Title:
BALL-RACKET COUPLING AND PROTECTIVE APPARATUS AND SYSTEM
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A ball-coupling and protection apparatus and system is disclosed. In a typical embodiment, a coupler apparatus is disposed along an outer perimeter of a racket, typically a location along the perimeter farthest from the user's grip on the racket. In a typical embodiment, the coupler is a set of hooks from a hook and loop fastener set.



Inventors:
Dyer, James Douglas (Lilburn, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/747814
Publication Date:
11/15/2007
Filing Date:
05/11/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63B47/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHIU, RALEIGH W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GEORGE R. REARDON (LAWRENCVILLE, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tennis racket apparatus, comprising: a handle having a first end and a second end; a head coupled to the handle, the head having an outer perimeter; and a ball coupler disposed along at least a portion of the outer perimeter.

2. The apparatus as claimed in claim 1 wherein the ball coupler is a strip of hook fasteners having opposing staggered rows of j-shaped hooks.

3. The apparatus as claimed in claim 2 further comprising means for disposing the strip of hook fasteners along the outer perimeter.

4. The apparatus as claimed in claim 3 wherein the means for disposing the strip of hook fasteners along the outer perimeter is adhesive.

5. A ball-racket coupling and protection system, comprising: a ball; a racket having a handle and a head coupled to the handle; and means for coupling the ball to the tennis racket.

6. The system as claimed in claim 5 wherein the ball is a tennis ball.

7. The system as claimed in claim 6 wherein the racket is a tennis racket.

8. The system as claimed in claim 7 wherein the coupler is a set of hook and loop fasteners.

9. The system as claimed in claim 8 wherein a strip of hook fasteners are disposed along a length of an outer perimeter of the head.

10. The system as claimed in claim 9 wherein the tennis ball has a surface area primarily covered in fuzz.

11. The system as claimed in claim 10 wherein the tennis ball fuzz is the loop fasteners.

12. The system as claimed in claim 9 wherein the head further includes tennis strings disposed within an outer perimeter of the head.

13. The systems as claimed in claim 12 wherein a portion of the tennis strings protrude from the outer perimeter as loops.

14. The system as claimed in claim 13 wherein the strip of hook fasteners comprised of opposing staggered rows of j-shaped hooks and is disposed over the tennis string loops.

15. A ball-racket coupler kit, comprising: a tennis racket having an outer perimeter; a tennis ball having a fuzzy outer surface area; and a sheet of hook fasteners for disposition along the outer perimeter and for interconnection with the fuzzy outer surface area of the tennis ball.

16. The kit as claimed in claim 15 further comprising means for connecting the hook fasteners to the outer perimeter.

17. The kit as claimed in claim 5 wherein the fuzzy outer surface and the sheet of hook fasteners are hook and loop fasteners.

18. The kit as claimed in claim 15 wherein the sheet of hook fasteners is an outer string protector.

19. The kit as claimed in claim 15 wherein the sheet of hook fasteners is a tennis ball coupler.

20. The kit as claimed in claim 15, wherein the sheet of hook fasteners is a sheet of hook fasteners having opposing staggered rows of j-shaped hooks.

Description:

This application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 60/747,038 filed on May 11, 2006, which is incorporated herein in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to field games having rackets and balls, and more particularly to a ball-racket coupling apparatus and system.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many sports and games of skill incorporate a racket and a ball. For example, tennis, racquetball, ping-pong and other games all implement a racket and a ball for playing the sport. Ball recovery is typical because the games all involve some level of keeping the ball in “play” by striking the ball with rackets with the goal of causing the opposing player to miss the ball. Once the ball is missed, the player must recover the ball. In these games, ball recovery can become a nuisance. For example, in particular, a tennis player must run over to a missed ball, bend over, pick up the ball, and then put the ball back into play. Constant ball recovery can cause back strain, time delays and other nuisances.

