Title:
Infant seat handle with ergonomic extension
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An extension member for an infant seat handle includes an extension arm having first and second arm members. A body contact member interconnects the first and second arm members at a first end of said extension member. A clamp configured for attachment to the infant carrier handle is also provided. The clamp includes first and second studs that pivotally engage the first and second arm members.



Inventors:
Yeager, Arthur F. (Columbia, SC, US)
Application Number:
11/118762
Publication Date:
11/10/2005
Filing Date:
05/02/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47C4/52; A47D13/02; (IPC1-7): A47C4/52
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NELSON JR, MILTON
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CAHN & SAMUELS LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
1. An infant seat handle assembly comprising: a handle portion having a first arm including an end configured to attach to a first side of an infant-seat shell, a second arm including an end configured to attach to a second side of the infant seat shell and an intermediate section extending across the infant seat shell and interconnecting the first and second arms; and an extension member extending from one of the first and second arms and having a first end attached to said handle portion and a second end including a body contact member.

2. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 wherein the body contact member is a structural element configured to anatomically accommodate a body curvature of a human waist.

3. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 wherein said extension member is pivotally engaged with said handle and is movable between a deployed position and a stowed position.

4. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 3 wherein the stowed position is generally parallel to one of the first and second arms and the intermediate section.

5. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 3 wherein said handle portion has a generally ovular cross section and said extension member has a hollow open ovular cross section such that, in the stowed position, said extension member overlays said handle portion.

6. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 3 wherein said handle portion has a generally circular cross section and said extension member has a hollow open circular cross section such that, in the stowed position, said extension member overlays said handle portion.

7. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 3 wherein said handle portion has a generally rectangular cross section and said extension member has a hollow open rectangular cross section such that, in the stowed position, said extension member overlays said handle portion.

8. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 wherein said extension member is fixedly attached to said handle portion.

9. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 wherein said extension member extends from one of the first and second arms by a distance of at least four inches.

10. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 further comprising a clamp for removably attaching said extension member to said handle portion, said extension member being pivotally connected to the clamp.

11. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 10 further comprising a stop operatively associated with said extension member to restrict pivotal motion of the extension member.

12. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 11 wherein the stop is attached to said handle.

13. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 11 wherein the stop is attached to the clamp.

14. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 1 further comprising a stop operatively associated with said extension member to restrict pivotal motion of the extension member.

15. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 3 wherein said extension member includes a lever arm and a stop.

16. The infant seat handle assembly of claim 15 wherein the lever arm and the stop define a unitary structure, the lever arm including first and second wire leads extending from said handle portion and a body contact member interconnecting the first and second wire leads at a first end of the extension member, the stop including a mating portion interconnecting the first and second wire leads at a second end of said extension member, the mating portion being configured to matingly engage said handle portion when said extension member is in the deployed position.

17. An extension member for an infant seat handle comprising: an extension arm including first and second arm members; a body contact member interconnecting the first and second arm members at a first end of said extension member; and a clamp configured for attachment to the infant carrier handle, said clamp including first and second studs that pivotally engage the first and second arm members.

18. The extension member of claim 17 wherein said clamp includes a locking spring configured for engagement with said extension arm to urge said extension arm into a deployed position.

19. The extension arm of claim 18 wherein said clamp further comprises a stop that prevent said extension member from rotating past the deployment position.

20. The extension member of claim 18 wherein said extension arm is disposed at a deployment angle of between about 30° to about 130°.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of provisional patent application No. 60/566,598 filed Apr. 30, 2004.

I. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to infant seats/carriers, and more particularly to ergonomically enhanced infant seats.

II. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Infant carriers are an increasingly popular way to transport babies. As used herein, the terms infant carrier, infant seat and baby carrier are used interchangeably to refer to identical structures. Heretofore, infant carriers have been made available with standard attachments that allow the infant carrier to be attached to strollers, car seats or shopping carts. Still, parents often must pick up and move the infant carrier between such devices, sometimes over long distances.

