Title:
Toy building pieces
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toy comprises a plurality of building pieces that can be selectively interconnected using either interfitting bulbs and sockets or magnetic coupling parts, or both. Each building piece has a generally circular body that includes a plurality of circumferentially spaced connecting bulbs about an outer periphery thereof and a plurality of connecting sockets located inwardly from the bulbs on at least the front side of the body. The magnetic coupling part is located on at least the backside of the body and is rotatably secured to the body to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.



Inventors:
Oakley, Daniel R. (San Francisco, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/187324
Publication Date:
01/25/2007
Filing Date:
07/22/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63H33/10
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20090100571APPAREL WITH ATTACHED HAND PUPPETSApril, 2009Soto
20090117818Miniature toy for supporting doll on a bicycleMay, 2009Leynes
20080045121Method of making a body shell for a model automobileFebruary, 2008Bailes
20090176438Gift card delivery deviceJuly, 2009Meno
20050159073Segmented figure with magnetic couplingsJuly, 2005Nelson et al.
20080125006DYNAMO POWERED AMUSEMENT DEVICEMay, 2008Yu et al.
20080188158Toy construction setAugust, 2008Massa
20080263766MAT FOR CHILD DEVELOPMENTOctober, 2008Omar
20070298679MODULAR PLAY STRUCTUREDecember, 2007Perego
20080153383HOOP-TYPE AMUSEMENT DEVICE AND COUNTERJune, 2008Mendel



Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Hovey Williams LLP (Overland Park, KS, US)
Claims:
1. A toy building piece comprising: a generally circular body having a pair of opposite sides, a plurality of circumferentially spaced connecting bulbs about an outer periphery of the body, and a plurality of connecting sockets on at least one side of the body; and a magnetic coupling part on at least the other side of the body.

2. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said magnetic coupling part and said body being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

3. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said one side of the body presenting a convex central portion having said connecting sockets formed therein.

4. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 3, said central portion having a recess dimensioned for receiving the tip of the thumb of a player's hand.

5. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 3, said connecting bulbs being joined to said central portion by generally radially extending necks.

6. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 5, said bulbs being asymmetrically shaped to present an enlarged portion offset laterally from a longitudinal axis of the neck.

7. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 6, said bulbs being arranged in pairs about the periphery of the body with the enlarged portions of the bulbs in each pair facing one another.

8. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 7, said magnetic coupling part and said body being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

9. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said body being constructed from a synthetic resinous material.

10. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 9, said synthetic resinous material comprising polyvinyl chloride.

11. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said body being translucent.

12. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said connecting bulbs being symmetrical.

13. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 12, said one side of the body having a convex central portion, said connecting bulbs being joined directly to said central portion.

14. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 13, said magnetic coupling part and said body being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

15. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 1, said body including a central hub and a plurality of spokes projecting generally radially outwardly from said hub, said bulbs being disposed at the outer ends of said spokes.

16. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 15, each of said spokes including a single base having a pair of said bulbs projecting outwardly therefrom.

17. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 16, said sockets being located in said bases.

18. A toy building piece as claimed in claim 17, said magnetic coupling part and said body being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

19. A toy comprising: a plurality of releasably interconnectable building pieces, each of which has a generally circular body having a pair of opposite sides, a plurality of circumferentially spaced connecting bulbs about an outer periphery of the body, a plurality of connecting sockets on at least one side of the body, and a magnetic coupling part on at least the other side of the body.

20. A toy as claimed in claim 19, said magnetic coupling part and said body of each piece being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

21. A toy as claimed in claim 19, said plurality of pieces including a plurality of first pieces, each of which has one side of its body presenting a convex central portion having said connecting sockets formed therein.

22. A toy as claimed in claim 21, said connecting bulbs being joined to said central portion by generally radially extending necks.

23. A toy as claimed in claim 22, said bulbs being asymmetrically shaped to present an enlarged portion offset laterally from a longitudinal axis of the neck.

24. A toy as claimed in claim 23, said magnetic coupling part and said body of each first piece being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

25. A toy as claimed in claim 24, said plurality of pieces including a plurality of second pieces, each of which has one side of its body provided with a convex central portion, said connecting bulbs being joined directly to said central portion.

