Title:
Sport seat cushion
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method for portable, light weight fluid inflatable cushion device that can be deflated and folded into a compact size for transport and storage. The apparatus includes a mechanism and method for securing the inflated cushion to an object and holding the deflated cushion in a compact size and attachment for transportation, storage. The mechanism may also include a valve for fluid intake and egress.



Inventors:
Schiebl, Paul (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
10/966399
Publication Date:
03/03/2005
Filing Date:
10/14/2004
Assignee:
SCHIEBL PAUL
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C1/16; A47C7/02; A47C9/10; (IPC1-7): A47C7/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WHITE, RODNEY BARNETT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Paul Schiebl (Houston, TX, US)
Claims:
1. A fluid inflatable cushion device comprising: at least one fluid inflatable component that can be controllably inflated and deflated and flexibly folded into a smaller volume after deflation; and at least one flexible and/or elastic strap component having subcomponents comprising a first end, an elongated two sided section and a second end; wherein the first end is attachable to the fluid inflatable component and at least one other strap subcomponent can be removeably attached to a component of the invention when inflated and deflated.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 whereby said strap component can be wrapped around an object and removeably attached to a component of the apparatus.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the fluid inflatable cushion devise can be used as a seat cushion.

4. A fluid inflatable cushion device comprising: at least one fluid inflatable cushion component that can be controllably inflated and deflated and flexibly folded into a smaller volume when deflated; at least one flexible and/or elastic strap component capable of wrapping around the deflated and folded fluid cushion component and having a first end section, a two sided elongated section and a second end section; whereby said fluid cushion component further comprises an additional attachment of a flexible and/or elastic strap section; and said additional attachment of a flexible and/or elastic strap section attaches to the fluid cushion component.

5. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising: said additional attachment of a flexible and/or elastic strap section attaches to, a flexible and/or elastic strap section or a separate fluid inflatable cushion device.

6. The cushion device of claim 4 wherein the fluid inflatable cushion component contains at least one fluid inflatable bladder and valve.

7. The cushion device of claim 4 wherein the fluid inflatable cushion component contains open cell foam within a fluid tight sealable covering.

8. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein the additional attachment components further consist of one of the members of the group containing: hook and eye components, male-female coupling devices, snaps, buckles, buttons and buttonholes, and tie strings.

9. The apparatus of claim 4 wherein the fluid inflatable cushion component is covered by at least one additional flexible and/or elastic layer of material.

10. The apparatus of claim 9 wherein the additional flexible and/or elastic layer of material provides protection against puncture of the fluid inflatable cushion component.

11. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising a loop attached to the fluid inflatable cushion component through which the flexible and/or elastic strap component can be inserted.

12. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising one or more attachment components for attaching the deflated and folded apparatus to other objects during transportation or storage.

13. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising a plurality of separate cushion components joined by flexible and/or elastic strap components and oriented in a substantially single plane.

14. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising a flexible and/or elastic strap and flexible and/or elastic strap attachment components for securing the inflated cushion component to a separate object.

15. The apparatus of claim 14 wherein the separate object is selected from one of a group consisting of a chair seat, bleacher, stool, and bench.

16. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising a plurality of separate cushion components joined by flexible and/or elastic strap components and oriented in different planes.

17. The apparatus of claim 16 wherein the orientation of separate cushion components provides a seat cushion surface and a cushioned back support.

18. An inflatable fluid cushion device comprising: one or more inflatable fluid cushion components; one or more flexible and/or elastic strap components for attaching the fluid cushion component to a separate object; indicia listed on at least one of said fluid cushion components identifying at least one of a group consisting of; event, venue, group, team, sponsor, product advertisement and service advertisement.

19. A method for providing a compact, lightweight and transportable seat cushion device comprising the steps of: inflating a flexible and collapsible fluid cushion component; attaching a first strap end subcomponent of at least one strap to the fluid cushion component that can be placed around a separate object; removeably attaching a different strap subcomponent to the fluid cushion or strap to removeably attach the fluid cushion devise to the separate object; removing a strap subcomponent to release the fluid cushion component from the separate object; deflating the fluid cushion component and folding the fluid cushion component; wrapping the strap around the folded fluid cushion component; and removeably attaching a strap subcomponent to the fluid cushion device to hold the fluid cushion component and strap in a collapsed and compact shape.

20. The method of claim 19 further comprising; orienting a plurality of fluid inflatable cushion components in different planes in order that a seat cushion component and back support cushion are provided.

21. The apparatus of claim 20 further comprising incorporating a foldably rigid support component attached to the back support cushion component.

22. A fluid inflatable cushion device comprising: One or more fluid inflatable components that can be controllably inflated and deflated, said inflatable fluid components is capable of being flexibly folded into a smaller volume after deflation; One or more flexible and/or elastic strap components each having subcomponents comprising a first end, an elongated two sided section and a second end; whereby the first end is attachable to the fluid inflatable component and at least one other strap subcomponent can be removably attached to the exterior of the fluid inflatable cushion device when said fluid inflatable components are inflated and/or deflated; and one or more fluid inflation valves that are mounted with said fluid inflatable component; wherein said fluid inflation valve comprises a spring, a top, and a sealing bottom, wherein depressing the top motivates the sealing bottom to allow gaseous exchange between the fluid cushion device and fluids external to the fluid cushion device wherein actuation of said valve can inflate said fluid inflatable component, by allowing fluid exchange between the fluid cushion device and fluids external to the fluid cushion device, whereby fluids are forced into said cushion device.

