Title:
TOY SYSTEM FOR SENDING AND READING SECRET MESSAGES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy system for sending and reading hidden secret messages including a toy dart or arrow launcher using a dart/arrow with a surface for preprinted or written messages, a pen if the message is to be written, and a decoder structure. In one embodiment, the dart surface includes a red and white camouflage pattern and the message is in light blue ink. A red filter placed over an opening in the dart launcher is used for reading messages from the outer surfaces of the darts before the darts are launched. A separate decoder may be provided to an intended recipient of secret messages. Other embodiments to read messages use a red flashlight, or invisible ink to write a message and ultraviolet light to decode, or heat sensitive ink to write a message and a heat-generating structure, including a recipient's hand, to read the message.



Inventors:
Fakonas, Katherine (Chestnut Hill, MA, US)
Application Number:
14/446135
Publication Date:
02/12/2015
Filing Date:
07/29/2014
Assignee:
HASBRO, INC.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
283/114
International Classes:
A63H33/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CEGIELNIK, URSZULA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PERRY HOFFMAN & ASSOCIATES P.C. (Perry Hoffman PO BOX 1649, DEERFIELD, IL, 60015, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toy system for sending and reading a secret message comprising: a toy projectile, said toy projectile being a foam projectile having an elongated cylindrical shape formed of foam and including an outer surface; and a camouflaged pattern on the outer surface.

2. The toy system of claim 1, including: a message reading structure for viewing a camouflaged message on the cylindrical outer surface of the foam projectile.

3. The toy system of claim 2, including: a toy launch apparatus for discharging the foam projectile; and a message reading apparatus separate from the toy launch apparatus with said message reading structure to enable a camouflaged message on the foam projectile surface to be viewed.

4. The toy system of claim 3, wherein: the camouflaged pattern includes mottled red and white pattern; and a message in the mottled red and white pattern is colored light blue.

5. The toy system of claim 4, including: a second message reading structure connected to the toy launch apparatus.

6. The toy system of claim 5, including: a pen for placing the light blue secret message on the foam projectile.

7. A toy system for sending and reading a secret message comprising: a toy launch apparatus for discharging a projectile; a projectile dischargeable by the toy launch apparatus, the projectile having an outer surface; and a secret message placed on the outer surface.

8. The toy system of claim 7, wherein: the secret message is preprinted on the outer surface of the projectile.

9. The toy system of claim 7, wherein: the outer surface of the projectile is a mottled red and white pattern; and the secret message is colored light blue.

10. The toy system of claim 7, including: a first reading structure mounted to the toy launch apparatus to enable viewing of the secret message carried by the projectile.

11. The toy system of claim 7, including: a second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message carried by the projectile.

12. The toy system of claim 7, including: a pen for placing the secret message on the outer surface of the projectile.

13. The toy system of claim 11, wherein: the second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message is a decoder having a filter.

14. The toy system of claim 11, wherein: the second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message is a light source.

15. The toy system of claim 11, wherein: the second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message is a heat source.

16. The toy system of claim 11, wherein: the second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message is a liquid.

17. The toy system of claim 7, including: a first reading structure mounted to the toy launch apparatus to enable viewing of the secret message carried by the projectile after the projectile is loaded in the toy launch apparatus; a second reading structure separate from the toy launch apparatus for viewing the secret message carried by the projectile; the projectile dischargeable from the toy launch apparatus is a foam dart; the surface of the foam dart is a mottled red and white pattern; and the secret message is light blue in color.

18. A method for forming a toy system of sending and reading secret messages comprising the steps of: placing a camouflaged pattern on an outer surface of a cylindrically shaped foam dart to enable a secret message to be hidden on the outer surface; and arranging the foam dart to have a central opening and to be dischargeable from a toy launch apparatus.

19. The method of claim 18, including the step of; forming an apparatus for reading the secret message with a filter material, the apparatus for reading being separate from the toy launch apparatus.

20. The method of claim 19, including the step of: providing a pen to print the secret message on the outer surface of the foam dart.

