Title:
Model toy combined with one or more pictures
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A picture slot (13a), picture recess (13d), or modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) combined with a toy that models an inanimate object. Example inanimate objects include: model trains; airplanes; rockets; rescue vehicles; construction or farm vehicles or machines; buses; cars; buildings; and various destinations such as a circus tent or zoo exhibit. A picture (18a, 18b) may be secured behind a model window (11, 11a), model door (12), or any opening through which an object might typically be viewed by a removable enclosure (14a, 14c, 14f) or hinged enclosure (14b, 14d, 14e) closed by gravity, friction, screw (15a), clasp (15b), or other fastener. Transparent film (19) is incorporated into picture slot (13a), picture recess (13d), hinged enclosure (14b, 14d, 14e), or modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) so that picture (18a, 18b) is protected and viewable.



Inventors:
Jaeger V, Nicole L. (Flemington, NJ, US)
Application Number:
11/104987
Publication Date:
10/19/2006
Filing Date:
04/13/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
40/700, 446/431
International Classes:
A63H17/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CEGIELNIK, URSZULA M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Nicole L.V. Jaeger (Flemington, NJ, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A three-dimensional model toy that substantially resembles a primarily inanimate object in combination with a first means for securing a picture to said three-dimensional model toy.

2. The primarily inanimate object of claim 1 wherein the inanimate object is substantially a mode of transportation.

3. The primarily inanimate object of claim 1 wherein the inanimate object is substantially equipment or a machine.

4. The primarily inanimate object of claim 1 wherein the inanimate object is substantially a building or structure.

5. The primarily inanimate object of claim 1 wherein the inanimate object is substantially an object that contains an opening through which another object might be viewed.

6. The first means for securing a picture to said three-dimensional model toy of claim 1 wherein the means is comprised of: a structural component of the model toy for placing said picture, a second means for securing the picture, and a third means for viewing the secured picture.

7. The structural component of the model toy for placing said picture of claim 6 wherein the structural component is a slot located substantially within the body of the model toy.

8. The structural component of the model toy for placing said picture of claim 6 wherein the structural component is a recess located substantially on the body of the model toy.

9. The structural component of the model toy for placing said picture of claim 6 wherein the structural component is a slot substantially located within a frame connected to the body of a model toy.

10. The second means for securing the picture of claim 6 wherein the second means is a removable enclosure fastened with a screw.

11. The second means for securing the picture of claim 6 wherein the second means is a removable enclosure that may be slid into grooves incorporated into the body of the model toy.

12. The second means for securing the picture of claim 6 wherein the second means is a hinged enclosure that remains shut by the force of gravity.

13. The second means for securing the picture of claim 6 wherein the second means is a hinged enclosure that remains shut by the use of a fastener.

14. The third means for viewing the secured picture of claim 6 wherein the third means is a transparent film through which the picture may be viewed.

15. The third means for viewing the secured picture of claim 6 wherein the third means is an opening in model toy that exposes the picture.

16. The first means for securing a picture to said three-dimensional model toy of claim 1 wherein the first means is a modular picture frame apparatus, wherein said modular picture frame apparatus is comprised of: a frame in which a picture may be placed wherein said frame has incorporated therein an opening through which said picture may be viewed, a fourth means for securing a picture within said frame; and a fifth means by which the frame with picture secured therein may be affixed to a model toy.

17. The fourth means for securing a picture within said frame of claim 16 wherein said fourth means is an enclosure attached to said frame by a clasp.

18. The fifth means by which the frame with picture secured therein may be affixed to a model toy of claim 16 wherein said fifth means is a magnet.

19. A method of customizing toys that substantially model primarily inanimate objects, the method comprising: providing one or more model toys each having a sixth means by which a picture may be secured to and displayed as part of said model toys; and securing a picture to the model toys by said means.

20. A method of creating an illusion that an object of a person's choosing is located on or within a toy that substantially models a primarily inanimate object, the method comprising: providing one or more three-dimensional toys that substantially model a primarily inanimate object each having a seventh means by which a picture may be secured to and displayed as part of the toy; selecting one or more pictures that are of compatible size with said seventh means; and securing the selected pictures to the model toys by said seventh means. Whereby a user can personalize a toy that substantially models a primarily inanimate object by combining one or more pictures with the model toy.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH

Not Applicable

SEQUENCE LISTING OR PROGRAM

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

1. Field of Invention

This invention relates to model toys, specifically to any such three-dimensional toy that substantially models an inanimate object and that includes a window, door, or other opening through which a picture may be viewed.

