Title:
Advertising panel and electronic timing device for floor mats
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A floor mat with a recess therein for matably receiving and frictionally retaining a block with a top surface for advertising, branding, or other messages. An electrical circuit in the block includes a timer, a battery and an LED light, and is configured to illuminate the light after the timer times out, thus indicating when the absorbent sheet on top of the mat or the mat itself needs to be replaced.



Inventors:
Foote, Frederick C. (Haslett, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/265959
Publication Date:
05/03/2007
Filing Date:
11/03/2005
Assignee:
Foote-Mats, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47L23/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
THOMAS, ALEXANDER S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PRICE HENEVELD LLP (GRAND RAPIDS, MI, US)
Claims:
The embodiment for which a privilege or property right is claimed includes:

1. A floor mat construction comprising: a floor mat; and a replaceable block positioned in the mat and having indicia visible on a top surface thereof.

2. The floor mat construction defined in claim 1, wherein the block is configured to frictionally fit into a recess in the floor mat.

3. The floor mat construction defined in claim 1, including a sticker adhered to the top surface of the block and including the indicia.

4. The floor mat construction defined in claim 1, including an electrical circuit in the block, the electrical circuit including a timer, a battery and a light; the circuit being configured to illuminate the light after the timer times out, thus indicating when the floor mat needs maintenance, such as cleaning or replacement.

5. The floor mat construction defined in claim 4, including an absorbent sheet on the floor mat, and wherein timing out of the timer indicates a need to replace the absorbent sheet.

6. The floor mat construction defined in claim 1, wherein the top surface of the block includes a three-dimensional object formed thereon for advertising and interest-catching purposes.

7. The floor mat construction defined in claim 1, including a battery and lighted display in the block.

8. An apparatus comprising: a floor mat including absorbent material; and an electrical circuit connected to the floor mat, the electrical circuit including a timer, a battery and a display; the circuit being configured to activate the display after the timer times out, thus indicating when the absorbent material or floor mat need maintenance.

9. The apparatus defined in claim 8, wherein the timer is adjustable.

10. The apparatus defined in claim 8, wherein the display includes a light that operates to indicate the need for maintenance.

11. A floor mat construction comprising: a non-slip floor-engaging base defining a shallow recess on a top surface thereof; and a block shaped to fit into the shallow recess, the block including side walls that frictionally engage sides of the shallow recess for retaining the block to the rubber base.

12. The floor mat construction defined in claim 11, wherein the block includes a top surface angled relative to a top of the base to improve a viewing angle of the top surface.

13. The floor mat construction defined in claim 11, wherein the block includes a lens forming a part of the top surface, the lens including indicia.

14. The floor mat construction defined in claim 11, including an absorbent sheet on the base.

15. The floor mat construction defined in claim 14, including a timer indicating when the absorbent sheet requires maintenance.

16. The floor mat construction defined in claim 11, including a battery and lighted display on the block.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an advertising panel and an electronic timing device which are intended to increase the functionality of floor mats in locations of use, such as in front of urinals and toilets in public restrooms, in high-spill food service areas, or in high-traffic public areas such as building entrances. In particular, the present invention relates to a small, domino-sized block of optimal size, shape and material that can serve one or both of the functions mentioned above and that can be quickly and easily assembled to a mat, such as by a friction fit into a comparably-sized receiving well positioned in a floor mat, although the present invention is not contemplated to be limited to only that particular aspect.

BACKGROUND DISCUSSION OF THE PRIOR ART

Attempts are known in the art to maintain sanitary conditions in restrooms near toilets and wall-mounted urinals using grids, mats, carpet squares, or absorbent sheets, particularly in public restrooms for men where unwanted moisture, odor and bacteria on the floors commonly present both sanitary and aesthetic problems. One such attempt to address the problem of urine on bathroom floors is known as the Foote-Mat™ disposable restroom floor-mat system. This system utilizes a rubber base mat combined with disposable top sheets made of a plurality of sonically-fused layers that serve to hide stains, absorb moisture, and act as an effective antimicrobial to hinder the growth of odor-emitting bacteria associated with urine on restroom floors.

