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1. (WO1997017863) A KEY HOLDER
Note: Text based on automatic Optical Character Recognition processes. Please use the PDF version for legal matters

A KEY HOLDER

The invention relates to a key holder and to keys and key bodies for use with a key holder.
It is common practice for people to carry a number of keys with them at all times. Inevitably, the keys carried by any one person are of different makes, shapes and sizes to fit the appropriate locks, i.e. those of house doors, cars, garages etc. A plurality of different keys is often carried together on a single key ring or key fob. However, the nature of this arrangement is often such that the jagged edges of the key bodies cause damage to pockets or handbags, the particular key required is awkward to select and the remaining keys can get in the way when a particular key is in use.
Efforts have been made to produce key holders for holding a plurality of keys withm a substantially rigid holder, the specific key required being
selectable m one manner or another. Such prior art proposals rely upon the head of the key being of a specific shape. This means that only one make or style of key can be inserted in any known holder This is clearly a disadvantage since in no known case can keys having both flat and round shanks be accommodated in a single key holder.
A further disadvantage of the prior art is that, when a desired key is brought into an operational position, it is relatively easy for the key body to move with respect to the holder. It is therefore essential for the user to grip the key itself when inserting the key into the relevant lock The very nature of the prior art holders means that the key head should, in fact, be as small as possible and this can mean that the operation of the key is extremely
difficult especially for those with afflictions such as poor eyesight, arthritis etc
Moreover, when a key is turned in a lock, it is possible for the key to break if sufficient torque is applied.
Against that background the inventor has developed certain key holders which have various advantages .
According to one aspect of the invention, there is provided a key holder for holding at least one key, the holder comprising at least one key head which is rotatably mounted for pivoting between a retracted position in which a key is stored m an inoperable position and an extended position m which a key is in an operable position, the or each key head having locating means such that the or each key head may be rotated to any one of a plurality of different
predefined angular extended positions m relation to the key holder whereat the key holder may act as a handle for operation of the or each key m its lock
A key holder according to that aspect of the invention may be designed to incorporate "universal" key heads having attachment parts for co-operating with, inter alia, a standard configuration of a key body machinable from the head of a standard key. This means that any one of a variety of standard existing keys can be machined to the appropriate shape and attached to one of the universal key heads for
incorporation into the key holder. Hence such a key holder can be designed and arranged to hold a plurality of standard keys which are not necessarily of the same shape and size.
According to a second aspect of the invention there is provided a key or key blank for use with a key holder according to the first aspect, the key or blank comprising means for engaging a key head, those means comprising a generally flat end region which tapers towards its free end, as seen from a direction looking edge-on to the flat end region, that region having a slot extending with a longitudinal component from its free end and closer to one side than the other of the end region, the smaller of the two portions into which the end region is subdivided by the slot having a projection which can engage a recess or aperture m a key head
In a preferred embodiment, there is provided the feature of dπvable moving a selected key from the retracted position to an extended position to obviate the need for moving the keys manually In many prior art key holders, the keys must be selected in a similar manner tc that m which the blades of a Swiss Army knife are selected This can be awkward and time consuming. In the interests of personal safety, it is often desirable to select a required key from a
plurality of keys in a relatively short space of t me. Thus, a preferred embodiment has means for driving the keys from a retracted position to an extended position, giving a clear advantage.
According to a third aspect of the invention, there is provided a key holder for holding a plurality of keys and comprising key heads rotatable about an axis, when the holder is m use, from a retracted position to at least one extended position, driving means for applying a rotary force to each head tending to move the head away from the retracted position, holding means for engaging the heads for releasably holding the heads in the retracted position and in the or each extended position, and actuating means for respective key heads and each operable to displace the holding means to allow the applying means to drive the associated key head from the retracted position.
