Title:
Collapsible framework, object containing same, and method of reducing a storage volume requirement for the object using same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An object includes an outer covering (110, 810) and a collapsible framework (120) providing interior support to the outer covering. The collapsible framework includes at least a first support pole (121) comprising a plurality of sections. The plurality of sections includes at least a first section (131) and a second section (132), both of which have a first end (241, 433) and a second end (242, 434). In one embodiment the first end of the first section has a first opening (151) therein and the second end of the first section has a second opening (152) therein. The first end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening but not capable of passing through the second opening, and the second end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening and the second opening.



Inventors:
Liff, Lawrence (Scottsdale, AZ, US)
Cheung, Li Hoo (Hong Kong, HK)
Application Number:
11/234670
Publication Date:
03/29/2007
Filing Date:
09/23/2005
Assignee:
Take One Limited (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H3/52
View Patent Images:
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20020083882Method for production of a whistling soundJuly, 2002Severinovsky et al.
20080026664Toy propeller with sound-emitting device and method of making thereofJanuary, 2008Rosenblum et al.
20080081538Motorized oscillating mobile apparatusApril, 2008Ostrow et al.
20100009327EDUCATIONAL SYSTEMJanuary, 2010Brazil
20060057931Inflatable ornamentMarch, 2006Wang
20040266311Kinetic sculptureDecember, 2004Thompson
20080216803Water balloon catching toy shieldSeptember, 2008Cuisinier



Primary Examiner:
HAWK, NOAH CHANDLER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kenneth A. Nelson (Bryan Cave LLP Suite 2200 Two North Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ, 85004-4406, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A collapsible framework for providing interior support to an object, the collapsible framework comprising: a support pole comprising: a plurality of sections, including at least: a first section comprising: a first end; and a second end having an opening therein; and a second section comprising a first end and a second end, wherein: the first end of the second section is not capable of passing through the opening; and the second end of the second section is capable of passing through the opening.

2. The collapsible framework of claim 1 wherein: the support pole is a first support pole within a plurality of support poles, each of which form a part of the collapsible framework; and each one of the plurality of support poles is substantially similar to the first support pole.

3. The collapsible framework of claim 1 wherein: the opening and a cross section of the support pole are circular.

4. The collapsible framework of claim 1 wherein: the second end of the first section comprises an overhang that forms a perimeter of the opening; the first end of the second section comprises a ring having a shelf at a terminus thereof; and the ring is too large to pass through the opening.

5. The collapsible framework of claim 4 wherein: the overhang overlaps and physically contacts the shelf when the second section is inserted to a maximum extent within the first section.

6. The collapsible framework of claim 1 further comprising: a locking mechanism capable of maintaining the second section in an extended position in which the second section is inserted to a maximum extent within the first section.

7. The collapsible framework of claim 6 wherein: the second section comprises a main shaft; the locking mechanism comprises one or more protrusions that protrude away from the main shaft; and a combined thickness of the main shaft and the one or more protrusions is substantially identical to a diameter of the opening.

8. The collapsible framework of claim 7 wherein: the main shaft of the second section is perpendicular to the first end and the second end of the second section.

9. The collapsible framework of claim 1 further comprising: a base to which the support pole is physically coupled.

10. The collapsible framework of claim 9 wherein: the base is circular.

11. The collapsible framework of claim 9 wherein: the base comprises a removable part.

12. The collapsible framework of claim 1 further comprising: a platform physically coupled to the second end of the second section.

13. The collapsible framework of claim 12 wherein: the platform further comprises an attachment feature capable of securing an accessory to the collapsible framework.

14. The collapsible framework of claim 12 further comprising: at least one arm extending from the platform.

15. An object comprising: an outer covering; a collapsible framework providing interior support to the outer covering, wherein the collapsible framework comprises: at least a first support pole comprising: a plurality of sections, including at least: a first section comprising: a first end having a first opening therein; and a second end having a second opening therein; and a second section comprising a first end and a second end; a locking mechanism capable of maintaining the first section and the second section in an extended position with respect to each other; a base physically coupled to the first support pole; and a platform physically coupled to the second end of the second section, wherein: the first end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening but not capable of passing through the second opening; and the second end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening and the second opening.

