, in vehicular towing operations, chains, ropes, and similar items may need to be coupled, as may ig an integral loop or attachment point. Therefore, in order to facilitate a user's ability to connect and decouple these items, a number of "snap hooks," carabiners, and self- closing clasps have been developed. A number of these designs are illustrated in Figures 1A through IE.

[0004] United States Patent 286,253 describes a snap hook having an S-shape or figure 8- shape, as shown in Figures 1A and IE. A spring loaded tongue ensures that the gate remains retained along the inner surface of a hook. Items to be secured by the hook can be pressed against the tongue and then maneuvered so that the tongue is released back to its closing position. The spring must be confined to relatively small space within the body of the hook, thereby limiting the amount of biasing force that can be generated by such a relatively small member.

[0005] For example, United States Patent 5,913,479 discloses a hook with a pivot gate like the one shown in Figure IB. Here, a figure 9 or S -shaped hook includes an inward pivoting gate assembly. The gate includes parallel wrapped arms that catch a notch formed at the tip of the hook body. The arms pivot at separate points to exert outward biasing force, although the attachment point of the gate is situated on the same edge of the hook as the opening to which it encloses. This design attempts to minimize the risk of lateral displacement by having the parallel arms wrap around the shank of the body.

[0006] Additionally, United States Patent Publication 2009/0000086 discloses an S- shaped hook as seen in Figure 1C. Here, a pair of self-locking arms form releasable closures for both openings of the S-hook. These arms rely on an elastic metal to move the arm outward into a hook-bill formed on a recess of the hook body. Similarly, United States Patent 9,476,446 contemplates a double gated S-hook as above, only with a locking mechanism integrated at the central pivot point. The lock may prevent the opening of the gates to provide greater security. [0007] Similarly, Figure ID illustrates a "figure 9" hook according to the prior art. Here, integral open hooks with opposing openings are formed along the bottom portion of the gated top loop.

[0008] All of the aforementioned hooks rely on gates that are received and swing into the aperture which they restrict. This arrangement ensures that items captured within the gated loop cannot be released until a user exerts inward force; however, this configuration limits the diameter/size of the item being inserted so as to ensure that the gate has sufficient clearance to snap back into place. Also, if the gate(s) becomes misaligned, the clasping functionality may be defeated because the biasing member will force the gate beyond its relatively narrow capture point at the tip of the hook, potentially dislodging the spring and/or causing the gate to become completely separately from the hook body. Finally, these arrangements make it difficult for a user to operate the gate with only one hand.

[0009] Moreover, all of the aforementioned hooks include an interior curvature to the main portion of the hook body that is enclosed by the gate. However, all of these inward swinging gates disrupt the smooth contour of that curve either when the gate is opened (i.e., when the gate is forced along the interior curvature) and/or closed (i.e., when the gate is urged against its capture point). This disruption may cause difficulties when the user is attempting to hook an object with a similar diameter to the interior curvature and/or when the clearance of the gate opening closely matches the width of the captured object. The reorientation and manipulation of the hook that may be required to fit the captured object can, in turn, cause any implement held by a transversely opposed, open lower hook to become dislodged.

SUMMARY

[0010] In view of these shortcomings, a system and method that allows for large diameter items— possibly even approaching to the entire diameter of the capture area of the hook ild be welcomed. A design that allows the user to easily flip the gate open with only one hand is also needed. Most importantly, a self-closing hook that allows for easy and unimpeded access to the capture area defined by the inner facing of the hook (i.e., where an object occupies volume and rests upon the inner closing surface when the gate is closed/secured) is desired.

[0011] Accordingly, in one aspect, a self-closing hook with a single opening and an outward swinging gate is contemplated. The gate may include one or two arms terminating in flared wings. The gate encloses a single loop. The upper portion of the hook body also forms a separate loop, although the attachment point of the gate is such that only the bottom loop opens to receive and enclose items. The arms (and, if present, wings) cross over from one edge of the top loop to an edge on the opposing side of the bottom loop, effectively defining a figure 8. Each arm is attached on opposing sides of the tube at offset points in the upper loop of the hook body, thereby imparting sufficient biasing force to urge the gate against an outer facing of the lower loop. Additionally, the material selection of the arm(s) may create further biasing force.