Of concern is how to make such urinal base mats suitable for name branding or for advertising by third-party advertisers in a way that is effective and inexpensive. Of further concern is how to provide a reliable mechanism for a janitor to know when to change out base mats or disposable top sheets so that they are neither changed out too frequently (thus adding unnecessarily to the cost of properly maintaining a restroom floor) or too infrequently (thus compromising the improvements to restroom cleanliness that urinal mats and disposable top sheets can provide if they are not left so long on restroom floors as to become saturated with urine, or otherwise ineffective).

Accordingly, a floor mat is desired having the aforementioned advantages and solving the aforementioned problems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect of the present invention, a floor mat construction includes a floor mat and a replaceable block positioned on the mat with an indicia visible on a top surface thereof.

In another aspect of the present invention, an apparatus includes a floor mat with an absorbent material, and an electrical circuit connected to the floor mat. The electrical circuit includes a timer, a battery and a display, and is configured to activate the display after the timer times out, thus indicating when the absorbent material or floor mat needs maintenance.

In another aspect of the present invention, a floor mat construction includes a non-slip, floor-engaging base defining a shallow recess on a top surface, and a block shaped to fit into the shallow recess. The block includes side walls that frictionally engage sides of the shallow recess for retaining the block to the rubber base.

An object of the present invention is to provide for a small block of roughly the size and shape of a small, hollowed-out domino piece that could be inserted into a urinal or toilet base mat and which would provide an advertising or branding space as well as, optionally, housing the circuitry necessary to provide an electronic indication of when a janitor should change out a disposable top sheet intended to gather urine drips and stains below urinals and toilets in public restrooms.

Thus, a system having the aforementioned advantages and solving the aforementioned problems is desired.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

The foregoing features, as well as other features, will become apparent with reference to the description and figures below in which like numerals represent like elements and in which:

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of floor mat and advertising block removably attached to a corner of the floor mat.

FIG. 2 is a rear elevational view showing an open rear of the block shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a rear elevational view similar to FIG. 2, but modified to close the rear and to include a watertight cavity for housing electronics.

FIG. 4 is a bottom view of the block shown in FIG. 1, including the timer dial and battery compartment associated with the electronics in the block.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present floor mat construction 20 (FIG. 1) includes a base 21, an absorbent sheet 22 removably positioned on top of the base 21, and a removably-attached block 24 positioned in the recess 23 as described below. The illustrated recess 23 is sized to closely receive and frictionally engage the outer surfaces of the sheet 22 as well as resiliently holding and retaining the block 24 in place. Nonetheless, it is contemplated that other attachment means, such as adhesive, snap attachment, and the like, can be used and is within a scope of the present invention.

A detailed description of the base and sheet are not believed to be necessary for an understanding of the present invention, but if additional detail is desired, the reader's attention is directed to the following patents and published applications: U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/977,330, filed Nov. 24, 1997, entitled FLOOR-MAT SYSTEM (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,295,658), and U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/877,268, filed Jun. 24, 2004, entitled DISPOSABLE FLOOR MAT. The entire teachings and content of these patents and publications are incorporated herein for the purpose of enablement and full disclosure.

The present construction takes advantage of the fact that people visit restrooms on a regular basis, which provides an inexpensive and simple means of name branding or advertising. Advantageously, a domino-sized block adapted to be inserted into a urinal or toilet base mat could be manufactured very inexpensively. The block could be covered on its topmost surface with a sticker advertising the establishment in which the restroom is located (such as a hotel chain, a fast food restaurant, or a football stadium, for instance) or advertising a third-party product such as a certain brand of beer (in a bar or restaurant where that beer is served, for instance). Alternatively, the advertisement or symbol could be engraved into the top surface of the block. If desired, the block could be friction-attached, so that it is removable for cleaning or replacement.

In the illustrated embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the block is made of a plastic having good adhesive bonding characteristics and durability against wear. The illustrated block is relatively small (such as approximately 2.25″×1.0″), but is large enough to be readily visible from above. The block is wedge-shaped with a top surface that inclines at an angle upwardly and rearwardly from a front edge of the block to a rear edge. For example, the front edge could be from about 0.125″ to 0.25″ in height, and the back edge could be about 0.50″ to 0.75″ in height. The angle of the top surface is selected to optimize the viewing angle of the sticker attached to the topmost surface, making it easier for a person to see while standing over the floor mat and looking down. Also, the recess has a depth selected to cause a rear part of the block to protrude upwardly, thus making it more noticeable and interesting to a person noticing the same. The illustrated block is hollowed out to save in material costs. This also improves mold time and part quality by avoiding heavy sections of material that can cause sinks and depressions as they cool during the molding process. It is noted that the base could include rubber protrusions in the recess that engage an inside of the block, as well as the outside, if desired.