16. The object of claim 15 wherein: the support pole is a first support pole within a plurality of support poles; and each one of the plurality of support poles is substantially similar to the first support pole.

17. The object of claim 16 wherein: the second end of the first section comprises an overhang that forms a perimeter of the second opening; the first end of the second section comprises a ring having a shelf at a terminus thereof, and the overhang overlaps and physically contacts the shelf when the second section is inserted to a maximum extent within the first section such that the first end of the second section is contained within the first section.

18. The object of claim 17 further comprising: at least one arm extending from the platform.

19. The object of claim 15 further comprising: an accessory secured to the platform.

20. A method of reducing a storage volume requirement for an object, the method comprising: providing a collapsible framework for the object such that the object has a collapsed position and an extended position; and collapsing the collapsible framework to place the object in the collapsed position, wherein: the collapsible framework comprises: a support pole comprising: a plurality of sections, including at least: a first section comprising: a first end having a first opening therein; and a second end having a second opening therein; and a second section comprising a first end and a second end; the first end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening but not capable of passing through the second opening; and the second end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening and the second opening.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to supporting frameworks, and relates more particularly to collapsible frameworks capable of reducing a storage volume requirement.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The retail price of an item depends on, among other factors, the cost of manufacturing the item and the cost of shipping or transporting the item to the location where it will be sold. As an example, consider a bulky but relatively inexpensive novelty-type item, such as a holiday decoration, that is to be sold in the United States. Such an item may often be manufactured less expensively in a country other than the United States. Any savings in manufacturing cost, however, is at least partially offset by a corresponding increase in transportation costs necessary to ship the item to the United States from the country where it was manufactured.

The cost of shipping an item of the type under discussion here typically is heavily dependent on the volume of the container in which the item is shipped. Thus, the shipping costs for large items, even if such items are light in weight, can add significantly to the retail price of such items, sometimes to the point that any profit margin for such items is rendered so small that any sale of such items is no longer worthwhile. Large items can also be more expensive and cumbersome to store. Accordingly, there exists a need for a way of reducing a storage and shipping volume requirement for an item.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood from a reading of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying figures in the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is an elevational view of an object capable of occupying a reduced volume according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a section of a support pole of a collapsible framework that forms a part of the object of FIG. 1 according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view from a different angle of the section of FIG. 2 according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a different section of the support pole according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the sections of FIGS. 2 and 4 shown in an extended position with respect to each other, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a platform that forms a portion of the support pole according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a base that forms a portion of the collapsible framework according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIGS. 8-10 are front elevational views of a different object capable of occupying a reduced volume according to an embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 11 is a flowchart illustrating a method of reducing a storage volume requirement for an object according to an embodiment of the invention.

For simplicity and clarity of illustration, the drawing figures illustrate the general manner of construction, and descriptions and details of well-known features and techniques may be omitted to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the invention. Additionally, elements in the drawing figures are not necessarily drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help improve understanding of embodiments of the present invention. The same reference numerals in different figures denote the same elements.

The terms “first,” “second,” “third,” “fourth,” and the like in the description and in the claims, if any, are used for distinguishing between similar elements and not necessarily for describing a particular sequential or chronological order. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances such that the embodiments of the invention described herein are, for example, capable of operation in sequences other than those illustrated or otherwise described herein. Furthermore, the terms “comprise,” “include,” “have,” and any variations thereof, are intended to cover a non-exclusive inclusion, such that a process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises a list of elements is not necessarily limited to those elements, but may include other elements not expressly listed or inherent to such process, method, article, or apparatus.