Related art that addresses these and other problems includes the following patents.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,874,666, issued to Ross on Apr. 1, 1975, discloses a tennis racket having the hooked portion of hook and pile mating means mounted thereon substantially opposite the handle member thereof at a location facilitating the engagement of the hooked portion with the felt-like covering of a conventional tennis ball.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,088,320, issued to Brock on May 9, 1978, discloses an attachment for a tennis racket characterized by a pair of resilient retaining members releasably positioned on the frame of the racket and arranged to receive a tennis ball resting on a court or other surface, and to raise such with upward movement of the racket for subsequent removal and use. With the ready grasping of a tennis ball, the tennis racket attachment eliminates, or at least minimizes, the countless bending and stooping formerly required for tennis ball retrieval during the course of a tennis game.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,210,327, issued to Schubert on Jul. 1, 1980, discloses a butt of a tennis racket made concave so as to have a recess into which the periphery of a tennis ball may seat when the butt is pressed against the ball, and within this recess, a section of fabric having countless tiny hooks is located so that, when the ball is seated within the recess, the hooks snag the curly pile periphery of the ball and thereby releasably attach the same to the tennis racket for retrieval purposes. One aspect of the invention involves the way in which improved retentive engagement is made between a hook fabric and its curly pile counterpart, such improvements residing in the way in which the two fabrics are slidingly rubbed against one another to increase their snagging interengagement, even though the two objects employing the fabrics are simply pressed together in a simple direct manner, such as when pressing the butt of a tennis racket against a tennis ball to retrieve the same U.S. Pat. No. 4,834,393, issued to Feldi on May 30, 1989, discloses a tennis ball retrieval means consisting of a tennis racquet, and a hook and loop fastening means; the tennis racquet having a handle portion in opposing relationship therebetween; the hook fastening means adhesively attached to the racquet tip, the loop fastening means consisting of an outer covering of a tennis ball consisting entirely of a loop material.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,993,712, issued to Urwin on Feb. 19, 1991, discloses an apparatus which is attached to a tennis racket at one or more locations and which is configured to securely grasp and pick up a tennis ball, thereby permitting the user to use the tennis racket to pick up the tennis ball and eliminate the requirement for the user to bend down on numerous occasions. The apparatus has two key elements. The first is a removable ball gripping member which is configured in an arcuate shape conformed to the shape of the ball which is being retrieved such as a tennis ball and which further includes gripping means to grasp the surface of the ball. Second, the removable ball gripping member includes removable fastening means by which the removable ball gripping member can be attached to any desired location on the retrieving object such as a tennis racket and the tennis racket includes mating gripping apparatus at selected locations to hold the removable ball gripping apparatus.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,056,786, issued to Bellettini et al. on Oct. 15, 1991, discloses a tennis ball retriever using hook and mesh components in engaging relationship to one another such that application of the two components aids in retrieving a tennis ball. The racket has a section of hook material attached at the butt of the handle. The tennis ball is fitted with a covering of intermeshing material. When the butt of the racket is put in contact with tennis ball having the mesh covering, the ball will fasten temporarily to the racket. This eliminates the problem of having to constantly stoop to pick up the ball.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,333,854, issued to Woollard et al. on Aug. 2, 1994, discloses a tennis ball retriever device for use at the handle end of a tennis racquet to retrieve tennis balls. The tennis ball retriever device includes a cap having an open end with a recess and a plurality of teeth or pins extending inwardly from a peripheral wall inside the recess, the teeth or pins adapted to grasp the nap surface of the tennis ball. The tennis ball retriever device includes within the recess of the cap a compressible material such as a lightweight, flexible, foam material extending to the teeth or pins and adapted to move between a screening position wherein the pins or teeth are screened from catching on objects, and a retracted position wherein the tennis ball is inserted into the open end of the retriever, which compresses the material and exposes the teeth or pins for use in grasping the nap of the tennis ball.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,383,661, issued to Beck on Jan. 24, 1995, discloses an apparatus to retrieve tennis balls by attachment to a tennis racket. The apparatus consists of a bracket having a pair of arms positioned between side walls which are affixed to an arcuate base. The arms are pivotable and can be opened to extend upwardly, from the base where they form an opening slightly smaller than the diameter of a tennis ball. The bracket is attached to the top of the tennis racket and will receive tennis balls that are on the ground without the user having to stoop or bend in order to pick the balls up. Once the desired balls have been gathered the arms can be folded back into the bracket where they remain out of the way during play.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,947,850, issued to Gray on Sep. 7, 1999, discloses a tennis ball retriever for detachably mounting on the frame of a tennis racket which reduces the stooping and bending usually required to retrieve a tennis ball from the surface of a tennis court. The retriever comprises a pair of tines which are distorted when the racket is forced over the tines of the tennis ball.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,719,651 B1, issued to Newey on Apr. 13, 2004, discloses a gripping device for attachment to the bottom of a tennis racquet to retrieve tennis balls wherein, the gripping device is fabricated from a used tennis ball having at least its lower quadrant severed beneath the midline of the used tennis ball wherein, a plurality of vertically extending slits are initiated at the sever line to a point above the midline of the used tennis ball to create gripping fingers that will releasably engage the periphery of relatively new tennis balls.

