Title:
Award decoration and method
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A printed paper based decorative element with photo-realistic detail to be affixed to an award such as a trophy riser or column, a medal or medallion, or a plaque. In a preferred embodiment of the present invention the design is selected and printed on a paper substrate in a conventional manner using offset printing or digital printing. The paper substrate has a pre-applied pressure sensitive adhesive composition on the non-printed side. The printed paper is then clear gloss coated and cured. The parent printed sheet is then die cut to isolate the desired decorative element, and the decorative element is applied to the award.



Inventors:
Surber, Jerry (Houston, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/446325
Publication Date:
09/06/2007
Filing Date:
06/03/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
156/277
International Classes:
A47G35/00
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Primary Examiner:
EFTA, ALEX B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TIMOTHY F. MILLS (Heartford, CT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An award comprising a. An award surface to receive a decorative element; b. A printable paper substrate; c. A decorative element further comprising a photo-realistic image printed on said paper substrate; d. said decorative element attached to said award surface;

2. The award of claim 1 wherein said image is an event specific image;

3. The award of claim 1 wherein said paper substrate further comprises foil decoration;

4. The award of claim 1 wherein said paper substrate further comprises a holographic image;

5. The award of claim 1 wherein said image is coated with a clear coating;

6. The award of claim 1 wherein said paper substrate further comprises a pressure sensitive adhesive composition affixed to the non-printed side of said paper substrate;

7. The award of claim 1 wherein said award is a trophy;

8. The award of claim 1 wherein said award is a medal;

9. The award of claim 1 wherein said award is a plaque;

10. The award of claim 1 wherein said paper substrate is eighty-pound paper printing stock;

11. The award of claim 1 wherein said printing is by the process color method;

12. A decorative element for an award comprising: a. A paper printing substrate; and b. A photo-realistic image printed on said paper substrate;

13. The award of claim 12 wherein said image is event specific;

14. A method of decorating an award with a photo-realistic image comprising: a. providing an award surface for decoration, b. providing a printable paper substrate; c. providing a photo-realistic design; d. printing said photo-realistic design on said paper substrate, e. isolating a photo-realistic decorative element from said printed paper substrate; f. affixing said decorative element to said award surface;

15. The method of claim 14 wherein said award surface is planar;

16. The method of claim 14 wherein said award surface is non-planar;

17. A method of providing a photo-realistic decorated award to a customer comprising: a. selecting an award with a surface for decoration; b. providing a printable paper substrate; c. providing a photo-realistic design; d. printing said photo-realistic design on said paper substrate; e. defining a photo-realistic decorative element from said printed paper substrate; f. isolating said decorative element; g. affixing said decorative element to said award; and h. presenting said decorated award to said customer;

18. The method of claim 17 wherein said photo-realistic design is event specific;

19. The method of claim 17 wherein said photo-realistic design is provided by the customer;

20. The method of claim 17 wherein said award is a trophy;

21. The method of claim 17 wherein said award is a medal;

22. The method of claim 17 wherein said award is a plaque;

23. A method of manufacturing an award comprising: a. providing an award surface for decoration; b. providing a printable paper substrate; c. providing a photo-realistic design; d. printing said photo-realistic design on said paper substrate; e. isolating a photo-realistic decorative element from said printed paper substrate; and f. affixing said decorative element to said award surface;

24. The method of claim 23 wherein said award is a trophy constructed prior to application of said decorative element to said award surface;

25. The method of claim 23 wherein said award is a trophy constructed subsequent to application of said decorative element to said trophy award surface;

26. The method of claim 23 wherein said award surface is a trophy column;

27. The method of claim 23 wherein said award surface is a riser type trophy element.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

Applicant claims priority from his U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/778,506 filed Mar. 1, 2006 and entitled, Award Decoration and Method.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY FUNDED SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to the decoration of awards. More particularly to a method that is capable of application of decorations, known herein as decorative elements, to planar and non-planar surfaces of awards. The term, award, as used herein includes but is not limited to such articles as medals, medallions, plaques, articles representative of an activity, such as a baseball-shaped article for a baseball award, and trophy components or elements such as trophy risers, trophy bases, trophy figures, trophy columns, and the like. More particularly, a preferred method of the present invention comprises printing a selected design of photo-realistic detail on a paper substrate backed with a pressure sensitive adhesive composition, cutting a preferred shape from the printed substrate including the printed design as a decorative element, and adhering the decorative element in a preferred location on a surface to complete the decoration of the award.

