Title:
Cushion and inflatable cushion
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cushion provides a protective comfortable barrier between a portion of a user's body and a supporting surface, and aids in the prevention of discomfort or numbness that accompanies long periods of contact with a supporting surface. In first and second aspects, an inflatable cushion comprises at least a first inflatable element and an outer element. When the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the outer element is in contact with the first inflatable element, and the outer element at least partially covers the first inflatable element. In a third aspect, a cushion comprises a bladder having internal and external surfaces, the internal surface defines an internal space, the external surface comprises a first region, a second region and a peripheral region, and the peripheral region extends peripherally around an entire periphery of the bladder and extends from the first region to the second region around the entire periphery.



Inventors:
Thisse, Gregory M. (North Syracuse, NY, US)
Burke, Jeanne Lorraine (DeWitt, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/367633
Publication Date:
09/06/2007
Filing Date:
03/03/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
5/654
International Classes:
A47C27/18; A47C27/08
View Patent Images:
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20040231056Seating and/or reclining furniture and mattress with light-emitting meansNovember, 2004Jansen
20060096031Baby sleeping cushion and method of use thereofMay, 2006Foster
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20100017960WEIGHTED BEACH TOWELJanuary, 2010Blaauboer et al.
20090025142Frames for futon sofa beds and methods of securing slats thereinJanuary, 2009Grossman et al.
20080010746Flat sheet with elastomeric componentJanuary, 2008Ho
20070295773Multi-Purpose Reversible Tote Bag and BlanketDecember, 2007Wegenhoft



Primary Examiner:
KELLEHER, WILLIAM J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BURR & BROWN, PLLC (FAYETTEVILLE, NY, US)
Claims:
1. An inflatable cushion comprising: at least a first inflatable element; and an outer element, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated: said outer element is in contact with said first inflatable element; and said outer element at least partially covers said first inflatable element.

2. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said outer element covers greater than 50% of an outer surface area of said first inflatable element.

3. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated: said inflatable element is substantially disc-shaped; at least a first imaginary cross-section of an outer surface of said inflatable element is substantially elliptical; and at least a second imaginary cross-section of said outer surface of said inflatable element is substantially circular and is perpendicular to said first imaginary cross-section.

4. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said first inflatable element has a substantially toroidal shape.

5. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 4, further comprising a second inflatable element, said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element being shaped such that when said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, an external surface of an inside region of said first inflatable element abuts an external surface of said second inflatable element.

6. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 5, wherein when said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, said second inflatable element is surrounded peripherally by said first inflatable element.

7. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 4, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said first inflatable element is a toroidal shape of substantially circular cross-sectional shape.

8. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said first inflatable element has an irregular toroidal shape.

9. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 8, further comprising a second inflatable element, said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element being shaped such that when said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, an external surface of an inside region of said first inflatable element abuts an external surface of said second inflatable element.

10. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 9, wherein when said first inflatable element and said second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, said second inflatable element is surrounded peripherally by said first inflatable element.

11. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein said outer element comprises at least two panels connected to each other.

12. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein said outer element is substantially non-stretchable.

13. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one strap handle attached to said outer element.

14. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one reinforced handle attached to said first inflatable element.

15. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one anchoring strap attached to said outer element.

16. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one reinforced grommet attached to said first inflatable element.

17. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising a plurality of grommets positioned in said outer element.

18. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said outer element comprises a peripheral edge which defines an opening, and a plurality of grommets are positioned in said outer element adjacent to said peripheral edge.

19. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 18, wherein said grommets are positioned substantially evenly spaced around an entirety of said opening.

20. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one drawstring which, when said first inflatable element is at least partially deflated and said drawstring is pulled, cinches a peripheral edge of said outer element, whereby said outer element substantially defines and substantially surrounds an internal space with a hole adjacent to said peripheral edge.

21. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, wherein when said first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, said outer element defines and surrounds an internal space and said outer element has at least one access point which, when opened, provides access to said internal space.

22. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 21, wherein said access point is securable.

23. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 1, further comprising at least one pad attached to at least one of said outer element and said inflatable element.

24. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 23, wherein said pad is selected from the group consisting of gel pads and foam pads.

25. An inflatable cushion as recited in claim 23, wherein said pad comprises a molded shape.

26. A cushion comprising: a bladder having an internal surface and an external surface, said internal surface surrounding and defining an internal space, said external surface comprising a first region, a second region and a peripheral region extending peripherally around an entire periphery of said bladder, said peripheral region extending from said first region to said second region around said entire periphery.

27. A cushion as recited in claim 26, wherein a portion of said bladder which is adjacent to said peripheral region is substantially toroidal.

28. A cushion as recited in claim 26, wherein said peripheral edge has a cross-sectional shape which is substantially semi-circular concave, whereby a center region of said peripheral edge is closer to an axis defined by said peripheral edge than portions of said peripheral edge which are in contact with said first region and portions of said peripheral edge which are in contact with said second region.

29. A cushion as recited in claim 26, wherein: said first region is substantially circular, said second region is substantially circular, said first region is substantially planar and positioned in a first plane, said second region is substantially planar and positioned in a second plane, and said first plane is substantially parallel to said second plane.

30. A cushion as recited in claim 26, wherein said inflatable cushion further comprises at least one valve positioned in said bladder, whereby fluid can be removed from said internal inflatable space or supplied to said internal inflatable space through said valve.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a cushion. More particularly, the present invention relates to an inflatable cushion. In specific aspects, the present invention relates to cushions which provide superior comfort, portability, adaptability and reusability, and which can readily be stowed and/or transported.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Numerous inflatable cushions have been introduced to provide a surface that supports a portion of a user's body on or against a supporting surface. The following U.S. patents relate to this field of endeavor:

U.S. Pat. No. D34,982

U.S. Pat. No. 1,703,629

U.S. Pat. No. 2,216,818

U.S. Pat. No. 2,552,476

U.S. Pat. No. 3,029,109

U.S. Pat. No. 4,445,240

U.S. Pat. No. 4,459,714

U.S. Pat. No. 4,779,297

U.S. Pat. No. D301,669

U.S. Pat. No. 5,003,653

U.S. Pat. No. 5,191,665

U.S. Pat. No. 5,634,223

U.S. Pat. No. D386,348

U.S. Pat. No. D429,106

U.S. Pat. No. D429,592

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided an inflatable cushion comprising at least a first inflatable element, and an outer element, in which, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the outer element is in contact with the first inflatable element and the outer element at least partially covers the first inflatable element.