The terms “left,” “right,” “front,” “back,” “top,” “bottom,” “over,” “under,” and the like in the description and in the claims, if any, are used for descriptive purposes and not necessarily for describing permanent relative positions. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances such that the embodiments of the invention described herein are, for example, capable of operation in other orientations than those illustrated or otherwise described herein. The term “coupled,” as used herein, is defined as directly or indirectly connected in an electrical, mechanical, or other manner.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In one embodiment of the invention, an object comprises an outer covering and a collapsible framework providing interior support to the outer covering and having an extended position and a collapsed position in which the object occupies a much smaller volume of space. The collapsible framework comprises at least a first support pole comprising a plurality of sections. The plurality of sections includes at least a first section and a second section, both of which have a first end and a second end. The first end of the first section has a first opening therein and the second end of the first section has a second opening therein. The first end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening but not capable of passing through the second opening, and the second end of the second section is capable of passing through the first opening and the second opening. In a particular embodiment, the collapsible framework further comprises one or more of a locking mechanism capable of maintaining the first section and the second section in an extended position with respect to each other, a base physically coupled to the support pole, and a platform physically coupled to the second end of the second section.

Referring now to the figures, FIG. 1 is an elevational view of an object 100 capable of occupying a reduced volume according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 1, object 100 comprises an outer covering 110 (shown in transparent form) and a collapsible framework 120 providing interior support to outer covering 110. Collapsible framework 120 is capable of being placed in an extended position, which is the position illustrated in FIG. 1, and a collapsed position, in which it occupies a smaller volume of space than it occupies in its extended position. Collapsible framework 120 may in one embodiment be constructed of polypropylene or a similar material, but other materials may also be used, including cardboard, metal, and other materials. If polypropylene or another thermoplastic resin is used collapsible framework 120 has the advantage of being both lightweight and strong.

In the illustrated embodiment, outer covering 110 is painted, embroidered, or otherwise decorated to have the appearance of a totem pole or the like. It will be readily apparent, however, that there is virtually no limit to the decorative elements that could be applied to outer covering 110, just as there is virtually no limit to the manner in which such decorations may be applied. Furthermore, outer covering 110 could be formed from a wide variety of materials, including, for example, plastic, fabric, cardboard, and the like. These and other materials could be formed into a costume, a drapery, a sheet, or a wide variety of other objects. In a particular group of embodiments, outer covering 110 could be prepared so as to be suitable for a holiday or other decoration. Outer covering 110 may be permanently or merely temporarily attached to collapsible framework 110.

Collapsible framework 120 comprises a support pole 121 comprising a plurality of sections, including at least a section 131 and a section 132. FIGS. 2-3 offer additional illustrations of section 131, and FIG. 4 offers an additional illustration of section 132. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, support pole 121 further comprises additional sections, and collapsible framework 120 further comprises a support pole 122. However, support pole 122 is not a required element for collapsible framework 120, nor are the additional sections required elements of support pole 121. Thus, in a non-illustrated but useful embodiment of the invention, support pole 121 is the only support pole of collapsible framework 120 and sections 131 and 132 are the only sections of support pole 121. It should also be understood that the particular non-illustrated embodiment just described is not the only possible embodiment other than the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1-4. Rather, there are many additional possible embodiments of the invention, not all of which are illustrated herein, including, for example, embodiments having three or more support poles, embodiments in which the support pole or support poles comprise three, four, five, or more sections, embodiments having multiple collapsible frameworks, each of which supports a portion of an object, among many other possibilities.

As a particular example of the last-named non-illustrated embodiment, an object could comprise a first collapsible framework to provide interior support to a figure's torso and second and third collapsible frameworks to provide interior support to the figure's legs. The first collapsible framework could be placed on a plank, while the second and third collapsible frameworks could be attached to the plank's underside. In such an arrangement, the application of pressure to the top of the first framework would cause all three frameworks to collapse, and the force would be distributed fairly evenly across both the second and the third frameworks by the plank.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of section 131 and FIG. 3 is a perspective view from a different angle of section 131 according to an embodiment of the invention. FIG. 4 is a perspective view of section 132 according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIGS. 2-4, section 131 comprises an end 241 having an opening 151 therein and an end 242 having an opening 152 therein. Opening 152 is bounded by an overhang 310 that forms a perimeter of opening 152.