[0012] Separately, a self-closing hook is also described. The hook, when opened, presents a smooth interior surface for easily receiving and removing a workpiece. The gate fits within a notch on the main hook body, while biasing lever arms urge the gate closed.

[0013] In a preferred embodiment, a hook with an unimpeded capture area when the gate is opened includes any combination of the following:

• a lower hook body having a main portion at one terminal end and a J-shape at an opposing terminal end to define an inner capture area along a curved inner surface of the J-shape;

• a biasing gate affixed to two separate attachment points in the main portion;

• wherein the biasing gate is positionable in an open position or a closed position and wherein the biasing gate does not impede the inner capture area; • a notch formed in the curved inner surface to receive the gate when the gate is in the open position;

• wherein the attachment points are formed in a curved protrusion formed in the main portion;

• wherein a constant radius defines the curved inner surface of the J-shape and wherein, when the biasing gate is in the open position, an opening to the inner capture area is at least double the radius;

• wherein an open hook is formed in the main portion;

• wherein the biasing gate moves outward and away from the opposing terminal end;

• wherein the main portion defines an upper hook body forming a substantially or completely closed loop;

• wherein the upper hook body and the lower hook body are formed from a unitary tubular member;

• wherein the biasing gate is biased by way of offset protrusions attached at separate points on the main portion or the upper hook body; and

• wherein the offset protrusions are attached on opposing sides of a tubular member comprising the main portion or the upper hook body.

[0014] In a second embodiment, the self-closing hook may include any combination of the following:

• an upper hook body forming a substantially closed loop;

• a lower hook body attached to the upper hook body, the lower hook body forming a partial loop with a terminal point, the terminal point spaced apart from the upper hook body to define an opening in the lower hook body along a first lateral side of the hook;

• a gate biased to engage the terminal point of the lower hook and attached to the upper hook body on an opposite lateral side to the first side of the hook; • wherein the gate moves outward, relative to the hook;

• wherein the gate is biased by way of offset protrusions attached at separate points on the upper hook body;

• wherein the offset protrusions are attached on opposing sides of a tubular member comprising the upper hook body;

• wherein the upper hook body and the lower hook body are formed from a unitary tubular member;

• wherein the lower hook body comprises one of a J-shape, a C-shape, G-shape, and an e-shape;

• wherein the upper hook body is closed.

[0015] In another embodiment, the hook may include any combination of the following:

• a J-shaped hook comprising a curved body having an interior surface defining a smooth curve, wherein a notch is provided at one end of the body along the interior surface, and

• a gate attached to the body and fitting within the notch to conform to the smooth curve;

• wherein the gate includes a biasing mechanism that urges the gate out of the notch so as to engage an opposing facing of the interior surface; and

• wherein a transversely opposed, open hook is provided on the end of the body proximate to the notch.

[0016] In a final embodiment, a cargo netting is contemplated with any combination of the following features:

• a cargo netting having a plurality of hooks as disclosed in any of the embodiments above, said hooks attached to cord along its outermost periphery of the cargo netting, wherein the cord is affixed to the transversely opposed, open hook; and • wherein the plurality of hooks are provided at equi-distant points along the periphery.

[0017] Specific reference is made to the appended claims, drawings, and description below, all of which disclose elements of the invention. While specific embodiments are identified, it will be understood that elements from one described aspect may be combined with those from a separately identified aspect. In the same manner, a person of ordinary skill will have the requisite understanding of common processes, components, and methods, and this description is intended to encompass and disclose such common aspects even if they are not expressly identified herein.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0018] Operation of the invention may be better understood by reference to the detailed description taken in connection with the following illustrations. These appended drawings form part of this specification, and any written information in the drawings should be treated as part of this disclosure. In the same manner, the relative positioning and relationship of the components as shown in these drawings, as well as their function, shape, dimensions, and appearance, may all further inform certain aspects of the invention as if fully rewritten herein.

