Title:
GAME TABLE WITH PIVOTING BARS AND ROTATING PLAYERS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A game table comprises first and second substantially parallel player sides extending along a length direction, first and second substantially parallel goal sides extending along a width direction and a game playing surface defined within the player and goal sides. The game table includes at least one pivoting handle assembly connected to the game table via a pivot connection. The handle assembly includes at least one turning rod carrying at least one player member, and a handle engaged with the turning rod whereby turning the handle operates to rotate the player to strike a playing piece. The handle assembly is configured to pivot about the pivot connection above the game playing surface in a pivot plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface.



Inventors:
Hylak, Peter J. (McKinney, TX, US)
Judge, Frank A. (Somonak, IL, US)
Willimann, Lyle (Aurora, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/623574
Publication Date:
07/19/2007
Filing Date:
01/16/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B67/14
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20040239031Board game played by players and its playing methodDecember, 2004Dewa et al.
20070296151Gaming Equipment for Table Games Using Playing Cards, In Particular Black JackDecember, 2007Kyrychenko
20040007812Pocket random number selectorJanuary, 2004Terechko
20080211189MULTIPURPOSE BOWLSeptember, 2008Williams et al.
20070235938Team play pokerOctober, 2007Soderstrom
20090014953Sudoku buddyJanuary, 2009Chowdhury
20020089121Rotating maze board gameJuly, 2002Bjornson
20040251624Roulette number bracket indicatorDecember, 2004Hodapp et al.
20030178772User friendly convenience gameSeptember, 2003Gan
20090140492Card reading shoe with card stop feature and systems utilizing the sameJune, 2009Yoseloff et al.
20080157467SYSTEM FOR FACILITATING PARTICIPATION IN THE OUTCOME OF COMPETITIVE EVENTSJuly, 2008Hachem et al.



Primary Examiner:
LEGESSE, NINI F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOODARD, EMHARDT, HENRY, REEVES & WAGNER, LLP (INDIANAPOLIS, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A game table, comprising: a game table including first and second substantially parallel player sides along a length direction, first and second substantially parallel goal sides along a width direction and a game playing surface defined within said player sides and said goal sides, wherein each of said goal sides includes a goal; and at least one pivoting handle assembly pivotally connected to said first player side of said game table via a pivot connection and extending to said second player side, wherein said pivoting handle assembly includes at least one turning rod carrying at least one player member for striking a game playing piece, wherein said pivoting handle assembly further includes a handle engaged with said turning rod whereby turning said handle operates to rotate said player member; wherein said pivoting handle assembly is configured to pivot with respect to said pivot connection above said game playing surface in a pivot plane substantially parallel to said game playing surface.

2. The game table of claim 1, wherein said player member includes a body portion engaged with said turning rod and a rotating portion configured to rotate in a rotation plane about a rotation axis, said rotation axis being substantially perpendicular to said turning rod and said plane being substantially parallel to said game playing surface.

3. The game table of claim 2, wherein said body portion of said player member includes a gear transmission configured to rotate said rotating portion upon turning of said handle and said turning rod.

4. The game table of claim 1, wherein said handle assembly is configured to translate said player member along the width direction above said game playing surface by moving said handle toward and away from said pivot connection.

5. The game table of claim 4, wherein said handle assembly is a telescoping assembly including an inner rod configured to be received within said turning rod, said inner rod including a pivot end and being engaged with said pivot connection at said pivot end.

6. The game table of claim 5, wherein said pivot connection is a ball bearing connection including a ball bearing engaged with said pivot end of said inner rod received in a socket in said first player side.

7. The game table of claim 1, wherein said player member is configured to spin with rotation of said turning rod in a spinning plane substantially perpendicular to said game playing surface to contact a game playing piece and urge the game playing piece towards a goal.

8. The game table of claim 1, wherein said second player side defines a slot and said turning rod extends through said slot, wherein said turning rod is moveable within said slot to allow for pivoting of said handle assembly.

9. The game table of claim 1, wherein said pivot connection is a ball bearing connection including a ball bearing engaged with said handle assembly received in a socket in said first player side.