According to a fourth aspect of the invention, there is provided a key holder for holding a key and comprising a key head rotatable about an axis from a retracted to at least one extended position, driving means for applying a rotary force to the head, holding means for engaging recesses in the head for releasably holding the head m the retracted and the or each extended position and actuating means operable to displace the holding means to allow the driving means to drive the associated key head from the retracted position, the recesses being at the circumference of the head and the holding means comprising a holding member having a first portion coupled to the actuating means and a second portion attached to the key holder, an intermediate portion of the holding member forming a tongue to engage m the recesses, so that displacement of the first portion away from the associated key head disengages the tongue from the recess, there being a bias to tend to oppose such disengagement
Preferable the movement of the key body is
controlled, i.e. damped, in order to avoid sudden movements of relatively sharp metal key bodies, which could be dangerous
It has been mentioned above that the operation of keys m locks can be difficult for those with an affliction such as arthritis. An advantageous
embodiment of the present invention provides a key holder which can render the operation of the selected key relatively easy. In this embodiment, a selected key can be pivoted about an axis located in the key holder through an angle which enables the key holder itself to be used in the manner of a handle of a lever. Preferred angles through which the key is pivoted are 135°, 180° and 225°, (±10°, for example, m each case, although ±5° may be preferred for the 180° position) . 90° and 270° (±10°) could also be added. In another embodiment there is a first extended position in the range 80° to 145°, a second extended position m the range 175° to 185° and a third extended position m the range 215° to 280° This means that, when the key body is inserted m the relevant lock, the key holder can be used in the manner of a handle of a lever to operate the lock. Furthermore, the fact that the key can be pivoted through angles of greater than 180° means that locks positioned on either side of a door can be easily and effectively operated without hitting a door joint
The user of the key holder can thus select the angle through which any one key is pivoted in order to bring it into an operational position. Also, in one embodiment, the angle through which the or each key head is pivotable is variable to achieve a plurality of further extended positions which are not defined by the locating means, e.g the recesses may be given ramp-like side walls to assist manual movement from a predefined position It is also advantageous if each key is pivotable through successive predetermined angles of rotation by operation of actuation means in order to allow the user to select the desired angle of rotation for that particular key.
According to another aspect of the invention, there is provided a key holder for holding a plurality of keys, the keys being rotatable about an axis, when the holder is in use, from a retracted position at least partially within a recess of the holder to an extended position, m which the keys are m an
operative position, at least one of the keys being a flat key the plane of which extends substantially at right angles to said axis and at least one other of the keys being a round shank key having a substantially flat key bit, the plane of which extends substantially parallel to said axis, which key b t s disposed so that the or a flat key is disposed between the key bit and the axis This can minimise the space occupied by the keys.
According to yet another aspect, a key holder for holding a key may comprise a key head displaceable from a retracted to at least one extended position, the key head providing a degree of flexibility between a key body and the key holder in that it comprises a
torsionally substantially rigid portion with
flexibility m all lateral directions
For a better understanding of the invention, and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings, m which - Figure 1 is a side view of a key holder according to one embodiment of the invention;
Figure 2 is a plan view of the key holder of
Figure 1 with two keys omitted;
Figure 3 is a sectional side view taken along the line III-III of Figures 2.
Figures 4 and 5 are views of a resilient latch member;
Figures 6, 7 and 8 are a side view of a flat bladed key body, a plan view of that key body and a side view of a round shaft key;
Figure 9 illustrates a common format key head formed to provide that a key body once adapted to co-operate with the "universal" key head may be
returned to use as an ordinary or common key,
Figures 10 and 11 illustrate a first alternative embodiment whereby an additional key, m particular a car key, may be stored in the back of the key holder and turned m its lock without turning the key holder; Figures 12 and 13 illustrate a second alternative embodiment of the key holder whereby a greater number of key bodies may be carried;
Figures 14 and 15 illustrate a first manner of use of a key holder according to Figs 1 to 3 ,
Figures 16 and 17 illustrate a second mode of operation of a key holder;

Figure 18 illustrates an embodiment incorporating a magnetic strip key, and
Figure 19 illustrates a further modification.
Figures 1 to 3 show a first embodiment of key holder. The holder comprises a hand grip 10 and a plurality of universal key heads 12,12' to which are attached, m use, respective key bodies 14,14' The manner in which the key bodies 14,14' attach to the key heads 12,12' is described m detail below.