[0019] In the drawings:

[0020] Figures 1 A through IE show various side and perspective views of attaching hooks according to the prior art.

[0021] Figure 2 is a perspective view of a self-closing hook of the present teachings.

[0022] Figure 3 is a perspective view of a self-closing hook of the present teachings.

[0023] Figure 4 is a perspective view of a self-closing hook of the present teachings.

[0024] Figure 5 is a side plan view of the aspect depicted in Figure 4.

[0025] Figure 6 is an opposing side plan view of the aspect depicted in Figure 4.

[0026] Figure 7 is a side plan view, orthogonal to the views shown in Figures 5 and 6.

Figures 8 is a sectional top plan view of a gate of the aspect depicted in Figure 4. [0028] Figure 9 is a partially rotated side plan view of the aspect depicted in Figure 8.

[0029] Figure 10 is a rotated top view, orthogonal to the view shown in Figure 9.

[0030] Figure 11 a sectional top plan view of a gate of the aspect depicted in Figure 4.

[0031] Figure 12 is a sectional side plan view of the hook assembly depicted in Figure 4.

[0032] Figure 13 is a side plan view, orthogonal to the view shown in Figure 12.

[0033] Figure 14 is a perspective, three dimensional view of a self-closing hook according to a separate embodiment, with the gate in the closed position.

[0034] Figure 15 is a perspective, three dimensional illustration of the hook of Figure 14, but with its gate in the opened position.

[0035] Figure 16 is a cross sectional view illustrating how a workpiece may be smoothly inserted and removed from the hook of Figures 14 and 15.

[0036] Figure 17 is a cross sectional side illustration, including printed indicia (incorporated herein) of the dimensions and features of the main hook body and with the gate deliberately omitted.

[0037] Figure 18 is a front plan illustration, while Figure 19 is a plan illustration orthogonal to Figure 18, including printed indicia (incorporated herein) of the dimensions and features of the hook gate with the hook body deliberately omitted. Figure 20 is a perspective, three dimensional illustration of the same gate.

[0038] Figure 21 is top plan view of a cargo netting incorporating a plurality of self closing hooks along its periphery according to certain embodiments contemplated herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0039] Reference will now be made in detail to exemplary embodiments of the present teachings, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural and functional changes may ithout departing from the respective scope of the present teachings. As such, the following description is presented by way of illustration only and should not limit in any way the various alternatives and modifications that may be made to the illustrated embodiments and still be within the spirit and scope of the present teachings.

[0040] As used herein, the words "example" and "exemplary" mean an instance, or illustration. The words "example" or "exemplary" do not indicate a key or preferred aspect or embodiment. The word "or" is intended to be inclusive rather an exclusive, unless context suggests otherwise. As an example, the phrase "A employs B or C," includes any inclusive permutation (e.g., A employs B; A employs C; or A employs both B and C). As another matter, the articles "a" and "an" are generally intended to mean "one or more" unless context suggest otherwise.

[0041] With reference to Figures 2 through 13, a self-closing hook 100 of the present disclosure is shown. The self-closing hook 100 encompasses a hook body 1 10 of any appropriate configuration and size. The hook body 110 is roughly defined by two separate sections, a lower hook body portion 120 and an upper hook body portion 130. The hook body 1 10 is preferably made from a single, unitary tubular member that may be formed, cast, or forged from an appropriate metal. In other embodiments, a sufficient strong and rigid polymer material may be used. Further, the hook body 110 may be formed from multiple components that may be attached together such as through welding, fastening or adhering. The cross section of the tubular member is preferably rounded and/or circular so as to minimize unwanted snagging of any items held within the lower hook body portion 120. However, in some embodiments, a square, rectangular, or polygonal cross section could be used. Combinations of shapes and/or materials may be used, although efficiencies may be realized if the hook body 110 is of a consistent and unitary construction.