Description:

PRIORITY CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority pursuant to 35 U.S.C. 119(e) or 120 from U.S. Provisional Applications No. 61/863,524, filed, Aug. 8, 2013, entitled “TOY SYSTEM FOR SENDING AND READING SECRET MESSAGES” and No. 61/881,253, filed, Sep. 23, 2013, entitled “TOY SYSTEM FOR SENDING AND READING SECRET MESSAGES” which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a toy system for sending and receiving secret messages, and, more particularly, to a toy system for sending and reading secret messages hidden on a projectile where the system includes a toy launch apparatus, the projectile where the projectile has a surface on which a preprinted message may be placed or on which a message may be written, and a decoding or reading structure. The system may use a “camouflage” arrangement, such as a random red/white pattern over a message in light blue ink, disappearing or invisible ink, or any other suitable means for hiding the message from anyone but an intended recipient who has a reading structure.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The use of secret messages has been known for decades, if not longer, for both amusement and espionage purposes. Secret messages are often written using disappearing or invisible inks that may be viewed after applying a chemical, heat or water; or with camouflage colors, that is, printing or writing a message in one color that blends into a another background pattern of other colors, such as using light blue ink on a busy red/white background so as to obscure the message, but where the message may be easily read when viewed through a red filter.

A number of patents have been found using secret messages for amusement including patents in the toy field. By way of example, Meyer and Luecke patented an “Amusement Device For Transmitting Messages,” in 1983, U.S. Pat. No. 4,397,871, which purports to disclose a device for transmitting secret messages. The toy includes a “core” in the form of chewing gum where the core/gum has a message imprinted on its surface in a way that does not affect its subsequent use as chewing gum. A sheet coated with a pressure sensitive transfer substance is wrapped around the core/gum such that a message can be imprinted on the core by applying pressure on the exterior of the transfer sheet. The pressure causes the transfer of a portion of the transfer substance to the core member. In 1988, Kimura received U.S. Pat. No. 4,725,462, issued for a “Heat Activated Indicia On Textiles,” that purports to disclose a woven fabric textile in the form of a washcloth having indicia in the form of a hidden message or symbol imprinted on its surface. The indicia are not visible to the eye under normal ambient temperatures. However, when the washcloth is subjected to temperatures above 108 degrees F., such as when immersed in warm bath water, the hidden indicia appears to the user. The ink used is known as being “thermochromatic.”

U.S. Pat No. 4,796,921, issued in 1989 to Neiman for a device entitled “Hidden Printing,” purports to disclose a translucent sheet of paper of any color. A hidden message is applied to the sheet by ink, which has the same color as the sheet. However, the hidden message is not visible until the sheet is positioned between an observer and a light source. When this occurs, light rays flow through all portions of the sheet except the portions to which the ink is located and the hidden message can be observed. In 1993, a Berry U.S. Pat. No. 5,223,958, entitled “Heat Activated Amusement Device Employing Microencapsulated Thermochromic Liquid Crystal.” The patent discloses a heat-activated film having first and second surfaces where a message is printed on the second surface. A thermochromic material is placed adjacent the second surface and a substrate having the same color as the printed message is placed adjacent the thermochromic material so as to hide the message. The message is made apparent when stimulated by the transfer of thermal energy from a person's body or a heated object to reveal, by color differentiation, the hidden message. A patent issue to Tamanini, in 1994, U.S. Pat. No. 5,295,695, entitled “Method of Coding Gifts,” purports to include a set of stickers each with a specific “camouflaged” symbol where the stickers are attached to gifts. A decoder filter card is given to each child identifying the specific symbol and indicating that all gifts with that symbol belong to that child. Clue cards are used to allow the child to locate the identifying symbol cards and the child uses the decoder filter to uncover the symbols on the stickers. In U.S. Pat. No. 5,312,656, the use of light blue ink covered by a pattern of red and yellow to obscure the light blue ink is called “mezzotint.”