23. The apparatus of claim 22 wherein, when said fluid inflation valve is actuated fluid can be released from said fluid inflatable component.

24. A method for actuating a compact, light weight and transportable seat cushion device comprising the steps of: inflating a flexible and collapsible fluid cushion component; attaching a first strap end subcomponent of at least one strap to the fluid cushion component such that said first strap-end can be placed around a separate object; removeably attaching a different strap subcomponent to the fluid cushion or strap to removeably attach the fluid cushion devise to the separate object; removing a strap subcomponent to release the fluid cushion component from the separate object; deflating the fluid cushion component and folding the fluid cushion component; wrapping the strap around the folded fluid cushion component; and removeably attaching a strap subcomponent to the fluid cushion device to hold the fluid cushion component and strap in a collapsed and compact shape. said inflation or said deflation of said fluid cushion component further comprises; moving fluid through a fluid valve comprising: a top piece releasably attached to a bottom piece creating a fluid proof seal between said valve and said fluid cushion; whereby said movement of fluid causes said top piece to move and thereby motivating said bottom piece to breach said fluid proof seal between said valve and said fluid cushion component, thereby allowing for fluid exchange between said fluid cushion component and the external atmosphere.

25. The method of claim 24 further comprising; moving said top piece releasably attached to a bottom piece allows for fluid to exit said fluid cushion component thereby deflating said fluid cushion component.

26. The method of claim 24 further comprising; moving said top piece releasably attached to a bottom piece allows for fluid to enter said fluid cushion component thereby inflating said fluid cushion component.

27. The apparatus of claim 1 further comprising; said fluid inflatable component is comprised of open cells.

28. The apparatus of claim 4 further comprising; said fluid inflatable component is comprised of open cells.

29. The apparatus of claim 18 further comprising; said fluid inflatable component is comprised of open cells.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/640,726 having a filing date of Aug. 13, 2003.

FIELD OF USE

The invention pertains to a lightweight, portable seat cushion that can be secured to a seat surface. The cushion is inflatable. The cushion may include a back support. The cushion can be folded into a small compact shape when not in use. The seat-attaching component also used to secure the compact folded pad in a convenient strap that allows the seat cushion to be carried through a belt, belt loop, or similar clothing component or accessory.

BACKGROUND OF THE ART

Outdoor facilities typically provide benches or seats to facilitate use by spectators. Often the spectators pay for admission or otherwise provide a form of compensation to the host of the outdoor event. Enhancing the comfort of spectators can increase attendance and thereby may increase revenue received by the event host.

However, most outdoor facilities have little or no form of seat cushioning. This is in part due to the harsh outdoor environment. The seats are often permanently installed outdoors. Any seat or bench cushions or padding device may also be subject to vandalism or destruction by natural elements. There is accordingly a need for a lightweight, compact inexpensive cushion that can be carried by an individual and that is adaptable for use with seats, benches, or bleachers. There is also a need for a cushion that can be temporarily fastened to the bleacher, bench seat or similar structure in order that it will stay in place when the occupant shifts position, stands or moves. It can be readily appreciated that an unsecured cushion may drop down from a bleacher-seating surface to the support structure below, and may be permanently lost to the user.

Furthermore, it is beneficial to have a seat cushion that can also be utilized to increase seating comfort when used in any outdoor or indoor environments, including improving indoor seating and seating during outdoor activities that do not involve seats or benches, such as camping, beach activities and picnics.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The apparatus pertains to a lightweight, portable seat cushion that can be secured to a fixed seat surface or utilized in the absence of fixed seating surfaces. The cushion can be inflatable. The cushion may include a back support. The cushion can be folded into a small compact shape when not in use, and the seat-attaching component also used to secure the compact folded pad in a convenient flexible and/or elastic strap that allows the seat cushion to be carried through a belt, belt loop, or similar clothing component or accessory. The cushion can be inflated by blowing or pumping air into a collapsible sealable cavity or it can be self-inflating. Self-inflating can include placing open cell foam in the sealable cavity. When a valve or similar port is open in the cavity, the ambient air pressure fills the empty cavity or the open cell foam.

The apparatus provides a lightweight and compact seat cushion, which can be inflated prior to use and deflated for storage and transport. The apparatus provides a seat cushion that can be removeably attached to a seat, bench or bleacher structure. The cushion uses an attachment means to also contain or hold the cushion when packaged for transport or storage. The apparatus can include a cushion that also provides back support. The invention can include a light-weight, portable cushion device that can be stored and transported in a compact manner, and easily inflated to provide a comfortable seating surface at any location, including during hiking and camping.

Other benefits of the invention will also become apparent to those skilled in the art and such advantages and benefits are included within the scope of this invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of the specification, illustrate preferred embodiments of the invention. These drawings, together with the general description of the invention given above and the detailed description of the preferred embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the invention.

FIGS. 1 and 1A illustrate an embodiment of the invention in a folded or packed condition.