This key holder 10 is designed to accommodate four keys heads 12,12' in a single row. Two types of key head 12,12' are provided; three of a first type 12 (only one is present in Figure 2) for attachment to a key body 14 having a flat blade or shank and one of a second type of larger dimension (it is wider) adapted to receive a longer key body 14' of the type having a round shank and a flat key bit 14". However, the elements which connect the key bodies 14,14' to the key heads 12,12' are m each case identical in shape and dimension. The key heads 12,12' are arranged alongside one another and are mounted m the hand grip 10 by means of a pivot member 16 defining an axis about which each key head 12,12' is pivotable. In each case, the width of the key head 12,12' exceeds the width of the relevant key body 14,14' only by a small amount
sufficient to provide clearance between the key bodies 14,14'. The holder 10 incorporates a recess 18
extending from the area of the axis 16 along the length of the hand grip 10. The recess 18 has a sufficient length and depth to enable a standard round shank key body 14' to be adequately located therein. If
preferred, separate elongate recesses could be provided for each separate key body 14,14' However, the function of the recess or recesses 18 is to receive all of the key bodies 14,14' when the key holder is not in use (as shown). The location of the key bodies 14,14' m the recess 18 defines the retracted position of each key body 14,14' Moreover, by virtue of the recess 18 shown, it is possible to accommodate the key bit or flange 14" of the body 14' generally in the plane of the pivot member 16, thus minimising the depth of the holder, i.e. the dimension vertically in the plane of the paper in Figure 3. This is the situation shown m dashed-dotted lines. In the alternative, the key bit 14" could be aligned generally parallel to the flat key bodies 14' if the depth of the holder m Figure 3 is adequate (as indicated m full lines in Figures 1 to 3) .
Figure 1 illustrates in dotted lines a single key body 14 m one of a plurality of discrete selectably extended positions ready for use In order to move a selected key from the retracted position to an extended position, the key head 12 is pivoted about the pivot member 16 through, in this case, an angle of
substantially 180° This brings the key body 14 into a position wherein it can be inserted into a lock in order that the lock may be operated. The key body 14 is rigidly attached to the associated key head 12 which is, m turn, sufficiently rigidly attached to the hand grip 10 to enable the user to apply rotational movement to the hand grip 10 about the longitudinal axis of the key body 14 and thus effect operation of the lock m question. The hand grip 10 thus provides the user of the key holder with a comfortable and convenient means of operating the key.
The movement of a selected key body 14,14' from the retracted position to an extended position is carried out by driving means which drivable pivot the respective key head 12,12' about the axis of pivot member 16. In the embodiment illustrated, four slidably mounted push buttons 20 are provided, two on either side of the hand grip 10. Each is biased forwardly by a spring 21 and may be pulled back against the action of the associated spring by the user. The push buttons 20 are linked to respective key heads 12,12' by resilient fingers 34 (Figs 4 and 5) and are adapted to activate the respective driving means. The driving means can take the form of biasing means, e.g. a spring (see the example of a spring 32 m Figure 3 which is a coil spring one end of which is lodged in a recess formed in the key head 12 and the other end of which is lodged m a recess or split m the pivot member 16) The biasing means bias the key body 14,14' into the extended positions. Rearward sliding of a push button 20 will release the associated key head and allow the biasing means to rotate the associated key head 12,12' about the pivot means 16. Friction disks (not shown) are preferably also provided between the key heads so that the rotational movement of the key body 14,14' is carried out m a controlled manner under damping. This ensures that rapid movements of the key bodies 14,14' which could be dangerous are avoided.
Damping means could simply be friction surfaces on the key heads urged together by tightening a nut which retains the key heads on the pivot member or shaft.
Means (not shown) can also be provided for adjusting the bias of the biasing means; for example m the form of a spring tensionmg device.