U.S. Pat. No. 5,312,656, issued to Michaels in 1995 for a “Toy Picnic Set Having Latent Image Placemat,” purports to include a placemat having a translucent upper surface supporting a red/yellow obscuring design over an image and a plate formed of a transparent red material. Placing the plate upon the placemat overlying the latent image filters out the obscuring design and reveals the latent image. The same year, U.S. Pat. No. 5,324,201, issued to Friedel for a “Doll And Method Of Operation,” purporting to disclose a doll having a cavity in the torso covered by a door. A user tears a sheet from a note pad, writes a “secret” upon the sheet with disappearing ink, inserts the sheet into a pocket and lays the pocket upon a shelf in the cavity. The door is locked for a predetermined time to allow the ink to disappear. A child may then be told that the doll has received the secret because upon opening the door, the child finds that the message is gone. In 2002, a Jackson U.S. Pat. No. 6,354,631, for a “Toy For Producing A Concealed Message And Revealing A Received Concealed Message,” purports to disclose a toy box having message paper with a busy reddish pattern, the box having a viewing portion formed by a red translucent sheet under which the message paper is read.

These patents and devices are of some interest, however, they do not disclose or illustrate the use of a hidden message with a clever toy item having good play value.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention, an advantageous method and apparatus are provided in the form of a system including a toy launch apparatus that is designed to discharge a foam projectile having a surface upon which a secret message may be placed, such as by preprinting of the message on the surface or by handwriting a message. In a game one player may use the launch apparatus or launcher to send the projectile a considerable distance to an allied player and the secret message may be used to coordinate strategy. Or, allied players may each have a launcher to enable secret messages to be sent back and forth over extended distances without a need for electronics or battery operated devices or the use of loud speech that may be heard by an adversary. Another advantage is that the toy system may be played with typical soft foam darts and a user may have ordinary darts and one or more message carrying darts which he/she may easily switch between when a secret message is intended without drawing attention of an “enemy” player. The system is robust, compact, simple, easy to use and inexpensive, and yet has great play value.

The toy system facilitates sending and reading hidden secret messages with at least one dart with a surface for a preprinted or written message, a pen if the message is to be written, and a decoder structure. The dart surface may include camouflage pattern with the message applied for example in light blue ink. A red filter may be placed over an opening in the dart launcher allowing the sender to review his/her message before discharge of the dart, with the red filter also used in the decoder structure so that the recipient likewise may read the message after the dart is discharged and retrieved.

Briefly summarized, the invention relates to a toy system for sending and reading a secret message including a toy launch apparatus for discharging a projectile, a projectile dischargeable by the toy launch apparatus, the projectile having a surface for carrying a secret message, and structure separated from the toy launch apparatus for reading the secret message carried by the projectile.

The invention also relates to a method for sending and reading secret messages including the steps of acquiring a toy launch apparatus capable of discharging a projectile, acquiring a projectile capable of being dischargeable by the toy launch apparatus, placing a secret message on an outer surface of the projectile, and acquiring an apparatus separated from the toy launch apparatus for reading the secret message placed on the projectile. Other embodiments use a red flashlight to read the message, or invisible ink to write a message and ultraviolet light to read the message, or heat sensitive ink to write a message and a heat-generating structure, including a recipient's hand, to read the message, or ink that is hydrochromatic in that the ink is invisible in ordinary light but is readable when wetted by water, or inks that are chemical responsive.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For the purpose of facilitating an understanding of the invention, the accompanying drawings and detailed description illustrate preferred embodiments thereof, from which the invention, its structures, its construction and operation, its processes, and many related advantages may be readily understood and appreciated.

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of a portion of a toy system for sending and reading hidden secret messages including a toy launch apparatus shaped like a toy gun and loaded with two darts, each dart bearing a secret message.

FIG. 2 is an enlarged side elevation view of a pen that may be included in a toy system if needed to write a secret message on the darts shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a side elevation view of another portion of the toy system along with the toy launch apparatus shown in FIG. 1, for sending and reading secret messages including a decoder structure separated from the toy launch apparatus, the decoder having a filter to enable a secret message placed on a dart to be read when the dart is placed behind the filter.

FIG. 4 is an enlarged isometric view of a portion of a dart bearing a hidden secret message partially received by a decoder tube to illustrate the difficulty of reading the message on the portion of the dart located outside the decoder tube compare to the ease of reading the message on the portion of the dart located within the decoder tube.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a motorized toy launch apparatus, ten darts including five darts for carrying messages, and a keychain decoder tube.

FIG. 6 is a side elevation view of yet another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a toy launch apparatus having a cocking slide, five darts including one dart for carrying a message, and a keychain decoder tube.