FIGS. 2, 2A, 2B and 2C depict the invention unfolded. FIG. 2 shows a partial cutaway of material on the cushion portion of the invention.

FIGS. 2D, 2E, and 2F illustrate other embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of the invention wherein the air inflatable or expandable component is protected by multiple layers of other material or fabric.

FIGS. 3A and 3B depict the variably expanding volume of an open cell foam material.

FIG. 4 depicts an embodiment of the invention wherein the air cushioned seat comprises three sections of variably expandable open cell foam within an air impermeable covering or inflatable cushions that can be compressed/deflated and folded up for transport and storage.

FIGS. 4A through 4H illustrate the steps of folding of one embodiment of the invention into the configuration illustrated by FIGS. 1 and 1A.

FIGS. 5, 6, 6A and 6B illustrate the use of the invention in conjunction with a bench or stadium bleacher seating.

FIGS. 7, 8A, 8B, 9A, 9B and 9C illustrate an embodiment of the invention incorporating an optional back support and a lightweight collapsible stiffening device.

FIG. 10 illustrates the use of a collapsible stiffening device in conjunction with a sleeve within the inflatable seat or seat back component.

FIG. 11 provides a detailed depiction of one embodiment of a lightweight and compatible seat or seatback support device.

FIG. 12 illustrates a lightweight, collapsible stiffening brace that may be used in conjunction with the invention.

FIGS. 13 through 16 illustrate various embodiments of the invention further comprising a back support.

FIG. 17 illustrates an embodiment utilizing a plurality of the cushions subject of the invention to create a cushion for a surface or for another purpose.

FIGS. 18A, 18B, 18C and 18D illustrate an embodiment of the invention having a different strap configuration.

FIG. 19A illustrates an embodiment of the invention having additional connecting straps.

FIG. 19B illustrates the orientation of two separate cushions of the invention for combination into a two-part seat and back support cushion.

FIGS. 19C and 19D illustrates an embodiment of the invention wherein two separate cushions are combined.

FIG. 20 illustrates an embodiment of the valve for the invention with an exploded view of one embodiment of the valve.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE EMBODIMENTS

The above general description and the following detailed description are merely illustrative of the subject apparatus and additional modes, advantages and particulars of this apparatus will be readily suggested to those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit and scope of the apparatus.

The apparatus comprises a lightweight, fluid inflatable seat cushion. The apparatus can be made from a lightweight strong woven material or from sheets of resinous material such as a plastic material used in fluid mattress or inflatable objects that can float in water or provide cushioning for camping, etc. The apparatus, can be composed of waterproof materials.

The body of the apparatus may include a woven fabric type or other flexible material covering a fluid inflatable cushion component. The apparatus also may include one or more flexible and/or elastic straps attached to the flexible cushion component covering. The apparatus or components of the apparatus can be made of multiple layers. For example, the fluid inflatable cushion component may be made of a relatively lightweight plastic that forms a sealable inner pouch, surrounded by an outer layer of a high strength woven fabric material. It will be appreciated that the material or combination of materials be sufficiently flexible or pliable to allow folding and unfolding, without loss of strength and fluid sealing ability.

In another embodiment, the fluid inflatable cushion component can include a pliable open cell foam material. The material can be compressed into a smaller volume when the fluid within the open (fluid permeable) cells is squeezed out of the cells. When the compressive force is removed, the ambient fluid pressure causes fluid to return to the individual pliable cells, having a relative low pressure due to the earlier removable of fluid, thereby causing the foam material to expand in volume. If the expanded foam is placed in a fluid-tight envelope or pouch which prevents fluid from escaping from the volume occupied by the foam, the composition of foam and hermetically sealable pouch creates a fluid cushion than can be later unsealed and compressed into a smaller space for transport and storage, and can be re-inflated by again opening the sealed pouch to allow fluid to return into the cells of foam. (After the release of the compressive force, the foam is in a low pressure, partial vacuum state.)

In yet another embodiment, the foldable covering material having components permitting removable attachment(s) to stadium seating or other objects is provided separately from the collapsing fluid cushioning devices. In this embodiment, one or more separate objects such as inflatable/deflatable fluid cushioning devices can be inserted within the foldable pouches. In yet another embodiment, the foldable pouch is sufficiently impermeable to fluid such that a separate object, such as a lightweight, “down-like” sleeping bag parka, can be inserted into the hermetically sealable pouch to provide the fluid cushioning supporting. It will be readily appreciated that this embodiment of the apparatus creates a second use for existing objects having suitable characteristics or properties.

The fluid inflatable cushion can have a fluid valve, which is of a type commonly used in the industry for fluid intake and deflation. Upon activation the valve can release the fluid in the inflated cushion and upon dormancy maintain the integrity of the inflated component, thereby not allowing fluid to escape. This embodiment allows for easy fluid removal and fluid inflation of the cushion, thereby improving the speed in which the user can use the apparatus. In one variation of the valve, the valve adds integrity support to the inflatable cushion components by preventing gas release from fluid cushion upon increased pressures.

In yet another embodiment, a plurality of objects subject of this apparatus can be combined or removeably attached together to form a larger fluid cushioned area. For example, using existing attachment components of the object of this apparatus, multiple cushions can be linked together to form a cushioned pad over a hard ground surface.

FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of the apparatus in a deflated, folded and secured position for transport of storage. The body of the apparatus 100 is comprised of a woven fabric type or other flexible material covering a fluid inflatable cushion component 200. The apparatus 100 also includes one or more flexible and/or elastic straps 250 that are attached to the flexible cushion component 200 or cushion component covering. The flexible and/or elastic strap 250 consists of two ends and a substantially two-sided elongated segment. One end 205 of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 is held in place with a two-part hook and loop (or eye) material such as Velcro™. The other end is attached to the cushion component 200. The hooking segment 210 may be fastened to the underside 255 of the flap end. The hooking segment 210 is attachable to the eye segment 220 also located on the strap 250. The flexible and/or elastic strap 250 is wrapped around the deflated and folded cushion. (Reference is made to FIGS. 4A through 4H discussed infra.)

In a prototype of the apparatus 100, an inflated cushion 200, having dimensions of approximately 13″×12″×2″, was deflated, folded and wrapped in the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 (“packaged”) as illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 1A to a thickness 444 of less than 2 inches and a height 442 and width 446 of less than 6 inches. The width 446 of the packed cushion is preferably the same as the width of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250.

FIG. 1A illustrates the apparatus 100 from the opposite side from FIG. 1, particularly illustrating a loop type component 280 for assisting in the transportation or storage of the apparatus 100, such as carrying the apparatus 100 on the user's belt (not shown). In the illustrated embodiment, the component 280 is permanently attached at one end 283 to the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 by stitching or other means and attached at the other end by hook 282 and eye 281 means. It will be appreciated that other mechanisms may be used for fastening the apparatus 100 during transport such as a hook & loop connection device. Other commercially available attachment devices can also be used such as metal or resin plastic snaps. The components of the apparatus 100 described with reference to FIG. 1 are also shown in FIG. 1A.

FIG. 2 illustrates the apparatus 100 unfolded. The portion of the apparatus 100 illustrated in FIG. 2 is the surface 200A that will be proximate to the bench or bleacher surface (not shown). The user will sit on the opposite side of the cushion 200. Illustrated is the cushion securing flexible and/or elastic strap 250A containing at least one segment (eye or loop segment) 220 of the two-part hook & eye/loop material (Velcro™). The other part of the hook & eye material is attached to the opposing side (not shown) of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250. Also illustrated is a loop 310 having an annulus 315 through which the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 is looped as part of the method for securing the apparatus 100 to the bench surface. Reference is made to FIGS. 5 & 6.

Also illustrated in FIG. 2 is a valve device 410 for inflating and deflating the fluid cushion component 200. It is important to note that a portion of the fluid cushion component 200 may be comprised of material 200′ containing at least one segment (eye or loop segment) of the two-part hook & eye/loop material (Velcro™) such that counterpart material, such as elastic strap 250a portion segment 220, containing at least one segment (eye or loop segment) of the two-part hook & eye/loop material (Velcro™) can adhere to material 200′. A flap 320 can cover the valve. This flap can also be secured by a hook & eye system, a male-female snap system such as that typically found on outdoor apparel and equipment, or other similar device. The loop 310, which can be of metal, molded nylon or similar material, can be secured to the cushion in a variety of ways, including by the use of a fabric loop or sleeve (not shown).

FIG. 2A is a further illustration of the apparatus 100, but containing a view of an inner inflatable bladder 200 that may be used to create the fluid cushion. The sealable bladder can be inflated by means of the fluid valve 410. The cushion will be inflated using a two-way fluid valve 410. The valve 410 can be opened and fluid blown or forced into the pouch by the user. After being sufficiently inflated, the valve 410 can be closed and the apparatus 100 used as a cushion over a hard surface. The bladder can be protected from puncture or tearing by one or more covering materials 295 comprising the outer layer(s) of the cushion component 200. The other components illustrated in FIG. 2 are also shown in FIG. 2A.

FIG. 2B illustrates the opposite side of the cushion component 200B and flexible and/or elastic strap 250B of the apparatus. The side of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250B depicted contains several eye segments 220, along with the hook 210 segment located proximate to the strap end 205. This portion of the apparatus 100 is the underside of the strap 250 referenced in FIG. 1. An attachment sleeve 231 for the strap loop 310 is also shown. The fluid valve 410 and cover flap are not shown. In the embodiment of the apparatus 100 depicted here, the cushion surface 200B will typically be the side of the apparatus 100 upon which the user will sit. It will be appreciated that in this arrangement, the fluid valve (not shown) may be located on the underside of the seat cushion. (Reference FIG. 2A.)

It will be appreciated that the placement of the eye segments, as well as pattern shape illustrated in FIG. 2B may be modified to facilitate the desired securing arrangement. FIG. 2C illustrates such further embodiment utilizing a more elongated eye segment 220 allowing the strap end 205 to be secured to objects of varying diameters. Ideally, the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 can be used to hold the cushion 200 in place on the seat surface used for sitting, but it will be appreciated that it will also be advantageous to have the cushion 200 secured in a manner that will allow it to remain in reach of the user after standing or moving. In this manner, the cushion component 200 of the apparatus can be deemed to be loosely tied or leashed to an object such as a seat or bench support. The remaining components illustrated in FIG. 2C are also illustrated in FIG. 2B. The flexible and/or elastic strap 250B may be composed of material that is elastic, thereby allowing for a wide range of attachment applications. Some flexible and/or elastic strap 250B composition materials may include, but are not limited to, plastic or fabric woven materials.

