Title:
Cushioning shoulder strap
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cushioning shoulder strap having at least one bladder located thereon that is inflatable or pre-filled with at least one gas, liquid, or gel and structures for coupling the strap to an item to be supported or carried. Preferably, the bladder and strap of the invention are integrally formed as a single piece of material, such as vinyl or rubber. Optionally, the cushioned shoulder strap of the invention may feature a valve on the bladder or a cover attached to the shoulder strap into which a bladder may be removably placed.



Inventors:
Kelly, Charles (Tucson, AZ, US)
Application Number:
10/255738
Publication Date:
04/01/2004
Filing Date:
09/26/2002
Assignee:
KELLY CHARLES
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
224/643
International Classes:
A45F3/12; A45F3/14; (IPC1-7): A45F3/12; A41F15/02; A45F3/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ELKINS, GARY E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHARLES KELLY (8041 E. MALVERN, TUCSON, AZ, 85710, US)
Claims:

I claim:



1. A cushioning shoulder strap, comprising: a flexible bladder having a first end and a second end; and means for coupling said first end and said second end of said bladder to an object.

2. The strap of claim 1, wherein said flexible bladder and means for coupling are integrally formed from a single piece of material.

3. The strap of claim 1, wherein said flexible bladder further includes a valve.

4. The strap of claim 1, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with air.

5. The strap of claim 1, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with a liquid.

6. The strap of claim 1, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with a gel.

7. A cushioning guitar strap, comprising: a strap of flexible material having a first end and a second end; a flexible bladder connected to the strap and located between said first end and said second end of said strap; and means for coupling said first end and said second end of said strap to a guitar.

8. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder is integrally formed in said strap.

9. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder further includes a valve.

10. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with air.

11. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with a liquid.

12. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder is inflatable with a gel.

13. The guitar strap of claim 7, wherein said flexible bladder is detachable from said strap.

14. The guitar strap of claim 7, further including a bladder cover attached to said strap, wherein said flexible bladder is removably placed within said bladder cover.

15. The guitar strap of claim 7, further including a means for adjusting a length of the strap.

16. A cushioned shoulder strap, comprising: a strap of flexible material having a first end and a second end; an inflated bladder connected to the strap and located between said first end and said second end of said strap; and means for coupling said first end and said second end of said strap to an item.

17. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder is integrally formed in said strap.

18. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder further includes a valve.

19. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder contains air.

20. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder contains a liquid.

21. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder contains a gel.

22. The shoulder strap of claim 16, wherein said inflated bladder is detachable from said strap.

23. The shoulder strap of claim 16, further including a bladder cover attached to said strap, wherein said inflated bladder is removably placed within said bladder cover.

24. The shoulder strap of claim 16, further including a means for adjusting a length of the strap.

Description:

BACKGROUND

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The invention relates in general to the field of carrying or support accessories for instruments or items such as luggage and more particularly to a cushioning shoulder strap having one or more bladders filled with air, a liquid, or a gel.

[0003] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0004] Slip-on shoulder pads made of leather or resilient materials (e.g., neoprene) are commonly used to better secure and mitigate the weight of an article supported by a shoulder strap, such as a guitar, golf bag, or luggage. For example, a basic shoulder strap pad is described in U.S. Pat. No. 1,631,694 issued to Rick. Rick discloses a shoulder pad that is constructed in order to protect against accidental displacement of the pad by providing a resilient material sandwiched between a backing and an upper layer of leather. As described, the primary function of the resilient padding material is to frictionally engage the strap so that the pad does not slip from the shoulder during use. Thus, the resilient material does not provide a cushioning effect so much as it assists in protecting the wearer's shoulder against chaffing from the strap caused by accidental displacement of the pad.

[0005] Another example of a typical shoulder pad is found in U.S. Pat. No. 5,388,743 issued to Silagy. Silagy's pad, which was designed to be used in conjunction with a guitar strap, is similar to that described by Rick in that a layer of neoprene or rubber is threaded onto a strap and provides a minimal cushioning effect.

[0006] While traditional padded shoulder straps serve a purpose specific to their design, experience shows that shoulder straps with a slip on pad of the type described above often do not provide much protection or comfort for a wearer. In fact, after handling relatively heavy items or after supporting items on one's shoulder for long durations, a bruise or abrasion frequently is left on the upper back or shoulder area where the strap pad has been seated. Moreover, no currently existing padded shoulder strap is know to provide adjustable firmness for a wearer who suffers from back or shoulder pain. Furthermore, the inventor is not aware of any padded shoulder strap that is integrally formed as a single piece rather than as a separate strap and pad.