In some embodiments according to the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated:

the inflatable element is substantially disc-shaped;

at least a first imaginary cross-section of an outer surface of the inflatable element is substantially elliptical; and

at least a second imaginary cross-section of the outer surface of the inflatable element is substantially circular and is perpendicular to the first imaginary cross-section.

In some embodiments according to the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the first inflatable element has a substantially toroidal shape.

The expression “substantially fully inflated”, as used herein, when referring to a particular inflatable element, means that the interior of that inflatable element contains fluid at a pressure which is greater than ambient pressure, e.g., at least about 14.8 psi, and in some cases, at least about 16 psi or at least about 20 psi.

The expression “toroidal”, is used herein consistently with its conventional usage to refer to a shape which could be generated by rotating a planar closed curve about a line that lies in the same plane as the curve but does not intersect such line. That is, the expression “toroidal” encompasses doughnut shapes which would be generated by rotating circles about a line that lies in the same plane as the circle, as well as shapes which would be generated by rotating squares, triangles, irregular (abstract) shapes, etc. about a line.

In some embodiments according to the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the first inflatable element has an irregular toroidal shape. The expression “irregular toroidal” is used herein to refer to a shape which could be generated by rotating a planar closed curve about a line that lies in the same plane as the curve, and in which the shape of the planar closed curve can vary during such rotation but never intersects the line about which it is being rotated.

In a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided an inflatable cushion comprising at least first and second inflatable elements, and an outer element. In this aspect of the invention, the first inflatable element is substantially toroidal or irregular toroidal, and the first inflatable element and the second inflatable element are shaped such that when the first inflatable element and the second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, an external surface of an inside region of the first inflatable element abuts an external surface of the second inflatable element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the outer element comprises at least two panels connected to each other.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one strap handle attached to the outer element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one reinforced handle attached to the first inflatable element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one anchoring strap attached to the outer element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one reinforced anchoring grommet attached to the first inflatable element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises a plurality of grommets positioned in the outer element.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one drawstring which, when at least the first inflatable element is at least partially deflated and the drawstring is pulled, cinches a peripheral region of the outer element, whereby the outer element substantially defines and substantially surrounds an internal space with a hole adjacent to the peripheral region.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one pad attached to the outer element and/or the first inflatable element.

In a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided a cushion comprising a bladder having an internal surface and an external surface.

In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the bladder is of a shape which, in cross-section, resembles an anvil.

In this third aspect of the present invention, the internal surface of the bladder surrounds and defines an internal space. In this third aspect of the present invention, the external surface of the bladder comprises a first region, a second region and a peripheral region extending peripherally around an entire periphery of the bladder, the peripheral region extending from the first region to the second region around the entire periphery.

In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the portion of the bladder which is adjacent to the peripheral region is substantially toroidal.

In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the peripheral region has a cross-sectional shape which is substantially semi-circular concave, whereby a center region of the peripheral region is closer to an axis defined by the peripheral region than portions of the peripheral region which are in contact with the first region and portions of the peripheral region which are in contact with the second region. In such embodiments, the shape of the peripheral region could be generated by rotating a planar semi-circle about a line which is co-planar with the semi-circle but does not intersect it, in which the point on the semi-circle which is closest to the line is near or at the mid-point along the semi-circle (i.e., the end-points of the semi-circle are farther from the line than each of the other points on the semi-circle).

In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the first region is substantially circular, the second region is substantially circular, the first region is substantially planar and positioned in a first plane, the second region is substantially planar and positioned in a second plane, and the first plane is substantially parallel to the second plane.

In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one valve positioned in the bladder, whereby fluid can be removed from the internal inflatable space or supplied to the internal inflatable space through the valve.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion of non-complicated design constructed of at least one flexible rubberized, plastic, vinyl, or coated fabric inflatable element of any color in the form of (1) a disc, (2) an annular tube, or (3) an annular tube with an interior cushion, that supports a portion of a user's body when placed on or against a supporting surface.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates an interchangeable fitted outer element constructed of weather-resistant durable high-strength fabric of any color that fits securely around a fully inflated inflatable element.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates the insertion of at least one inflatable element while in a deflated state (or at least partially deflated state) within an interchangeable fitted outer element through a permanent opening (e.g., provided at a central point of the bottom) or an access point (e.g., at the back). Subsequent inflation of the inflatable element(s) through inflation valve(s) accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element causes the outer wall of the inflating inflatable element(s) to apply increasing pressure to the inner wall of the interchangeable fitted outer element, securely fitting the interchangeable fitted outer element around the fully inflated inflatable element(s); moreover, such inflation retains the interchangeable fitted outer element in a stable position to form and maintain a top surface that supports a portion of a user's body when placed on or against a supporting surface.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion that facilitates a protective comfortable barrier between a portion of a user's body and a supporting surface that assists in the prevention of discomfort or numbness that accompanies long periods of contact with a supporting surface.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion that facilitates low cost in fabrication and manufacturing.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion that incorporates artwork on the inflatable element(s) and/or the interchangeable fitted outer element that supports not only promotional capabilities but also provides for an inflatable cushion that reflects the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion that a user might be willing to deploy within a public environment.