FIGS. 2D and 2E illustrate alternate embodiments of the apparatus 100 comprising a fluid inflatable cushion 200 having a valve 410 and one or more straps 250 that can be attached directly to the cushion 200 or a separate attached flexible and/or elastic strap with coupling devices such as snaps, buttons 210 220 or male-female attachments 520A 520B. FIG. 2E illustrates the ability to vary the effective length of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 by adjusting the strap length 251 extending through the connection component 520B.

FIG. 2F is substantially similar to FIG. 2E except that FIG. 2F illustrates that the valve 410A may be a valve, used in industry which can allow for fluid inflow upon the user activating the valve 410 and allow for fluid exiting the fluid cushion component 200 with ease by the user activating the valve 410 in that manner such as pressing, depressing or motivating the valve 410 in such a manner as to allow the fluid to readily and easily escape the fluid cushion component 200. It is important to note that the valve 410A can be utilized in any of the embodiments of the device or apparatus in question and is not limited in any other shape form other than that it allows for easy intake and outflow of fluid or gas from the fluid cushion component 200. Valve 410, can be but is not limited to a valve apparatus 410A (FIG. 20).

FIG. 20 illustrates valve apparatus 410A is preferably, but not limited to, composed of, a plurality of separate elements in mechanical communication with each other. Base 1003 is a valve base that is preferably, but not necessarily, composed of a plastic, rubber, or other non-reactive material. The base 1003 preferably contains an aperture disposed about its interior 1003A. The interior 1003A is substantially defined by an interior wall with a protruding ridge 1003B. The interior wall with a protruding ridge 1003B is preferably fitted to fixably engage spring coil 1002 in such a manner as to allow for spring coil 1002 to fit connectedly into interior 1003A without moving completely through the base 1003. Adjacent and posterior to the interior wall with a protruding ridge 1003B is incline ridge 1003C. Incline ridge 1003C is preferably designed to releasably engage fluid plug 1004 in such a manner as to create a seal capable of preventing fluid flow. The base 1003 also has a contact surface 1003D, which comes into direct contact with and is adhered to fluid cushion component 200. The fluid cushion component 200 and contact surface 1003D are fastened in such a manner as to create a fluid tight seal between base 1003D and fluid cushion component 200. Fluid plug 1004 is preferably designed in such a manner as to have an interior hollowed cavity 1004A, which is capable of securely engaging the nub portion 1001A of top piece 1001 upon nub piece 1001A insertion. The top piece 1001 is preferably designed to be substantially equal in radius or greater in radius to the spring coil 1002, such that when the top piece 1001 is actuated it can preferably evenly compress the coiled spring 1002. The top piece 1001 is preferably porous so as to allow for increased fluid movement upon activation.

The valve 410A is preferably assembled in the following manner, but it is important to note that one of ordinary skill in the art can appreciate that the valve 410A may be constructed in a variety of manners. Spring coil 1002 is placed securely on protruding ridge 1003B located in base 1003. Both top piece 1001 and fluid plug 1004 are preferably then interconnected by placing fluid plug 1004 with hollowed cavity 1004A facing coiled spring 1002 flush with incline ridge 1003C. Top piece 1001 is then placed, nub piece 1001A facing hollowed out cavity 1004 A, adjacent to coiled spring 1002. Nub Piece 1001A and hollowed out cavity 1004A are then pressed together preferably such that the nub piece 1001A is firmly inserted into the hollowed out cavity 1004A, thereby completing the valve 410A.

In use, the valve 410A, functions in the preferably following manners. The user can insert gas into the fluid cushion component 200 via the valve 410A by either orally forcing fluid into the top piece 1001 or by attaching the top piece 1001 to an inflation device (not shown). Upon fluid being forced onto the top piece 1001 the spring coil 1002 will compress and the fluid plug 1004 will move distal to the base 1003 thereby breaking the fluid seal and allowing fluid into the fluid cushion component 200. The device can also work to deflate the fluid cushion component 200. If the top piece 1001 is depressed after the fluid cushion component 200 is inflated then the spring coil 1002 will be depressed and the fluid plug 1004 seal with the incline ridge 1003C will be broken and the gas can escape the fluid cushion component 200. It should be appreciated that the fluid valve 410A adds increased integrity to the fluid cushion component 200 by allowing for the interior fluid cushion fluid pressure to maintain and support the fluid seal created by valve 410A.

It will be appreciated that the apparatus 100 may be used for multiple uses or for a single event of limited duration. It will also be appreciated that the apparatus 100 may incorporate team or organization identified colors or logos. The apparatus 100, particularly the seat cushion, may identify advertisers, event sponsors or the specific event or venue. This may be particularly advantageous for embodiments of the apparatus intended for single or limited use.