FIG. 7 is a side elevation of still another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a toy launch apparatus with a message reading scope having a filter, eight message carrying darts, a pen to enable a user to write a message on a dart, and a keychain decoder tube.

FIG. 8 is a side elevation view of a further toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a toy launch apparatus in the form of a bow, three message carrying arrows, with an enlarged scaled quiver, and an enlarged scaled decoder structure.

FIG. 9 is a side elevation view of another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a toy launch apparatus, six message carrying darts, a holster, a pen to be carried by the holster, a pair of decoder glasses, and two targets also capable of carrying hidden messages.

FIG. 10 is a side elevation view of a portion of another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a toy launch apparatus, the toy launch apparatus having a message revealing light and a pen storage region.

FIG. 11 is a side elevation view of another portion of the toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages shown in FIG. 10, including a message revealing light separated from the toy launch apparatus.

FIG. 12 is a side elevation view of another portion of the toy system for sending and reading secret messages shown in FIGS. 10 and 11, including a pen capable of writing a message in light revealing invisible ink.

FIG. 13A, 13B, 13C, and 13D are side elevation views of a dart having a heat sensitive design printed on the dart and then revealing the design when heat is applied.

FIG. 14 is an isometric view of a dart being dipped in water for revealing a secret message made readable by the water.

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of a dart being dipped in a chemical for revealing a secret message made readable by the chemical.

FIG. 16 is an isometric view of a dart being heated by a structure for revealing a secret message made readable by the added heat.

FIG. 17 is an isometric view of a dart being heated by hand for revealing a secret message made readable by body heat.

FIG. 18 is an isometric view of a red flashlight being trained on a message-carrying dart for revealing a secret message made readable by the red light.

FIG. 19 is a flow diagram of a method of forming a toy system for sending and reading hidden secret messages.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The following description is provided to enable those skilled in the art to make and use the described embodiments set forth in the best mode contemplated for carrying out the invention. Various modifications, equivalents, variations, and alternatives, however, will remain readily apparent to those skilled in the art. Any and all such modifications, variations, equivalents, and alternatives are intended to fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Referring now to FIGS. 1, there is shown an example of part of a toy system for sending and reading secret messages in the form of a toy launch apparatus configured as a toy gun 10 having a housing assembly 12 including a barrel portion 14, a grip portion 16 and a trigger guard portion 18. A cocking handle 20 is mounted to the housing assembly 12, as is a trigger 22. The toy gun 10 may include internal elements (not shown), such as a cylinder housing a piston and a launch spring, which operate in a typical fashion as do many launchers currently marketed by Hasbro, Inc., of Rhode Island to launch foam darts. Three darts, of which only two darts 30, 32 are shown, are loaded in the barrel portion 14 as illustrated. Each of the darts 30, 32 may be configured as an elongated cylinder with a central rear opening and made of foam material, such as darts sold under the brand NERF®.

Each dart includes an outer surface 34 for receiving and carrying a hidden message 36 so as to keep the message secret, such as the messages “U go right” and “retreat.” The message is hidden and “secret” because it is “camouflaged” in a fashion as explained in detail below. An opening 38 in the side of the barrel portion 14 of the gun is located to partially expose the darts 30, 32 and to enable a user holding the gun to view and read the secret messages when the opening 38 is covered with a suitable filter 40 as also discussed in detail below, so that a message sender may review his/her message before discharge of the dart. A message read apparatus or “decoder” as shown in FIG. 3, separated from the toy launcher gun 10, may have a filter such that a distant recipient may also read the message after the message carrying dart is discharged by the sender and retrieved by the recipient.

The hidden messages may be preprinted on the darts or the system may include a pen 42, FIGS. 1 and 2, used for hand writing a secret message. The pen 42 may be removably carried in the grip portion 16 of the toy gun 10. The grip portion includes an opening 44 into which the pen 42 is inserted. The pen includes a flexible clip 46 that allows the pen to attach to the grip portion 16 and stay attached until removed by a user. As also explained in detail below, the pen may include any suitable ink 48, spanning the spectrum from disappearing and invisible inks, to heat and water responding inks, to light blue inks that make any message printed or written by the ink essentially unreadable in ordinary ambient lighting, such as lighting found in a typical household and outdoors.