2. Prior Art

Manufacturers of toys and collectibles produce models of inanimate objects that are commonly used for collecting and play. Examples of inanimate objects commonly modeled as toys include: train engines; various train cars; flying crafts such as airplanes, hot-air balloons, rockets, and shuttles; rescue vehicles such as fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars; construction or farm vehicles or machines such as tractors and bucket loaders; vehicles such as buses, cars, and taxis; buildings such as houses, municipal buildings, stations, depots, barns, and sheds; and various destinations such as circus tents, zoo exhibits, and ferris wheels.

Such model toys commonly have only a few working parts, such as turning wheels, operable doors, or moveable gates. In other respects, the models primarily use decoration and design to resemble real-world objects. Some manufacturers produce various coordinating vehicles, buildings, and destinations designed at similar scales and intended to be collected and used together. Some manufacturers decorate model toys with characters which are often intended to appeal to and attract primarily juvenile users. The present invention personalizes such model toys in a manner not previously contemplated.

Picture frames have been designed to depict real-world objects with windows or doors and that allow the placement of photographs in openings that model those windows or doors. Search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office online patent database did not reveal any patents on such picture frames, but they are commercially available. Unlike the present invention, these picture frames are primarily two-dimensional, solely decorative, typically have unfinished backsides, are typically not made of child-proof and child-durable materials, and are not toys nor intended for or conducive to play.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,125,175 issued to Huff, Jr. (Jun. 30, 1992) discloses a picture frame that is designed to be safely handled, waterproof, and combined with a teething ring or rattle. Unlike the present invention, this picture frame is not combined with a toy in such a way that the subject of the picture is realistically depicted as being in or on a three-dimensional, inanimate object. The teething ring or rattle is not a toy that substantially models a real-world object. The picture within the teething ring or rattle is not in-and-of-itself a character or scaled component of an action model.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,027,774 issued to Fine et al. (Feb. 22, 2000) describes a liquid-filled display globe with a waterproof slot that allows two-dimensional objects to be displayed within the globe and giving the appearance that those objects are submersed in the liquid. However, this invention is claimed as a “novelty” item intended for displaying purposes only and not as a toy intended for play. The display globe itself does not model a real-life inanimate object with windows, doors, or other openings through which another object would realistically be seen. Instead, the display globe has little similarity to model vehicles, machines, buildings, or destinations that children typically play with. In addition, such display globes are typically considered fragile and not suitable for play.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,254,026 issued to Kaiser (Oct. 19, 1993) describes an inflatable display device, usually in the form of a balloon, with a transparent section capable of displaying an article within the balloon. The primary function of the invention is a display device that offers the possibilities of an unlikely illusion and an unusual decorative display. Like the liquid-filled globe, the balloon display does not model a real-life inanimate object with windows, doors, or other openings through which another object would realistically be found. In addition, the display balloon has little similarity to model vehicles, machines, buildings, or destinations such as those that children typically play with.

U.S. Patent Application 20040253900 submitted by Treibitz et al. and published Dec. 16, 2004 describes a fabric doll with a closure for a keepsake photo. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,842,900 issued to Hodge (Dec. 1, 1998) describes a stuffed doll with a face/body combination in which the face may be lifted to reveal a series of photo slots, thereby allowing a user to open the doll and see a series of photographs in the doll. Unlike the present invention, the proposed combination of a doll with a keepsake photo or a photo album located on the body of a doll do not realistically model an actual object. The photo enclosures on the dolls are not intended to create an illusion that the subject of a photo is actually on or in the doll or to encourage a user to imagine as such. Because a doll is a model of an animate object, it is not visually realistic to depict photographs of other animate objects on the doll's torso. The fabric keepsake photo doll and the photo album stuffed doll do not claim to model real-world, inanimate objects in a personalized and realistic way.

Additional toys have been invented which combine a user-selected picture of a face in the location of a figurine's head with a body that primarily resembles a human form. Such prior art is as follows:

U.S. Pat. No. 4,020,586 issued to Benner (May 3, 1977) shows a doll with an envelope for a photo in the location of the doll's face with hair concealing the envelope opening. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,659,319 issued to Blair (Apr. 21, 1987) describes a process by which a photo may be placed over a moldable material so that the photo may be used as a guide to sculpt the material into an “extremely life-like image” of a person, such as those seen at wax museums. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,993,987 issued to Hull et al. (Feb. 19, 1991) describes a method of making a doll with a personalized, photographic face, such as a mother's face, impregnated in the material from which the doll is constructed. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,009,626 issued to Katz (Apr. 23, 1991) describes the placement of a personalized photographic head image on the head portion of a three-dimensional, life-like representation of a real life doll, mannequin, humanoid, or pet animal doll. The claims of this patent limit it to toys that have a “head portion of real-life subject.”