The present invention further provides embodiments of inflatable cushion which can, if desired, embody one or more of the preceding objects, and which facilitates a higher level of portability.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of portability through the facilitation of a free standing design. Portability is increased when no framing (metal, plastic or otherwise), strapping, or base unit are permanently secured to the inflatable cushion as a method to anchor the inflatable cushion to a supporting surface and limit the portability of the inflatable cushion.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of portability through the facilitation of lightweight construction, and relative small size that can easily be carried, and when in a deflated state, can easily be folded and conveniently stowed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of portability through facilitation of a handle secured to the outer element, or molded to an inflatable element and accessible through the outer element, allowing the inflatable cushion to be carried while in an inflated state.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of portability through facilitation of an interchangeable fitted outer element that incorporates a drawstring secured at a circumference of a permanent opening provided, e.g., at a central point of the bottom of an interchangeable fitted outer element. Portability is increased when the inflatable element(s) is/are deflated while enclosed within the interchangeable fitted outer element and an opening of the interchangeable fitted outer element is completely cinched and retained in a closed state by a drawstring cord lock to form a convenient carrying bag containing the inflatable bladder in a deflated state. Furthermore, the fully cinched drawstring can facilitate portability as a carrying handle.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of portability through facilitation of an oral inflation capability. Portability is increased when a user can easily deploy and redeploy an inflatable cushion according to the present invention without the aid of a pneumatic inflation device. However, where required for user safety, or in the interest of user preference or the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed, inflation valves that do require a pneumatic inflation device can be employed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through facilitation of inflatable elements of differing configurations offering differing levels of support, facilitating an inflatable cushion that can be adapted to support users of differing sizes and weight.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through facilitation of interchangeable fitted outer elements. By allowing the pressure formed between an outer wall of an inflatable element and an inner wall of the interchangeable fitted outer element to retain the interchangeable fitted outer element in a stable position, adherence to the inflatable element through adhesive, or other means that would weld, vulcanize or otherwise permanently secure the interchangeable fitted outer element to the inflatable element is not required. An interchangeable fitted outer element provides the ability to adapt the present invention to reflect the environment within which it is deployed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability where the topology and configuration of the interchangeable fitted outer element are modular, dynamic, and unique and when combined with the appropriate artwork, presents an inflatable cushion that can serve not only as a promotional platform, but also reflect the environment within which it is deployed. An interchangeable fitted outer element can possess artwork that serves, e.g., as a map of the main features of an event; the course layout at a golf tournament; the layout of main attractions and facilities at fairs or other events, etc. An interchangeable fitted outer element's topology, configuration and artwork can possess the appearance of real-life items that relate to the environment within which it is being deployed, e.g., a racing tire at racing events. The interchangeable fitted outer element topology, configuration, and artwork can possess the appearance of the venue within which the event is being held, for example, the top of the interchangeable fitted outer element can contain contoured foam or gel pads that resemble the top of a domed structure within which the event is being held. An interchangeable fitted outer element possessing differing topology, configuration, and artwork facilitate the adaptation of an inflatable cushion to reflect the environment within which it is deployed and expands the utility of an inflatable cushion beyond a specific environment.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through facilitation of interchangeable fitted outer elements that are widely available through multiple web-site domains on the World Wide Web and other methods of distribution, thereby allowing the user to easily acquire the configuration of the interchangeable fitted outer element that will adapt the inflatable cushion to their specific needs and meet the requirements of the environment within which it is deployed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through the facilitation of a free-standing design. A free-standing design allows the user to adapt to shifts in the surrounding environment without having to constantly adjust frames, straps or other anchoring methods permanently secured to the inflatable cushion and employed to secure the inflatable cushion to the supporting surface; moreover, a free-standing design that does not incorporate a permanently secured anchoring method does not impose on the personal space of others within the area of deployment.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through the facilitation of a free-standing inflatable cushion that incorporates a multi-point anchoring method. Anchor points incorporated at multiple locations on the interchangeable fitted outer element, or molded at multiple locations on an inflatable element and accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element provide the user with the option of anchoring the inflatable cushion to the supporting surface when required. Through employment of an independent strap, bungee cord, or other means that can be laced or inserted through the anchor points, the user is provided the option to secure the free-standing inflatable cushion to the supporting surface. The incorporation of a multi-point anchoring method removes the need to permanently adhere an anchoring method capability to the inflatable cushion that may otherwise interfere with portability. The multi-point anchoring method provides the user with the option of adapting a free-standing inflatable cushion to the environment within which it is deployed when securing the inflatable cushion to the supporting surface is required due to safety or other reasons.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through facilitation of an interchangeable fitted outer element that incorporates a drawstring secured at the circumference of a permanent opening provided, e.g., at a central point of the bottom of an interchangeable fitted outer element. The drawstring facilitates adaptation of the supporting surface to the user's personal comfort by allowing the user to cinch the interchangeable fitted outer element tighter around the fully inflated bladder, thereby providing a tighter supporting surface upon which a portion of the user's body will be supported.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of adaptability through facilitation of an oral inflation capability. Adaptability is increased when a user can make adjustments to the level of inflation based on personal preference without the aid of a pneumatic inflation device. However, where required for user safety, or in the interest of user preference or the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed, inflation valves that do require a pneumatic inflation device can be employed.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of reusability.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of reusability through durability in construction. Fabrication and manufacture of an inflatable cushion using flexible rubberized, plastic, vinyl, coated fabric and weather-resistant durable high-strength fabrics, combine to produce an inflatable cushion that can be deployed repeatedly over a relatively long period of time.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of reusability through facilitation of interchangeable fitted outer elements. Though durable in construction, the inevitable wear and tear during deployment will cause either the original interchangeable fitted outer element or an original inflatable element to wear out prior to the other. Interchangeable fitted outer elements increase the reusability of devices in accordance with the present invention by allowing the original inflatable element(s) to remain in service after the original interchangeable fitted outer element has been replaced. In cases where an original inflatable element is irreparably damaged, the original interchangeable fitted outer element can remain in service after the damaged inflatable element has been replaced.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of reusability through the facilitation of an interchangeable fitted outer element that incorporates a drawstring secured at the circumference of a permanent opening provided, e.g., at a central point of the bottom of an interchangeable fitted outer element. The drawstring allows the user to compensate for stretching that typically occurs to the interchangeable fitted outer element, particularly when it comes under constant pressure from supporting a portion of the user's body. The drawstring allows the user to cinch the interchangeable fitted outer element tighter around the fully inflated inflatable element(s), thereby retaining a tighter supporting surface upon which a portion of the user's body will be supported and allowing the interchangeable fitted outer element to remain in service for a longer period of time, increasing the number of times the interchangeable fitted outer element can be reused or deployed with the inflatable cushion.

The present invention further provides embodiments of an inflatable cushion which facilitates a higher level of reusability through the prevention of theft. The preceding objects that relate to an increase in the level of portability also facilitate provision of an inflatable cushion that can accompany the user when temporary movement is required, reducing the likelihood of theft, and increasing the number of times the inflatable cushion can be reused or deployed.

These features together with other features and the capabilities they facilitate, reside in the details of construction and operation more fully disclosed, claimed, and referenced within the enclosed drawings, where numerals are employed to refer to like parts throughout.

Embodiments according to the present invention can include any one of the features described above, or any desired combination of such features.

The invention may be more fully understood with reference to the accompanying drawings and the following detailed description of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

FIG. 1A is a top view of a first embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to present invention, in which the configuration facilitates a disc partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 1B is a bottom view of the first embodiment.

FIG. 1C is a sectional view of the first embodiment.

FIG. 2A is a top view of a second embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration facilitates an annular tube partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 2B is a bottom view of the second embodiment.

FIG. 2C is a sectional view of the second embodiment.

FIG. 3A is a top view of a third embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration facilitates an annular tube with an interior cushion partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 3B is a bottom view of the third embodiment.

FIG. 3C is a sectional view of the third embodiment.

FIG. 4A is a top view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as a disc partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 4B is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as an annular tube partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening.

FIG. 4C is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as an annular tube with an interior cushion partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening where the circumference of the central bottom opening facilitates a drawstring.