A separate push button 20 is provided for each key body 14,14' carried by the hand grip 10. The push buttons 20 and key bodies 14,14' can be appropriately colour coded to ensure that the user of the key holder can swiftly and easily select the correct key for immediate use. Alternative identification means could, of course, be used if desired. The push buttons 20 may also incorporate illumination means (not shown) which assist the user in utilising the key holder at night or in dark areas such as multi-storey car parks etc.

Turning now to Figures 3 to 5, the recess 18 accommodates a resilient metal strip comprising a plate portion 36 and four fingers 34. This plate is shown flat m Figure 4 and in its operative, bent or folded, position in Figure 5. The bending is such as to provide effectively a tongue or pawl 24 which in the retracted position of the associated key head locates a recess 22 of the key head, resiliently to retain that retract position. The plate 36 (Fig 3) is attached to the roof of the recess whilst the finger 34 are hooked at their otherwise free ends into members 23 attached rigidly to the buttons 20. As the button is slid against the action of its spring 21, the
associated finger is pulled back to release the pawl or tongue 24 from the recess, thus allowing the key body to pivot from the retracted position.
In the embodiment shown in Figures 1 to 3 , provision is made for allowing the extended key body 14 to rotate through an angle of more than 180 from the retracted position. As can be seen from Figures 2 and 3, each key head 12 incorporates a substantially cylindrical surface having a series of angularly spaced recesses 22. In order to extend the selected key body 14 from the retracted position, i.e. with the key body located the recess 18, the relevant push button 20 is slid backwards The key body 14 will rotate out of the recess 18 m the direction of arrows 30 until the tongue 24 lodges in the next of the recesses 22. The key body 14 is thus held after a predetermined angle of rotation. If desired, the key body 14 could be
utilised in this position. If, however, the angle is inappropriate, the push button 20 would be slid back again and the key head 12 would rotate further under the action of the driving means (spring 32) until the tongue 24 catches in another recess 22. Again, the key body 14 is immovably held at a fixed angle to the keys remam g m the recess. Appropriate provision of recesses 22 will allow the key body 14 to be immovably held at any one of a number of pre-selected angles relative to the recessed keys. The term "immovably held" is here used to mean that the key body 14 is held sufficiently firmly to avoid relative movement between the key body 14 and the hand grip 10 during normal handling. However, the key body 14 can be manually forced to rotate with respect to the hand grip 10 so as to override the selected position if desired. The pre-selected angles may exceed 180° if desired in order to give added versatility to the use of the key holder. The advantages of this versatility will be described below .
Figure 6 shows a key body 14 (and a universal key head 12 dotted) isolation. Reference may also be had to Fig. 3 showing a slightly different variety. As will be seen from the drawings, the key body 14 has an attachment part 14a machined mto its proximal end.
The attachment part 14a is of such relatively small dimensions that it can be effectively machined out of the head portion of any standard key type currently available on the UK market. The attached part 14a tapers slightly widthways away from the ma portion of the key body 14 (as shown in Fig. 7) and also
incorporates at least one slot 14c to give at least one undercut lip or projection. The lips are shaped differently Figures 3 and 6. The universal key head 12 is manufactured from a slightly resilient plastics material for reasons which will be described below.
The universal key head 12 has a recess tapered to conform to the taper of part 14a to enclose the
attachment part 14a of the key body 14 and has a lip 12b which co-operates in a snap-fit manner with the lip 14b located on the attachment part 14a of the key body 14. When the attachment part 14a of the key body 14 is mserted in the key head 12, the co-operating lips 12b and 14b resist any action to remove the key body 14 from the key head 12. Thus a permanent, stable
attachment is formed. However, the head is apertured at its area containing lip 14b so that a tool can be inserted from the outside to deflect lip 14b away from lip 12b to enable the key body to be removed.
The remainder of the key head 12 is shaped so that t may be accommodated by the hand grip 10. Recesses 22 are formed in the curved surface which is co-axial with a hole 34 for receiving the pivot member 16.
Apertures and recesses are provided to accommodate the driving means and damping means (not shown) . Also, each key head 12 incorporates a stop 13 which limits the distance the key body 14 may travel into a lock.