U.S. Pat. No. 5,403,224 issued to Gintling (Apr. 4, 1995) describes a doll having a photo pocket secured to its face portion. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,515,592 issued to Mills (May 14, 1996) describes a method for making a doll with a personalized, photographic face-image heat-transferred onto the face of the doll. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,803,788 issued to Penberthy et al. (Sep. 8, 1998) describes a combination of a ceramic figurine with a process for dye sublimating or transferring a photographic image on the figurine's face. The claims of this patent limit it to figurines.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,947,791 issued to Taylor (Sep. 7, 1999) describes a gender neutral doll body with a replaceable photographic face so that the doll can be transformed into a specific person of a user's choosing. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,491,565 issued to McCullough (Dec. 10, 2002) describes a personalized doll system which incorporates an individual's photograph and attire preferences into a doll figure. The claims of this patent limit it to dolls.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,511,359 issued to Lui (Jan. 28, 2003) describes a bobbling head toy figurine with a photo receiving slot in the head and the photo being secured by headgear. The claims of this patent limit it to figurines.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,729,930 issued to Lui (May 4, 2004) describes a magnet with a bobbling head attached that contains a photo slot so that a personalized image may be inserted into the bobbling head. The claims of this patent limit it to toys that have a head figure.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,810,611 issued to Yarnall (Nov. 2, 2004) describes a bobblehead photo frame in which a bobblehead body and head are configured so that the head may receive a photograph. The claims of this patent limit it to toys that have a body and head.

U.S. Patent Application No. 20050001113 submitted by Sullivan et al. and published Jan. 6, 2005 describes an action wobble head mounting assembly that includes a pre-printed, die cut, animated body having a kit for mounting a wobbling image to the head portion of the figurine. The claims of this patent limit it to either the spring or cam mounting apparatus or an object with a “body.” In this application, the term “body” is used in the animate sense.

The above list of inventions confirms a general interest in personalizing toys yet shows that the most relevant prior art is limited to attempts to make dolls and figurines look like a real-life person or pet by placing, transferring, or molding a photographic image in the head or face location of the doll or figurine. None of the prior art contemplates personalizing a commonly used toy other than a doll, figurine, rattle, or teether, and none of the prior art contemplates using pictures to personalize collectible sets of model toys that include modes of transportation, machines, buildings, or destinations. All of the above-mentioned approaches to personalizing dolls or figurines suffer from disadvantages which limit their usefulness and applicability to the present need.

Placing a photo within a teething ring, rattle, liquid filled globe, or balloon is merely personalization of those objects and does not obviously extend to using personally selected pictures as a realistic, scaled component of a model toy. Instead, the present invention personalizes the windows, doors, or other transparent openings in vehicles, machines, buildings, or destinations so that the subjects of the pictures may appear modeled in the toy and so that the subjects of the pictures become an actual part of the play.

Another disadvantage of the prior art is the limitation of the most relevant prior art to the combination of photographic images with animate dolls and figurines, primarily three-dimensional models of a substantially human form or resemblance. Dolls and figurines are in-and-of-themselves substantially and inherently different from collectible toy models of modes of transportation, machines, buildings, and destinations. Dolls and figurines are made of components entirely different than toys that model inanimate objects. Dolls and figurines do not have components similar to windows, doors, or other openings through which an object might be viewed.

In addition, when used in play, dolls and figurines are themselves the characters imagined in play. The prior art does not contemplate using the personally selected picture as a character that may be moved from one model toy to another as part of the user's play. Alternatively, toys that model inanimate objects such as vehicles and buildings are objects in which additional characters may be placed, such as those provided by personalized pictures.

Unlike the use of dolls or figurines, personalizing models of inanimate objects places the subject of the picture in a more-or-less realistic and active context that a user may find entertaining, such as on an airplane, in a high-rise building, or at a circus. Unlike the use of dolls or figurines, personalizing models of inanimate objects allows a user to realistically and simultaneously display a plurality of pictures in a model toy in a logical way, such as having friends all depicted as riding on one model school bus or pets and family members depicted in various windows of one model house.