10. A game table, comprising: a game table including first and second substantially parallel player sides, first and second substantially parallel goal sides and a game playing surface, said player sides extending along a length of said table and said goal sides extending along a width of said table, wherein each of said goal sides defines a goal; and at least two pivoting handle assemblies including a first handle assembly and a second handle assembly, wherein each of said handle assemblies is pivotally connected to said game table via a pivot connection, each of said handle assemblies including a handle opposite said pivot connection, at least one rod extending along a rod axis and engaged with said handle, and at least one player member positioned on said rod between said handle and said pivot connection, wherein said player member is configured to spin with rotation of said rod about said rod axis to strike a playing piece and urge the playing piece towards a goal; wherein said first handle assembly is pivotally connected to said first player side and extends through and beyond said second player side, wherein said second handle assembly is pivotally connected to said second player side and extends through and beyond said first player side, wherein each of said handle assemblies is configured to pivot with respect to said corresponding pivot connection above said game playing surface in a pivot plane substantially parallel to said game playing surface; and wherein each of said handle assemblies is configured to translate said corresponding player member across the width of said table above said game playing surface by moving said handle toward and away from said corresponding pivot connection.

11. The game table of claim 10, wherein at least one of said handle assemblies is a telescoping assembly including an inner rod configured to be received within said turning rod, said inner rod being engaged with said corresponding pivot connection.

12. The game table of claim 10, wherein at least one of said pivot connections is a ball bearing connection.

13. The game table of claim 12, wherein said ball bearing connection includes a socket defined in said corresponding player side and a ball bearing engaged with said handle assembly configured to be moveably received in said socket.

14. The game table of claim 10, wherein each of said player members is configured to spin with rotation of said corresponding turning rod in a spinning plane substantially perpendicular to said game playing surface to contact a game playing piece and urge the game playing piece towards a goal.

15. The game table of claim 10, wherein each of said player sides defines at least one slot for passage of said corresponding turning rod, wherein each of said turning rod is moveable within said corresponding slot to allow for pivoting of said corresponding handle assembly.

16. A handle assembly for use with a game table having a game playing surface, comprising: an outer turning rod telescopically engaged with an inner rod, said inner rod being slidably received in said outer turning rod, wherein said inner rod includes a pivot end having a ball bearing and said turning rod extends along a turning rod axis; at least one player member carried by said turning rod, wherein said player member is configured to spin with rotation of said turning rod about said rod axis to strike a game playing piece and urge the game playing piece towards a goal of the game table; and a handle engaged with said turning rod; wherein said ball bearing is configured to be moveably received in a socket in the game table at a pivot point such that said inner rod, said outer turning rod, said player member and said handle are pivotable with respect to said pivot point in a pivot plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface of the game table; wherein the handle assembly is configured to translate said player member across the width of the game table above the game playing surface by telescoping extending and retracting said outer turning rod over said inner rod.

17. The handle assembly of claim 16, wherein said player member is configured to spin in a spinning plane substantially perpendicular to the game playing surface of the game table.

18. The handle assembly of claim 16, wherein said player member includes a spinning portion configured to spin in a spinning plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface of the game table.

19. A game table, comprising: a game table having a game playing surface; and at least one handle assembly extending across said game table above said game playing surface, wherein said handle assembly includes at least one turning rod carrying at least one player member for striking a game playing piece, wherein said handle assembly further includes a handle engaged with said turning rod whereby turning said handle operates to rotate said player member; wherein said handle assembly is configured and moveable such that said player member is continuously adjustable within a zone of movement, wherein said zone of movement includes a cross-section in a plane substantially parallel to said game playing surface, wherein the periphery of said cross-section includes two opposing diverging pivot lines from a pivot point, wherein said pivot lines are substantially straight, and two offset arcuate segments of concentric circles with different radii of curvature from a pivot point, wherein said arcuate segments connect said pivot lines.

20. The game table of claim 19, wherein said player member is configured to spin with rotation of said turning rod in a spinning plane substantially perpendicular to said game playing surface to contact a game playing piece and urge the game playing piece towards a goal.

Description:

REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

The present application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/759,393 FILED Jan. 17, 2006 entitled GAME TABLE WITH PIVOTING BARS AND ROTATING PLAYERS which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present system relates to game tables, and in particular a table hockey or table soccer game table with pivoting bars and rotating players.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Watching and participating in sporting events and games is a popular pastime for many people. However, due to time, space and the number of people needed for most such games, it is not always practical to arrange a full-scale game at any particular time. Moreover, due to the skill and physical conditioning required, plus the potential injuries from many such games, individuals are not always prepared to participate in a full-scale game. As a spin-off from full-scale games, recreational game tables such as for table soccer (sometimes called foosball), air hockey or field hockey have become popular. Game tables allow the participants to simulate a full-sized game with fewer people, less space and in a protected environment. Such games can, for example, be set up in basements, garages, game rooms, backyards, gyms, party facilities or otherwise and are often played with two or four people.

There have been various approaches to designing and constructing game tables for table soccer and table hockey. Typical table soccer game tables are designed so that the table users spin handles to cause the player pieces to spin about the handle rod. Additionally, the table users can push or pull the handles to cause the player pieces to move back and forth across a width of the table. Certain table hockey game tables are designed so that the players are moveable along a track and are rotatable by a handle rod positioned underneath the player pieces.

