Folding holder for maps and related travel information printouts
A substantially transparent map holder or envelope for retaining therein a composite map. The holder includes a plurality of compartments spaced between two layers of material connected together. Each compartment has at least one opening for insertion and removal of a printed map that may be a section of a composite map, and/or other related text or graphic travel information such as point information, route maps, travel directions, tickets, reservations, discount coupons, and so forth. By using mapping software and a printer, a user may create a large, composite, custom map that is put together like a quilt or a mosaic made up of individual pieces of printable paper. The individual pieces are inserted into the compartments to create a large-sized map for easier overall visualization—made using preferably a conventional printer and standard-sized (e.g. 8.5″×11″) sheets of paper—rather than large-format printers or plotters and oversized paper. The overall map holder furthermore folds up in various ways for more convenient storage, handling and focused use.
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BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Technical Field
 The present invention relates to substantially transparent containers or holders for maps and other printed travel information. More particularly, the present invention relates to a folding, re-usable map case or enclosure having discrete compartments for holding in an organized, visible manner maps or other travel information printed on more or less standard-sized paper. The printed sheets are preferably arranged within the compartments contiguously to effectively produce a map larger in size than individual standard-sized pieces of paper. In an alternative version, arrays of printed maps and/or other hard-copied travel information output—e.g. driving directions, point information, “located” reservations or discount coupons etc.—can be assembled and placed within the adjoining transparent map holder compartments along a route, in the direction the user plans to travel, or in relation to locations shown on the composite map. The present invention protects the printed maps and other information from weather, water and wear-and-tear—as well as configuring the related pages of generally geographic printed information spatially, or in other logical or useful patterns. The present invention may also be associated with computer software employed to generate maps to be printed.
 2. Description of the Prior Art and Objects of the Invention
 Protective holders have been made available for the purpose of holding and protecting paper maps. An example of such a holder is the “WATERPROOF MAP/DOCUMENT/CHART HOLDER” made by OMNISEAL of Seattle Wash. This product resembles a large postal envelope—but made of transparent plastic with a zip-lock closure at one end of the single compartment for maps and/or for other documents. In addition, DeLorme Publishing, assignee of the present application, offers plastic laminated versions of its series of state Atlas & Gazetteer printed map books—consisting of the cover and pages coated in plastic and spiral bound. Furthermore, DeLorme sells a clear plastic book jacket specifically sized to fit around and protect plain paper editions of the Atlas & Gazetteers from exposure or damage. As a convenient protective carrier for the Atlas & Gazetteer map books, DeLorme also retails zippered “book-bags” with one side of transparent plastic. For many years, DeLorme has packaged folding sheet maps, and the similarly sized state geographic travel information series of pamphlets, in simple clear plastic sleeves, approximately 5″×11″, pre-punched with a hole for hanging retail displays.
 DeLorme provides mapping software that enables a user to print sets of adjacent maps on 8.5″×11″ standard-sized paper. The margins may be cut off and the multiple pieces of paper assembled together—like a quilt or mosaic—to form a relatively large composite map. This technology enables home and small office personal computer users to print-out and tape or thumb-tack together large-size “sheet” or “wall” maps, using inexpensive consumer market printers and standard-sized paper—rather than more costly and complicated plotters or other specialized equipment and oversized paper. DeLorme offers that software technology as a component named MuralMaker. Recently, the MuralMaker capabilities have been made available for topographical printed map output from DeLorme's 3-D TopoQuads® mapping software on CDROM or DVD—as an add-on tool supplied with DeLorme's other mapping software products identified as TopoToolS™ or Xmap® Geographic. The noted software products enable users to customize composite maps of various sizes. However, there does not presently exist a suitable protective holder for retaining such customized, composite maps.
 Starting with its Map‘n’Go 1.0 mapping software product first released in July of 1994, DeLorme has facilitated automated routing based on user selection and input of starting point, final destination, and one or more optional waypoints. This software for calculating optimum routes further included capabilities for printing detailed sets of maps along a computed route. One such form of a route-related map printout is described in DeLorme's CARS U.S. Pat. No. 5,559,707 at col. 4, line 58 to col. 5, line 16 and col. 14, lines 12-27 with reference to FIG. IN. For longer routes, such helpful travel route hardcopy output could include a series of multiple “strip” maps of the recommended route, showing critical intersections and turning points, as well as detailed driving directions, text and/or graphic information about points of interest along the way. Such sets of route-related information printouts can be used with the present map holder invention.
 Relatedly, DeLorme's CAMLS U.S Pat. No. 5,848,373 described and claimed a system which included coordination among portable distributed digital devices and corresponding printed maps by means of common alphanumerically named map grids. FIG. 14C in the issued CAMLS patent, for example, illustrates a wireless pager receiving information including a map grid designation of a specific accident site—in the form of alphanumerical text—which the user can then locate by means of the corresponding grid system as printed on the pages of a map book. As an alternative to this companion book, or a sheaf of map printouts, the present map holder invention can serve to assemble, demarcate, and enable visualization of a whole set of map printouts of adjacent areas, including the corresponding system of identifiable map grids, as an aid in ascertaining geographic locations.