FIG. 4D is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 4E is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 4F is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to an inflatable element and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 4G is a front view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 4H is a rear view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion of the present invention partially enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5A is a top view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention where the configuration facilitates any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as an annular tube partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5B is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention where the configuration facilitates any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as an annular tube with an interior cushion partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening.

FIG. 5C is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention where the configuration facilitates any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as a disc partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening where the circumference of the central bottom opening facilitates a drawstring.

FIG. 5D is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5E is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5F is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to an inflatable element and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5G is a front view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 5H is a rear view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6A is a top view an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as a disc fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6B is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention where the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as a disc fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6C is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6D is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6E is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, where anchoring devices are secured to an inflatable element and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6F is a front view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 6G is a rear view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a two-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a securable access point at the back.

FIG. 7A is a top view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration facilitates any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as a disc fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7B is a bottom view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration facilitates any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, shown here as an annular tube with an interior cushion fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7C is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, in which anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7D is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, in which anchoring devices are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7E is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element, in which anchoring devices are secured to an inflatable element and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7F is a front view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element.

FIG. 7G is a rear view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention fully enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a securable access point at the back.

FIG. 8A is a top view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, and presents one possible configuration of the promotional capabilities.

FIG. 8B is a top view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable elements according to the present invention, and presents one example of how the baseline configuration of the interchangeable fitted outer element can be modified to reflect the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 8C is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the configuration can facilitate any of the types of inflatable bladder according to the present invention, and presents one example of how the topology of the interchangeable fitted outer element can be modified to reflect the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 8D is a top perspective view of an embodiment of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the inflatable element is an annular tube, and presents one example of how the topology of the interchangeable fitted outer element can be modified to reflect the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 8E is a bottom perspective view of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the inflatable element is a disc and is partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening, where the circumference of the central bottom opening facilitates a drawstring, and presents one example of how the bottom of the disc can be molded to reflect the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 8F is a bottom perspective view of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention, in which the inflatable element is a disc, and is partially enclosed by a three-panel interchangeable fitted outer element with a central bottom opening, where the circumference of the central bottom opening facilitates a drawstring, and presents one example of how the bottom of the disc can be molded to fit the supporting surface of the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an inflatable cushion according to the present invention in a deflated and portable configuration making use of the interchangeable fitted outer element as a carrying bag when the circumference of the central bottom opening of the interchangeable fitted outer element facilitates a drawstring.

FIGS. 10A-10J present examples of potential deployment and portability options of inflatable cushions according to the present invention with respect to the needs of the user and the environment within which the inflatable cushion is deployed.

FIG. 11 is an illustration of an example of an “irregular toroidal” shape, as that expression is used herein.

Various structures which are hidden from view are, in some instances, depicted with dotted lines in some of the Figures herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

As noted above, in a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided an inflatable cushion comprising at least a first inflatable element, and an outer element, in which, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the outer element is in contact with the first inflatable element and the outer element at least partially covers the first inflatable element. A representative example of an inflatable cushion in accordance with the first aspect of the present invention is depicted in FIGS. 1A, 1B and 1C, discussed in more detail below (another such example is depicted in FIGS. 2A, 2B and 2C).

Each of the one or more inflatable elements can independently be constructed of any desired material (or materials) which can be used to provide an inflatable structure, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to persons of skill in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which inflatable elements according to the present invention can be constructed include flexible rubberized plastic, vinyl or coated fabric material. The material out of which the one or more inflatable elements is constructed can have any desired degree of stretchability, and can be of any color.

The outer element of each inflatable cushion according to the present invention can be constructed of any desired material (or materials), a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to persons of skill in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which outer elements according to the present invention can be constructed include weather-resistant durable high-strength fabrics, e.g., nylon. The material out of which the outer element is constructed can have any desired degree of stretchability, and can be of any color.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the first inflatable element has a regular toroidal shape. In other embodiments according to the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the first inflatable element has an irregular toroidal shape. For purposes of explanation, an example of an “irregular toroidal” shape, as that expression is used in the present specification, is shown in FIG. 11. As reflected by FIG. 11, where the “irregular toroidal” shape is defined in terms of being capable of being generated by rotating a planar curve about an axis 100, as noted above, in the case of an irregular toroid, the planar curve can vary in shape as it is rotated about the axis—in addition, the distance between the planar curve and the axis can vary, so long as the planar curve never intersects the axis.

As noted above, in a second aspect of the present invention, there is provided an inflatable cushion comprising at least first and second inflatable elements, and an outer element. In this aspect of the invention, the first inflatable element is substantially toroidal or irregular toroidal, and the first inflatable element and the second inflatable element are shaped such that when the first inflatable element and the second inflatable element are both substantially fully inflated, an external surface of an inside region of the first inflatable element abuts an external surface of the second inflatable element. In the second aspect of the present invention, like the first aspect of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the outer element is in contact with the first inflatable element, and the outer element at least partially covers the first inflatable element.

The discussion above of the respective materials out of which the inflatable elements and the outer element can be constructed with respect to the first aspect of the present invention is applicable to the second aspect of the present invention as well. A representative example of an inflatable cushion in accordance with the second aspect of the present invention is depicted in FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C, discussed in more detail below, in which the first inflatable element is substantially toroidal (and has a shape such that a cross-section of the toroid is substantially circular).

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the outer element comprises at least two panels connected to each other. In such embodiments, the two or more panels can be connected to each other in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. A representative example of a way to connect such panels is by stitching them together. Alternatively, the outer element can be constructed as a single element.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one strap handle attached to the outer element. Each of the one or more strap handles can independently be constructed of any desired material (or materials) which can be used to provide a handle, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to persons of skill in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which strap handles according to the present invention can be constructed include fabric material, flexible rubberized plastic and vinyl. The one or more strap handles can be attached to the outer element in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. A representative example of a way to attach the strap handles to the outer element is by stitching (such as double-stitching), particularly in instances where the strap handles are made of fabric material.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one reinforced handle attached to the first inflatable element. Each of the one or more reinforced handles can independently be constructed of any material (or materials) suitable for attachment to an inflatable element as defined above and suitable for use as a handle, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to persons of skill in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which reinforced handles according to the present invention can be constructed include flexible rubberized plastic, vinyl or molded PVC.

In embodiments which include one or more reinforced handles, the one or more reinforced handles can be attached to an inflatable element of the inflatable cushion in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. Representative examples of ways to provide reinforced handles which are attached to an inflatable element include (but are not limited to) integrally molding the handles and the inflatable element, heat welding the handles to the inflatable element, RF welding the handles to the inflatable element and reinforced molding the handles to the inflatable element.