OBJECTS AND INVENTIONS

Accordingly, the present invention substantially departs from the prior art and in doing so provides an assortment of model toys primarily developed for physically depicting images of a user's choosing in or on locations of a model where the image might realistically be found in real life. More specifically, users often enjoy imagining that themselves, people that they know or admire, or favorite animals or pets are in a model. For example, while playing with a train, a user may enjoy pretending that he or she is a train engineer or a train passenger. While playing with a toy house, a user may enjoy imagining that his family and pet are inside. While playing with a toy bus, a user may enjoy pretending that her friends are riding on the bus with the President of the United States. However, the prior art does not include a means by which a personalized image may be physically integrated into a model toy in such a way that the image appears part of the model toy. For example, there are no model toys that allow a user to insert a photo of his face in a window of a train engine, or to insert drawings of family members into windows and doors of a toy house, or to insert photos of friends and a clipping of the President into different windows on a toy bus.

Furthermore, a user may enjoy moving personalized pictures from one model toy to another as part of imaginary play. For example, a user that is playing with a model train set may enjoy pretending that he or she is riding in a train car to a train station and then entering the train station. The prior art does not contemplate allowing a user to secure a photo of her face to the window of a train car and then move the photo to, or have an additional window in, the window of a coordinating train station.

Given current advancements in digital photography, scanning, personal management of photographic computer files, and photo-quality home printing, consumers increasingly create and manipulate drawings and photographs for various personalized uses. However, there are no known model toys that provide an opportunity for a user to combine personalized pictures with toys that model inanimate objects.

Therefore, it can be appreciated that there exists a need for personalizing models of inanimate objects. In this regard, the combination of pictures with model toys substantially fulfills this need.

Thus, it is an object of the present invention to provide model toys of inanimate objects that may be personalized.

It is another object of the present invention to provide model toys that may be personalized in realistic ways so that a picture incorporated by a user is located where the image might be found in real-life, such as a person looking out a window or door.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a model toy that may be personalized with multiple pictures in one toy creating the appearance that the subjects of all pictures are together on or in the model.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide an alternative to model toys that promote characters of a manufacturer's choosing and instead allow a user to customize the characters depicted on or in toys, thereby encouraging greater creativity and imagination.

It is an additional object of the present invention to provide model toys that encourage a user to imagine and create his or her own subjects and characters for the model toys;

It is a further object of the present invention is to provide a toy in which images of a user's choosing, whether personally created or commercially manufactured, can be moved from one model toy to another or periodically changed.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a model toy that capitalizes on current advancements in personal digital photography and home management of digital image files.

It is a further object of the present invention to personalize a variety of model toys designed to be collected and used together.

These and other objects and advantages of the combination of pictures with model toys will become apparent from a consideration of the present specification, claims, and drawings.

SUMMARY

In accordance with the present invention, a model toy incorporates one or more slots, openings, receptacles, structures, or detachable picture receptacle apparatuses in which a picture may be inserted so that the picture appears part of the model. More specifically, inanimate model toys, whether automated or not, are constructed so that a personalized image may be realistically incorporated into the model toy. Realistic positions include any positions where the subject of the image might be viewable in or on the actual object depicted by a model, such as in a window, door, or other opening or transparent feature.

DRAWINGS—FIGURES

For a better understanding of the present invention, reference is to be made to the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood that the combination of pictures with model toys is not limited to the precise arrangement shown in the drawings.

FIG. 1A shows a front, perspective view of multiple model window picture-viewing frames located in a model locomotive and a model train passenger car, each with a screw-on removable enclosure.

FIG. 1B shows a front, perspective view of the dissected components of a sample structure for a model window picture-viewing frame with a screw-on, removable enclosure.

FIG. 2 shows a side, perspective view of a model window picture-viewing frame with a hinged and clasped enclosure located in window or door position of a model airplane.

FIG. 3 shows a front, perspective view of model window picture-viewing frames located in window positions of a model train passenger car with a sliding, removable enclosure.

FIG. 4A shows a front, perspective view of a model window picture-viewing frame with hinged enclosure as may be located on a model building.

FIG. 4B shows a side, perspective view of a model window picture-viewing frame with a hinged enclosure as may be located on a model building.

FIG. 4C shows a side, cross-sectional view of a model window picture-viewing frame with a hinged enclosure as may be located on a model building and drawn on the plane indicated in FIG. 4A.

FIG. 5 shows a front, perspective view of a model door picture-viewing frame and a hinged door enclosure, each as may be located on a model building.

FIG. 6A shows a front, perspective view of a modular picture-viewing frame apparatus with a picture inserted therein.