It is noted that the toy system needs no pen if the messages on the darts are preprinted. In the alternative, the shape of the toy gun may be different as the examples shown in FIGS. 5-7, attests. Other launcher shapes may be used as long as the apparatus is able to discharge a form of flying projectile. An example of another toy launch apparatus is a bow launcher shown in FIG. 8. The toy launch apparatus may also be a wrist launcher or any elastic band launcher. If a pen is included in the system it may be carried separated from the toy gun (or other type of launcher), by or on a user, for example. Or, the pen may be stored in another item, such as a holster shown in FIG. 9, or in another portion of the gun, for example, in the barrel akin to the location of a ramrod used with a musket, or as part of a simulated scope shown in FIG. 7. While cylindrical darts are illustrated and described as the projectiles here, other projectile shapes will also work, such as spherical projectiles (balls), disc shaped projectiles, or the arrow-like projectiles shown in FIG. 8, for example.

Another part of the toy system for sending and reading hidden or secret messages may be a message reading apparatus or decoder structure 50, FIG. 3. The decoder 50 may have a frame 52 and an opening 54 to receive a dart 56 as shown. A loop 58 may be part of the frame 52 and a carabiner 60 or a keychain shown in FIGS. 5 and 6, may be connected to the loop 58 to allow the decoder to be connected to another user's gun, a belt loop, a piece of clothing or the like. Side coverings, such as a side covering 62, may be connected to the frame and overlay the dart 56. The side covering 62 is formed of a specific material, such as a red plastic filter, like the filter 40, FIG. 1, used to cover the gun opening 38 where the filter overlays the darts 30, 32 in the barrel portion of the toy gun 10.

Referring now to FIG. 4, a dart 70 having a mottled pattern on an outer surface 72 camouflaging or hiding a preprinted message 74 is shown partially inserted into a message reading structure in the form of a decoder tube 76. A left side portion 78 of the dart 70 depicts generally how the hidden message 74 will appear to one looking at the dart in ordinary light where the message is camouflaged or hidden from view. The viewer may see the mottled pattern and what appear to be random dark outlines. A right side portion 80 of the dart 70 illustrates generally how the message would appear when viewed through the reading tube 76, which acts a filter. The message carried on the right side portion 80 of the dart can be readily discerned. As an example, a message printed or written in light blue ink may be readily hidden or camouflaged by a mottled surface of random red and white patterns. However, when viewed through a red filter decoder tube, the message letters appear dark or black and may be easily read in ambient light. The mottled pattern may be printed on a film that is then adhered to the outer surface of a NERF® brand foam dart or may be printed directly onto the dart.

In the alternative, other suitable camouflage patterns and other suitable colors, besides red and white, may be used. For example, a swirl design, cloud type lines or multiple dots may work sufficiently well for purposes here. And instead of a filter tube, a pair of glasses having red lenses may be used as a decoder structure.

The filter material 40, FIG. 1, used in the opening 38 in the toy gun 10 and for the side covering 62 of the decoder 50 may be a red lens or a red plastic sheet. Use of the red side covering on the toy gun allows the sender to read the message on the dart after loading the dart into the toy gun as shown in FIG. 1. This ensures that the dart carries the correct message intended by the sender. The recipient having the decoder 50 is also able to read the message after retrieving the message-carrying dart. However, a stranger or third party coming upon the dart will be unable to read the hidden message and may not even realize that a secret message is present. The advantage of the toy systems described herein including the launcher, the dart with a secret message, and the decoder is somewhat analogous to the use in wartime of a carrier pigeon although the range is far less, on the order of twenty to a hundred and fifty feet, but more than sufficient for children's play battles, resulting in toy systems that are great fun in use.