In some embodiments which include one or more reinforced handles, at least one reinforced handle extends through the outer element through a handle access opening formed in the outer element. In such embodiments, the handle access opening formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the handle access opening.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one anchoring strap attached to the outer element. Each of the one or more anchoring straps can independently be constructed of any desired material (or materials) which can be used to provide an anchoring strap, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to persons of skill in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which anchoring straps according to the present invention can be constructed include fabric material, flexible rubberized plastic and vinyl. The one or more reinforcing straps can be attached to the outer element in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. A representative example of a way to attach the reinforcing strap(s) to the outer element is by stitching (such as double-stitching), particularly in instances where the reinforcing strap(s) are made of fabric material.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one reinforced grommet attached to the first inflatable element. In such embodiments, the one or more reinforced grommets can be any desired kind of reinforced grommet formed from any suitable material and suitable for attachment to an inflatable element in the inflatable cushion, a wide variety of such grommets being known by and available to those skilled in the art. Representative examples of suitable grommets include toroidal grommets constructed of rubber, flexible rubberized plastic, vinyl or molded PVC.

In embodiments which include one or more reinforced grommets, the one or more reinforced grommets can be attached to an inflatable element of the inflatable cushion in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. Representative examples of ways to provide reinforced grommets which are attached to an inflatable element include (but are not limited to) integrally molding the grommets and the inflatable element, heat welding the grommets to the inflatable element, RF welding the grommets to the inflatable element and reinforced molding the grommets to the inflatable element.

In some embodiments which include one or more reinforced grommets, at least one reinforced grommet extends through the outer element through a grommet access opening formed in the outer element. In such embodiments, the grommet access opening formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the grommet access opening.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises a plurality of grommets positioned in the outer element. As described in more detail below, such grommets positioned in the outer element can be used to anchor the inflatable cushion by feeding an anchoring element, e.g., a strap or a bungee cord, through the holes defined by the grommets. In such embodiments, the one or more grommets can be any desired kind of grommet formed from any suitable material and suitable for attachment to the outer element in the inflatable cushion, a wide variety of such grommets being known by and available to those skilled in the art. Representative examples of suitable grommets include toroidal grommets constructed of rubber, flexible rubberized plastic, vinyl or metal.

In embodiments which include one or more grommets positioned in the outer element, the one or more grommets can be attached to the outer element in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. A representative example of a way to attach such grommets to an outer element is by using self-piercing grommets and corresponding punches, which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art.

As noted above, in the first and second aspects of the present invention, the outer element at least partially covers the first inflatable element. In some embodiments of the first and second aspects of the present invention, when the first inflatable element is substantially fully inflated, the outer element covers greater than 50% of an outer surface area of the first inflatable element. In some embodiments of the first and second aspects of the present invention, the outer element substantially completely covers the outer surface area of the first inflatable element.

In embodiments in which the outer element does not completely cover the inflatable element (or elements), the area (or areas) which is/are not covered by the outer element is/are referred to herein as the opening(s) in the outer element. In such embodiments, the opening(s) formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the opening(s).

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one drawstring which, when at least the first inflatable element is fully inflated or at least partially deflated and the drawstring is pulled, cinches a peripheral region of the outer element. By cinching when the inflatable element (or elements) is/are fully inflated, the outer element can be made to more tightly fit around the inflatable element(s) (such functionality can extend the useful life of the outer element, e.g., by enabling it to function effectively even after it has stretched over time).

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the outer element includes at least one opening and a drawstring is provided which surrounds the opening. In such embodiments, when at least the first inflatable element is fully inflated or at least partially deflated and the drawstring is pulled, the drawstring cinches a peripheral region of the outer element around the opening, thereby reducing the area of the opening. If the drawstring is pulled to a sufficient extent, the opening is substantially closed, such that the outer element substantially defines and substantially surrounds an internal space with a small hole adjacent to the peripheral region. As above, by cinching when the inflatable element (or elements) is/are fully inflated, the outer element can be made to more tightly fit around the inflatable element(s) (such functionality can extend the useful life of the outer element, e.g., by enabling it to function effectively even after it has stretched over time).

In embodiments which include a drawstring, the drawstring can be held in place in any suitable way, a variety of which are well-known to those skilled in the art. For example, in some embodiments, the drawstring can be laced through grommets attached to the outer element spaced around the opening, e.g., the drawstring can be laced such that it passes from one side of the outer element to the other side, and vice-versa, alternatingly. In some embodiments, the material out of which the outer element is made can be folded back on itself and stitched to itself adjacent to the opening, thereby producing a tubular region substantially encircling the opening except for a small gap, and the drawstring can be positioned so as to extend through the entire tubular region, with opposite ends of the drawstring exiting either end of the tubular region in the small gap, such that the ends of the drawstring are thereby accessible (similar to the drawstrings in cinchable trash bags or the drawstrings in conventional sweatpants).

In embodiments which include a drawstring, the drawstring can be constructed of any desired material (or materials) which can be used to provide a cinching function, a wide variety of materials and shapes being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. Representative examples of materials out of which drawstrings according to the present invention can be constructed include fabric material, elastic material, flexible rubberized plastic or vinyl. The material out of which such drawstrings are constructed can have any desired degree of stretchability.

As noted above, embodiments of the inflatable cushions according to the present invention can include valves through which fluid can be supplied to, and/or exit from, the one or more inflatable elements. In such embodiments, the valve(s) can be any suitable valve, a variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, and can be attached to the corresponding inflatable element at any desired location and in any suitable way, a variety of ways being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. The inflatable elements with such valves, can be orally inflatable or non-orally inflatable.

In some embodiments, at least one inflatable element has a valve which extends through the outer element through a valve access opening formed in the outer element. In such embodiments, the valve access opening(s) formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the valve access opening(s).

In embodiments in which the outer element substantially completely covers the inflatable element (or elements), the outer element can include an access point through which the at least one inflatable element, in a partially or completely deflated state, can be inserted into or removed from the outer element. Such an access point, where provided, can be of any suitable shape, e.g., a slot. Such an access point, where provided, can be non-securable or can be securable with any suitable means for securing, e.g., a zipper, buttons, Velcro®, or snaps. Any such means for securing can be attached to the outer element in any suitable way, a variety of which are well-known to those of skill in the art, e.g., by stitching. In such embodiments, the access point and/or any buttonholes formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the access point or the buttonholes.

In embodiments in which the outer element substantially completely covers the inflatable element (or elements), the outer element can comprise at least two panels connected to each other. In such embodiments, the two or more panels can be connected to each other in any desired way, a wide variety of which are well-known by and available to those skilled in the art. A representative example of a way to connect such panels is by stitching them together.