FIG. 6B shows a front, perspective view of a model toy tractor that contains a recess for receiving a modular picture-viewing frame apparatus.

FIG. 6C shows a front, perspective view of the modular picture-viewing frame apparatus separated into its two primary components, the framed picture-receiving compartment and the clasped, removable enclosure with magnetic backing.

FIG. 6D shows a side, cross sectioned view of the assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus drawn at the plane indicated in FIG. 6A.

DRAWINGS—REFERENCE NUMERALS

Body of Model Toy:

    • 10a body of toy—train locomotive
    • 10b body of toy—train passenger car
    • 10c body of toy—conventional model toy
    • 10d body of toy—airplane
    • 10e body of toy—building
    • 10f body of toy—tractor
      Windows and Doors:
    • 11 model window picture-viewing frame
    • 11a transparent window
    • 11b window opening in door
    • 12 model door picture-viewing frame
      Components of Picture Location:
    • 13a picture slot
    • 13b picture slot frame
    • 13c opening for inserting picture
    • 13d picture recess
    • 13e integrated window frame
    • 13f exterior window frame
    • 13g modular picture-viewing frame apparatus
    • 13h recess for modular picture-viewing frame apparatus
    • 13i modular framed compartment
      Enclosures:
    • 14a removable enclosure—enclosed with screw
    • 14b hinged enclosure—enclosed with clasp
    • 14c removable enclosure—friction fit
    • 14d hinged enclosure—stays closed by gravity
    • 14e hinged door enclosure—enclosed with clasp
    • 14f removable enclosure—attached with clasps
      Fasteners:
    • 15a fastener—screw
    • 15b fastener—clasp
    • 16a fastener receptacle—screw hole
    • 16b fastener receptacle—clasp receptacle
    • 16c clasp catch
      Additional Parts:
    • 17 foam or rubber layer
    • 18a conventional picture
    • 18b removable sample picture of boy
    • 19 transparent film
    • 20a magnetic layer on body of toy
    • 20b magnetic layer on modular picture-viewing frame apparatus
    • 21 hinge
    • 22 grooves for receiving removable enclosure

DETAILED DESCRIPTION—PREFERRED EMBODIMENT—FIGS. 1A and 1B

A preferred embodiment of the structure for incorporating a picture into a model toy is illustrated in FIG. 1A (front, perspective view) and FIG. 1B (front, perspective, dissected components). In FIG. 1A, a toy train is used as an example of the toy, showing both a locomotive toy body (10a) and a train passenger car or coach toy body (10b). Transparent window openings (11a) are in locations where windows would typically be found on locomotives and passenger cars. Picture slots (13a) are located above and extend behind transparent window openings (11a). Removable enclosures (14a) have rubberized or foam layer (17) on one side, and may be attached to toy bodies (10a and 10b) with screws (15a). Screw holes (16a) are located within toy bodies (10a and 10b).

FIG. 1B (front, perspective, dissected components) further illustrates the above described model window picture-viewing structure (11). At the front of the structure is integrated window frame (13e). Transparent window opening (11a) is an opening in integrated window frame (13e). Behind this is transparent plastic, acrylic, or similar film or layer (19). Behind this is picture slot frame (13b) with opening at the top for inserting picture (13c). Behind this is body of toy (10c) with opening for receiving screw (16a). Removable enclosure (14a) has rubberized or foam layer on its bottom (17) and screw (15a). Toy body (l Oc) has screw hole (16a) in its top.

Operation—Peferred Embodiment—FIGS. 1A and 1B

As illustrated in FIG. 1A, removable enclosures (14a) may be attached or removed from toy bodies (10a and 10b) by screws (15a) which secure removable enclosures (14a) to toy bodies (10a and 10b) at screw holes (16a). When removable enclosures (14a) are removed, a conventional picture of a user's choosing may be inserted into picture slots (13a) that extend behind transparent window openings (11a). Transparent window openings (11a) allow user's pictures to be viewed. Removable enclosures (14a) are then reattached to toy bodies (10a and 10b) using screws (15a) inserted through removable enclosure (14a) and into screw holes (16a). Rubberized or foam layers (17) are located on removable enclosures (14a). When removable enclosures (14a) are attached to toy bodies (10a and 10b), foam layers (17) are compressed creating a seal and providing water-resistance.