The toy systems for sending and reading secret messages may take many forms as mentioned above. Referring now to FIG. 5, there is shown a toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages including a launcher in the shape of a toy gun 90, a twelve dart clip or magazine 92, twelve foam darts 94, 96, 98, 100, 102, 104, 106, 108, 110, 112, 114, 116, and a keychain decoder tube 118 for reading messages on dart surfaces. The toy gun 90 may be motorized with an assembly including a spinning wheel, a motor and a battery (not shown but well known). The darts may be grouped in a mix of message carrying darts, such as the darts 94, 96, 98, 100, 102, 104 and non-message carrying darts, such as the darts 106, 108, 110, 112, 114, 116. Or, the darts may all be message carrying or some other mix of message and non-message carrying darts. Darts may be stored in the magazine 92 and the magazine may be made of a filter material. The keychain decoder 118 may also be made of a filter material, such as red plastic, to enable viewing of a message.

A somewhat different toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages is illustrated in FIG. 6, including toy gun shaped launcher 120 with a simulated scope fashioned of a flashlight 122, a package of six darts 124, 126, 128, 130, 132, 134, and a keychain decoder structure 136. One of the darts, such as the dart 134, is designed to carry a message. The toy gun 120 may have a manual cocking slide 138 and a rotatable barrel 140. The flashlight 122 is a message viewing/reading apparatus or structure and may have a red LED and a battery.

Still another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages is illustrated in FIG. 7, which includes a toy gun launcher 150, eight message carrying darts 152, 154, 156, 158, 160, 162, 164, 166, a scope shaped decoder structure 168 and a pen 170 incorporated in a scope holder 172. The scope may include a red lens 174 for reading messages. In addition, the toy gun 150 may have a mottled outer surface 176 that may also contain hidden preprinted messages, names, logos, or other designs or handwritten matter.

A more exotic toy system embodiment, shown in FIG. 8, includes a toy bow 180 with a red dot sight, three message carrying arrows 184, 186, 188, a quiver 190 and a decoder structure 192. The arrows are shown with mottled or camouflaged patterns on fletchings 194, 196, 198 upon which messages may be preprinted or written. In the alternative, the arrows may have mottled patterns on the arrowheads for carrying messages instead of, or in addition to, the mottled patterns on the fletchings. The toy bow 180 may also have mottled patterned surfaces for carrying messages, names and/or logos. To illustrate the breath of the toy system embodiments that may be possible, the launcher may be a well-known wrist-mounted device.

Another toy system embodiment is illustrated in FIG. 9, and includes a launcher shaped as a toy gun 200, six message carrying darts 202, 204, 206, 208, 210, 212, a holster 214 for the toy gun 200 and also for a pen 216, two practice targets 218, 220, and a message reading structure in the form of a pair of glasses 222 having red reading filters for lenses. The darts have surfaces for carrying hidden messages as shown, and the targets 218, 220 and the toy gun launcher 200 may also have camouflaged surfaces.

Yet another alternative toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages may include the use of ultraviolet or black light to read a message written with “invisible ink.” Referring now to FIGS. 10-12, a toy system for sending and reading secret messages may include a launcher in the form of a toy gun 230 similar to the gun launcher 10, FIG. 1, but having an upper chamber 232 with an ultraviolet LED light 234. The toy gun 230 also has an opening 236 alongside a loaded dart 238 bearing a message 240 so that the sender may illuminate the light and read the message before the dart 238 is discharged from the toy gun. A second trigger or switch 242 may be used to illuminate the light 234 in the upper chamber 232. In the alternative and more like the toy gun shown in FIG. 1, the upper chamber may be integrated into the toy gun so that the dart may be discharged directly without having to be relocated. The system for sending secret messages may also include a pen 244, FIGS. 10 and 12, filled with invisible ink.

The pen 244 is shown in FIG. 10, being removed from a compartment 246 in a grip portion 248 of the toy gun 230. An arrow 250 symbolizes removal of the pen, and the pen 244 is shown in dotted lines stored in the grip portion and in solid lines separated from the toy gun 250. The pen 244 may be used to write the messages on the darts 251, 253 as shown in FIG. 12, and then the pen may be stored in the grip portion compartment 246 of the toy gun 230. The system for sending and reading secret messages may also include a separate accessory, namely a handheld flashlight structure 252, FIG. 11, having an ultraviolet LED light 254, for use by a recipient of the message for reading the message. A similar system may include glow-in-the-dark ink or coating that is readable at night when the ink or coating is excited by a flashlight. In practice, both the sender and the recipient may have all four components, a launcher, darts, a pen and an LED decoder light so that secret messages may be written and sent back and forth and read. As mentioned above, any third party who stumbles upon and retrieves a message-carrying dart will in ordinary light see no discernable message on the dart. It is noted that a preferable toy system may use preprinted messages so that there is no need for the toy system to include a pen.