2. Description of Related Art

Awards for accomplishments have typically been designed in various shapes such as medals or medallions. The original shape of a medal or medallion may have been derived from that of a coin, i.e., that it was shaped like a thin disc with a substantially round shape, a circumferential edge, and two substantially parallel planar surfaces, one or both of which exhibited a man-made design. As an award, a ‘medal’ or ‘medallion’ may be defined as, “A piece of metal often resembling a coin and having a stamped design that is issued to commemorate a person or event, or awarded for excellence or achievement.” Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (2006). The typical medal may have as decoration on one or both surfaces, or as a decorative element, a design embossed, die struck or engraved.

Another type of award is a substantially flat article known generally as a ‘plaque’. The ‘plaque, as an award, may be defined as “a commemorative or identifying inscribed tablet” presented as above for excellence or achievement. Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (2006). The plaque may be a one-piece or a laminated composition. One-piece plaques are typically made of medal or a synthetic compound, such as a resin. A metal plaque may require expensive equipment to produce a one-time mold, melt and pour liquid metal, and finish the cast plaque for presentation. Resin based plaques typically utilize a reusable mold and may generally be poured at room temperature with minimal finishing before presentation.

Less expensive plaques are typically constructed of a substantially flat piece of undecorated medal, wood or plastic as a base element or portion. A finish such as paint, stain or plating may be applied to this base element, if desired, prior to further decoration. One of the most common methods for decorating this base element with specific designs or wording is by attaching a separate engraved, embossed, laser engraved, sublimated or screen printed metal plate. A printed metal plate is generally the least expensive of the decoration methods stated above. However, a medal award may also be mounted on such a base element for presentation.

A common method in the award industry for producing a printed metal plate decoration is to print, cut and adhere the metal plate to the plaque surface. For example, the metal plate may come from the manufacturer in a sheet with a foil design already printed thereon. To obtain the correct size, the piece is cut by hand or machine cut with a shear. Then each metal piece is individually screen printed or sublimated with a design to decorate one side. Next, if a plaque, an adhesive composition is applied to the back of the metal piece by hand, and the decoration is applied to the flat surface of the plaque. Since the metal plate has minimal flexibility, the surface of the plaque must be substantially clean and flat without significant voids to encourage maximum adherence of the metal plate to the adhesive composition, and the adhesive composition to the surface of the plaque. A clear spray or polymer sheet coating may be applied depending upon the cost and end use. If the metal plate was for a column, it would have to be somewhat flexible to be bent for insertion on a holder on a column.

A current method for decorating a metal plaque, or a medal or medallion with specific designs or wording, is by attaching a separate engraved or embossed metal plate, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,086,965, issued to Waas-Russiyan et al., (2000). The cost of tooling for metal engraving and the time required increase the cost of the product to the consumer. To provide color to a medal, Waas-Russiyan et al., describe incorporating a rubber-like material on the face of the medal. This compliant surface may then be molded into three dimensions and colorized in the process. Again, this requires the expense of an individual mold for each design.

A third general type of award is known as a ‘trophy’. The term, ‘trophy’ is defined as, “Something gained or given in victory or conquest especially when preserved or mounted as a memorial . . . or, an architectural ornament.” Merriam Webster Online Dictionary (2006). A trophy generally comprises various combinations of parts or elements, such as a base, spacer, riser, one or more decorative extrusion or injection molded columns, and a figure or other design at the top. The figure design is typically a three dimensional model of a representative image of a sporting event like a soccer ball, a cheerleader, an auto, a motorcycle and rider, or other emblem representative of a particular activity. In addition, a riser, or the figure itself, may be provided with an area or surface for adherence of a decorative element, such as the decorative element of the present invention.