FIG. 1B illustrates a sample structure for constructing model window picture-viewing frame (11) on any conventional toy body (10c). Picture slot frame (13b) with an opening at its top (13c) connects to body of model toy (10c). Transparent layer (19) is attached to picture slot frame (13b) to secure and protect picture (18a) which may be inserted into picture slot frame (13b). Integrated window frame (13e) connects to transparent film (19) and picture slot frame (13b). Integrated window frame (13e) may be integrated into the design of the toy being modeled. Once picture (18a) is inserted into picture slot frame (13b) at point of picture slot frame opening (13c), removable enclosure (14a) may be attached to model toy body (10c). Removable enclosure (14a) is attached to model toy body (10c) using screw (15a) which is inserted through removable enclosure (14a) and is guided into pre-formed screw receptacle or hole (16a) in toy body (10c). Foam or rubberized layer (17) is located on bottom of removable enclosure (14a) and allows removable enclosure (14a) to be securely fitted against toy body (10c) and provides some water-resistance.

Detailed Description—Alternative Embodiments—FIGS. 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 4C, 5, 6A, 6B, 6C, and 6D

There are various structural possibilities for integrating a picture in or on various model toys, some of which are depicted in FIGS. 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 4C, 5, 6A, 6B, 6C, and 6D.

In FIG. 2, a toy airplane is used as an example of a model toy with picture recess (13d) located in the typical position of a toy airplane's window or door. Window opening (11a) is integrated into hinged enclosure (14b). Hinged enclosure (14b) is a rectangular frame that is curved to fit toy body (10d). Hinged enclosure (14b) has a rectangular opening that serves as transparent window (11a). The inward side of hinged enclosure (14b) is covered with transparent film (19). Hinges (21) attach hinged enclosure (14b) to toy body (10d). Recess or depression (13d) is located in toy body (10d). Clasp (15b) is located on hinged enclosure (14b). Receptacle for clasp (16b) is located on body of toy (10d).

In FIG. 3, a train passenger car is used as an example of a model toy with window openings (11a) in the typical positions of a train passenger car's windows. Picture slots (13a) are located on toy body (10b) behind transparent windows (11a). Lateral grooves or slots (22) run along opposite, top sides of toy body (10b). Removable enclosure (14c) fits within grooves (22) and is illustrated as being half removed.

FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C illustrate an additional structure for combining a picture with a model toy. The plane from which FIG. 4C is drawn is indicated in FIG. 4A. FIG. 4A (front, perspective), 4B (side, perspective), and 4C (side, cross-section) illustrate exterior window frame (13f) attached to model building toy body (10e). Hinged enclosure (14d) is attached to toy body (10e) using hinges (21). FIG. 4A and FIG. 4B show window opening (11a) in exterior window frame (13f). FIGS. 4B and 4C illustrate transparent film (19) attached to inside of exterior window frame (13f). Picture (18a) is located in picture slot (13a). The back side of picture slot (13a) is provided by toy body (10e). The front edge, bottom, and right and left sides of picture slot (13a) are provided by exterior window frame (13f).

FIG. 5 (front, perspective) illustrates model door picture-viewing frame (12) and hinged door enclosure (14e). Uses of this embodiment include modeling a door on a model building. Model door picture-viewing frame (12) is comprised of picture slot frame (13b) attached to model building toy body (10e). Transparent film (19) is attached to picture slot frame (13b). Opening (13c) is within top of picture slot frame (13b). The toy is further modeled by hinged door enclosure (14e) that is attached to body of toy (10e) by hinges (21). In the present embodiment, hinged door enclosure (14e) is wider, taller, and deeper than picture slot frame (13b). Hinged door enclosure (14e) contains a rectangular opening that models a window opening (11b) in door. Clasp (15b) is positioned on hinged door enclosure (14e). Clasp receptacle (16b) is located on toy body (10e).

FIG. 6A (front, perspective) illustrates assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g). Sample picture of a boy (18b) is located in modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g). Transparent window (11a) is integrated into modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g).

FIG. 6B (front, perspective) illustrates model tractor toy body (10f) that modular picture-viewing frame apparatus of FIG. 6A may be attached to. In FIG. 6B, recess (13h) is located in toy body (10f). Magnetic layer (20a) is integrated into toy body (10f) in the back of recess (13h) for modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) of FIG. 6A.

FIG. 6C (front, perspective) illustrates modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) of FIG. 6A in greater detail. In FIG. 6C, modular framed compartment (13i) has integrated therein window opening (11a). Window opening (11a) in an opening to inside of modular framed compartment (13i). Transparent film (19) is attached to inside of modular framed compartment (13i) behind window opening (11a). Clasp catches (16c) are positioned on the top and bottom inside of modular framed compartment (13i). Removable enclosure (14f) has magnetic backing (20b) and clasps (15b) attached on top and bottom.