An improved game table is desired.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one embodiment, a game table includes first and second substantially parallel player sides along a length direction, first and second substantially parallel goal sides along a width direction and a game playing surface defined within the player sides and the goal sides. The game table includes at least one pivoting handle assembly pivotally connected to the first player side of the game table via a pivot connection and extending to the second player side. The handle assembly includes at least one turning rod carrying at least one player member for striking a game playing piece, and a handle engaged with the turning rod whereby turning the handle operates to rotate the player member. The pivoting handle assembly is configured to pivot with respect to the pivot connection above the game playing surface in a pivot plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface.

In another embodiment, a game table includes first and second substantially parallel player sides, first and second substantially parallel goal sides and a game playing surface, the player sides extending along a length of the table and the goal sides extending along a width of the table. The game table includes at least two pivoting handle assemblies including a first handle assembly and a second handle assembly, with each of the handle assemblies being pivotally connected to the game table via a pivot connection. Each handle assembly includes a handle opposite the pivot connection, at least one rod extending along a rod axis and engaged with the handle, and at least one player member positioned on the rod between the handle and the pivot connection. The player member is configured to spin with rotation of the rod about the rod axis to strike a playing piece and urge the playing piece towards a goal. The first handle assembly is pivotally connected to the first player side and extends through and beyond the second player side, and the second handle assembly is pivotally connected to the second player side and extends through and beyond the first player side. Each handle assembly is configured to pivot with respect to the corresponding pivot connection above the game playing surface in a pivot plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface. Additionally, each handle assembly is configured to translate the corresponding player member across the width of the table above the game playing surface by moving the handle toward and away from the corresponding pivot connection.

In yet another embodiment, a handle assembly for use with a game table having a game playing surface comprises an outer turning rod telescopically engaged with an inner rod, at least one player member carried by the turning rod, and a handle engaged with the turning rod. The inner rod is slidably received in the outer turning rod and includes a pivot end having a ball bearing. Additionally, the turning rod extends along a turning rod axis. The player member is configured to spin with rotation of the turning rod about the rod axis to strike a game playing piece and urge the game playing piece towards a goal of the game table. Further, the ball bearing is configured to be moveably received in a socket in the game table at a pivot point such that the inner rod, the outer turning rod, the player member and the handle are pivotable with respect to the pivot point in a pivot plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface of the game table. The handle assembly is also configured to translate the player member across the width of the game table above the game playing surface by telescoping to extend and retract the outer turning rod over the inner rod.

In yet another embodiment, a game table comprises a game table having a game playing surface and at least one handle assembly extending across the game table above the game playing surface. The handle assembly includes at least one turning rod carrying at least one player member for striking a game playing piece. The handle assembly further includes a handle engaged with the turning rod whereby turning the handle operates to rotate the player member. The handle assembly is configured and moveable such that the player member includes a zone of movement. The zone of movement includes a cross-section in a plane substantially parallel to the game playing surface, with the periphery of the cross-section including two opposing diverging pivot lines and two offset arcuate segments of concentric circles with different radii of curvature. In certain embodiments, the pivot lines are substantially straight and the arcuate segments connect the pivot lines.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a game table, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of game table players according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a game table, according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the handle portion of an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a game table, according to yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the pivot connection of an embodiment of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For the purposes of promoting an understanding of the principles of the invention, reference will now be made to the embodiments illustrated in the drawings and specific language will be used to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended, such alterations and further modifications in the illustrated device, and such further applications of the principles of the invention as illustrated therein are contemplated as would normally occur to one skilled in the art to which the invention relates.

In preferred embodiments of the present invention, a game table is provided with improved playing characteristics. The game table is preferably for use with table games such as soccer (also called foosball), and/or ice or field hockey. Certain embodiments of the present invention include a pivoting bar carrying the player pieces, with one end of the bar being movable within an elongate slot to move the player pieces along an arcuate segment. Additionally, in certain embodiments, the present invention includes a game table for table soccer or table hockey with player pieces that rotate parallel to the table surface.

A standard game table includes a playing surface, held over a support surface, such as a floor, by a support structure such as one or more legs or pedestals. The playing surface is often rectangular or round, but may be made in various geometric shapes. The playing surface is also typically substantially flat. In certain embodiments, the playing surface includes elevated or humped corner areas to keep the game piece (typically a ball or puck) in motion. In many instances, the playing surface is surrounded by a peripheral rail, which typically functions to retain game pieces within the area of the playing surface. The game pieces of the present invention are usable with various types of games and/or game tables, which are considered conventional for purposes of the present invention and are not described herein in detail. Game tables may also include game status indicators, such as score displays and timer displays, mounted to the game tables.