 Moreover, DeLorme's TRIPS U.S. Pat No. 5,948,040 described and claimed a “Travel Reservation Information System”—preferably including related geographic, scheduling, topical and transactional data subsystems—which can provide users with personally tailored electronic or printed-out sets of map, route and/or point information, also scheduling information about events happening at specific locations—which further preferably provides the user with one or more discount coupons, reservation confirmations, and/or tickets. In the case of printed output according to TRIPS, the present “map” holder invention can be used to enclose, arrange and retain pages of related maps, travel directions, route, event, and/or point information in association with any printed reservation, discount coupon, or ticket documents issued to the user.
 Therefore, the overall object of the present invention is to provide a device to transparently contain, organize and protect maps and other related travel information hardcopy or print output generated by geographic information system software. Preferably, the transparent container folds up for convenient storage and focused use. However, the container or holder should readily unfold in order to present the “big” cartographic picture and/or other related travel information. In other words, an important object is to improve upon loose collections of paper maps, written route directions, text and/or pictorial information about nearby points of interest—easily deranged and/or damaged. Bound booklets or stapled sheaves of maps and other travel information provide a strictly serial form of organization—requiring the user to flip and find between multiple pages of adjacent maps and/or other related travel information.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention is a substantially transparent holder designed to facilitate visualization, analysis, and/or reading of large amounts of geographic information as a whole—instead of as separate pages. The holder includes a plurality of adjacent compartments sized and arranged to accommodate and align adjacent mapped areas and other logically or spatially related travel information in the form of hardcopy output created by geographic information software and printed on standard-sized paper (e.g. 8.5″×11″) using a wide range of relatively inexpensive and readily available printers for personal computing devices such as laptops or personal computers but not limited thereto.
 The preferred embodiments of the present map holder invention are made to accommodate two or more hardcopy print-outs of contiguous geographical data—typically generated using such “mural” or “mosaic” map software, standard 8.5″×11″ paper, plus a home/small office PC printer (preferably color, or black-and-white).
 The holder of the present invention provides a convenient storage method that enables a user to compose and retain a customized map structure, which can be viewed as a single unit, wherein the particular map or other travel information components may be changed, as desired, simply by replacement within the compartments. The overall transparent map holder is also designed to fold up and unfold for portability, ease of storage, and more convenient or focused use. These and other advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon review of the following detailed description, the accompanying drawings, and the appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1A is a front view of the holder of the present invention.
 FIG. 1B is a side view of the holder of the present invention.
 FIG. 2A is a front view of a map print-out being trimmed with scissors to fit in one compartment of the holder of the present invention.
 FIG. 2B is a perspective view of the holder of the present invention showing a way it can be folded and how map printouts can be inserted therein.
 FIG. 2C is a front view of an alternative embodiment of the holder of the present invention containing a series of route-related maps and other travel information.
 FIG. 2D is a front view of another alternative embodiment of the present invention with a composite set of maps with designated grids and related travel information therein.
DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT AND BEST MODE OF THE INVENTION
 FIG. 1A shows a front view and FIG. 1B shows a side view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention comprising a transparent, compartmentalized plastic holder or envelope at 01. The envelope of the present invention is preferably constructed of “frosty clear” vinyl having a wall thickness of about 0.0075 inches. The “frosty clear” material is also known as “rolled vinyl.” The material appears to be translucent, but text and graphics show through it quite clearly printed on paper pressed right up to the vinyl. Alternatively, the map holder could be made using a thicker polyurethane plastic for greater durability and flexibility particularly when used in cold weather. Although the specific dimensions of the envelope may be modified as desired, the preferred embodiment of the invention has, when completely unfolded, an overall height of about 29.5 inches, and a width of about 22.5 inches, with a folded height of about 9.75 inches. Inside dimensions of individual compartments are about 9.5 inches high by about 7.25 inches wide. There are preferably a “single rule” or a “1.5 mm bar seal rule” along the horizontal fold lines, which give more room to insert printouts in the compartments, and facilitate folding. In addition, the preferred embodiment includes welds or splines comprising a “single rule” or “1.5 mm bar seal” along the vertical folds or separations which enable the longer vertical map printout edges to be closer together and easier to align visually.
 As shown in FIG. 1B, the envelope includes two layers. The two layers are preferably welded or glued, taped or otherwise fastened together around the entire outside perimeter. The two layers are also attached together all along the potential “vertical” folds or creases at C and D, as indicated by dashed lines, in order to form the preferably equal-sized compartments for related printouts of travel information. Each compartment's horizontal “bottom” is also formed and sealed by welding, gluing or otherwise attaching the two layers together. To insert and remove the map and/or travel information hardcopies, openings are cut out or left as shown by the dotted line segments in FIG. 1A, coinciding with the “horizontal” compartment boundaries at A and B. These openings or access slots are dimensioned to accommodate standard paper and map sizes—with margins or borders cut-off if optimum. Through these apertures or openings, the user can insert or remove contiguous hardcopy maps or otherwise logically organized printed-out pages of computer-generated travel information print output—as shown in FIG. 1B at E and E, also at 05 and 10 in FIG. 2B.