In a non-illustrated embodiment, end 241 has no opening therein but rather is a closed end. In one manifestation of that non-illustrated embodiment, a collapsible framework comprises components corresponding to sections 131 and 132 in the shape of a frustum of a cone. Where two or more such sections make up a support pole of the non-illustrated collapsible framework, all but the uppermost section may be open at a top and closed at a bottom thereof. The uppermost section may be open or closed, at one or both ends, as desired.

Section 132 comprises an end 433 and an end 434. End 433 comprises a ring 420 having a lip or shelf 440 at a terminus thereof. Overhang 310 overlaps and physically contacts shelf 440 when section 132 is inserted to a maximum extent within section 131 such that end 433 of section 132 is contained within section 131 and not allowed to exit through opening 152 thereof. The phrase “inserted to a maximum extent” in the preceding sentence refers to the situation where section 132 protrudes from opening 152 as far as it can be without causing damage to the structure of support pole 121.

Section 131 is hollow, meaning that there exists an open passageway all the way through section 131 from opening 151 to opening 152. End 434 of section 132 is capable of passing through both opening 151 and opening 152. End 433 of section 132 is capable of passing through opening 151 but not capable of passing through opening 152. The result is that section 132 may be inserted into section 131, at end 241 of section 131, and drawn out of end 242 of section 131 through opening 152 until shelf 440 encounters overhang 310. At the point of such encounter between shelf 440 and overhang 310, section 132 is prevented from moving further through opening 152, and sections 131 and 132 are in what is referred to herein as the extended position with respect to each other.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of sections 131 and 132 shown in the extended position just described, with shelf 440 abutting overhang 310, according to an embodiment of the invention. As further illustrated in FIG. 5, section 132 further comprises a locking mechanism 510 capable of maintaining section 131 and section 132 in the extended position with respect to each other. In the illustrated embodiment, locking mechanism 510 comprises one or more protrusions 511 protruding away from a main shaft 515 of section 132.

A combined thickness of main shaft 515 and protrusion 511 is substantially identical to a diameter of opening 152. In this context, the phrase “substantially identical” means that the combined thickness is so close to the diameter of opening 152 that protrusion 511 may, with an effort, be forced past overhang 310. Also, although the word “diameter” is used in connection with opening 152, it should be understood that such word choice is not intended to imply that opening 152, or the other openings or other components of collapsible framework 120, are circular or that sections 131 or 132 or any other sections of any support pole have circular cross sections. Rather, such openings and cross sections may be circular, rectangular, triangular, or any other regular or irregular shape.

In one embodiment, section 131 and/or section 132 may be required to flex or deform slightly in order that protrusion 511 may be forced past overhang 310. Once protrusion 511 has been forced past overhang 310 it will remain in place outside of opening 152 until it is forced back through opening 152 and past overhang 310 in the other direction. The force required to force protrusion 511 back through opening 152 is greater than the force of gravity. If the only force acting to pull protrusion 511 back into section 131 is the force of gravity, sections 132 and 131 will remain in the extended position with respect to each other.

The locking mechanism described in the previous paragraph and illustrated in FIG. 5 is just one of a variety of possible locking mechanisms for use with collapsible framework 120. The locking mechanism could instead or could also comprise, for example, a hook and latch system, a system in which a protrusion is rotated into a groove where it is locked in place, a system in which each section of support pole 121 is tapered between its ends such that a larger end of one section is held in place by friction at the smaller end of an adjacent section, or some other device, system, or mechanism. Where the locking mechanism of the previous paragraph is used, as well as where other locking mechanisms not requiring such a taper are used, main shaft 515 of section 132, as well as corresponding main shafts of other sections of support pole 121, have straight sides that are perpendicular, or substantially perpendicular, to the ends of such sections.