[0042] The lower hook body portion 120 may end at terminal point 122. Thus, when considered as a discrete portion of the hook body 110, lower hook body portion 120 forms a J-, C-, G-, e- or other partially opened shape. The terminal point 122 may include a notch, channel, indentation, or other capture point 123 along its outer facing 124. In some embodiments, the capture point 123 may include a flattened portion that cooperates with the approximate angle at which a gate 140 comes to final rest in its closed position, thereby better securing the closure in place. Opening 126 is enclosed by gate 140, as will be described in greater detail below.

[0043] Notably, gate 140 may be opened to allow access to the opening 126 as well as the capture area C of the hook 100. Capture area C is defined by a line extending from terminal point 122 to the inner surface 125 of the lower hook body 120. Capture area C may accommodate the volume of any selectively engaged object (e.g., a railing, loop, or other solid, cylinder-like feature to which the hook 100 may be attached). Notably, because the gate 140 swings outward, the capture area C remains entirely unimpeded regardless of whether the gate 140 is opened or closed. Thus, while Figure 3 shows the capture area C defined by a line that is effectively orthogonal to the terminal point 122, the actual area encompasses the surface space that is free, open, and unimpeded by the gate when it is fully opened and fully closed.

[0044] The upper hook body portion 130 effectively loops around itself to form a closed or mostly closed loop (i.e., at least 90%, more preferably at least 95%, and most preferably at least 99% of the perimeter/circumference is solid material). That is, an opposing terminal point 132 is bent around itself so as to contact or almost come into contact with a transition point 1 12 on the hook body 1 10 where the lower hook body portion 120 transitions to the upper hook body portion 130. In cases where the upper hook body portion 130 forms a mostly closed loop, its opening must still be smaller in comparison to opening 126. In one embodiment, upper hook body portion 130 may be bent in the opposite direction of the lower hook body portion 120 so as to effectively define a substantially figure 8-type shape.

However, so long as an edge 136 of the upper hook body portion 130 opposite a side of lower portion 120 having the opening includes sufficiently angled portion to accommodate gate attachment points 142a, 142b, the overall shape of the hook need not precisely define a figure 8 (e.g., a lower case e-shape, etc.).

[0045] The gate 140 may anchored to the hook body 110 along the upper hook body portion 130. The gate 140 may then cross over the hook body 110 on or proximate to transition point 112. This arrangement helps to maximize the biasing force required to keep gate 140 in contact with capture point 123 of the outer face 124 when the self-closing hook 100 is in its default, closed condition. Additionally or alternatively, the spacing between the attachment points 142a, 142b may be increased or decreased to adjust the biasing force exerted by the gate 140.

[0046] In some embodiments, gate 140 may be formed from a single piece of metal or plastic. The piece may be tubular in nature. In some embodiments (as shown in Figures 3A through 3D), a tubular member 141 may be generally formed into a U shape. At the closed end of the U-shape, one or two wings or bulges 144 may be formed on opposing sides of the parallel portion of the tubular member 141. The wings 144 may facilitate grasping the gate 140 and/or to serve a primarily aesthetic function. The wings 144 may consist of mirror images, or they can be formed at offset points. An outer bend (i.e., away from the axis formed by the U-shape) of the wings 144 can be about equivalent to the space between the dual axial arms of the U-shape.

[0047] The open end of the U-shape may terminate with inward protrusions 145, 146. Notably, the elevation of these protrusions 145, 146 may be offset so as to allow each protrusion to be inserted completely through or substantially into (i.e., more than half the radius of) tubular member 141, via apertures formed at attachment points 142a, 142b. This offset may cooperate with the elasticity of the material chosen for tubular member 141 so as to generate additional downward biasing force. Alternatively, one or two pins may protrude from the attachment points 142a, 142b to engage a corresponding portion of the gate 140. [0048] The protrusions 145, 146 may be held in their respective attachment points 142a, 142b by the nature of the material of the tubular member 141. Additionally or alternatively, a fastener or end piece may be used to prevent slippage, or the parts may have a snap-fit type engagement. Further still, the protrusions 15, 146 may be welded or otherwise adhered to the attachment points 142a, 142b.