Decoration on a trophy was generally limited to colors or finishes applied to the components or elements. For example, the base could be painted or otherwise colored. The risers and figure were painted or plated providing the effect of a colorful element on the award. Finally, the attachable metal plates, or the extruded or formed columns, were painted, screen printed, sublimated or plated.

The award industry began to provide greater choices of decoration as consumers were attracted to more colorful awards. A hot foil stamp method was developed to decorate columns since the foil stamping provided additional color effects. As the column was extruded the surface was colorized by addition of a foil product applied in a conforming die with heat. The advantage of the pre-printed foil was that more interesting uniform colors and designs, such as metallic-type colors designs, could be applied to the column. However, the method generally requires a specific die for each size column and design. In addition, each design requires a minimum order of approximately 10,000 lineal feet of foil product before an order can be accepted. Then the individual die is made and the large order of columns produced for shipping and assembly. This large volume requirement limits the designs offered consumers. Since the foil product comes in approximately twenty-five (25) inch wide rolls, it may produce up to forty (40) thousand six-inch trophy columns. A supply large enough that it may last for five years of orders. Thus, each foil design must be able to sell across many markets to build enough trophies to consume just one foil design. Therefore, it is prohibitively expensive to provide event specific graphics for a limited number of trophies using this method. For these reasons, the foil printed trophies are generally limited to having a specific item thereon, such as a baseball, soccer ball, or year date, as the only decoration so that the column can be sold across many markets or events.

However, the need for trophies and awards to be decorated with more colorful and complex designs continues to grow as consumers demand more variety. The industry has responded by creating more colors and designs with the hot foil and screen printing methods, but the variety and detail of the designs are limited by detail limitations and by the cost of the large minimum orders required.

In U.S. Pat. No. 6,570,600 (2003), Aroneo et al., describe three methods to print a design on the curved surface of a trophy column—silk screening, hot stamping and pad printing. These methods require expensive tooling which add to the cost of the decoration. For example, the hot stamp foil printing process requires a curved die the size of the column exterior, with the inner curved surface engraved with the desired design. Different sized columns and different designs require separate individual dies. Similarly, silk screening or pad printing requires specific dedicated printing screens and tools for each design. The dedicated tooling and individual molds or dies add significantly to the cost of the decorative process and lengthens the time to complete an order. Thus only relatively large orders of specific designs are cost effective for foil stamping or printing. The cost would be prohibitive for a small order of awards featuring a photo-realistic design produced by this method.

To reduce the cost of applying decoration to trophies and awards as illustrated above, the industry adopted a method to create decoration on a flexible substrate and then apply it to the award. This method utilizes a Mylar® sheet, or similar synthetic material, hereinafter known as the “Mylar® method”, as the flexible printing substrate. Once printed with a design and backed with adhesive composition, the design is die cut from the sheet producing a decorative element. The decorative element is then applied to the surface of the award or trophy component.

More specifically, in the Mylar® method the sheet is screen printed, spot printed or hot foil stamped to apply the design to the sheet. An adhesive is provided or applied to the non-printed side of the sheet. Next, the decorative element is cut from the finished printed sheet and applied to the surface of the award components. No coating is generally applied to protect the design.

The Mylar® method is limited to applications were the color or design is applied by screen printing, spot printing or hot-foil stamping since printing from an offset or digital method will not adhere. These designs may be stock designs from the manufacturer, or custom designed for the customer, such as a team design. But as stated above, any design requires large orders of foil material for foil stamping, or individual screens for production of these designs by the Mylar® method. In addition, neither method can attain the detail of photo-realistic designs, or at the reduced cost, of the present invention. Thus the finished product by the Mylar® method is limited by volume, time and expense, and lesser detail than that of the present invention.