26. A toy as claimed in claim 25, said magnetic coupling part and said body of each second piece being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

27. A toy as claimed in claim 26, said plurality of pieces including a plurality of third pieces, each of which includes a central hub and a plurality of spokes projecting generally radially outwardly from said hub, said bulbs being disposed at the outer ends of said spokes.

28. A toy as claimed in claim 27, each of said spokes including a single base having a pair of said bulbs projecting outwardly therefrom.

29. A toy as claimed in claim 28, said sockets being located in said bases.

30. A toy as claimed in claim 29, said magnetic coupling part and said body of each third piece being rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

31. A toy as claimed in claim 20, said body of each piece being constructed from a synthetic resinous material.

32. A toy as claimed in claim 31, said synthetic resinous material comprising polyvinyl chloride.

33. A toy as claimed in claim 20, said body of each piece being translucent.

34. A toy as claimed in claim 33, said plurality of pieces including first, second and third pieces of different colors.

35. A toy comprising: a plurality of releasably interconnectable building pieces, each of which has a generally circular body and a magnetic coupling part to permit pieces to be selectively magnetically interconnected using the magnetic coupling parts, said body of each piece having a plurality of circumferentially spaced connecting bulbs about an outer periphery thereof and a plurality of connecting sockets disposed inwardly from said bulbs to permit pieces to be selectively interconnected using the bulbs and sockets, each building piece having its body and magnetic coupling part rotatably interconnected to permit the body to spin relative to the magnetic coupling part.

36. A toy as claimed in claim 35, said sockets being on at least one side of the body and said magnetic coupling part being on at least the opposite side of the body.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to toys and, more particularly, to fun-to-use toy building pieces that can be quickly and easily releasably connected together to create a wide variety of imaginative structures.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY

In many respects the toy building pieces of the present invention are an extension of the concepts disclosed and claimed in my U.S. Pat. No. 6,702,641 titled “Toy Building Blocks” and assigned to the assignee of the present invention. The '641 patent is hereby incorporated by reference into the present specification.

As in my prior patent, the toy pieces of the present invention may be interconnected with one another by two alternative means, i.e., a mechanical ball and socket type connection or a magnetic attachment using magnetically attracted coupling parts on the pieces. While in my prior building blocks the interfitting mechanical connections were provided on separate pieces, e.g., a bulb on one piece and a socket on another, in the present invention each building piece contains both connecting bulbs and connecting sockets. Thus, each piece can use its bulb to connect to the socket of another piece, or can use one of its sockets to receive the bulb of another piece. Furthermore, in the present invention the building pieces are generally circular in overall configuration and are somewhat in the nature of wheels or gears that can spin about an axis of rotation presented by a bearing assembly associated with a central hub of the piece. The magnetic coupling part of each piece is associated with the bearing assembly in such a manner that the magnetic part can remain stationarily connected to an adjacent piece while the body of the building piece spins about its axis.

In one preferred embodiment, the toy pieces are constructed from a relatively soft, resilient material such as polyvinyl chloride with gentle rounded contours throughout all portions of the pieces to produce a comfortable hand feel. The toy pieces may be provided in a multiplicity of different colors and may either be opaque or translucent, depending upon the desired visual effect.

In one preferred embodiment of the invention, the toy pieces are provided in three different shapes and sizes, although many others can also be created without departing from the principles of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 comprises isometric views of three toy building pieces constructed in accordance with the principles of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a front plan view of the largest of the three pieces in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the backside of the large piece;

FIG. 4 is a side elevational view of the large piece;

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the large piece taken substantially along line 5-5 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 6 is another cross-sectional view of the large piece taken substantially along line 6-6 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 7 is a front plan view of the smallest of the three pieces in FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a side elevational view of the small piece;

FIG. 9 is a plan view of the backside of the small piece;

FIG. 10 is a cross-sectional view of the small piece taken substantially along line 10-10 of FIG. 7;

FIG. 11 is a front plan view of the intermediate size piece of the three pieces in FIG. 1;

FIG. 12 is a side elevational view of the intermediate size piece;

FIG. 13 is a plan view of the backside of the intermediate size piece;

FIG. 14 is a cross-sectional view of the intermediate piece taken substantially along line 14-14 of FIG. 11;

FIG. 15 is an isometric view of three of the three pieces from FIG. 1 interconnected in one illustrative manner to form an assembly; and

FIG. 16 is an elevational view of a slightly different assembly of pieces with the large piece illustrated in cross-section to reveal details of construction.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The present invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms. While the drawings illustrate and the specification describes certain preferred embodiments of the invention, it is to be understood that such disclosure is by way of example only. There is no intent to limit the principles of the present invention to the particular disclosed embodiments.