FIG. 3 illustrates an embodiment of the apparatus 100 wherein the cushion component 200 comprises pliable, open cell foam 440 within a hermetically sealable pouch or envelope 295 comprised of one or more layers 291, 292, and 293. It is envisioned that the outer layer 291 will be a higher strength, tear and puncture resistant covering protecting a lighter weight hermetically sealable material. The foam component 440 may remain within the pouch at all times, including transportation and storage. The pouch will contain a closeable opening 275 through which (when opened) fluid can escape when the foam is compressed and fluid can return to inflate the foam when the apparatus 100 is unfolded for use. The closeable opening may be one or more combinations flexible interlocking plastic type seams. It may be advantageous to have the length of opening(s) 275 approximate to the width of the pouch segment 202B between the cushion folds 255 256. FIG. 3 also illustrates the loop 310 and loop annulus 315 used in conjunction with the strap (not shown).

FIG. 3A illustrates an embodiment of the apparatus 100 comprising an open cell inflatable material 451 within the covering 295. The mechanism for creating the seal is not shown. In one variation, the cushion material may be removed from the pouch. The material may be combined with heat or cooling material that can be replaced after the temperature properties are exhausted (not shown). FIGS. 3A and 3B illustrates the varying size of the open cell foam material 451, 452. FIG. 3A illustrates that when exposed to ambient fluid, the open cell material 451 expands in volume. FIG. 3B illustrates that in the absence of fluid, created by vacuum or by compressive forces, the open cell foam 452 occupies a reduced volume. Since the outer covering envelope 295 may be fixed in size, folds or wrinkles 209 may form in the covering envelope 295.

FIG. 4 illustrates an embodiment of the cushion component 200 of the apparatus 100 in which the inflatable cushion, whether fluid inflated bladder(s) or open cell foam, is shaped to conform to the folding design of the pouch. The inflatable component may be a single or multiple sectioned component or separate fluid interconnected sub-components. It will be appreciated that the spacing 455 456 between the inflation components 450A 450B 450C may conform to the axis of folding 255 256. Within the covering 295, the outer segments 201B 203B may be folded over the middle component in the direction illustrated by vector arrows 943 944. Of course, the apparatus is not limited to this folding method or pattern.

FIG. 4A illustrates the cushion device subject of the apparatus 100 completely unfolded and deflated. The flexible and/or elastic strap 250 is fully extended from the seat cushion 200. FIG. 4A illustrates the apparatus from the bottom surface, 200A, i.e., being the surface placed proximate to the seat or ground surface. In the illustrated embodiment of the apparatus 100, the cushion 200 can be folded into three sections 201A 202A 203A along the approximate axis 255 256. The width of the space between the axis 255 256 may be approximate to the strap width 216. Two sections 201A 203A are folded underneath, vector arrows 943 944 into the page, resulting in the cushion apparatus having the shape depicted in FIG. 4B. Note that FIGS. 4A also illustrates an attachment mechanism or loop 280 on the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 for use when completely folded. Also illustrated in the loop mechanism 310, sleeve 231 and annulus 315 through which the strap may be threaded as part of the folding and packing sequence. An inflation valve 410 is also illustrated. A hook and eye section 220 is also illustrated on the flexible and/or elastic strap 250.

It will be appreciated that in this sequence and method of folding, the apparatus 100 depicted in FIG. 4B now has the approximate shape of an elongated strap of a single width 216 217. The strap may be rolled up or folded as desired to form a compact shape that may be secured for transportation and storage. Transportation or storage may utilize one or more components such as the attachment loop 280. This packing operation may incorporate the use of the loop 310 and annulus 315 attached by the sleeve 231 at the end of the folded cushion 202A one end of the strap shape and hook and eye components 210 220 placed on one or both sides of the strap in the direction of the opposite end 205.

FIG. 4C illustrates a further sequence step that may be employed in the packaging of the apparatus 100 for storage or transportation. The seat cushion segment 220 is further folded upon itself on an axis 746 and vector arrows 946. The loop end and annulus 310 315 will then be proximate to the junction of the seat cushion 200 and flexible and/or elastic strap 250. This junction is shown at the axis 747 for further folding, vector arrow 947, of the apparatus. The packaging may use various other rolling or folding sequences of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 and the seat cushion 200. Of course, the apparatus is not limited to the folding sequence, method or design depicted in FIGS. 4C through 4H. In the embodiment depicted herein, the flexible and/or elastic strap component 250 is essentially wrapped around the folded and deflated cushion 200. This is further shown in FIGS. 4D and 4E, including the threading of the end 205 of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 through the annulus 315 of the loop 310 at the now folded end of the seat cushion 200 (vector arrows 948 949). Also shown are additional hook and loop components 210 220 that can be fixed to the opposing sides 250A 250B of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250.

In FIG. 4G, the folding/wrapping action of the apparatus 100 continues (vector arrow 952) with the flexible and/or elastic strap component 250 wrapping around the folded seat cushion 200. Again, the loop attachment 280 and eye segment 220 are shown on the “outside” surface of the flexible and/or elastic strap 250A.

FIGS. 4G and 4H further illustrate the folding/wrapping sequence that can result in the apparatus 100 being packaged in a manner similar to that illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 1A. In the illustrated embodiment, the strap 250 that can be used to secure the cushion 200 when in use is also used for retaining the deflated cushion in the folded, packed form. Other patterns or methods of folding, packaging or wrapping are included with the apparatus.