In some embodiments in which the outer element substantially completely covers the inflatable element (or elements), at least one inflatable element has a valve which extends through the outer element through a valve access opening formed in the outer element. In such embodiments, the valve access opening(s) formed in the outer element can be reinforced, if desired, in any suitable way, a variety of ways to provide reinforcement being well-known by and available to those skilled in the art, e.g., by double stitching in the outer element around the valve access opening(s).

In some embodiments in which the outer element substantially completely covers the inflatable element (or elements), there is not provided a valve which extends through the outer element. In such embodiments, there can be no valve access opening, or there can be a valve access opening formed in the outer element—the reason a valve access opening may be provided is so that the outer elements for such devices can be manufactured in a way which is similar to or identical to the way that outer elements are manufactured for embodiments which do have a valve which extends through the valve access opening.

As noted above, in some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, the inflatable cushion further comprises at least one pad attached to the outer element and/or to the first inflatable element. In such embodiments, the pad can be attached to the outer element in any suitable way, a variety of which are well-known to those of skill in the art, e.g., by stitching.

In some embodiments according to the first and second aspects of the present invention, at least a portion of the outer element can be formed of a porous material in order to provide breathability, especially in embodiments which comprise a toroidal inflatable element and no inflatable element positioned within the toroidal inflatable element. Persons of skill in the art are familiar with, and have access to, a wide variety of suitable porous materials, any of which are suitable for use in accordance with such embodiments.

As noted above, in a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided a cushion comprising a bladder having an internal surface and an external surface. In some embodiments according to the third aspect of the present invention, the bladder is of a shape which, in cross-section, resembles an anvil (see, e.g., the second inflatable element in FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C, in particular, FIG. 3C).

As noted above, in this third aspect of the present invention, the internal surface of the bladder surrounds and defines an internal space. In this third aspect of the present invention, the external surface of the bladder comprises a first region, a second region and a peripheral region extending peripherally around an entire periphery of the bladder, the peripheral region extending from the first region to the second region around the entire periphery.

The cushion according to the third aspect of the present invention can be useful in a variety of situations, e.g., to convert a toroidal cushion (e.g., an inflatable toroidal cushion) into a disc-shaped cushion. In a representative example, an inflatable toroidal cushion (e.g., an inner tube) can be converted into a disc for recreational use in water, such as a disc which can function as a trampoline (analogously, a ski tube can be converted into a ski disc or a snow tube can be converted into a snow disc).

As used herein, the term “substantially,” e.g., in the expressions “substantially disc-shaped”, “substantially elliptical”, “substantially circular”, “substantially toroidal”, “substantially surrounds”, “substantially semi-circular”, “substantially planar”, “substantially parallel”, “substantially completely covers”, “substantially closed”, and “substantially encircling” means at least about 95 correspondence with the feature recited, e.g., “substantially parallel” means that two lines (or two planes) diverge from each other at most by an angle of 5% of 90 degrees, i.e., 4.5 degrees; “substantially planar” means that a plane defined by any trio of points in the structure and a plane connecting any other trio of points in the structure define no angle greater than 5% of 90 degrees, i.e., 4.5 degrees; “substantially elliptical” means that an ellipse can be drawn having the formula x2/a2+y2/b2=1, where imaginary axes can be drawn at a location where the y coordinate of each point on the structure is within 0.95 to 1.05 times the value obtained by inserting the x coordinate of such point into such formula; “substantially circular” means that a circle can be drawn having the formula X2+y2=1, where imaginary axes can be drawn at a location where the y coordinate of each point on the structure is within 0.95 to 1.05 times the value obtained by inserting the x coordinate of such point into such formula; “substantially toroidal” means that the y coordinate for each point on the structure is within 0.95 to 1.05 times the value obtained by inserting the x coordinate of such point into a formula for a toroid; “substantially semi-circular” means that a semi-circle can be drawn having the formula x2+y2=1, where x is ≧0, and where imaginary axes can be drawn at a location where the y coordinate of each point on the structure is within 0.95 to 1.05 times the value obtained by inserting the x coordinate of such point into such formula; the expressions “substantially surrounds”,“substantially completely covers”, “substantially closed”, and “substantially encircling” mean that the structure which is substantially surrounded, substantially completely covered, substantially encircled or substantially closed is exposed over not more than 5% of its surface area or length. The expression “substantially disc-shaped” means that the structure has a pair of smooth surfaces which are planar or non-planar and which extend in two dimensions at least twice as far as the structure extends in the third dimension.

Three representative embodiments of the present invention are depicted in FIGS. 1A-1C, FIGS. 2A-2C and FIGS. 3A-3C, respectively. Each of these embodiments relate to an inflatable cushion (10) comprising an inflatable bladder and an outer element, where the inflatable bladder is in the form of either (1) a first inflatable element in the form of a disc (22)(FIGS. 1A-1C), (2) a first inflatable element in the form of a substantially toroidal annular tube (122)(FIGS. 2A-2C), or (3) a combination of a first inflatable element in the form of a substantially toroidal annular tube (122) and a second inflatable element (222) in the form of an interior cushion (222) (FIGS. 3A-3C), the inflatable bladder being constructed of a flexible rubberized, plastic, vinyl, or coated fabric material of any color, and the outer element is in the form of an interchangeable fitted outer cover (14). In these embodiments, the inflatable bladder and the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) are integrated to form a supporting surface (18). The inflatable bladder, while in a partially or completely deflated state, is inserted through a permanent opening (24) at the bottom of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) and subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (20) that is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) causing the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) to fit securely around the fully inflated bladder. When the inflatable bladder includes an interior cushion (222) as shown in FIG. 3A, FIG. 3B and FIG. 3C, the interior cushion (222) is subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (38) accessible through the bottom of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14).

A first embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 1A-1C relates to an inflatable cushion (10), where the inflatable bladder is in the form of an inflatable disc (22). FIG. 1C is enlarged (relative to FIGS. 1A and 1B) so that the components shown in FIG. 1C are easier to see. The top panel (54) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) covers the top of the disc (22) to form a supporting surface (18). The partially or completely deflated disc (22) is inserted through a permanent opening (24) at the bottom panel (56) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) and subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (20) that is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14), causing the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) to fit securely around the fully inflated disc (22).