One embodiment of a game table 20 is illustrated in FIG. 1. Game table 20 is generally a standard style of game table including legs 22 supporting a table bed 26. Table bed 26, shown in FIG. 1 in a generally rectangular shape, is the primary superstructure of game table 20. It should be appreciated that table bed 26 can include various shapes as would generally occur to one skilled in the art, including circular, square, or polygonal as examples. Legs 22 are standard support structures for a table, and may, for example, be four corner legs or one or more central pedestals supporting the table bed 26. In preferred embodiments, table 20 includes a frame 28 mounted to the table bed 26. Frame 28 surrounds and extends above an upper support surface 30 a height sufficient to block escape of a playing piece from the table. The frame can extend up from the table bed and upper support surface a sufficient height as would occur to one skilled in the art, as a design choice for a particular game. Frame 28 can be a standard frame made of metal, wood, laminate, particleboard, MDF or plastic, and can optionally include rubber or felt bumpers as desired.

Game playing surface 40 is configured to be integral with or mounted to table bed 26 and includes a shape which matches upper support surface 30. In the illustrated embodiment, game playing surface 40 includes a generally rectangular shape. However, it should be appreciated that the game playing surface can have various shapes, including circular, square, or polygonal as examples. Game playing surface 40 extends across the area defined within frame 28 to form a playing area. The game playing surface is mounted to the frame or extends underneath the lower edges of the frame to eliminate gaps. The game playing surface may rest in place or can be attached using standard methods such as adhesive, friction, screws, bolts or other permanent or removable connectors. The game playing surface is appropriately sized and configured for the desired game. Game playing surface 40 is preferably an appropriately shaped piece of material configured to be mounted over upper support surface 30. Preferred materials for the game surface are a durable plastic (such as a thick polyethylene, Plexiglass®, or Formica®), wood or glass.

A soccer game table generally includes cross-bars with mounted soccer players. The soccer table game surface has a generally polygonal shape, but may include semicircular shaped corner cut-outs or contoured portions which cover, create or allow clearance for corner ramps commonly used in certain game tables to prevent the game piece from stopping outside the effective playing area. The discussion herein of game table 20 generally applies to hockey game tables and soccer game tables.

Game table 20 further includes railings 50 as part of or positioned above frame 28. In a preferred embodiment, there are railings 50 disposed on at least two longitudinal sides of table 20, parallel to a longitudinal length L of the table. Near the railings 50 are user handles 52. Each user handle is operably connected to a turning rod 54. In certain preferred embodiments, handles 52 include a piece of cushioning or gripping material, for example rubber or foam, around an end portion of turning rod 54. In certain embodiments, handle 52 is composed of a plastic or synthetic material. The turning rods preferably have a circular cross-section. Additionally, in the illustrated embodiment, each turning rod 54 nearest a goal 42 on the game table carries three players 57 and the remaining turning rods 54 carry two players 57. However, it should be appreciated that a different number of players 57 can be carried on the turning rods. The turning rods preferably carry each player near the top of the player's body. Typically, the handles are on alternating sides of the table to allow access for two or four users. In certain embodiments, all or some of the rods can be arranged in pairs and there can be two adjacent handles on the same side of the table, in certain positions, such as near the goal 42 that the user on a particular side of the table would be defending.

Table 20 includes pivot posts 60 and moveable blocks 62, the pivot posts and moveable blocks being positioned between portions such as frame 28 and railings 50. In preferred embodiments, turning rods 54 and stability bars 58 extend from blocks 62 towards corresponding posts 60. Turning rods 54 preferably do not extend to pivot posts 60. Each moveable block 62 cooperates with an elongate slot 64 disposed in frame 28 and a corresponding upper slot in railing 50, with the moveable block 62 being movable in the respective slot 64 and held in the slot via a retaining mechanism.

The moveable blocks can be moveable in the slots in any appropriate manner as would occur to one skilled in the art. In certain preferred embodiments, the elongate slots have a curved, arcuate shape to account for pivotal movement of the rods. The pivot posts 60 can be mounted to the frame and railings in similar appropriate manners as would occur to one skilled in the art which permit pivoting of the posts relative to the frame and railing. In certain embodiments, the pivot posts are mounted to swivel plates which are mounted to the frame and railings. Alternately, pivot pins may be used. In alternative embodiments, the pivot posts are mounted to the frame and do not extend to the railings.