[0007] Thus, there is still a need in the art for a shoulder strap that allows those with back and shoulder problems to comfortably carry the weight of the supported article. Moreover, there continues to be a need for a shoulder strap having a cushioning area that more effectively mitigates the weight of a shouldered article and that can be easily adjusted in firmness according to the needs of the wearer.

SUMMARY OF THE INVETION

[0008] The invention relates in general to a shoulder strap having at least one bladder located thereon that is inflatable or pre-filled with at least one gas, liquid, or gel. More specifically, the invention provides in one embodiment a flexible strap that includes a flexible bladder and coupling members disposed near the strap ends to aid in attaching the strap to an item to be carried. Preferably the bladder and strap of the invention are integrally formed as a single piece of material, such as vinyl or rubber. Optionally, the cushioning shoulder strap of the invention may feature a valve on the bladder and/or a cover attached to the shoulder strap into which a bladder may be removably placed.

[0009] Thus, it is a primary objective of the invention to provide a cushioning shoulder strap featuring a bladder containing at least one gas, liquid, or gel.

[0010] Further, an object of the invention is to provide a cushioning shoulder strap having a bladder that can be adjusted to different positions to suit the individual needs of a wearer.

[0011] Still further, an object of the invention is to provide a cushioning shoulder strap featuring a bladder that is adjustable in firmness to meet the cushioning needs of a wearer.

[0012] Another object of the invention is to provide a cushioned shoulder strap the is inexpensive to manufacture.

[0013] Still another object of the invention is to provide a cushioning shoulder strap that is integrally formed of a single piece of material.

[0014] Yet another object of the invention is to provide a cushioning shoulder strap that is particularly well suited to support the weight of a guitar for prolonged periods of play.

[0015] In accordance with these and other objects there is provided new and improved cushioning shoulder strap featuring an inflatable or pre-filled bladder and means for coupling said bladder to an item.

[0016] Various other purposes and advantages of the invention will become clear from its description in the specification that follows. Therefore, to the accomplishment of the objectives described above, this invention includes the features hereinafter fully described in the detailed description of the preferred embodiments, and particularly pointed out in the claims. However, such description discloses only some of the various ways in which the invention may be practiced.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0017] FIG. 1A is a plan view of a preferred embodiment of the invention.

[0018] FIG. 1B is a front longitudinal view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1A.

[0019] FIG. 1C is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1A.

[0020] FIG. 2 is a plan view of a second embodiment of the invention.

[0021] FIG. 3 is a side view of a third embodiment of the invention.

[0022] FIG. 4A is a plan view of a fourth embodiment of the invention.

[0023] FIG. 4B is a front longitudinal view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 4A

[0024] FIG. 4C is a side view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 4A

[0025] FIGS. 5A and 5B show an embodiment of the invention featuring an adjustable strap.

[0026] FIG. 6 is a plan view of a fifth embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF TILE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0027] The invention relates to a cushioning shoulder strap having a pre-filled or inflatable bladder located on, or integrally formed into, the strap, and coupling members disposed near each end of the strap for coupling the strap to an object. Preferably, the invention is integrally formed from a single piece of material, such as rubber or vinyl, with a bladder formed between two air-tight seams. Coupling members, such as a clip, a clamp, or a hole, are secured at two ends of the bladder and used to attach an object such as a golf bag or guitar.

[0028] The novel combination of an inflatable or a filled bladder disposed upon a shoulder strap has many advantages over conventional straps using resilient padding material. First, the pressure of an inflatable bladder can be controlled to suit the needs of the wearer without having to change pads. For example, if a wearer is suffering from back or shoulder pain, the bladder can be fully inflated to provide a relatively firm cushion to offset the weight of a supported item. Conversely, if a wearer prefers to have the supported item closer to her body or to have the item “bounce” less while the wearer is moving, then the bladder can be deflated until the desired effect is achieved. Second, filled bladders are much more effective than pads in mitigating the weight of a supported item. Third, the bladders of this invention are flexible, allowing the cushioning effect of the bladder to conform exactly to the shape and size of the wearer's shoulder. Fourth, embodiments of this invention that feature bladders that are integrally formed into a strap are relatively simple and inexpensive to produce compared to separate strap-and-pad designs.

[0029] Turning to FIGS. 1A-1C, a preferred embodiment of the invention featuring a strap with an integrally formed bladder is shown. The cushioned shoulder strap 10 includes a flexible bladder 12 defined by two air-tight and fluid-tight seams 14 and 16. The bladder 12 may be pre-filled or, as shown in FIG. 1A, inflatable through a valve 18. Preferably, the bladder 12 contains a gas, which most preferably is the combination of gases comprising air. Moreover, the bladder 12 may contain a liquid, such as water, or a gel, i.e., a semi-solid material composed of a continuous or dispersed liquid phase in a continuous solid matrix.