A second embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 2A-2C relates to an inflatable cushion (10), where the inflatable bladder is in the form of an inflatable annular tube (122). FIG. 2C is enlarged (relative to FIGS. 2A and 2B) so that the components shown in FIG. 2C are easier to see. The top panel (54) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) covers the interior (12) of the annular tube (122) to form a supporting surface (18). The deflated annular tube (122) is inserted through a permanent opening (24) at the bottom panel (56) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) and subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (20) that is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14), causing the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) to fit securely around the fully inflated annular tube (122).

A third embodiment of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 3A-3C relates to an inflatable cushion (10), where the inflatable bladder is in the form of an inflatable annular tube (122) and interior cushion (222) that fills the interior (12) of the annular tube (122). FIG. 3C is enlarged (relative to FIGS. 3A and 3B) so that the components shown in FIG. 3C are easier to see. The external perimeter (36) of the interior cushion (222) rests top dead center of the top and bottom of the inflated annular tube (122), and the internal exterior wall of the interior cushion (222) rests along the external interior wall of the interior (12) of the annular tube (122). The top panel (54) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) covers the top of the annular tube (122) and interior cushion (222) to form a supporting surface (18). The partially or completely deflated annular tube (122) and interior cushion (222) are inserted through a permanent opening (24) at the bottom panel (56) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14). The annular tube (122) is subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (20) that is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14), causing the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) to fit securely around the fully inflated annular tube (122) and deflated interior cushion (222). The interior cushion (222) is subsequently inflated at the inflation valve (38) accessible through the bottom of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14).

In a specific example of an inflatable cushion in accordance with FIGS. 3A-3C, the interior cushion (222) is more stretchable than the annular tube (122) (e.g., the interior cushion can be made of a coated fabric, such as neoprene while the annular tube is made of a vinyl material, e.g., PVC), such that as the interior cushion (222) and the annular tube (122) are inflated (and after they have been inflated), the interior cushion (222) pushes on the annular tube (122). That is, in such a specific example, the size of the interior cushion (222) expands more readily or rapidly than the annular tube (122), such that the annular tube (122) is not moving away from the interior cushion (222) more rapidly than the interior cushion (222) is expanding, whereby pressing contact is made between the interior cushion (222) and the annular tube (122).

Representative embodiments of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) are shown in FIGS. 4A through 4H. The interchangeable fitter outer covers (14) shown in FIGS. 4A-4H are two-panel designs constructed from two equally sized circular panels (except that there is an opening (24) in one of the panels, as discussed below) of a weather-resistant durable high-strength fabric of any color. The top panel (54) is secured to the bottom panel (56) at their external peripheries as designated by a perforated line (58), with a circular portion removed from the center of the bottom panel (56) to form a permanent opening (24) granting access to the interior of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14). The top panel (54) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) serves as a supporting surface (18) when the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) is fit securely around the fully inflated bladder. The interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) provides for a strap handle (26) secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) or as shown in FIG. 4F, a molded reinforced handle (126) is secured to the inflatable bladder and is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14). The interchangeable fitted outer cover (14) accommodates versions of a multi-point anchoring method where separate straps (16) or a pairing of grommets (116) are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14), or as shown in FIG. 4F, molded reinforced grommets (216) are secured to the inflatable bladder and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14). As shown in FIG. 4C, a variant of this version of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14D) facilitates a drawstring (34) capability that can be used to cinch the interchangeable fitted outer cover (14D) tighter around the inflatable bladder and held in place with a cord lock (32). In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 4C, the drawstring is the type which is positioned so as to extend through a tubular region formed by having the material out of which the outer element is made folded back on itself and stitched to itself adjacent to the opening, with opposite ends of the drawstring exiting either end of the tubular region in a small gap (33).

Representative embodiments of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) are shown in FIGS. 5A through 5H. The interchangeable fitted outer covers shown in FIGS. 5A-5H are three-panel designs constructed from three panels of a weather-resistant durable high-strength fabric of any color. The top panel (44) and the bottom panel (46) are two equally sized circular panels and extend across the top and bottom of the inflatable bladder, respectively. The center panel (48) is of a length equal to that of the circumference of the inflatable bladder and covers the inflatable bladder's external wall. The external periphery of the top panel (44) is secured to the top external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (28). The external periphery of the bottom panel (46) is secured to the bottom external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (30), with a circular portion removed from the center of the bottom panel (46) to form a permanent opening (24) granting access to the interior of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114). The top panel (44) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) serves as a supporting surface (18) when the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) is fit securely around the fully inflated bladder. The interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) provides for a strap handle (26) secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) or as shown in FIG. 5F, a molded reinforced handle (126) is secured to the inflatable bladder and is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114). The interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) accommodates versions of a multi-point anchoring method where separate straps (16) or a pairing of grommets (116) are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) or as shown in FIG. 5F, molded reinforced grommets (216) are secured to the inflatable bladder and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114). As shown in FIG. 5C, a variant of this version of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D) facilitates a drawstring (134) capability that can be used to cinch the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D) tighter around the inflatable bladder and held in place with a cord lock (32). In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 4C, the drawstring is the type which is laced through grommets attached to the outer element spaced around the opening, such that the drawstring passes from one side of the outer element to the other side, and vice-versa, alternatingly.

Representative embodiments of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) are shown in FIGS. 6A through 6G. The interchangeable fitted outer covers shown in FIGS. 6A-6G are two-panel designs constructed from two equally sized circular panels of a weather-resistant durable high-strength fabric of any color that completely enclose the fully inflated bladder. The top panel (54) is secured to the bottom panel (56) at their external peripheries as designated by a perforated line (58), with a securable access point (50) at the back granting access to the interior of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214). The top panel (54) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) serves as a supporting surface (18) when the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) is fit securely around the fully inflated bladder. The bottom panel (56) of an interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) that fully encloses an inflatable bladder provides a small opening (40) at the center, facilitating access to an inflation valve (not shown) when an annular tube and interior cushion configuration is incorporated as the inflatable bladder. The interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) provides for a strap handle (26) secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) or as shown in FIG. 6E, a molded reinforced handle (126) is secured to the inflatable bladder and is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214). The interchangeable fitted outer cover (214) accommodates versions of a multi-point anchoring method where separate straps (16) or a pairing of grommets (116) are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214), or as shown in FIG. 6E, molded reinforced grommets (216) are secured to the inflatable bladder and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (214).