Stability bars 58 are paired with the turning rods, with each stability bar extending from a moveable block 62 to a pivot post 60 and having players mounted thereon. The stability bars may have a non-circular cross-section such as a square or triangle to help prevent the players from rotating with respect to the bar. In an alternate embodiment (not shown), the circular turning rods pass within the stability bars, yet maintain access to the player pieces to engage and spin the rotating portions.

In certain embodiments, the players are moveable along paths of arcuate segments which are parallel to arcuate segment A (FIG. 1) between pivot limits based on movement (i.e., pivoting) of the stability bars in the elongate slots around a pivot point in the pivot post 60. In such embodiments, the parallel arcuate segments and arcuate segment A are all segments of concentric circles of varying radii of curvature. A user of table 20 can urge a handle 52 lengthwise to the table (i.e., side-to-side) to move the respective stability bar 58 in the respective elongate slot 64, the respective turning rod and players.

In certain preferred embodiments, players 57 are movable along a width of the game table along a width direction W. Width direction W is preferably generally perpendicular to longitudinal length L. Handle 52 with turning rod 54 can be moved away from or toward pivot post 60, thereby moving the players operably connected to the respective turning rod along a width of the table. The players are configured to slide along the respective stability bar 58 when handle 52 and turning rod 54 are moved along the W direction. When a turning rod is extended or retracted, the players are moved widthwise to different arcuate paths, parallel to arcuate segment A, within the pivot limits.

Players 57 each preferably include a body portion 70 and a rotating portion 72. Body portion 70 receives rod 54 and bar 58. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, rotating portion 72 rotates parallel to game playing surface 40 about a spinning axis substantially perpendicular to game playing surface 40. In such embodiments, rotating portion 72 rotates upon turning of the respective turning rod 54, for example using a gear transmission. In certain preferred embodiments, the turning rods contact gear transmissions positioned in the body portions of the players, whereby rotating the turning rods activates the gear transmissions, which in turn rotates the rotating portions of the players.

In preferred embodiments, each player has an area of movement based on the angle defining arcuate segment A and the pivot limits. More specifically, the area of movement of each player is defined by two pivot limits lines extending from a pivot post to ends of a corresponding elongate slot, and also defined by two arcuate segments. The two arcuate segments defining the area of movement include a shorter arcuate segment and a longer arcuate segment corresponding to movement of the player along a width direction W, with the shorter arcuate segment being closer to the corresponding pivot post. In some embodiments, the spinning axis of the player is moveable to any point within this area.

Referring to FIG. 2, a player 57 and an alternative player 59 are illustrated. Rotating portion 72 of player 57 includes a connecting portion 72a and two tip portions 72b. In certain preferred alternative embodiments, player 59 includes body portion 70 and a rotating portion 73. Rotating portion 73 includes a connecting portion 73a and a single tip portion 73b. In the illustrated embodiment, the connecting portions are wider than the tip portions; however, it should be appreciated that the connecting portions and tip portions can be configured and sized differently as would occur to one skilled in the art. In typical embodiments, the connecting portions are rotatably connected to the body portions. The players can optionally include brackets 74 positioned adjacent body portion 70 and at least partially surrounding bar 58. In certain embodiments, the brackets are mounted to the body portions. The brackets are configured to slide along the stability bars, along with the players, and further encourage the upright positioning of the players.

Players 57 with two tip portions have an increased chance of striking a game piece on a game table. It is contemplated that there could be zero, one or more alternative players 59 on a rod, as desired. Optionally, the players can be exchangeable or fixed at pre-selected positions. If exchangeable, a player 57 could be replaced with an alternative player 59, or an alternative player 59 replaced with a player 57, as desired.

FIG. 3 illustrates a game table 120 according to another embodiment of the present invention. Game table 120 is similar in configuration and operation to game table 20, thus like reference numerals refer to like features previously discussed. Game table 120 is generally a standard style of game table including legs 22 supporting table bed 26. Similar to table 20, table 120 includes a frame 28 mounted to the table bed 26. Additionally, game playing surface 140 of game table 120 is configured to be integral with or mounted to table bed 26 and includes a shape which matches upper support surface 130. In the illustrated embodiment, game playing surface 140 includes a generally rectangular shape with curved corners.

Game table 120 further includes railings 150 positioned as part of or over frame 28. In preferred embodiments, there are railings 150 disposed on at least two longitudinal sides of table 120, parallel to a longitudinal length L of the table. Similar to game table 20, game table 120 includes turning rods 54, stability bars 58, and can include players 57 and/or players 59. In the illustrated embodiment, each turning rod 54 on game table 120 carries two players 59. However, it should be appreciated that a different number of players can be carried on the turning rods. As with game table 20, the turning rods on game table 120 preferably carry each player near the top of the player's body for example with a top driven or side driven gearing. Typically, the handles are on alternating sides of the table to allow access for two or four users. In certain embodiments, there are at least two adjacent handles on the same side of the table, for example, near a goal 42 that the user on a particular side of the table would be defending.