FIG. 6D (side, cross section) illustrates assembled modular picture frame apparatus (13g) in greater detail and is drawn on the plane illustrated in FIG. 6A. In FIG. 6D, modular framed compartment (13i) has clasp catches (16c) on its top and bottom. Transparent film (19) is attached to front inside of modular framed compartment (13i). Removable enclosure (14f) fits within modular frame compartment (13i). Clasps (15b) and magnetic backing (20b) are attached to removable enclosure (14f). Picture (18a) is located between framed compartment (13i) and removable enclosure (14f).

Operation—Alternative Embodiments—FIGS. 2, 3, 4A, 4B, 4C, 5, 6A, 6B, 6C and 6D

In FIG. 2, hinged enclosure (14b) is opened by releasing clasp (15b) that is gripped in clasp receptacle (16b). Hinged enclosure (14b) pivots open at hinges (21). Once opened, a conventional picture of a user's choosing may be placed in picture recess (13d) incorporated into toy body (10d). Hinged enclosure (14b) is pressed shut so that clasp (15b) is gripped in clasp receptacle (16b). Transparent film or layer (19) affixed to the inside of hinged enclosure (14b) secures and protects picture.

In FIG. 3, removable enclosure (14c) may be slid out of grooves (22) which guide and secure removable closure (14c). As illustrated, the primary mechanisms for holding removable enclosure (14c) in grooves (22) is friction. When enclosure (14c) is removed, picture slots (13a) in top of toy body (10b) are exposed. One or more conventional pictures of the user's choosing may then be inserted into picture slots (13a) and viewed through transparent model windows (11a). Enclosure (14c) is then slid back into grooves (22) to enclose picture slots (13a) and secure pictures.

In FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C, hinged enclosure (14d) is opened by lifting enclosure (14d) so that it pivots at hinges (21). Once hinged enclosure (14d) is opened, a user has access to picture slot (13a) as shown in FIG. 4B and FIG. 4C. Picture (18a) may be placed into picture slot (13a). Picture (18a) may then be viewed in picture slot (13a) through transparent protective film (19) and window opening (11a). After picture (18a) is inserted into picture slot (13a), hinged enclosure (14d) may be pressed shut to cover picture slot (13a). Hinged enclosure (14d) remains closed by gravity.

In FIG. 5, hinged door enclosure (14e) may be opened by releasing clasp (15b) from clasp receptacle (16b). Hinged door enclosure (14e) is then pushed open, pivoting at hinges (21) which are attached to toy body (10e). Opening hinged door enclosure (14e) exposes model door picture-viewing frame (12). A conventional picture of the user's choosing may be inserted into top opening (13c) of model door picture-viewing frame (12) thereby placing the picture behind protective transparent film (19) and within picture slot frame (13b). This gives the illusion that the subject of the picture is inside an open door. Hinged door enclosure (14e) may then be closed over model door picture-viewing frame (12) and secured by pressing clasp (15b) into clasp receptacle (16b) on toy body (10e). When hinged door enclosure (14e) is closed, door window opening (11b) allows a partial view of the picture inserted in model door picture-viewing frame (12), creating the illusion that the subject of the picture is behind a closed door. When hinged door enclosure (14e) is closed, it nests around model door picture-viewing frame (12). When hinged door enclosure (14e) is closed, it completely conceals picture slot frame (13b) and encloses model door picture-viewing frame (12).

In FIG. 6A, sample picture of a boy (18b) is inserted in assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g). Transparent window opening (11a) allows viewing of sample picture of boy (18b) within modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g). A sample structure for modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) is indicated in cross section in FIG. 6D, drawn on a plane as indicated in FIG. 6A. FIG. 6C and FIG. 6D illustrate magnetic backing (20b) on modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g). Magnetic backing (20b) allows modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) to be magnetically attached to toy body (10f) illustrated in FIG. 6B at magnetic layer (20a) incorporated into toy body (10f).

In FIG. 6B, a tractor is used to exemplify one embodiment of how a modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) as illustrated in FIG. 6A may be attached to a model toy. In FIG. 6B, recess (13h) is located within toy body (10f). Magnetic layer (20a) is incorporated into toy body (10f) at the back of recess for modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13h). Assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) of FIG. 6A fits within recess (13h) of FIG. 6B and remains attached by magnetism.