In one preferred form of the invention, the toy includes a set of at least three different configurations of building pieces. To this end, the toy illustrated in the drawings includes a large piece 10, a small piece 12, and an intermediate sized piece 14. All three pieces are generally circular and are suggestive of wheels or gears having abstractly shaped contours and interconnecting portions. Preferably, a full set contains several replications of each configuration.

With particularly reference to FIGS. 2-6, large piece 10 comprises a generally circular body having a generally circular central portion 16 and a plurality of connecting bulbs 18 spaced circumferentially about its outer periphery. Each of the bulbs 18 is connected to central portion 16 by a generally radially extending neck 20 of reduced diameter relative to bulb 18. Each of the bulbs 18 is asymmetrically shaped with an enlarged portion 22 thereof (FIGS. 2 and 3) laterally offset from the longitudinal axis of the corresponding neck 20. Bulbs 18 are arranged in pairs about the periphery of central portion 16 such that the enlarged portions 22 generally face one another as illustrated in the drawings.

Large piece 10 has a front side 24 and a backside 26. Front side 24 is slightly convex and is provided with a plurality of sockets 28 therein that are configured complementally to bulbs 18 such that a selected bulb of another large piece 10 can be inserted into and releasably retained by a selected socket 28, thus mechanically interconnecting the two pieces. In the particular embodiment of the invention illustrated in the drawings, the large piece 10 is provided with a pair of connecting sockets 28 and with a larger recess 30 dimensioned to permit the insertion of a user's thumb tip. Preferably, sockets 28 are sized to permit the releasable insertion of a user's index finger and middle finger such that, in conjunction with the thumb being inserted into recess 30, the large piece 10 may be prepared for receiving a spinning twist from the user when large piece 10 is connected with another piece and used as a spinning top. Also, the two sockets 28 and larger recess 30 form a caricature of a human face, with two eyes, an open mouth, and a nose formed by a button 31 (as hereinafter described in more detail).

Preferably, the sockets 28 and bulbs 18 are so dimensioned that a bulb 18 can be snap-fit into a selected socket 28 with the application of a relatively mild pushing force. In this respect, each socket is preferably designed so that the receiving cavity thereof is somewhat larger in diameter than the outer entry portion thereof so that once an entering bulb has been forced beyond the entry portion of the socket, it will snap into the roomier portions of the socket and be retained against unintended release by the more confined entry. Constructing the pieces of the present invention out of a suitable polyvinyl chloride or other material that is slightly compressibly resilient aids in this type of snap-fit retention and also permits the retaining effect of the more confined entry to be overcome with a mild pulling action in a direction to disengage the bulb from the sockets. Once within the socket, the bulb 18 is allowed to rotate so that one of the pieces can be rotated relative to the other.

The backside 26 of large piece 10 is provided with a centrally disposed magnetic coupling part 32 at the center of the piece. Preferably, magnetic coupling part 32 comprises a permanent magnet having an exposed surface of one polarity so that other toy pieces having permanent magnets with exposed surfaces of the opposite polarity can be attached to piece 10 by interengagement of the magnets. Magnetic coupling part 32 is fixed to the rotatable portion 33 of a bearing assembly 34 so that magnetic coupling part 32 and the body of large piece 10 are rotatably interconnected. This permits the body of large piece 10 to be spun relative to magnetic coupling part 32 about a centrally disposed axis extending through coupling part 32. A stationary tubular receiver 36 of bearing assembly 34 projects into the body of piece 10 and is fixed thereto so as to anchor bearing assembly 34 to piece 10. Button 31 closes the front end of a stepped bore 37 through the body of large piece 10 that fixedly receives receiver 36. An annular recess 38 in backside 26 concentrically surrounds coupling part 32 at a radially spaced distance therefrom to reduce the mass of piece 10. An island or hub 40 is thus presented inboard of recess 38 and provides solid material within which bearing assembly 34 may be anchored.