FIG. 2 illustrates an open back surface that provides for ventilation in the back (at a location out of view of the restroom user) so that any moisture that gets into the receiving well of the base mat will easily evaporate.

It is known to attach stickers with adhesive to smooth surfaces. It is also known to manufacture stickers out of a moisture resistant material and/or to use an adhesive able to accommodate slight moisture while maintaining its adherence. A detailed description of such stickers is not believed to be necessary for an understanding of the present invention. It is noted that plastic blocks with a smooth top surface could easily and inexpensively accommodate such a sticker for name branding the base mat itself or for other advertising in restrooms. The marginal costs of configuring the blocks to accommodate a different name brand or advertiser would, therefore, only be the cost of the stickers.

It is contemplated that plastic blocks with more elaborate top surfaces having integrally formed shapes (such as half of a three-dimensional miniature football, or of a three-dimensional logo, etc.) or having functional electronics thereon (such as an electronic panel with lighted display and/or animated message) are also possible and may provide an even more effective means of name branding or advertising, as discussed below.

In another aspect, the block additionally houses a small electronic circuit board with an adjustable timer 25 underneath and inside the block 24 (FIG. 4), an LED indicator light 101 on top of the block (FIG. 1), a reset button 27 (FIG. 3) on the back surface of the block 24, and a battery 26 installed from underneath the block 24 (FIG. 4), all connected in series. The timer 25 and battery are sealed within a watertight cavity within the block 24. The timer 25 is adjustable and would be set to operate the indicator light after a specified period of time in order to assist janitors in knowing when to change out urinal mats or disposable top sheets according to manufacturer's recommendations or the wishes of an establishment's management. The illustrated plastic domino-sized block 24 has an advertising sticker with indicia on it (as described above), and could also have the small LED indicator light 101 positioned for viewing in one of the corners of the block, preferably on the topmost surface. Underneath the block 24 would be a sealed location to place a small watch-type battery 26 to power the LED light 101. It is also contemplated that the battery could electrically power a lighted display or power a light behind the display for illuminating indicia on a lens positioned on top of the block 24.

A dial is positioned on a lower surface of the block and is manually rotatable for adjusting the timer 25. Indicia around the dial indicates the selected time period (e.g., hours or days) (see FIG. 4), and would be adjustable by means of an Allen wrench or some other tool. Once the dial is set to a selected time period (such as 0 days (off), 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, or 21 days, for instance), the circuit could be programmed to operate the LED light 101 automatically (e.g., blinking the LED light three times in rapid succession to visually indicate that the unit's battery is in good working order) or alternatively, the circuit could be configured to include a switch to allow manual testing of the battery.

Once activated, the internal circuitry of the invention would then simply count down from the time interval set on the dial (down from 72 hours if the dial is set to 3 days, for instance) and the LED light 101 would, after the set time interval has elapsed, then flash once every 15 seconds or so, thereby visually indicating to the janitor that it is time to replace the urinal mat or disposable top sheet. Upon such replacement, a reset button at the back of the block (not visible to casual observers) 27 (FIG. 3) could be depressed by the janitor and the countdown would then commence again for the time interval that has been previously set on the timing dial. In this way, facilities having different usage and traffic patterns for their restrooms could set the time dial for different countdown intervals and the block inserted into the base of the urinal mat would greatly assist in the proper change-out of urinal mats at the proper time. Without such a device, the tendency will be to change a urinal mat or disposable top sheet either too frequently or not frequently enough.

It is contemplated that the sticker on the top surface of the block 24 could be replaced with a lens or translucent or transparent material with an LED therebehind so that the LED could operated behind the lens to illuminate indicia formed on the lens. It is contemplated that the visibility of the indicia would be similar to the indicia on automotive rear view mirrors, such as compass indications or temperature indications.

While the invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications and variations will be apparent to those skilled in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, the present invention attempts to embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations that fall within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.