Users of infant carriers are subjected to asymmetrical stresses on the upper body and that may cause strain and injury. Additionally, the awkward position that a user must assume when carrying conventional infant carriers often leads to muscle fatigue of the shoulder and arm muscles making it very difficult to avoid collision with the users legs while walking.

Existing technology provides a variety of ergonomic carrier handles that attempt to reduce the awkwardness of walking while holding a carrier (FIG. 6). However, this does not address the main source of shoulder strain and obstruction to normal gait. Due to the size and weight of babies, as well as the requirements for compliance with health and safety regulations, presently available carriers are often bulky and hard to carry. Additionally, users are often required to carry a plethora of baby accessories such as diaper bags and bottles, when transporting a baby. Thus, the typical user is fortunate to have one hand free to hold the infant carrier while walking into a store or out to the car.

Accordingly, there is a need in the art for an infant carrier that is held away from the user's body to prevent collision with the knees or other body parts. There is a further need for a carrier that does not encourage the user to assume injury-causing compensatory postures often exhibited when the user can no longer abduct the arm while holding the carrier.

III. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with an aspect of the invention, an infant seat handle assembly is provided. The handle assembly includes a handle portion having a first arm including an end configured to attach to a first side of an infant-seat shell. The handle assembly also includes a second arm that includes an end configured to attach to a second side of the infant seat shell and an intermediate section that extends across the infant seat shell and interconnects the first and second arms. An extension member extends from one of the first and second arms and has a first end attached to the handle portion and a second end that includes a body contact member.

In accordance with another aspect, an extension member for an infant seat handle is provided. The extension member comprises an extension arm including first and second arm members. A body contact member interconnects the first and second arm members at a first end of the extension member. A clamp is configured for attachment to the infant carrier handle, the clamp includes first and second studs that pivotally engage the first and second arm members.

It is an object of the invention to provide an infant carrier that relieves that is displace from the body to relieve upper body stresses often associated with transport of infant carriers.

It is another object of the invention to provide an apparatus that can attached to conventional infant carrier handles that displaces the infant carrier from the body to relieve upper body stresses often associated with transport of infant carriers.

It is a further object of the invention to provide an infant carrier that does not obstruct that user's normal gait.

As used herein “substantially,” “generally,” and other words of degree are relative modifiers intended to indicate permissible variation from the characteristic so modified. It is not intended to be limited to the absolute value or characteristic which it modifies but rather possessing more of the physical or functional characteristic than its opposite, and preferably, approaching or approximating such a physical or functional characteristic.

In the following description, reference is made to the accompanying drawing, and which is shown by way of illustration to the specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. The following illustrated embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that structural changes based on presently known structural and/or functional equivalents may be made without departing from the scope of the invention.

IV. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 describes an infant carrier handle including an extension member in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates an infant carrier including an extension member in the deployed position in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates the extension member and the body contact member in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates the extension member in the stowed position in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 illustrates a cross sectional view of an extension member in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 illustrates a number of commercially available infant carriers.

FIG. 7 shows an extension member in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 8A and 8B depict cross sectional view of a universal clamp in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 shows a perspective view of the universal clamp in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 10 illustrates an extension member in accordance with another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 11 shows an extension arm in the stowed position in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 12 depicts an extension arm side mounted in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 13 illustrates the extension arm of FIG. 12 in the stowed position.

FIG. 14 depicts an extension arm according to still another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 15 shows the extension arm of FIG. 14 in the deployed position.

FIGS. 16A-16C illustrate extension arms according to still other embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 17A and 17B depict the extension arm of FIG. 17B attached to an infant carrier handle in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

V. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention is generally is embodied in an apparatus that reduces shoulder and/or arm strain and other poor health consequences that may result from carrying infant seats or carriers. The apparatus includes an extension member that extends from the handle of the carrier at a deployment angle of between about 30° to about 130° from a vertical axis of the carrier. The extension member may be fixed to the infant carrier handle or it may be adjustable along the handle. The lever arm may be integrally formed with the handle or may be removably attached to the handle. In some embodiments, the extension member includes a lever arm that moves about a permanent or temporary fulcrum. In keeping with the invention, one end of the lever arm is adapted to rest against a user's body so that the carrier is positioned and maintained a short distance from the user's body thereby reducing strain and preventing collision with the user's legs while walking.

FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary embodiment of the invention. Depicted is an infant carrier 100 including a shell 130 and a handle 200. Handle 200 includes a first arm 220, a second arm 240 (not shown in FIG. 1) and an intermediate section 260 interconnecting the first and second arms and extending across shell 130.

In accordance with the invention, in this embodiment, an extension member 300 is attached to handle 200. In some embodiments, extension member 300 may be fixedly attached to handle 200 either at intermediate section 260 or along one of first and second arms 220 and 240. In the illustrated embodiment, extension member 300 comprises a lever arm and is attached to intermediate section 260 via fulcrum 270. FIG. 1 depicts fulcrum 270 as a pin.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, extension member 300 is preferably attached to handle 200 at a position that allows it to extend from arm 220 by a sufficient distance in the horizontal direction to minimize jarring from the user's knee during transport and to allow the user to relax its upper arm and reduce the load on the user's shoulder. The preferred extension distance is determined in part by the construction of the carrier and the body dimensions of the user. However, to accommodate users of average body dimension and currently known infant carriers, extension arm 300 should extend at least 4 inches from arm 220 in the horizontal direction. Such desired extension may be achieved by attaching the arm either to intermediate section 260 as illustrated or to one of arms 220 and 240.

In keeping with an aspect of the invention, extension member 300 includes a body contact member 340, as shown in FIG. 3. In one embodiment, body contact member 340 includes an end surface of extension member 300 configured to anatomically accommodate the body curvature of a user's waist. Preferably, body contact member 340 includes a generally concave surface.

In keeping with still another aspect of the invention, in some embodiments, extension member 300 may be pivotally engaged with handle 200 via fulcrum 270. Extension member 300 may then be movable between a stowed position, FIG. 4, and a deployed position, FIGS. 2 and 3. When in the deployed position, extension member 300 is disposed at a deployment angle (the angle between extension member 300 and a vertical axis of the carrier as illustrated in FIG. 1) sufficient to minimize jarring from the user's knee during transport and to allow the user to relax its upper arm and reduce the load on the user's shoulder. Preferably extension member 300 is disposed at a deployment angle of between about 30° to about 130°. More preferably, when in the deployed position, extension member 300 is disposed at a deployment angle of between about 60° to about 110. Still more preferably, when in the deployed position, extension member 300 is disposed at a deployment angle of between about 80° to about 100°.

A stop may be provided to prevent extension member 300 from pivoting past the deployed position. In the embodiment depicted in FIGS. 1-4, the configuration of extension arm 300 prevents it from pivoting past the deployed position. In other embodiments, the stop may comprise a structural member formed on handle 200 or on extension member 300. Extension member 300 may be maintained in the deployed position by any means known to persons of skill in the art.

In the stowed position, extension member 300 preferably overlays one of first and second arms 220 and 240 and intermediate section 260. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, extension arm 300 overlays first arm 220. To facilitate placement in the stowed position, extension arm 300 preferably includes an open cross section that matches the cross-section of the portion of handle 200 of which extension arm 300 overlays. For example, the cross section of extension arm 300 may be ovular, circular, square, triangular, etc. An exemplary cross sectional view of extension arm 300 is depicted in FIG. 5.

As illustrated in FIG. 6, there are many styles of infant seat handles on the market today. In accordance with another embodiment of the invention, a universal extension assembly is provided to fit the various infant carrier handles. As depicted in FIG. 7, such an extension assembly preferably comprises extension member 300 and a universal clamp 350 for attaching extension member 300 to handle 200. In keeping with the invention, extension member 300 preferably includes a first extension arm 310 and a second extension arm 320. Body contact member 340 is preferably disposed between first and second extension arms 310 and 320.