[0049] The closed end of the U-shaped gate 140 may be normally biased against the capture point 123 on the exterior facing 124 of the lower hook body portion 120. The closed end of the U-shape ensures the lower hook body portion 120 is consistently engaged and remains aligned. The outward swing of the gate 140 should also make it easier to fit larger workpieces within the interior of the lower hook body portion 120. In contrast, inward opening gates have more limited range of motion in opening, and the tubular member itself may further reduce the diameter/available interior space of the hook body. As such, the self- closing hook 100 should be easier to use.

[0050] In the same manner, the outward motion of the gate 140 enables a user to grasp the hook body 1 10 (and, more likely, at lower hook body portion 120) in one hand, e.g., between the fingers and the palm. The thumb of that same hand can then manipulate the gate 140 open via a simple flipping motion. Previous, inward opening gates on snap hooks required two hands or considerably greater dexterity, absent pushing the gate itself against the workpiece to force it open and, even then, the opening of the gate was limited by the limited clearance/range of motion of the inward moving gate.

[0051] The gate 140 need not have a U-shape. In some embodiments, the gate 140 may be a solid or unitary member along its lower reaches (i.e., where it spans the opening 126 and/or engages capture point 123). In this arrangement, optional, integral wings may be formed along its length. In this embodiment, the biasing action could be provided via offset protrusions formed on extension arms attached to the solid portion. As above, these extension arms could engage opposing sides of the upper hook body portion 130, preferably at attachment points 142a, 142b.

[0052] In some embodiments, lower hook body portion 120 may be comparatively larger than the upper hook body portion 130. This arrangement allows for the capture of larger workpieces within the self-closing hook 100, as well as a greater range of motion for the outward swinging gate 140.

[0053] In other embodiments, the lower hook body portion 120 may be of equal or smaller size in comparison to the upper hook body portion 130. In these instances, the larger upper body affords potentially more leverage (e.g., by positioning the attachment points 142a, 142b a greater distance from the opening 126 and/or transition point 1 12).

[0054] In some embodiments, portions of the hook body 110 may be clad or wrapped in a different material. This arrangement may improve gripping of the hook, reduce wear, impart additional structural support, and/or serve a primarily aesthetic function. As a non-limiting example, the hook body 1 10 may comprise a metal, while a cladded portion 114 comprises a polymeric film. In other embodiments, the materials may be reversed with metallic cladding and a polymeric body. The wrapped portion may be secured via adhesives, fasteners, or by way of integral formation of the base material.

[0055] The foregoing embodiments provide a self-closing hook that is easy to use and cost effective to manufacture. The use of a gate with offset protrusions avoids the complexity inherent to positioning an independent biasing member inside of the hook body and/or proximate to the hook body and gate. The protrusions opposing engagement of the attachment points also ensures the gate stays aligned over the opening.

[0056] In use, the self-closing hook 100 may be configured such that the gate 140 is biased toward a closed positon, e.g., as shown in Figure 1 A. In such embodiments, a user may flip up the gate 140 (such as through use of the wings 144) to open the space 126 within the lower portion 120. Because the gate 140 is flipped upward and away from the lower hook body portion 120, a user may be able to insert an item within the lower hook body portion 120 that substantially or completely fills that space therein. Prior versions where a gate would swing in toward the lower hook body portion would not allow for the space therein to be substantially or completely filled, the gate would be positioned therein preventing such. In other words, the gate that flips in would be in the way of what is inserted or positioned into the lower hook body portion space. The present teachings overcome this and allow an object to substantially or completely feel the space 126 within the lower hook body portion 120.