U.S. Pat. No. 7,140,986 B2, issued to Howe on Nov. 28, 2006, discloses a highly specific type of hooked materials, when applied to the shoulder of a tennis racquet, have been found to tangentially hook onto the nap of a tennis ball and allow the ball to be lifted from the court. Hooked materials characterized as comprising a series of heat-treated nylon monofilament hooks in a rowed relationship (300/inch2) of an average diameter of 8.5 mil, 1.91 mm mean height, 1.13 mm mean width and 0.71 mm mean hook depth are particularly effective for retrieving all common types of tennis balls.

While these patents and other previous methods have attempted to solve the problems that they addressed, none have utilized or disclosed a ball-racket coupling and protective apparatus and system, as does embodiments of the present invention.

Therefore, a need exists for a ball-racket coupling and protective apparatus and system with these attributes and functionalities. The ball-racket coupling and protective apparatus and system according to embodiments of the invention substantially departs from the conventional concepts and designs of the prior art. It can be appreciated that there exists a continuing need for a new and improved ball-racket coupling and protective apparatus and system which can be used commercially. In this regard, the present invention substantially fulfills these objectives.

The foregoing patent and other information reflect the state of the art of which the inventor is aware and are tendered with a view toward discharging the inventor's acknowledged duty of candor in disclosing information that may be pertinent to the patentability of the present invention. It is respectfully stipulated, however, that the foregoing patent and other information do not teach or render obvious, singly or when considered in combination, the inventor's claimed invention.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In general, the invention features a ball-racket coupling and protective apparatus and system. In a typical embodiment, a coupler apparatus is disposed along an outer perimeter of a racket, typically a location along the perimeter farthest from the user's grip on the racket. In a typical embodiment, the coupler is a set of hooks from a hook and loop fastener set. In another embodiment, the fasteners can be an adhesive strip, a clamp or other mechanical coupling device.

In general, in one aspect, the invention features a tennis racket apparatus, including a handle having a first end and a second end, a head coupled to the handle, the head having an outer perimeter and a ball coupler disposed along at least a portion of the outer perimeter.

In one implementation, the ball coupler is a sheet of hook fasteners.

In another implementation, the apparatus further includes means for disposing the hook fasteners along the outer perimeter.

In another implementation, the means for disposing the hook fasteners along the outer perimeter is adhesive.

In another aspect, the invention features a ball-racket coupling system, including a ball, a racket having a handle and a head coupled to the handle and means for coupling the ball to the tennis racket.

In one implementation, the ball is a tennis ball.

In another implementation, the racket is a tennis racket.

In still another implementation, the coupler is a set of hook and loop fasteners.

In yet another implementation, a strip of hook fasteners is disposed along a length of an outer perimeter of the head.

In another implementation, the tennis ball has a surface area primarily covered in fuzz.