With primary reference to FIGS. 7-10, the small building piece 12 is similar in many respects to large piece 10. Like the large piece 10, small piece 12 has a generally circular body provided with a circular central portion 42 and a plurality of connecting bulbs 44 disposed at circumferentially spaced intervals about the periphery of central portion 42. Unlike bulbs 18 of the large piece 10, however, bulbs 44 of small piece 12 are symmetrically shaped in the nature of balls or spheres and are connected directly to central portion 42 without intervening slender necks. In the illustrated embodiment, six identical bulbs 44 are presented and are spaced equally about the periphery of central portion 42 at 60° intervals.

Small piece 12 has a slightly convex front side 46, and a backside 48. Front side 46 is provided with a plurality of connecting sockets 50 (preferably three) that are sized and shaped to releasably receive and retain connecting bulbs 44 of other small pieces 12. Sockets 50 are also adapted to receive and releasably retain connecting bulbs 18 of large piece 10, as well as connecting bulbs of the intermediate sized piece 14 as hereinafter described. Connecting bulbs 44 of small piece 12 are also releasably retainable by connecting sockets 28 of large piece 10. Small piece 12 is preferably constructed of the same material as large piece 10 such that bulbs 44 and sockets 50 perform their interfitting action in the same manner as the bulbs 18 and sockets 28 of large piece 10.

Backside 48 of small piece 12 is provided with a magnetic coupling part 52 at the center thereof, like magnetic coupling part 32 of large piece 10. Preferably, coupling part 52 comprises a permanent magnet having an exposed surface of a polarity that is opposite to the polarity of an exposed surface of the magnets associated with other building pieces in the set so that such pieces can be interconnected magnetically if desired. Like magnetic coupling part 32 of large piece 10, magnetic coupling part 52 of small piece 12 is associated with a bearing assembly 54 that enables the body of small piece 12 to spin relative to coupling part 52. An annular recess 56 in backside 48 of small piece 12 concentrically surrounds magnetic coupling part 52 in radially spaced relation thereto so as to present a central hub 58 of solid material within which a stationary part of bearing assembly 54 may be embedded.

With primary reference to FIGS. 11-14, the intermediate piece 14 has a generally circular body provided with a plurality of connecting bulbs 60 spaced circumferentially about the periphery thereof. Bulbs 60 comprise parts of a plurality of generally radially outwardly projecting spokes 62 of piece 14, such spokes 62 being integrally joined to a central hub 64 and projecting generally radially outwardly therefrom. Each spoke 62 includes a main, single base 66 and a pair of the bulbs 60 projecting angularly outwardly from the base 66. Each of the bulbs 60 is connected to its base 66 by a slender neck 68. In the illustrated embodiment, a total of five spokes 62 are presented at equally spaced intervals about central hub 64, the two necks 68 of each spoke diverging slightly as the outermost extremities of the piece 14 are approached.

Intermediate piece 14 has a front side 70 and a backside 72. Front side 70 is provided with a series of connecting sockets 74, one of such sockets 74 being provided in each base 66 of a spoke 62. In the illustrated embodiment, sockets 74 pass entirely through bases 66 so as to present corresponding holes in the backside 72, although such holes are smaller in diameter than the entries to sockets 74 on the front side 70.

Sockets 74 are configured to matingly receive and releasably retain connecting bulbs 44 of small piece 12, connecting bulbs 18 of large piece 10, or connecting bulbs 60 of other intermediate pieces 14. The same type of snap-fit, releasable interconnection is achieved with sockets 74 as with other sockets of the building pieces, due in part to the fact that sockets 74 are configured generally similarly to the sockets 28 and 50 of the other pieces. Additionally, intermediate piece 14 is preferably constructed from the same soft and resilient material as the other pieces 10 and 12.