[0057] With reference to Figures 14 through Figure 21, a self-closing hook 300 is formed from a hook body 320 having a generally J or S shape. At a bottom portion 326, a smaller hook 331 (in comparison to the main hook body 320) is positioned generally transversely opposite to a main capture area C. Hook gate 340 selectively encloses the main capture void C. Hook gate 340 cooperates with attachment points 321, 322 on the hook body 320 and, thereby, may create biasing force urging the hook gate 340 into a closed position as seen for example in Figure 14.

[0058] An interior surface 343 of the hook body 320 may present as a generally continuous smooth curve, excepting for a gate notch 330 described below. The hook gate 340 may extend sufficiently beyond a distal end 323 of the hook body 320 so as to eliminate the need to provide a catch point, notch or other discontinuous feature to retain the gate 340 in place. In a preferred embodiment, the smooth curve 343 includes a constant or only slightly variable (i.e., less than 10% change) radius along the inner faces of the main capture void 325 in top 324 portion so that an object O may be fitted within area C proximate to curved surface

343. The clearance of the opening 328 when the hook gate 340 is nested in gate notch 330

(i.e., the distance between distal end 323 and the top interior facing surface of hook body 320 most proximate to the attachment point 321, 322) is at least double the radius associated with the curve in the top portion 324. In a preferred embodiment, the curved portion 343 transitions ctively parallel sections 355 spaced apart from one another. [0059] The gate notch 330 may be formed along the inner facing surface 355 of the hook body 320 opposite the end 323. The gate notch 330 has sufficient depth to receive the hook gate 340, thereby maintaining the smooth surface of the main capture void C when the hook gate 340 is opened. Thus, the gate notch 330 has approximately the same length and depth as the hook gate 340. Further, the attachment points 321, 322 may be generally aligned toward a bottom portion 326, possibly positioned along a protrusion 327 that defines the opening 328 in combination with end 323. Protrusion 327 may define a stopping point for parallel wall 355 on one side of the capture area C, although the opening 328 should be larger than twice the radius of the curve at the top end.

[0060] Generally speaking, this arrangement allows for workpieces received in the main capture void C to be sized to fit with relatively small tolerances. In this manner, the self- closing hook 300 itself remains secure. Also, by selecting cooperating sizes for the workpiece and the radius/void diameter, the workpiece can be inserted and removed from the hook gate 340 with relative ease. Figure 16 illustrates the time-lapse path for workpiece O (as a series of overlapping circles) 25 as it is inserted or removed from the self-closing hook 300. Hook gate 340 swings along arc 341, with protrusion 327 spaced far enough apart from end 323 (i.e., away from top portion 324 and/or closer to bottom portion 326) to allow the workpiece to move through the opening without rotation or manipulation of the self-closing hook 300.

[0061] Figure 17 provides a dimensional analysis of the hook body 320. The values shown in the figure are exemplary, although the ratios and relative differences between these stated values form aspects of the invention, particularly insofar as some may enable the ease of inserting and removing a workpiece having a similar diameter as that of the curve along top portion 324.

[0062] A smaller, open hook 331 or catchment may be provided in the bottom portion 326 on the transversely opposed side of hook body 320. The diameter or opening of the hook is ceive a separate workpiece (not shown). In one embodiment, the small hook 331 may receive or be affixed to rope, cord, or cargo netting, while the larger void C is shaped to receive a roof rack, rail, or other towing embodiment. An example of such an invention is shown in Figure 21 , in which bungee cargo netting 360 incorporates a plurality of hooks 300. The small hook 331 engages the netting 360 at selected, and preferably evenly spaced, points at the periphery of net 360. In this manner, a user may attach the netting 360 to secure cargo to a vehicle or towing accessory.

[0063] Gate 340 is anchored to the hook body 320 proximate to the bottom portion 326. Arms 345 extend down from the closed end 344 at a slightly outward, tapering angles, The arms 145 are also at offset angle Θ in the orthogonal direction from the tapering separation (compare Figures 6A and 6B). Legs 342, 343 extend inward (i.e., fitting into points 321 , 322) to secure the gate 340 to the body 320. In some embodiments, the spacing between the attachment points 321 , 322 may be increased or decreased to create and allow for adjustment of the biasing force on the gate 340 to urge it toward end 323. The inward facing legs may terminate at a common central axis, as best seen in Figure 18, although longer or shorter distances are possible.