The limitations of the methods outlined above cannot provide ornamented or personalized trophies and awards having photo-realistic detail in small quantities to consumers. Therefore, a need exists for a less expensive and rapid method to produce a flexible decorative element with photo-realistic detail that may be applied to planar or non-planar surfaces of any size.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

It is understood that the invention is not limited in its application and scope to the details of composition and to the methods set forth in the following description or by illustration in the drawings. The invention is capable of more than one embodiment and of being practiced in more than one way. Also, it is understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The term ‘award’ as used herein encompasses, but is not limited to, a variety of articles that may be presented, in accord with the definition above, to a person or group of persons, an organization, company or similar association, a governmental body, one or more animals, and the like, presented as a gift or as a premium for an achievement or accomplishment, or recognition, including but not limited to plaques, medals, medallions, trophies, trophy components such as risers and columns, and other articles that may be used as awards, with planar or non-planar surfaces for decoration. The term ‘decoration’ or ‘decorative element’ as used herein encompasses the article of manufacture of the methods of the present invention.

The present invention is directed to a decorative element, and to methods of decorating and selling an award, including but not limited to a medal, medallion, plaque, or a trophy component such as a base, riser or column, with a paper-based decorative element having a design that may comprise up to photo-realistic detail. The term ‘photo-realistic’ as used herein means a photographic image, or a design that may be derived from a photograph, or a design as detailed as any photograph, or a detailed image generated by computer software, as known in the art, such as a software generated image derived from an existing photographic image, or completely produced by software. Thus, the software manipulated image may have even greater detail than a photograph. An advantage of the present invention is that the amount of detail in the image is only limited by the computer software and the printing hardware, thereby providing a greater range of colors and effects heretofore not possible in the mass produced decorative elements by hot foil stamping, screen printing or other known methods.

In one embodiment of the present invention the digital information from an actual photograph, or a portion thereof, is used as the basis for the decorative element design by inputting the digital image into the printing process by known methods in the art, manipulating the image using computer software, printing the image on the paper substrate to define the decorative element, isolating the decorative element from the remainder of the paper substrate by means such as die cutting, and affixing the decorative element to the award.

A preferred method of the present invention comprises selecting an image, which has photo-realistic detail as defined above, deriving a design therefrom either by manipulating the image with computer software or using the image directly, then printing the derived decorative design on a printable paper substrate such as a sheet having a pressure sensitive adhesive composition pre-applied to the non-printed side, protecting the printed design with a coating, curing the coating if required, cutting the preferred shapes form the printed sheet to produce the decorative element(s), and then applying the decorative element to the award to complete the decoration. The use of paper as the printing substrate in the present invention is a significant advantage over the Mylar® as the paper substrate broadens the potential detail of the designs available to the consumer because it can accept photo-realistic print from any method, and substantially lessens the cost of the flexible printing substrate. Whereas the Mylar® substrate cannot accept printing from the detail printing methods useable by the less expensive paper substrate. Therefore the cost of the decorative element may be reduced one-half or less.

More specifically, in one embodiment of the present invention, (1) a design is derived from a stock or other digital image that is manipulated by computer software methods known in the art, (2) the design is then printed by a digital method or a process color method using an offset printing press onto a paper substrate parent sheet of eighty (80) pound designation having a pressure sensitive adhesive composition pre-applied to the non-printing side, (3) the printed side of the paper substrate parent sheet is then clear coated with a flexible covering, such as a liquid gloss polymer, (4) the coating is cured with heat or UV light according to specifications, (5) the parent sheet with the printed design, coating and adhesive composition is die cut to the appropriate shape and size to provide the decorative element for the award, and (6) the decorative element is mounted by hand or machine on an award surface of any size or shape that will accept attachment of the adhesive composition of the decorative element.

In a preferred method, the process color method may be a four color method using a Heidelberg type printing press, or any other acceptable printing method as known in the art. The paper substrate may be of any variety of acceptable printable paper stock known in the art, which includes but is not limited to sixty (60) pound, eighty (80) pound or one hundred twenty (120) pound designation stock.