A suitable universal clamp 350 is preferably east to operate and constructed to fit infant carrier handles of various constructions. An exemplary universal clamp 350 is illustrated in FIGS. 8A and 8B and preferably includes first and second clamping plates 360. Each of the first and second clamping plates includes a first planar section 352, a triangular section 354 and a second planar section 356. Clamping plates 360 may be tightened against handle 200 via, e.g., screws 358. The universal quality of clamp 350 is illustrated in FIGS. 8A and 8B as FIG. 8A shows clamp 350 engaging a handle having an oval cross section and FIG. 8B shows clamp 350 engaging a handle having a rectangular cross section. It should be noted that FIGS. 8A and 8B are not drawn to scale and that clamping plates 360 may have a greater thickness than shown therein.

Universal clamp 350 is preferably further provided with first and second studs 362 on respective ends of planar sections 352 and 356, as shown in FIG. 9. Studs 362 serve as both connection means for extension member 300 and as a fulcrum about which extension member 300 pivots. First and second extension arms 310 and 320 include apertures sized to fit snuggly over studs 362 with enough play to allow rotational motion.

Universal clamp 350 further preferably includes mechanisms for maintaining extension member 300 in the deployed position and for preventing over rotation as illustrated in FIG. 10. For example, universal clamp 350 may be provided with a stop 364. The stop may be integrally formed with universal clamp 350 or removably attached by, e.g., an adjustable thumbscrew 366. In addition, clamp 350 may be provided with a conventional locking spring 368 that is preferably locked in a compressed state when extension member 300 is stowed. When the lock is released, extension member 300 is urged to its deployed position where it is maintained by abutting stop 364. In this embodiment, the user can increase or decrease the deployment angle by adjusting thumbscrew 366. This allows the user to adjust the position at which extension member 300 will contact the user's body. This feature is particularly advantageous as the length of the arms and the distance from shoulders to hips can vary greatly between users.

As previously mentioned, extension member 300 may be “top” mounted on handle 200 at intermediate section 260 or “side” mounted on one of first and second arms 220 and 240. FIG. 10 illustrates extension arm 300 top mounted in the deployed position. FIG. 11 illustrates extension arm 300 top mounted in the stowed position. FIG. 12 depicts extension arm 300 side mounted in the deployed position and FIG. 13 shows extension member 300 side mounted in the stowed position.

Still another embodiment of the invention is illustrated in FIGS. 14 and 15. In this embodiment, extension member 300 and stop 364 form a unitary structure. Extension member 300 comprises first and second extension arms 310 and 320 interconnected by body contact member 340 at one end of extension member 300. Stop 364 is formed at the other end of extension member 300. Stop 364 includes a mating portion 370 configured to matingly engage handle 200 when extension member 300 is in the deployed position. Extension member 300 includes grooves that engage studs to allow extension member 300 to pivot. In FIGS. 14 and 15, the studs are provided in handle 200. However, the extension member of this embodiment may also be utilized with universal clamp 350 and, as such, may be engaged with studs 362.

In accordance with yet an alternate embodiment of the invention, extension member 300 may engage handle 200 using a weight lock method. In this embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 16A-16C and 17A-17B, extension member 300 includes an extension arm 410 attached to a stop 420 at one end and attached to body contact member 430 at the other end. Stop 420 preferably comprises an exterior stop 432 and an interior stop 434 and a structural interconnecting member 436. In operation, when the user pulls the infant carrier against its body, a force is believed to be exerted that urges exterior stop 432 and interior stop 434 against handle 200. In some embodiments, exterior and interior stops 432 and 434 may be rubber lined to help minimize slippage.

As illustrated in FIGS. 17A and 17B, handle 200 may be provided with VELCRO® strips 440 to catch interconnecting member 436. In this fashion, extension member 30 may be maintained in position, either stowed or deployed, even the infant carrier is not pressed against the user's body. In addition, he VELCRO® strips make for facile removal and installation of extension member 300 to and from handle 200.

In keeping with the invention, extension member 300 may be constructed from a lightweight rigid material such as plastic, aluminum or light steel tubing. To increase user comfort, body contact members 340 and 430 may be cushioned with, for example, foam padding.