[0064] In some embodiments, gate 340 is formed from a single piece of metal or plastic.

The piece should be tubular in nature and formed into a tapering U or V shape. In either instance, the end of gate 340 that rests on the end 323 will have a more narrow profile in comparison to the end of gate 340 that engages the body 320 (and, in some embodiments, the protrusion 327) via attachment points 321, 322. In this manner, when the gate 340 is opened, it rests within notch 330 so that the closed end 344 of the gate 340 is effectively flush with the inner surface of the body 320 along the top portion 324. Further, the attachment points 321 ,

322 are aligned in a generally linear position to allow the main body 345 of the gate 340 to possess a similarly flush (i.e., retaining the smooth curve described above) with the body 320, although it will be understood that the offset nature of the separate arms 345 necessarily nly one of the arms 345 being truly flush. [0065] As noted above, the open end of the U-shape terminates with inward protruding legs 342, 343, with the elevation of legs 342, 343 offset, as best seen in Figure 19, so as to allow each protrusion to be inserted completely through or substantially into (i.e., more than half the radius of the tubular member) apertures formed at attachment points 321, 322. This offset may cooperate with the elasticity of the material chosen for tubular member so as to generate additional biasing force. Alternatively, one or two pins may protrude from the attachment points 321 , 322 to engage a corresponding portion of the gate 340.

[0066] The closed end of the U-shaped gate 340 is normally biased against the hook body 320 on the interior facing of the void C. The closed end of the U-shape ensures the lower hook body 320 is consistently engaged and remains aligned.

[0067] The gate need not have a U-shape throughout its entire length. In some embodiments, the gate may be a solid or unitary member along its upper reaches (i.e., where it engages end 323). As above, extension arms engage opposing sides of the hook body near protrusion 327, preferably in an offset arrangement to biasing force to keep the hook 300 in a closed position.

[0068] In other embodiments, the transversely open, lower hook body may be of equal or smaller size in comparison to the main hook body. In these instances, the larger upper body affords potentially more leverage and more clearance for receiving the captured item.

[0069] In some embodiments, portions of the hook body may be clad or wrapped in a different material. This arrangement may improve gripping of the hook, reduce wear, impart additional structural support, and/or serve a primarily aesthetic function. As a non-limiting example, the hook body may comprise a metal, while the cladded portion or portions comprise a polymeric film. In other embodiments, the materials may be reversed with metallic cladding and a polymeric body. The wrapped portion may be secured via adhesives, fasteners, or by way of integral formation of the base material. [0070] The foregoing embodiments provide a self-closing hook that is easy to use and cost effective to manufacture. The use of a gate with offset protrusions avoids the complexity inherent to positioning an independent biasing member inside of the hook body and/or proximate to the hook body and gate. The flush fitting of the gate, coupled with the smooth curve and relatively consistent diameter along the inner surface of the main hook void helps to simplify the insertion and removal of items from the hook, while simultaneously creating a better and more secure fit between the workpiece and the hook. The provision of the transversely opposed, open hook along the bottom of the body makes the assembly ideally suited for use with bungee cords, netting, and other items designed to secure items to a vehicle or towing apparatus.

[0071] Additional embodiments of a self-closing hook according the present teachings are described below. In the descriptions, all of the details and components may not be fully described or shown. Rather, the features or components are described and, in some instances, differences with the above-described embodiments may be pointed out. Moreover, it should be appreciated that these additional embodiments may include elements or components utilized in the above-described embodiments although not shown or described. Thus, the descriptions of these additional embodiments are merely exemplary and not all-inclusive nor exclusive. Moreover, it should be appreciated that the features, components, elements and functionalities of the various embodiments may be combined or altered to achieve a desired self-closing hook without departing from the spirit and scope of the present teachings. As such, these modifications and alterations also fall within the scope of the appended claims or the equivalents thereof.