In preferred embodiments, railings 150 directly contact and extend upward from frame 28 a sufficient height to include openings 161a and 161b within railings 150. Table 120 includes pivot blocks 160 disposed within openings 161a and 161b. In the illustrated embodiment, each railing 150 includes one opening 161b positioned on an end of the railing, and two openings 161a positioned within the railing. Turning rods 54 extend through blocks 160, the blocks being mounted to frame 28, as will be discussed below. Stability bars 58 extend from a block 160 to an elongate slot 164 disposed in the opposite railing 150, with the end of the bar 58 being moveable in a horizontal slot 164. In certain embodiments, the players are moveable within an area corresponding to an arcuate segment A′, along arcuate segments parallel to segment A′, based on pivotal movement of the stability bars in the elongate slots pivoting at a pivot point in a block 160. In such embodiments, the parallel arcuate segments and arcuate segment A′ are all segments of concentric circles of varying radii of curvature. A user of the table 120 can urge a handle 52 side to side along longitudinal axis L to move the respective stability bar 58 in the respective elongate slot 164. In certain embodiments, the players can be moved within a width direction W of the game table 120 by moving handle 52 away from or toward block 160. In preferred embodiments, each player has a corresponding area of movement based on arcuate segment A′ and the slot limits, as described above in connection with arcuate segment A.

Referring to FIG. 4, there is shown an enlarged view of block 160 disposed within an opening 161a in railing 150, along with rod 54 and bar 58. In the illustrated embodiment, bar 58 ends flush with block 160. However, it should be appreciated that bar 58 can extend only partially into block 160.

It should be appreciated that the block and bar can be mounted in a horizontal or vertical arrangement in the railing in appropriate manners as would occur to one skilled in the art which permit pivoting of the block and bar relative to the frame and railing. In certain embodiments, block 160 is mounted to a swivel plate which is mounted in the hole. Alternately, one or two pivot pins may be used.

Referring generally to FIGS. 1-4, the use and operation of the game tables 20 and 120 is as follows. One or more users of table 20 move players 57 and/or players 59 via handles 52 in attempting to place a game piece (not shown) into goal 42. A user rotates handle 52, thereby rotating turning rod 54 which operates to controllably spin rotating portions 72 and/or 73. The rotation of rotating portions 72 and/or 73 is top driven in that the turning rod 54 is disposed above the respective rotating portion 72 and/or 73. In certain preferred embodiments, a gearing transmission is disposed within each body portion 70 which operates to transfer the rotation of turning rod 54 into the spinning motion of rotating portion 72 and/or 73. In some preferred embodiments, rotating portions 72 and/or 73 rotate generally parallel to and slightly above the game playing surface of the game table.

Regarding game table 20, moveable blocks 62 are moveable along the arcuate segment A of vertical elongated slots 64. Regarding game table 120, the ends of stability bars 58 are moveable in horizontal elongate slots 164 to move the players along arcuate segment A′. Optionally, the turning rods and players are moveable along the width of the table.

In some embodiments, the top driven arrangement allows the railings, bar, pivot points and players to be supplied separately, for example, in a kit to be retrofit onto an existing table top or smooth surface, eliminating the need to cut openings in the surface. Alternately, a portable frame and railing system can be used, which can be selectively placed on any surface, for example a table or floor, to define a playing area. In some embodiments, the portable system may be placed on or removed from the surface as desired.

FIG. 5 represents game table 220 according to another embodiment. Game table 220 is generally a standard style of game table including legs 222 supporting a table bed 226. Table bed 226, shown in FIG. 5 in a generally rectangular shape, is the primary superstructure of game table 220. It should be appreciated that table bed 226 can include various shapes as would generally occur to one skilled in the art, including circular, square, or polygonal as examples. Legs 222 are standard support structures for a table, and may, for example, be four corner legs or one or more central pedestals supporting the table bed 226. In certain embodiments, table 220 includes a frame 228 mounted to the table bed 226. Frame 228 surrounds and extends above an upper support surface 230 a height sufficient to block escape of a playing piece from the table. The frame can extend up from the table bed and upper support surface a sufficient height as would occur to one skilled in the art, as a design choice for a particular game. Frame 228 can be a standard frame made of metal, wood, laminate, particleboard, MDF or plastic, and can optionally include rubber or felt bumpers as desired.