[0030] On the non-bladder side of seams 14 and 16, flexible straps 20 and 22 are shown. The straps 20 and 22 terminate in a first end 24 and a second end 26. The first and second ends preferably have at least one coupling member, such as holes 28, to facilitate attachment of shoulder strap 10 to an item, such as a golf bag or luggage. As would be know by those skilled in the art, the coupling members could include slots, clips, snaps, and a wide variety of other structures designed to fasten or attach a strap to an item. FIG. 1C more clearly shows the top side 30 and bottom side 32 of straps 22 and 20, respectively.

[0031] FIGS. 2 and 3 show embodiments of the invention that feature removable bladders. In FIG. 2, the cushioned shoulder strap 40 includes a flexible strap 42 having a first end 44 and a second end 46. Disposed upon the top side 48 of flexible strap 42 is a bladder cover 50. Thus, bladder 52 having a valve 53 can be removably placed within bladder cover 50 as shown by arrow 54. Preferably, the bladder cover 50 is closable using a zipper 56. However, other closure means know to those skilled in the art, such as hook-and-loop fasteners, may also be used. The bladder cover 50 may be permanently attached (e.g., sewn) upon the flexible strap 42 or removably adhered, such as with VELCRO strips or snap fasteners.

[0032] Turning to FIG. 3, flexible strap 60 has a first end 62 and a second end 64 into which coupling members (holes 66) are formed. Optionally, clip 68 may be placed into either (or both) hole 66 to form a coupling member that facilitates attachment of an item to the shoulder strap 60. Upon the top side 70 of flexible strap 60, loop fasteners 72 are positioned to receive hook fasteners 74 on the exterior of bladder 76 as shown by arrows 78. Of course, the fasteners 72 on the flexible strap 60 may be positioned to facilitate adjustment of the bladder 76 to any desired position along the top side 70 of strap 60.

[0033] As shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, a sectioned bladder 80 may be integrally formed within a flexible strap 82 (or attached to the strap-not shown). In the pictured embodiment, each bladder section 84 is connect to at least one adjacent bladder section through channel 86. Thus, valve 88 may be used to inflate or deflate all bladder sections 84 simultaneously, with first end 90 and second end 92 being connectable to an item to be shouldered as previously described. Of course, in lieu of channels 86, each bladder may be sealed (and valved) to be separate, allowing different pressures to exist in different bladders on the same strap in accordance with a wearer's preference.

[0034] The length of the shoulder strap also may be adjusted. Turning to FIGS. 5A and 5B, cushioning shoulder strap 94 has a first strap 95 onto which a buckle 96 has been threaded. In FIG. 5A, a portion 98 of strap 95 has been looped through buckle 96, resulting in shortened strap section 100. In FIG. 5B, a user has removed the portion of strap 95 from the buckle 96, resulting in lengthened strap section 102.

[0035] As described above, the flexible bladders of the invention ideally are filled with or contain air. However, practically any non-toxic and otherwise safe compressible gas, liquid, or gel may be used to provide a cushioning effect. Furthermore, the level of compressibility for the air-filled bladder embodiment can be adjusted according to the amount of air used, making the firmness of bladder customizable to the needs of the wearer. Moreover, bladders containing liquids or gels that can be heated or cooled may be used with the invention to help reduce shoulder inflammation or increase circulation, respectively.

[0036] The invention, having been described above, may be better understood by reference to an example. The following example is intended for illustration purposes only, and should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention in any way.

[0037] The invention may be manufactured using existing tooling and technology employed in the waterbed industry. First, two flexible polyvinyl sheets (or a doubled-over single sheet) may be cut into any desirable shape for a strap. Next, an electrically heated iron is used to seal the polyvinyl in accordance with the desired shape and location of the flexible bladder. The temperature of the iron can be precisely controlled such that the vinyl pieces are fused together, creating an air-tight seam so that the bladder may be inflated, either at the factory or through an added valve.

[0038] Thus, the simple cushioning strap 108 pictured in FIG. 6 may be created out of a single piece of polyvinyl. In this embodiment, the strap 108 includes only a flexible bladder 110 having a valve 111, with two coupling members 112 disposed at the first end 114 and the second end 116 of the bladder 110.

[0039] Various changes in the details and components that have been described may be made by those skilled in the art within the principles and scope of the invention herein described in the specification and defined in the appended claims. Therefore, while the present invention has been shown and described herein in what is believed to be the most practical and preferred embodiments, it is recognized that departures can be made therefrom within the scope of the invention, which is not to be limited to the details disclosed herein but is to be accorded the full scope of the claims so as to embrace any and all equivalent processes and products.





 
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