Fig. 8 shows how a key of the type having a round shank 14' and a flat key bit 14" can be formed mto a key body to be retained in the head 12 of Fig. 3 or 6. It will be understood that key bodies of the type shown Figures 6 to 8 could alternatively be formed from key blanks, i.e. key forms having their attachment part preformed so that is is the key form or bit which is generated for the user.
Figure 9 illustrates the manner in which the machined head of a standard key can be attached to a standard form of key head if no longer required to be used in the new key holder. Thus, once the standard head has been removed from a key to produce a key body 14 suitable for attachment to a universal key head 12 as described above, it can later be attached to an alternative key head which resembles a standard key head. This allows the key to be of use to both users and non-users of the key holder.
As mentioned above, the universal key head 12 is preferably formed from a resilient plastics material. This provides a slightly resilient connection between the key body 14 and the hand grip 10 The advantage of this resilient facility is to reduce the risk of the key body 14 breaking should excess pressure be applied to the key body 14 in the lock. The resilient nature of the key head 12 enables the excess torque to be taken up in the resilient head. An alternative
arrangement which would achieve the same effect would be to encase the attachment part 14a of the key body 14 m a resilient pocket or coating before being inserted m the rigid key head 12. Again, this would allow for a certain degree of flexibility between the key body 14 and the hand grip 10.
A further precaution against applying excess torque to the key body would be to manufacture the key head from a material which discolours at or above a particular level of stress or strain. Such a measure provides a visual indication of over stressing A further alternative method of producing such a
precautionary feature would be to mount the rigid key heads 12 on pivot member 16 which was resilient in nature . Applymg excess torque to the key body would result in an overall twisting of the key body 14 and key head 12 with respect to the hand grip 10, this being permitted by slight deformation or extension of the axis 16. A further advantage of the feature of a degree of flexibility between the key body 14 and the hand grip 10 is that, m some cases, the lock in which the key is to be used may be presented slightly out of line. The feature of flexibility would allow a slight twisting of the key body 14 with respect to the hand grip 10 to enable to key body 14 to align itself with the lock in question.
Figures 10 and 11 illustrate an embodiment of the invention wherein a single key 14, or alternatively a fifth key 14, is held in the back of the hand grip 10. In this embodiment, the key body 14 is m its retracted position when located in the recess 18 as
before. One can manually rotate the key body 14 from the retracted position shown in Figure 6b to the extended position 36 shown in Figure 6a. Again, the key body 14 is attached to a universal head 12 by means of co-operating attachment parts, the attachment part 14a being machinable from the head of the key of which the key body 14 forms part. In this embodiment, the plane in which the key body 14 and the head 12 lie is substantially perpendicular to the plane of rotation of the key body 14 with respect to the hand grip 10. This arrangement, whilst retaining the features of the earlier embodiments, is relatively simple and
furthermore utilises very little of the volume of the hand grip 10 for internal workings of the device itself. Therefore, a considerable volume of the hand grip 10 is available for the additional of further features such as, for example, a magnetic strip swipe key, a magnetic strip phone card, a digital display incorporating means for inputting information to be stored such as telephone numbers or diary dates, a stored value card reader, a clock, a personal alarm, activation means for a car locking system or alarm, a torch, paging apparatus etc.
Also, the "universal" head 12 illustrated in
Figures 10 and 11 is relatively large, this being not inconvenient when a small number of key bodies are to be held by the key holder. The key head 12 can be connected to the hand grip 10 by means of a neck 37 which may be flexible in nature. This allows the key to be used in a conventional manner if desired or if necessary, i.e. with the head 12 being gripped by the user so as to effect turning of the key body in the appropriate lock. This can be made necessary by the location of the lock in a confined space making it impossible to utilise the preferred lever action of the

Figures 12 and 13 illustrate an embodiment of the invention similar to that illustrated m Figures 1 to 3. However, m this case, the key holder s designed to hold 8 key bodies up to two of which have round shanks in this example. The hand grip 10 of the embodiment shown in Figures 12 and 13 is designed so that four key bodies can be arranged along each side of the hand grip and four push buttons 20 are located along each edge of the hand grip 10.