 The example of the envelope or holder shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B shows compartments 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09 and 10—including, in this embodiment, room for nine adjacent or contiguous quadrangular map segments or tiles, and/or other travel information printouts. As illustrated by the mapped water body at 11, and also by the vector routes and intersections at 12, which extend across two or more compartmentalized pages of computer-generated output, these separate pages result in an array or a rectilinear mosaic of map printouts “quilted” together by placement within adjoining sections of the transparent holder at 01 in order to present a composite map. In this example of the holder/envelope of the present invention, the nine compartments act together to align and present a composite cartographic representation made up of nine sheets or pieces of paper. It is to be noted that additional trimmed map printouts may be inserted into the compartments back-to-back with the first map sections, so as to be visible from the back or opposite face of the transparent map holder front. An alternative embodiment of the present invention could be made of one transparent layer on an opaque backing. In the simplified overall map shown in FIG. 1A, note the map section at 10 in the lower right corner happens to have no map features, e.g., no road or water-body data—i.e. no cartographic content of specific interest to the user. Supplemental text or graphic travel information can optionally be placed within individual map prints or compartments in such areas with relatively little or no map content.
 FIG. 2A depicts a standard-sized 8.5″×11″ printout of map or other travel information. Borders or margins measure approximately 0.5″ on both sides and 1.0″ head and foot. The margins or borders are preferably cut-off for a more “seamless” composite map—and the map holder compartments of the present invention are sized accordingly.
 FIG. 2B is a perspective drawing depicting one way to crease and fold a nine-section map holder at 01. FIG. 2B also illustrates sheet maps or other travel information printouts at 05 and 10 being inserted and/or removed from their respective compartments within this embodiment of the map holder invention. Alternatively, the openings can have zip-lock or other temporary or more or less permanent closure means; however, map holders according to the present invention are preferably re-useable—i.e. used with one set of maps and possibly other printouts for a particular trip, which are removed and replaced with alternative travel information printouts another day for purposes of a subsequent expedition. Moreover, the zip-lock or other closures would likely increase manufacturing costs and interfere with easy folding. The map holder preferably folds various ways to be more compact and so that, for example, the user can focus on a portion of the overall map which is of current interest.
 FIG. 2C shows an alternative embodiment map holder, according to the present invention, in the form of a transparent, folding strip consisting of five compartments for discrete related maps and/or other travel information printouts. As an option, each compartment can be identified alphanumerically as an aid in placing and identifying the component sections of travel information. Alternatively, or in addition, such identifying numbers and/or letters can be included on the maps or other related travel information printouts as generated by the mapping and geographic information software program. The information printed-out, selected by the user and/or generated by the software can also include related text or graphic information—for example, point information, driving directions, located digital photos or tabular information, advertising, discount coupons, tickets or reservation confirmation information—as shown at 5 in FIG. 2C.
 FIG. 2D illustrates yet another embodiment of the present invention—in this case, a transparent, folding enclosure comprising six compartments for map printouts and/or other hardcopy travel information. Numbers and/or letters can be optionally printed, embossed, or temporarily marked on the map holder—identifying discrete map grids represented by lines drawn on the map holder and/or on the map printouts inside. Alternatively, the alphanumeric map grid indicators can be printed on the paper output. These numbers, letters and map grids are used to help identify areas and locations within the overall composite map. In addition (or alternatively), supplemental text and/or graphic information (e.g. text and/or tabular directions for driving, “map tickets”, reservation confirmations, or “located” discount coupons, and/or point information) could be selected by the user engaging the map software, then printed out and arranged in one or more of the FIG. 2D map compartments, as shown in the compartment including grids 1E, 2E, 1F and 2F—with the various kinds of supplemental information relating to one or more locations indicated on the map printouts assembled in adjacent compartments of the plastic map holder invention.
 While the invention has been described with reference to particular example embodiments, it is intended to cover all modifications and equivalents within the scope of the following claims.
1. A transparent foldable holder for retaining maps, travel-related information, or a combination thereof, the holder comprising: a first layer of material and a second layer of material, wherein at least one of said first layer and said second layer is transparent and wherein said first layer of material and said second layer of material are flexible, each having an inner face and an outer face defined by a perimeter, said first layer and said second layer joined together at their respective perimeters and further joined together at their respective inner faces to establish a plurality of compartments therebetween, wherein said layers are foldable on one another where joined at their respective faces, with each of said compartments including at least one opening to permit insertion therein of a printed map or travel-related information.
2. The holder as claimed in claim 1 wherein each of said plurality of compartments is of substantially equivalent dimensions.
3. The holder as claimed in claim 1 wherein said first layer of material and said second layers of material are both transparent.
4. The holder as claimed in claim 1 fabricated of a waterproof material.
5. The holder as claimed in claim 1 wherein each of said one or more openings of each of said plurality of compartments includes closure means.
6. The holder as claimed in claim 1 wherein said first layer of material and said second layers of material are joined together by welding.
International Classification: B65D030/22;