FIGS. 5 and 6 illustrates a manner in which the apparatus 100 can be wrapped or otherwise attached to a seat, bench or bleacher seat 701. The cushion surface 200B is placed upward and the strap 250 is looped around the underside 703 of the bench 701. The strap end 250 will be threaded through the annulus 315 of the loop 310 (vector arrow 901) and folded back in a reverse direction (vector arrows 902 903). The bottom surface 200A of the seat cushion 200 is placed against the top of the seat 702. FIGS. 6, 6A, and 6B illustrate the same attachment method and components from a side perspective. It will be appreciated that the hook and eye attachment segments (reference 210 220 of FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C) that can be located on both sides of the flexible and/or elastic strap segment 250 (reference 250A 250B of FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C) can be used to secure the apparatus 100 to the seat. It will be further appreciated that the apparatus 100 can be used in a manner that the seat remains “leashed” to an object that is not necessarily a sitting surface. This can be advantageous for use in conjunction with the rail or other device on a boat, etc. It will be further appreciated that the apparatus 100 can be used in a manner that it is not “leashed” to any objects.

In yet another embodiment of the apparatus, a back support mechanism is included. FIG. 7 illustrates the apparatus 100 unfolded, having a separate component 290 that can be secured approximately orthogonal to the inflatable seat cushion component 200. This separate component 290 can provide back support by limiting the movement of the back support component 290 relative to the seat cushion component 200. In one embodiment, the movement is restricted by one or more flexible, but non-elastic cords or straps 510 connecting the upper back support 290 with the seat cushion 200. All or a portion of the back support can comprise an inflatable cushion device 414 similar to the cushioning components for the seat previously discussed. In FIG. 7, the inflatable seat cushion component is shown to be of three components 450A 450B 450C. It will of course readily appreciated that this three-section design will facilitate the folding of the seat cushion for transportation and storage.

This cushioning mechanism 414 can increase user comfort by providing greater rigidity to the back support. Rigidity can also be created by inclusion of one or more flexible, lightweight structures. This component can also be constructed in a manner that allows it to be folded with the deflated cushion package but reassembled into a single unit that is rigid in at least one direction. Examples of embodiments utilizing this component are illustrated in FIGS. 8 through 12. Multiple components can be oriented together wherein the folding directionality of each is opposing the other.

In regard to the attachment of the back support 290 to the seat cushion 200, the strap 510 can be adjusted by latching buckles 520 or similar mechanisms commonly utilized in camping and travel equipment. FIG. 7 illustrates the adjustable nature of the buckle mechanism, resulting in a variable amount of strapping 511 pulled through the buckle 520 to control the diameter or effective length of the strap 510. Note that the separate strapping 250 used to package the apparatus 100 for storage and transportation and attachment to a seating surface is shown in FIG. 7 for reference.

FIG. 8 illustrates possible stiffening components 800 that may be found useful. It is envisioned that the brackets or braces 810 811 812 may be of varying dimensions and be formed of, but not limited to, a lightweight resinous polymer material. The brackets may be segmented along axis 255 256, being approximately equivalent to the axis depicted in FIG. 4C above. In one embodiment, the segmented sections of bracing are held together by a fabric material 820 that, in combination with the thickness or shape of the segmented brackets, allows the combined bracket to be folded in one direction, but retain unified stiffness in a the opposite direction. This variable direction stiffness is illustrated in FIG. 9 wherein the folding of the end segments 810 and 812 in relation to the middle segment 811 can be accomplished (vector arrow 940). The folding occurs along the axis 255 256. However, when force in the direction 970 is exerted on the middle-stiffening bracket 811, the component 800 remains rigid.

FIG. 10 illustrates a more detailed embodiment of a back support component 290 of the apparatus. The component may contain an inflatable component 414 having a fluid valve 410 or 410A, proximate to a sleeve 298 having an annulus 209 through which the strap (not shown) may be threaded. The sleeve 298 may also contain a stiffening component or brace 800. It will be appreciated that the performance of the brace 800 can be varied with the orientation of the connecting strap 720 to the direction of force caused by the user leaning against the back support component 290. It is envisioned that the primary direction of such force will be against the back (vector arrow 970) and that the strap 820 located on the opposite side 800B of this direction will facilitate the desired stiffing. Rotating the brace 800A 180 degrees (vector arrow 940) will facilitate the folding of the outer component ends 810 and 812 brace relative to the middle component 811 concurrent with packing and storing the apparatus.

FIG. 11 illustrates a further detail of an embodiment of a stiffening bracket or brace comprising 3 segments 810 811 812 attached by a flexible and/or elastic strap or similar component 820. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 11, the attaching component is held by rivets 821 or similar mechanical devices. Of course other methods such as stitching, adhesive or lacing may also be used (not shown). Reference is made to FIG. 12, also illustrating these components of the embodiment where the individual brace segments 810, 811, 812 are modified to provide reinforcement against the force (vector arrow 970) without diminishing the flexibility in the opposite direction (vector arrows 971 and 922 923). FIG. 12 additionally illustrates modification of the thickness 801, 802 of the individual segments of the stiffening brackets increased on one side 803 and adjacent to an adjoining segment. (This modification is not shown in FIG. 11.) The space 809 between each segment can be varied, but will ideally be a minimum space. Also illustrated is an embodiment of the attachment 821 for the strap 820 to the brace 810. It will also be appreciated that a plurality of stiffening brackets may be placed together with the attaching component 820 oriented in opposite directions, thereby providing stiffening support in both directions 970, 971.