Figures 14 to 17 illustrate the advantage of being able to rotate the key body 14 through an angle of more than 90° or 180° In Figures 14 and 15, a lock 40 is illustrated adjacent a door amb 42, the lock being situated at the right hand side of the door 44. If desired, the relevant key could be rotated from the retracted position through 180° but this would mean that the action to be applied by the user must be a twisting motion such as that required to operate a screwdriver. If the key body 14 were rotated through a lesser angle such as, for example, 90°, the operation of the key would be awkward m that the handle 10 would project upwardly from the lock and the movement
required would mean that the hand grip 10 would have to be rotated towards the door jamb 42. However, if the key body 14 is rotated through an angle greater than 180°, for example 225°, the key body 14 can be inserted in the lock 40 so that the hand grip 10 can be used in the manner of a handle or lever and can be rotated away from the door jamb 42 as shown m Figure 15. This means that the key holder is very easy to operate, particularly for those with afflictions such as
arthritis .
In the unlikely event that a lock 40 is located adjacent the left hand door amb 46 of a door 44, the key holder can be utilised m the following manner.

The key body 14 can be rotated through an angle of approximately 135° which will mean that the hand grip 10 will project upwardly from the key body 14 when the key body s inserted the lock 40 However, this will also mean that the hand grip 10 can be rotated away from the door amb 46 which enables the user to operate the lock without difficulty.
The provision of a relatively rigid hand grip 10 allows, as indicated above, for the provision of many different features withm the hand grip itself It is envisaged that the following features, singly or m combination, could be incorporated withm or attached to the hand grip 10 of the key holder Firstly, a carrymg handle or strap could be provided The strap could be of sufficient length to enable the holder to be carried around the neck or around the wrist The length of the strap could be adjustable as desired. Advantageously, the strap could be of such a length that, when worn around the wrist, the hand grip 10 of the key hold falls directly into the palm of the hand of the user on the user dropping his or hear arm. The strap or wrist loop may be made retractable mto the hand grip of the key holder
A personal alarm may also be incorporated mto the hand grip and may be actuated by separate actuating means located on the key holder. Alternatively, or in addition, an actuating device for a car alarm or central locking system may be provided. It is
envisaged that the key holder would incorporate a codeable cartridge insertable mto a recess adapted to receive the said cartridge .
Figure 18 illustrates the manner m which a magnetic strip swipe key or phonecard 50 may be
incorporated mto the hand grip 10 of the holder
It is also envisaged that a clock or information display together with apparatus for entering mformation to be stored such as telephone numbers, diary dates etc. may be provided. Furthermore, a torch or other illumination means may be provided. A paging device could also be provided.
A further modification incorporates mto the key holder a card reader and digital display for reading the card contents. One has mmd particularly stored money value cards of the kind stormg a money value for use m transactions and which can be loaded with further money value, e.g. by telephone. The display would display the remaining card value
Figure 19 is a diagram of a further form of key head providing the necessary torque for a key but with lateral flexibility in all directions In this
example, only two recesses are shown, one for the inoperative position and the other for a smgle
predefined approximately 180° extended position Other operative angles can be achieved by flexing of the key head. However further extended positions can be defmed as m Figures 6 and 8.
The key head in this example has a ma body 60, having two recesses 22 and a central aperture for the pivot member and drive spring, a key body retainer 62, containing the tapered recess as already described to receive the key body, and an intermediate portion 64 the form of a flexible shaft providing sufficient torque for key actuation, yet lateral flexibility in all lateral directions so that the key body may be deflected through a range of angles, e.g. upto 45 to 50 ° in any direction. This portion can be formed using the structure known from flexible screw drivers. For example it might comprise two helically wound coil springs mounted coaxially one withm the other, the coils being wound in opposite directions so that torsional rigidity exists in both directions. The springs could be round or substantially square in cross-section .
The above described embodiments are for
illustration purposes only. It is not intended that the scope of the invention be restricted to the
specific details of the embodiments described. Further adaptations and modifications will be apparent to a reader skilled m the art.