In another embodiment, the decorative element further comprises a holographic element and/or a foil element previously incorporated into the paper substrate before the photo-realistic design is printed, thus providing further design and color choices for the consumer. The foil or holographic element is first incorporated or applied to the paper substrate by methods known in the art.

In another embodiment utilizing a decorative element of the present invention on a column surface, the decorative element may be applied to only a portion of the column surface to leave the remaining portion of the surface exposed for other decoration. The column surface would have first had a foil coating or holographic image, as previously described, applied prior to affixing a decorative element. Since the present invention provides a customizable, low cost, photo-realistic decorative element, more than one decorative element, even comprising different images, could be applied to an award.

The article and methods of the present invention (1) lower the per unit cost by using readily available printing technologies known in the art, thus specific dies, screens and other proprietary equipment are not required, (2) reduce the time required from order to completion, (3) reduce the size of cost effective minimum and custom orders, and (4) improve the product appearance by providing photo-realistic designs with much greater detail than could be achieved by the screen printing or hot foil stamping methods commonly used in the art.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a decorative element for an award, and a method of decoration of an award, that utilizes a paper substrate, but which may be printed with a photo-realistic design thereon.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a more economical method for producing a decorative element for an award.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a paper-based flexible decorative element that may be applied to a variety of planar and non-planar surfaces of awards.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a method of photo-realistic decoration of an award that reduces the amount of time required to print the decoration for an award.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide an award with customized photo-realistic decoration for less than a dozen awards or trophies at nominal expense.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the decorative element in accord with the present invention.

FIG. 2A is a front elevational view of a blank award.

FIG. 2B is a frontal elevational view of an embodiment of the award medal of FIG. 2A with an applied decorative element of the present invention.

FIG. 2C is a frontal elevational view of an embodiment of a riser type trophy element with the applied decorative element of the present invention.

FIG. 3A is an enlarged cross-sectional view of an embodiment of a plaque with an applied decorative element of the present invention.

FIG. 3B is a perspective view of an embodiment of a plaque with an applied decorative element of the present invention.

FIG. 4A is a perspective view of an undecorated trophy column.

FIG. 4B is a perspective view of an embodiment of a decorative element partially rolled from a planar sheet into a round elongated tube-like structure in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 4C is a cross-sectional view of an embodiment of the decorative element of the present invention applied to a trophy column.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows an enlarged cross-sectional view of a preferred embodiment of a decorative element 10 of the present invention comprising an adhesive composition 14 applied to one side of a paper substrate 12, and affixed on the non-adhesive side of the substrate 12 is a photo-realistic image 16 printed by methods known in the art, with a protective coating 18 covering the image 16. The coating 18 may be applied by various methods including spraying, brushing or as a polymer film. The coating 18 is cured at ambient temperature, by infrared or ultraviolet radiation, or direct contact with a heat source. An advantage of an ultraviolet curable coating is that it may be cured by ultraviolet light without elevated temperature, also known as ‘cold UV’. Thus the coating 18 may be rapidly cured at the lesser expense of cold UV light. Once the coating 18 on the image 16 is cured, the decorative element 10 may be cut to the desired shape and affixed to the award surface 20. The coating 18 is not essential to the decorative element of the invention but provides protection for the image and substrate to extend the life, usefulness and commercial appeal of an award. The coating 18 may provide a flat, semi-gloss, matte, or gloss appearance

FIGS. 2A and 2B show an award of the medal-type 22. FIG. 2A is a blank award 22 without an applied decorative element. FIG. 2B is an elevational view of such an award 22 with a decorative element 10 of the present invention affixed thereon. FIG. 2C is an elevational view of a trophy part known as a riser type element 24 having a surface for application of a decorative element 10 thereon. The decorated riser element 24 is generally installed above a column in a trophy award construction. A trophy award construction consisting generally of a base, a column, a riser and figure on top. A further advantage of the present invention is that the trophy award may be constructed with or without the decorative element 10 on the riser type element 24. Thus, a trophy award construction may be pre-assembled ready for sale and the customer can present an event specific image to the seller for use in producing a decorative element 10 of the present invention to be affixed to the riser 24.