Intermediate piece 14 is provided with a magnetic coupling part 76 on its backside 72 that is similar to coupling parts 32 and 52 of the other pieces. Like the other coupling parts, coupling part 76 is preferably a permanent magnet having an exposed surface of a polarity that is opposite to the polarity of the exposed surfaces of coupling parts of other large and small pieces 10, 12 as well as the coupling parts of other intermediate pieces 14 in the set. Thus, the intermediate pieces 14 may be selectively connected with other pieces magnetically as an alternative to a mechanical connection using its bulbs 60 and/or its sockets 74. In a preferred embodiment, magnetic coupling part 76 is associated with a bearing assembly 78 having a stationary part that is fixed to hub 64 so that magnetic coupling part 76 and the body of intermediate piece 14 are rotatably interconnected. This allows the body to be spun relative to coupling part 76 if desired.

Preferably, as above noted, all of the pieces 10, 12 and 14 are constructed of the same type of soft, tough yet slightly resilient material such as a suitable polyvinyl chloride. Various polymeric based compositions are suitable for making the toy pieces of the present invention. Particularly suitable is a composition containing approximately 67.00% by weight suitable polyvinyl chloride resin, approximately 24.00% by weight suitable plasticizer, approximately 3.50% by weight suitable stabilizer, approximately 3.50% by weight suitable epoxy, approximately 1.00% by weight suitable processing additives, approximately 0.50% by weight suitable lubricant, and approximately 1.00% by weight suitable modifier. One particularly preferred polyvinyl chloride resin is available from Shin-Etsu Chemical Co., Ltd. of Tokyo, Japan under the trade designation TK-1000. One particularly preferred plasticizer is phthalate, such as available under the trade designation JAYFLEX DINP from Exxon Chemical Company. A particularly preferred stabilizer is MARK CZ 123 available from Witco Vinyl Additives GmbH of Lampertheim, Germany. A particularly preferred epoxy is epoxidised soya bean oil available from Ciba-Geigy Corporation of Tarrytown, N.Y. under the trade designation IRGAPLAST 39 or from Witco Vinyl Additives GmbH of Lampertheim, Germany under the trade designation DRAPEX 39. The processing additives, lubricant and modifier may be selected from a wide variety of brands and sources, as well known to those skilled in the art. Preferably, the material from which the pieces are made has a Shore hardness of about 90 to about 95 durometer on the A scale.

The bodies of toy pieces 10, 12, and 14 may be translucent or opaque as may be desired for aesthetics. To further enhance the aesthetic appeal of the pieces, they may be of different colors.

The abstractly shaped toy pieces of the present invention can be creatively combined to present any number of different configurations. One very basic combination of three of the pieces 10, 12, and 14 is illustrated in FIG. 15 to show the manner in which the pieces can be selectively interconnected magnetically or mechanically as maybe desired. In the simple assembly illustrated in FIGS. 15, one of the large pieces 10 is magnetically connected to one of the small pieces 12 using coupling parts 32 and 52 and mechanically connected to one of the intermediate pieces 14 using a pair of the bulbs 18 and a pair of the sockets 74. Small piece 12 can spin relative to large piece 10 (and vice versa) about an axis extending through magnetic coupling parts 32 and 52. By having two of the bulbs 18 retained by sockets 74, intermediate piece 14 cannot rotate relative to large piece 10, but if only one of the bulbs 18 were retained by a socket 74, the intermediate piece 14 could be rotated relative to large piece 10, and vice versa.

FIG. 16 illustrates a slight variation of the arrangement in FIG. 15 wherein one of the large pieces 10 is still magnetically connected to one of the small pieces 12 and mechanically connected to one of the intermediate pieces 14, but the mechanical connection is achieved by one of the bulbs 60 of intermediate piece 14 being received by a socket 28 of large piece 10. The intermediate piece 14 can be rotated relative to large piece 10 within socket 28.

It will be appreciated that numerous variations in the pieces 10, 12, and 14 can be made without departing from the principles of the present invention. For example, the pieces can be provided in a variety of other shapes and sizes. Moreover, while in the particular embodiments disclosed herein connecting sockets are provided on only one side of the bodies, such sockets may be provided on both sides as well. Similarly, while in the disclosed embodiments magnetic coupling parts are provided on only one side, the pieces could be provided with magnetic coupling parts on both the front and backsides.

The inventor(s) hereby state(s) his/their intent to rely on the Doctrine of Equivalents to determine and assess the reasonably fair scope of his/their invention as pertains to any apparatus not materially departing from but outside the literal scope of the invention as set out in the following claims.