Game playing surface 240 is configured to be integral with or mounted to table bed 226 and includes a shape which matches upper support surface 230. In the illustrated embodiment, game playing surface 240 includes a generally rectangular shape. However, it should be appreciated that the game playing surface can have various shapes, including circular, square, or polygonal as examples. Game playing surface 240 extends across the area defined within frame 228 to form a playing area. The game playing surface is mounted to the frame or extends underneath the lower edges of the frame to eliminate gaps. The game playing surface may rest in place or can be attached using standard methods such as adhesive, friction, screws, bolts or other permanent or removable connectors. The game playing surface is appropriately sized and configured for the desired game. Game playing surface 240 is preferably an appropriately shaped piece of material configured to be mounted over upper support surface 230. Suitable materials for the game surface may be a durable plastic (such as a thick polyethylene, Plexiglass®, or Formica®), wood or glass. Additionally, similar to tables 20 and 120, the discussion of game table 220 generally applies to any appropriate game tables, including soccer game tables and hockey game tables.

Game table 220 includes railings 250 as part of or positioned above frame 228. In certain embodiments, there are railings 250 disposed on at least two longitudinal sides of table 220, parallel to a longitudinal length L of the table. In certain embodiments, game table 220 includes two goals 242, one at each end of the game table. Additionally, in certain embodiments, game table 220 may include introduction holes 243 for introducing playing pieces onto game playing surface 240 and at least one return hole 245, such that a playing piece entering through a goal 242 travels to return hole 245 for a user to receive.

Near the railings 250 are user handles 252. Each user handle is operably connected to a turning rod 254. In certain embodiments, handles 252 may include a piece of cushioning or gripping material, for example rubber or foam, around an end portion of turning rod 254. Handles 252 may be composed of a plastic or synthetic material. As illustrated, the turning rods may have a circular cross-section. In the illustrated embodiment, each turning rod 254 nearest a goal 242 on the game table carries three players 257, the next inner turning rods 254 carry two players 257, and the inner most turning rods 254 carry five players 257. However, it should be appreciated that the number of players shown in FIG. 5 is for illustration purposes only and a different number of players 257 can be carried on each turning rod, as desired. As illustrated, the turning rods may carry each player near the top of the player's body. In certain embodiments, spinning or turning handle 252 operates to spin turning rod 254 about an axis of the rod, thereby spinning or rotating each player 257 engaged with the respective turning rod 254. In such embodiments, each players 257 spins about a rotation axis, aligned with the axis of the rod, and in a spinning plane generally perpendicular to game playing surface 240.

Typically, the handles are on alternating sides of the table to allow access for two or four users. However, all or some of the rods may be arranged in pairs and there can be two adjacent handles on the same side of the table, in certain positions, such as near the goal 242 that the user on a particular side of the table would be defending. In the illustrated embodiments, there are three handles per side of the game table. In certain embodiments, three handles per side facilitates one-on-one play between two users of the table. Additionally, in certain embodiments, the pivoting feature of the rods and handles allows each user to cover a greater area with a single handle assembly, thereby reducing the total number of handles necessary on each side.

In certain embodiments, an inner rod 255 is telescopically engaged with each turning rod 254 and extends to the opposite player side from the corresponding handle 252. Inner rod 255 may be telescopically received within turning rod 254, with rod 254 extending through elongate slot 264 in railing 250. In certain embodiments, each turning rod 254 is movable in the respective slot 264 to allow for pivoting of the rods and players about a pivot point, as will be described in greater detail. Slots 264 may be of varying length along a longitudinal axis L of game table 220. In the illustrated embodiments, the slots nearest a goal 242 have a smaller length than the remaining slots on the particular side of the game table. In certain other embodiments, all of slots 264 are of substantially equal length.

Pivot connections 260, as best illustrated in FIG. 6, are positioned on railings 250 above game playing surface 240. In the illustrated embodiment, each pivot connection 260 is engaged with the corresponding inner rod 255 to allow for pivoting of the players about pivot connection 260. The pivot connections 260 can be appropriate pivot mechanisms and can be mounted to the frame and railings in appropriate manners as would occur to one skilled in the art which permit pivoting of the rods relative to the frame and railing. In certain embodiments, pivot connections 260 are ball bearing connections, as illustrated in FIGS. 5 and 6. As illustrated, pivot connections 260 may include a ball bearing, such as an at least partial sphere 261, at the end of rod 255 received in a socket surrounded by a bracket 262. However, it should be appreciated that pivot connection 260 may be configured differently. In certain embodiments, the ball bearing connection of pivot connection 260 permits movement of sphere 261 having three degrees of freedom, including horizontal, vertical and rotational. In certain other embodiments, fewer degrees of freedom are permitted, including only horizontal as an example. A bumper 263 may optionally be positioned on inner rod 255 to prevent a player 257 and/or turning rod 254 from contacting pivot connection 260 and possibly interfering therewith.