In FIG. 6C, a conventional picture of a user's choosing may be inserted into modular framed compartment (13i) which is open on its backside. Once the picture is inserted into modular framed compartment (13i), said picture may be viewed through window (11a) and is protected by transparent film (19) on modular framed compartment's (13i) front side. Removable enclosure (14f) is then pressed or snapped into modular framed compartment's (13i) backside to hold the picture within modular framed compartment (13i). Clasps (15b) on removable enclosure (14f) interlock with clasp catches (16c) in modular framed compartment (13i) as illustrated in FIG. 6D. In FIG. 6C, magnetic layer (20b) on the back of removable enclosure (14f) is used to affix assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) to toy body (10f) illustrated in FIG. 6B at the location of recess (13h).

FIG. 6D is a cross section of modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) drawn on a plane as indicated in FIG. 6A. In FIG. 6D, picture (18a) is inserted into modular framed compartment (13i) and enclosure (14f) is snapped into modular framed compartment (13i) by clasps (15b) attached to enclosure (14f) that grip or interlock with clasp catches (16c) attached to modular framed compartment (13i). Magnetic layer (20b) on the back of the removable enclosure (14f) is then used to affix assembled modular picture-viewing frame apparatus (13g) to toy body (10f) illustrated in FIG. 6B at the location of the recess (13h).

CONCLUSION, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE

Thus, the reader will see that various structures for integrating a picture into a model toy may be combined with various model toys of inanimate objects. Designs may be chosen that provide picture-protective qualities and water-resistance. Mechanisms for opening and closing enclosures vary considerably and may be modular.

The combination of pictures with model toys thereby allows a user to personalize his or her play with toy models of inanimate objects in a manner not previously contemplated, and provides the following additional advantages:

    • Personalized picture to be combined with a three-dimensional, realistic, child-proof model toy in a manner not previously contemplated in the prior art;
    • A user may periodically change the picture within a model toy;
    • A user may move a picture from one model toy to another;
    • The present invention may be embodied in a variety of model toys which may be collected, personalized, and used together as collections or sets;
    • The present invention capitalizes on current advancements in digital photography and home management of digital image files;
    • The present invention provides an alternative to character-based toys and encourages greater creativity and imagination by allowing a user to personalize characters depicted on model toys;
    • A model toy is provided that enables a user to create the illusion that an image of a user's choosing is an actual scaled component of the model toy; and
    • In the modular picture viewing frame apparatus or similar embodiments, the present invention allows the picture to be inserted once and then the entire apparatus may be moved from one model toy to another, providing an ease of interactive personalization not previously contemplated in the prior art.

Many other ramifications and variations are possible within the teachings of the invention. For example, any of the structures depicted among the various drawings may be incorporated into any model toy. For example, the door of FIG. 5 may be used on a car instead of on a building. Model toys may include, without limitation: train engines; various train cars; flying subjects such as airplanes, hot-air balloons, rockets, and shuttles; rescue vehicles or machinery such as fire trucks, ambulances, and police cars; construction or farm vehicles or machines such as tractors and bucket loaders; vehicles such a buses, cars, and taxis; buildings such as houses, municipal buildings, stations, depots, barns, and sheds; and various destinations such as circus tents, zoo exhibits, and ferris wheels.

Furthermore, additional structures for integrating pictures into model toys are within the teachings of the present invention. For example, laminated or sealed pictures may be inserted into picture slots or grooves on a model toy. Alternatively, a picture may be placed against a metal or magnetic toy body and secured by placing over it a metal or magnetic picture enclosure with an opening for viewing the picture.

Additional uses for integrating personalized pictures into model toys are also within the teachings of the present invention. For example, commercialized characters may be promoted by printing the characters on pictures that can be moved from one model toy to another. In addition, the term “picture” is defined to include photographs, art works, drawings, clippings, and any other primarily two-dimensional objects of a user's or manufacturer's choosing.

Accordingly, while the above descriptions contain many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of combining pictures with model toys of inanimate objects, but as exemplifications of the presently preferred embodiments and alternatives thereof. Although the combination of personalized pictures with model toys has been described in connection with the preferred and alternative embodiments shown herein, they are not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms set forth, but on the contrary, are intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims. Since certain changes may be made in the above described apparatus without departing from the scope of the invention herein involved, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description and in the accompanying drawings, if present, shall be interpreted as illustrative only and not in a limiting sense. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be determined not by the embodiments illustrated, but by the appended claims and their legal equivalents.