FIG. 3A is an enlarged cross-sectional view through line A-A of a plaque-type award 26 comprising a supporting base portion 28, with a decorative element 10 affixed on one side by adhesive 14 on the substrate 12. A spray or sheet coating 18, such as various synthetic films of the polycarbonate or polyethylene type, may be applied on the affixed decorative element 10 and to the plaque base portion 28 to aid in protecting the image 16 but is not a necessary part of the invention. FIG. 3B shows the plaque type award 26 in a perspective view with the decorative element 10 of the present invention affixed thereto.

FIG. 4A shows a perspective view of a trophy column 30 of a trophy type award having a first end 32, a second end 34, and inner surface 36 and an exterior surface 38 before the decorative element 10 of the present invention is applied. FIG. 4B illustrates an embodiment of a decorative element 10 of the present invention as it would be affixed to a trophy column 30. The decorative element 10 having a first edge 40, a second edge 42, a top edge 44, and a bottom edge 46 formed to adhere by the adhesive 14 to the exterior surface 38 of the trophy column 30. In the embodiments of FIGS. 4B and 4C the decorative element 10 substantially surrounds the exterior surface 38 of the column 30 such that first edge 40 and second edge 42 substantially contact, and the decorative element 10 adheres to the surface 38 by the adhesive composition 14. In an additional embodiment, the column surface may be only partially covered with a decorative element 10 thus allowing a portion of any other pre-applied trophy decoration, such as foil, a holographic image, or the like, to be visible. Thus a column may be decorated in accord with the present invention by first extruding the plastic column, hot stamping the column with foil as known in the art, then applying the decorative element 10 to the column 30. In addition, if the trophy type award also comprises a riser type element 24, a decorative element 10 may also be installed thereon to provide more decoration choices for the consumer.

The advantages of using a decorative element 10 of the preferred embodiment comprise (1) lowering the per unit cost of photo-realistic detail decorated awards by using readily available printing technologies of digital printing or offset printing, thus specific dies and screens are not required, (2) reducing the time required to complete such an order due to the fact that custom screens and dies are not required, (3) reducing the size of a cost effective minimum for photo-realistic detail image decorated awards for small orders, such as a little league team, (4) providing photo-realistic event specific and custom image decorative options for consumers across the breadth of award designs, including but not limited to medal, plaque and trophy type awards, and (4) improving the product appearance by providing photo-realistic designs with much greater detail than could be achieved by known methods of screen printing or hot foil stamping.

The teachings of the present invention further illustrate a business method for selling awards decorated with photo-realistic images at a reasonable cost, including such awards with event specific or custom images. Due to the greatly reduced cost of producing the photo-realistic decorative element 10 of the present invention, a much greater variety of designs on awards may be offered. In addition, small orders of a dozen or fewer awards with photo-realistic decoration may be offered to consumers at a reasonable price. A further advantage of the present invention is that the award seller may offer a stock image, an image related to a specific event, or a specific image provided by the consumer, and still provide a finished product in a reasonable time at reasonable cost. With the wide availability of digital image capture, an event specific digital image, or a custom image such as provided by a customer, may be provided to the award seller for incorporation into the decorative element 10. An example of an award utilizing the present invention would be an award presented to the winner of a golf championship, where the event specific photo-realistic image would be incorporated into a decorative element 10 and affixed to the award surface 20 prior to presentation to the winner. A further advantage of the present invention is that the decorative element 10 may be affixed to a planar or non-planar surface, and that surface may vary greatly in size thus allowing the seller to offer large photo-realistic images at reasonable cost up to the capacity of the printing equipment and the award surface.

Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the concept upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other awards with decorative elements, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. Therefore, the claims are to be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.