Representative embodiments of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) are shown in FIGS. 7A through 7G. The interchangeable fitted outer covers shown in FIGS. 7A-7G are three-panel designs constructed from three panels of a weather-resistant durable high-strength fabric of any color that fully enclose the inflatable bladder. The top panel (44) and the bottom panel (46) are two equally sized circular panels and extend across the top and bottom of the inflatable bladder, respectively. The center panel (48) is of a length equal to that of the circumference of the inflatable bladder and covers the inflatable bladder's external wall. The external periphery of the top panel (44) is secured to the top external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (28). The external periphery of the bottom panel (46) is secured to the bottom external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (30), with a securable access point (50) at the back granting access to the interior of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314). The top panel (44) of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) serves as a supporting surface (18) when the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) is fit securely around the fully inflated bladder. The bottom panel (46) of an interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) that fully encloses an inflatable bladder provides a small opening (40) at the center, facilitating access to an inflation valve (38) when an annular tube and interior cushion configuration is incorporated as the inflatable bladder. The interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) provides for a strap handle (26) secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) or as shown in FIG. 7E, a molded reinforced handle (126) is secured to the inflatable bladder and is accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314). The interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) accommodates versions of a multi-point anchoring method where separate straps (16) or a pairing of grommets (116) are secured to the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314) or as shown in FIG. 7E, molded reinforced grommets (216) are secured to the inflatable bladder and are accessible through the interchangeable fitted outer cover (314).

All versions of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) facilitate promotional capabilities. FIG. 8A discloses one configuration of promotional features that include, but are not limited to, text, emblems, logos, mascots, slogans, web addresses and other forms of artwork that can be placed on the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) of the inflatable cushion (10). One possible configuration of the promotional features and artwork includes, but is not limited to, a side panel (48), a top outer ring (62), a top centralized ring (64), and a top center area (66).

All versions of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) facilitate re-configuration of the baseline construction thereby adapting the inflatable cushion (10) to reflect the environment within which it is deployed. FIG. 8B provides an example where the top panel (44) forming the supporting surface (18) is re-configured into two separate panels. The internal periphery of the top outside panel (60) is secured to the external periphery of the top inside panel (88) as designated by a perforated line (52) constructing a top panel (44) to provide a supporting surface (18). The external periphery of the top panel (44) is secured to the top external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by the perforated line (28). In this case, the top panel (44) is constructed of two separate panels; a top external panel (60) of the same color as the center panel (48), and a top inside panel (88) possessing the appropriate artwork. The sub-panels 60 and 88 combine to provide an inflatable cushion (10) with a top panel (44) that not only forms a supporting surface (18) but where the supporting surface (18) takes on the appearance of a real-life item that is a part of the environment with which it is deployed. FIG. 8B provides one example of an inflatable cushion (10) that possesses the appearance of a wheel with a tire to reflect an automotive environment.

As noted above, all versions of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) facilitate re-configuration of the baseline construction, thereby adapting the inflatable cushion (10) to reflect the environment within which it is deployed. FIG. 8C provides an example where the top panel (44) forming the supporting surface (18) is re-configured by replacing the top panel (44) with a contoured gel or foam pad. The external periphery of the top panel (44) containing the contoured pad is secured to the top external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (28). Re-configuration of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114) topology combined with appropriate artwork as shown in FIG. 8C, facilitates adaptation of the inflatable cushion (10) with a top panel (44) that not only forms a supporting surface (18) but where the supporting surface (18) takes on the appearance of the venue or environment within which it is being deployed. FIG. 8C provides one example of an inflatable cushion (10) that possesses the appearance of a domed structure environment within which the event is being held. Moreover, the top panel in the embodiment depicted in FIG. 8C adds to the comfort level of the inflatable cushion (10) when the top panel (44) consists of a gel or foam pad.

FIG. 8D provides one example of an inflatable cushion (10) that has been re-configured to allow for air flow within an outdoor environment of extreme heat. Moreover, the re-configured cushion of the embodiment depicted in FIG. 8D adds to the comfort level of the inflatable cushion (10). The top panel (44) forming the supporting surface (18) over the interior opening (12) of an inflated annular tube (122) is re-configured by replacing the top panel (44) with a high-strength porous fabric. The external periphery of the top panel (44) constructed of a high-strength porous fabric is secured to the top external periphery of the center panel (48) as designated by a perforated line (28). Re-configuration of the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114), as shown in FIG. 8D, facilitates adaptation of the inflatable cushion (10) with a top panel (44) that not only forms a supporting surface (18) but where the supporting surface (18) reflects the venue or environment within which it is being deployed.

The process of constructing an inflatable bladder from flexible rubberized, plastic, vinyl or coated fabric material usually requires radio frequency (RF) welding. Radio frequency welding, sometimes known as dielectric welding or high frequency welding, is the process of fusing materials together by applying radio frequency energy to the area to be joined. The resulting weld can be as strong as the original workpiece materials; however, the inflatable bladder may also be constructed using rotational molding. Rotational molding is a versatile process that allows the manufacture of hollow forms from both flexible and rigid materials. Rotationally molded, or rotomolded parts are of one-piece construction, possess uniform wall thickness, and are virtually stress free. The employment of rotational molding provides inflatable bladders of one-piece construction; moreover, rotational molding expands the ability to re-configure the one-piece construction of the inflatable bladder through the possible inclusion of additional features such as the incorporation of a molded inflatable backrest. Referring now specifically to FIG. 8E and FIG. 8F, the base of the inflatable bladder configured as a disc (22) can be rotomolded in such a manor as to allow for securing the inflatable cushion to a supporting structure or to incorporate a capability to retain an external object. FIG. 8E demonstrates where an external object could be retained at the base of a rotomolded inflatable disc (22), in this case a drink enclosed by a coozi could be retained at the bottom of the inflatable cushion. FIG. 8F demonstrates where the base of a rotomolded inflatable disc (22) could be configured so that it could be integrated with a supporting surface, in this case a bicycle seat.

Each of the embodiments depicted in FIGS. 1A-8F are depicted in an inflated state.

The interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D) as shown in FIG. 9 facilitates a portability feature when the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D) incorporates a drawstring (34) capability. When the inflatable bladder is placed in a partially or completely deflated state while enclosed within the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D), and the drawstring (34) is cinched at the permanent opening (24) to a closed state, and held in that position with a cord lock (32), the interchangeable fitted outer cover (114D) forms a convenient carrying bag containing the deflated bladder; moreover, the drawstring (34) facilitates portability as a carrying handle.

The inflatable cushion facilitates deployment within numerous environments. FIGS. 10A-10G present a subset of the many perceived deployments for the inflatable cushion with respect to the environment, and relative to user needs. FIGS. 10H-10J also demonstrate the portable capabilities facilitated by the differing configurations of the inflatable cushion (the capability depicted in FIG. 10H shows the inflatable cushion positioned within a user's pocket).

Any two or more structural parts of the cushions described herein can be integrated. Any structural part of the cushions described herein can be provided in two or more parts which are held together, if necessary.