Referring again to FIG. 1, collapsible framework 120 further comprises a base 140 and a platform 150 physically coupled to support poles 121 and 122. In an embodiment where support pole 121 consists only of sections 131 and 132 (which embodiment is different from the illustrated embodiment), base 140 is physically coupled to end 241 of section 131 and platform 150 is physically coupled to end 434 of section 132. In an embodiment where support pole 121 comprises more than two sections, such as the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, base 140 is physically coupled to a lowest section of support 121 and platform 150 is physically coupled to an uppermost section of support pole 121. In one embodiment, the larger sections are below the smaller sections within support pole 121, but this arrangement is not a requirement and the larger sections of support pole 121 could also be above the smaller sections. It should be understood that in this description of the invention, the words “lowest,” “uppermost,” “below,” and “above” are used so as to make sense in a context where support pole 121 is sitting vertically on a surface that is parallel to the ground.

In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, base 140 comprises a circular base. Such a base offers good stability and support for object 100. As an example, support poles 121 and 122 can fit into recesses on a surface of base 140, where they can be secured with screws, adhesive, or some other fastening method. Such recesses, however, are not a requirement, and support poles 121 and 122 may be attached as described whether or not such recesses are present.

In a non-illustrated alternative to the illustrated embodiment, a bottom end of the support pole or support poles making up collapsible framework 120 may serve as a base, circular or otherwise, of collapsible framework 120. In a particular manifestation of this non-illustrated embodiment, such bases of such support poles may be enlarged or expanded so as to be larger, and possible much larger, than a cross section of the main shaft of such sections. This non-illustrated embodiment offers possible advantages in terms of material cost savings and manufacturing cost savings.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of platform 150 according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 6, platform 150 comprises a body 610 optionally comprising ears 620. In an alternate embodiment that is not shown, body 610 does not taper at its ends as it does in the illustrated embodiment. The optional taper shown in FIG. 6 represents a savings in material, and therefore in weight and cost, and also a savings in space required to ship or store collapsible framework 120.

Platform 150 further comprises arms 630 extending away from platform 150 and further comprises an attachment feature 640 capable of securing an accessory to collapsible framework 120. As an example, arms 630 can be flexible arms made of wire or the like and can be used to support outer covering 110 (see FIG. 1) in a particular desired position, as when outer covering 110 is, for example, an article of clothing or other costume. In that example the costume is perhaps intended to be draped over a figure in order to create the appearance of a person or other creature with arms outstretched, raised overhead, or in some other posture. As a particular example, the costumed figure could be a holiday decoration such as a Halloween monster, a Christmas elf, or the like. As another example, attachment feature 640 comprises an aperture, possible threaded, capable of accepting an accessory and securing it to platform 150. Borrowing from the costumed figure example given above, the accessory could perhaps be the head of the Halloween monster, Christmas elf, or the like.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a base 740 according to an embodiment of the invention. Base 740 is similar to base 140 (shown in FIG. 1) but differs in certain respects that will now be described. As illustrated in FIG. 7, base 740 is physically coupled to support poles 121 and 122 in a manner similar to that described above in connection with base 140. Base 740 comprises a body 741 having a recessed portion 742 therein. A removable part 743 of base 740 fits into recessed portion 742 and is inserted therein by sliding removable part 743 into recessed portion 742 as indicated by arrow 744. When assembled as described, base 740 provides stability and support for collapsible framework 120. An advantage of base 740 is that it takes up less space than other types of bases, including base 140 (see FIG. 1). This advantage is achieved by disassembling base 740 (by removing removable part 743 from recessed portion 742) and placing removable part 743 parallel to body 741, thus greatly reducing the shipping and storage volume of base 740 compared to the volume required when base 740 is in its assembled position.