FIG. 13 illustrates an embodiment showing the back support 290 held by straps 510 to the seat cushion 200. FIG. 14 illustrates a side view of this embodiment of the apparatus, showing the strap 510, adjustment buckle 520, the top and bottom seat surface 200B 200A, the back 290, sleeve 298 and stiffening brace 820. The combined force (vector arrow 976) from the weight of the user (not shown) sitting on the seat 200 and force (vector arrow 970) caused by leaning backward creates the tension on the strap 510 and the back support 290. FIG. 15 illustrates a side view of the another embodiment of the apparatus 100 further comprising an additional inflatable component 275 that will facilitate the back support 290 staying at a comfortable height in relation to the user. The three sections 200, 275, 290 may all be attached or separately held together by use of straps, including the strap 510 between the seat and back support components. FIG. 16 illustrates yet another embodiment wherein a middle inflatable component 275 is shaped to provide lumbar back support in conjunction with another lower inflatable component 274. A connecting section 299 can be optionally attached to the seat and back support components.

In another embodiment, the apparatus can include a pocket pouch that can enclose the cushion during storage (not shown). This may provide additional protection to the hermetically sealable component against puncture or wear.

In addition, all or a portion of the apparatus may be constructed of moisture resistant or impervious material. In a further embodiment, a portion of the apparatus may be constructed of a heavier and stronger material to protect the bottom portion of the cushion from wear from the seat surface. Materials of this type are known and commonly used in modern camping or sports equipment. Use of these materials will also facilitate use of the apparatus as a seat or ground cushion for camping, hiking or similar activity.

FIG. 17 illustrates two separate seat cushions (100A, comprising a seat cushion 200A and back support 290A, and 100B comprising seat cushion 200B and back support 290B) of the type described in the specification that being attached together to form a single elongated cushioned surface. Such combination may be used to create a ground surface cushion. This can be formed by cross buckling 520 or attaching inter-connectable straps 510A, 510B of each apparatus 100A, 100B.

FIGS. 18A and 18B illustrate “front and back” views of an additional embodiment of the apparatus 100 wherein one or more straps 510 may be used to either attach the cushion 200 to the seat or bench 701 as illustrated in FIG. 18C or to attach to a second separate cushion component 200 (that may be constructed identical to the first cushion) for creating a back support. Alternatively, one or more separate cushions can be attached to the first cushion component using the inter-connecting components 520A and 520B attached to the straps 510 to create an extended cushioned surface within a single plane, e.g., a ground cushion in a manner similar to that illustrated in FIG. 17. FIG. 18D illustrates two separate cushions 200A, 200B subject of the apparatus 100A, 100B combined to form a seat cushion with a back support utilizing the combined inter-connectable attachment components 520AB with the straps 510A, 510B.

FIG. 19A illustrates another embodiment of the apparatus 100 show the additions of straps 510 to the inflatable seat cushion 200. In the embodiment illustrated, one strap contains a “male” snap component 520B that is adjustable on the length of the strap 510. The other illustrated contains a fixed “female” snap component 520A. Also illustrated are the flexible and/or elastic strap 250 that may be used for affixing the seat to a bench or seat as previously described, the strap end 205, the hook attaching component 210, the loop attaching component 220, the strap loop component 310, having the annulus 315 and the attaching sleeve 331. (Not illustrated in this drawing).

FIG. 19B illustrates two separate seat components 100A, 100B as depicted in FIG. 19A. The orientation of the separate seat cushions facilitates the combining of the seat cushions as illustrated in FIGS. 19C and 19D. The male snap 520B of 100B can be attached to female snap component 520A of 100A. The female component 520A of 100B can similarly attached to the male snap component 520B of 100A. The flexible and/or elastic strap 250 of 100B may be looped through the annulus 315 of attachment loop 310 (not illustrated in this drawing) of seat cushion 100A and then threaded through the annulus 315 of attachment loop 310 (not illustrated in this drawing) of cushion 100B. This combined embodiment allows one cushion 200 to form a back support in relation to the use of the separate cushion as a seat cushion. FIG. 19D illustrates the combined cushions, oriented Or approximately 900 to the other. The variable angle of cushion orientation may be controlled by adjustments of the strap 510 511 through the male component of the attachment snap 520. (Reference is also made to FIG. 7.) The space 921 between the cushion 200 of one apparatus 100B and the cushion 200 of the other apparatus 100A is variable. Indeed, when each cushion is fully inflated and the straps 250 510 adjusted to the desired position, there may be no gap or space.

This specification is to be construed as illustrative only and is for the purpose of teaching those skilled in the art the manner of carrying out the apparatus. It is to be understood that the forms of the apparatus herein shown and describe are to be taken as the presently preferred embodiments. As already stated, various changes may be made in the shape, size and arrangement of components or adjustments made in the steps of the method without departing from the scope of this apparatus. For example, equivalent elements may be substituted for those illustrated and described herein and certain features of the apparatus may be utilized independently of the use of other features, all as would be apparent to one skilled in the art after having the benefit of this description of the apparatus.

Further modifications and alternative embodiments of this apparatus will be apparent to those skilled in the art in view of this specification.