In certain embodiments, the players are moveable within a path parallel to arcuate segment A″ (FIG. 5) between pivot limits based on movement (i.e., pivoting) of the turning rods in the elongate slots around a pivot point in pivot connections 260. A user of table 220 can urge a handle 252 lengthwise to the table (i.e., side-to-side) to move the respective turning rod 254 in the respective elongate slot 264, thereby moving the corresponding players.

In certain embodiments, players 257 may be translatable or movable along a width of the game table, along a width direction W. Width direction W is preferably generally perpendicular to a longitudinal length L. In certain embodiments, players 257 translate via the telescoping assembly of rods 254 and 255. Accordingly, handle 252 with turning rod 254 can be moved away from or toward pivot connection 260, thereby moving the players operably engaged with the respective turning rod along a width of the table. In such embodiments, turning rod 254 is configured to slide over and receive therein inner rod 255. When a turning rod is extended or retracted, the players are moved widthwise to different arcuate paths, parallel to arcuate segment A″, within the pivot limits. In such embodiments, the parallel arcuate segments and arcuate segment A″ are all segments of concentric circles of varying radii of curvature. In certain embodiments, game table 220 may further optionally include a bumper 274 and a disc 275 on one or more turning rods 254. In such embodiments, bumper 274 and disc 275 are configured to prevent contact between a player 257 and the adjacent railing 250 upon extension of turning rod 254 from inner rod 255.

In the illustrated embodiment, players 257 are typical game player members having a body portion 270 and a head portion 272, and being configured to spin along with the respective turning rod 254, about a spinning or rotation axis aligned with an axis of rod 254 and in a spinning plane substantially perpendicular to game playing surface 240. However, it should be appreciated that players 257 can be configured differently. In certain embodiments, the players used with game table 220 can be similar in configuration and operation to players 57 and/or players 59. Additionally, it is contemplated that two or more differently configured players can be used with game table 220. In such embodiments, the players may optionally be exchangeable or fixed at pre-selected positions. As illustrated, players 257 each include a hole for passage of rod 254 therethrough. In certain embodiments, body portion 270 is configured as moveable to strike a playing piece, such as a hockey puck or soccer ball, and urge the playing piece towards a goal 242.

In certain embodiments, each player is continuously adjustable and/or moveable within an area of movement, or zone of movement, based on the angle defining arcuate segment A″ and the corresponding pivot limits. More specifically, the area of movement of each player is defined by two diverging pivot limits lines extending from a pivot post to ends of a corresponding elongate slot, and also defined by two arcuate segments. The two arcuate segments defining the area of movement include a shorter arcuate segment and a longer arcuate segment corresponding to movement of the player along a width direction W, with the shorter arcuate segment being closer to the corresponding pivot connection. In some embodiments, the spinning axis of the player is moveable to any point within this area. As an example, player 257a includes a zone of movement Z defined by arcuate segment A″, arcuate segment A′″, and pivot lines 290 and 292. In certain embodiments, pivot lines 290 and 292 are substantially straight and correspond to the size and dimension of the corresponding elongate slot 264. The arcuate segments A″ and A′″ correspond to the translation of player 257a above game playing surface 240 along a width direction of game table 220.

Referring generally to FIGS. 5-6, the use and operation of the game table 220 is as follows. One or more users of table 220 move players 257 via handles 252 in attempting to place a game piece (not shown) into a goal 242. A user rotates handle 252, thereby rotating turning rod 254 which operates to controllably spin players 257 along with the corresponding rod 254. In certain embodiments, handles 252 may be moved such that rods 254 are moveable in slots 264 to move the players along arcuate segments parallel to segment A″. In such embodiments, handles 252, rods 254 and 255 and players 257 may pivot via ball bearing pivot connection 260. Optionally, the turning rods and players are moveable along the width of the table. In such embodiments, players 257 may translate across the table via the telescoping arrangement of turning rod 254 and inner rod 255, with inner rod 255 being slidably received in turning rod 254.

In some embodiments, certain of the components of game table 220 may be supplied separately, for example, in a kit to be retrofit onto an existing table top or smooth surface, eliminating the need to cut openings in the surface. Alternately, a portable frame and railing system can be used, which can be selectively placed on any surface, for example a table or floor, to define a playing area. In some embodiments, the portable system may be placed on or removed from the surface as desired.

While the invention has been illustrated and described in detail in the drawings and foregoing description, the same is to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive in character, it being understood that only the preferred embodiments have been shown and described and that all changes and modifications that come within the spirit of the invention are desired to be protected.