FIGS. 8-10 are front elevational views of an object 800 capable of occupying a reduced volume according to an embodiment of the invention. Object 800 comprises an outer covering 810 that obscures from view a collapsible framework that can be similar to, and will be referred to hereinafter as, collapsible framework 120. As it did for outer covering 110 in FIG. 1, collapsible framework 120 provides interior support to outer covering 810. In the illustrated embodiment, outer covering 810 depicts a tiki god, but such depiction is not intended to limit the form or appearance of outer covering 810 in any way. FIG. 8 depicts object 800 raised to its full height, a configuration that is achieved by placing the collapsible framework inside in its extended position. FIG. 9 depicts object 800 in a partially collapsed position. The depiction of FIG. 9 makes clear that the collapsible framework 120 may be placed in one or more intermediate, i.e., partially collapsed, positions and may be locked in place in those intermediate positions by locking mechanism 510 (see FIG. 5) or another locking mechanism. Object 800 may be placed in the intermediate position shown in FIG. 9, or any other intermediate position, by pressing down on the top of object 800 until one or more locking mechanisms are released and the sections of the support pole adjacent to the one or more locking mechanisms are disengaged. Such disengagement allows the adjacent sections to slide past each other and become nested with the smaller section inside the larger. To achieve the intermediate position, the force supplied by pressing down on object 800 is sufficient to release some but not all of the locking mechanisms. At the same time, other locking mechanisms between different adjacent sections of the support pole are not released. It will be noted that such intermediate position is possible only if the support pole is made up of more than two sections.

FIG. 10 depicts object 800 is its collapsed position, which position is achieved by supplying a force sufficient to release all of the locking mechanisms making up collapsible framework 120. An upward force is applied in order to take object 800 from its collapsed to an intermediate or its extended position.

A comparison of FIGS. 8 and 10 will reveal that collapsible framework 120 enables a significant reduction in the volume occupied by object 800. Such volume reduction enables a significant reduction in shipping and storage costs, as discussed above.

FIG. 11 is a flowchart illustrating a method 1100 of reducing a storage volume requirement for an object according to an embodiment of the invention. A step 1110 of method 1100 is to provide a collapsible framework for the object such that the object has a collapsed position and an extended position. As an example, the collapsible framework can be similar to collapsible framework 120, first shown in FIG. 1.

A step 1120 of method 1100 is to collapse the collapsible framework to place the object in the collapsed position. As an example, the collapsible framework may be collapsed by applying a downward force to the object in the manner described above.

An optional step 1130 of method 1100 is to disassemble a base of the collapsible framework in order to reduce a volume of the object. As an example, the base can be similar to base 740, shown in FIG. 7.

Although the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Various examples of such changes will be suggested by the foregoing description to those of ordinary skill in the art. Accordingly, the disclosure of embodiments of the invention is intended to be illustrative of the scope of the invention and is not intended to be limiting. It is intended that the scope of the invention shall be limited only to the extent required by the appended claims. For example, to one of ordinary skill in the art, it will be readily apparent that the collapsible framework discussed herein may be implemented in a variety of embodiments, and that the foregoing discussion of certain of these embodiments does not necessarily represent a complete description of all possible embodiments. Rather, the detailed description of the drawings, and the drawings themselves, disclose at least one preferred embodiment of the invention, and may disclose alternative embodiments of the invention.

All elements claimed in any particular claim are essential to the invention claimed in that particular claim. Consequently, replacement of one or more claimed elements constitutes reconstruction and not repair. Additionally, benefits, other advantages, and solutions to problems have been described with regard to specific embodiments. The benefits, advantages, solutions to problems, and any element or elements that may cause any benefit, advantage, or solution to occur or become more pronounced, however, are not to be construed as critical, required, or essential features or elements of any or all of the claims.

Moreover, embodiments and limitations disclosed herein are not dedicated to the public under the doctrine of dedication if the embodiments and/or limitations: (1) are not expressly claimed in the claims; and (2) are or are potentially equivalents of express elements and/or limitations in the claims under the doctrine of equivalents.