Still another toy system embodiment for sending and reading secret messages may include a launcher, darts and perhaps a pen, but the ink, whether preprinted on the darts or written by the pen, may be “thermochromatic.” Thermochromatic ink is invisible to the eye in ordinary light but becomes apparent when heat is applied to a dart 260 (or other projectile) carrying the message as shown in FIGS. 13A-13D. A decoder structure may simply be a recipient's hand and his/her body heat, or may be a heat generating apparatus, such as a hot water dispenser. Without heat, the dart may be a solid color as shown in FIG. 13A. As heat is applied, text 262 and a design 264 begin to be revealed as shown in FIG. 13B. When more heat is applied to the dart 260, the text 262 and the design 264 are completely revealed, as shown in FIG. 13C, and may remain so for a predetermined time period, such as five seconds. In several seconds after heat is removed from the dart, the text and design disappears as shown in FIG. 13D. As mentioned earlier, a third party finding the dart will see no message. It is noted that in all embodiments the messages may be erasable by a damp cloth.

Referring to FIG. 14, a structure for reading a hidden secret message on a dart 266 may be a container 268 filled with water 270, or, as shown in FIG. 15, a container 272 filled with a chemical 274. FIGS. 16 and 17, illustrate a dart 276 being warmed by a heating structure 278; or, in the alternative, the heating structure may be a recipient's hand 280 wrapped around a dart 282. Shown in FIG. 18, the structure for reading a dart 284 is a flashlight 286 with a red LED 288. It is also noted that the various launchers, message carrying items, accessories, and decoders mentioned above may be mixed in different combinations and may include a pen.

In operation of the various toy system embodiments described above, a sender uses a dart or other flying projectile with a preprinted message, or the sender writes a message on the surface of a dart or other projectile, and loads the projectile into the toy gun or other launcher. The message is readable in the toy gun through a reading structure, such as the filter 40, FIG. 1, the red filter plastic magazine 92, FIG. 5, by use of the red flashlight 122, FIG. 6, the red filter scope 168, FIG. 7, or the pair of glasses 222, FIG. 9. The sender than aims the toy gun or other launcher toward an intended recipient and discharges the projectile. The projectile may be able to travel a considerable distance, and the message on the projectile may, for example, be a piece of strategy or a call for help. After discharge, the recipient merely picks up the projectile and uses his decoder structure to view the message. The message may be erased and a new message may be written, or a new preprinted projectile may be used, and the projectile is launched back by the recipient to the original sender. Should a third party or an “enemy” find the message-bearing dart nothing discernible will be apparent.

It is noted that packages of camouflaged projectiles by themselves and packages of projectiles plus a decoder may be marketed separately and apart from a launcher. The separate availability enables a user with an existing launcher to use the projectiles having hidden messages, or the projectiles or projectiles plus decoder may be sold as replacement pieces.

The present invention also includes a method 300, FIG. 19, for forming a toy system for sending and reading secret messages including the steps of placing a camouflaged pattern on an outer surface of a cylindrically shaped foam dart to enable a secret message to be hidden on the outer surface 302, and arranging the foam dart to have a central opening and to be dischargeable from a toy launch apparatus 304.

The toy system disclosed in detail above has great play value, is fun to use and easy to operate, and is safe, even for young children, and yet the toy launch apparatus and other structures involved have a robust, but simple construction, that may be produced and assembled at a reasonable cost.

From the foregoing, it can be seen that there has been provided features for a toy system for sending and reading secret messages and of the method for forming the system. While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described in detail, it will be obvious to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the invention in its broader aspects. Therefore, the aim is to cover all such changes and modifications as fall within the true spirit and scope of the invention. The matters set forth in the foregoing description and accompanying drawings are offered by way of illustrations only and not as limitations. The actual scope of the invention is to be defined by the subsequent claims when viewed in their proper perspective based on the prior art.