In another implementation, the tennis ball fuzz is the loop fasteners.

In another implementation, the head further includes tennis strings disposed within an outer perimeter of the head.

In another implementation, a portion of the tennis strings protrude from the outer perimeter as loops.

In another implementation, the strip of hook fasteners is disposed over the tennis string loops.

In another aspect, the invention features a ball-racket coupler kit, including a tennis racket having an outer perimeter, a tennis ball having a fuzzy outer surface area and a sheet of hook fasteners for disposition along the outer perimeter and for interconnection with the fuzzy outer surface area of the tennis ball.

In another implementation, the apparatus further includes means for connecting the hook fasteners to the outer perimeter.

In another implementation, the fuzzy outer surface and the sheet of hook fasteners are hook and loop fasteners.

In still another implementation, the sheet of hook fasteners is an outer string protector.

In yet another implementation, the sheet of hook fasteners is a tennis ball coupler.

One advantage of the invention is that time delays related to ball recovery can be greatly reduced.

Another advantage of the invention is that strain on the players body, particularly back and knee strain, can be reduced by eliminating the need for the player to bend over to pick up a loose ball.

Another advantage of the invention is that the coupler adds insignificant weight and bulk to a typical racket.

Another advantage of the invention is that the coupler does not interfere with the racket's use.

Another advantage of the invention is that the coupler can aid in the prevention of string damage to rackets, particularly tennis rackets.

Another advantage of the invention is that the coupler can aid in the prevention of head damage to rackets, particularly tennis racket heads.

Another advantage of the invention is that as the coupler wears out it is readily replaceable.

Other objects, advantages and capabilities of the invention are apparent from the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings showing the preferred embodiment of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention, together with further advantages thereof, may best be understood by reference to the following description of the simplest form of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a user picking up a tennis ball, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 illustrates a ball-racket coupling, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 illustrates a tennis racket having protective covering installed, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates a protective covering prior to placement on a tennis racket, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 illustrates a side view of an individual hook of a hook and loop system, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 illustrates an arrangement of rows of hooks on a substrate, according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 illustrates a close-up view of a ball-racket coupler and protective apparatus connected to a tennis racket as a ball-racket coupler system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to at least one preferred embodiment thereof as illustrated in the accompanying drawings. In the following description, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to one skilled in the art, that the present invention may be practiced without some or all of these specific details. In other instances, well known operations have not been described in detail so not to unnecessarily obscure the present invention.

Referring to the drawings, FIGS. 1-7, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several figures, reference is made first to FIG. 7 that illustrates a close-up view of a ball-racket coupler apparatus 100 connected to a tennis racket 200 and coupled to a tennis ball 300 as a ball-racket coupler system 400.

In a typical embodiment, tennis racket 200 includes handle, head 205, having outer perimeter 210 and strings 215 disposed within perimeter 210. In general, the ball-racket coupler system 400 includes tennis racket 200 and tennis ball 300.

As mentioned above, tennis racket 200 generally includes handle having a first end and a second end, head 205 coupled to handle generally at second end (first end typically includes hand grip). Head having an outer perimeter 210 typically includes ball coupler 100 disposed along at least a portion of outer perimeter 210.

In a typical embodiment, ball coupler 100 is a sheet of hook fasteners, and the system 400 typically further includes means for disposing the hook fasteners along outer perimeter 210 which in a typical implementation is adhesive, disposed between outer perimeter 210 and ball coupler 100.

Therefore, ball-racket coupling system 400 typically includes ball 300, racket 200 having a handle and head 205 coupled to the handle and means for coupling ball 300 to tennis racket 200.

As described above, in a most typical implementation, the ball is a tennis ball 300, the racket is tennis racket 200. In addition, coupler 100 is a set of hook and loop fasteners. In general, a strip of hook fasteners is disposed along a length of an outer perimeter 210 of head 205. It is understood that conventional tennis balls such as tennis ball 300 has surface area 305 primarily covered in fuzz 310. Fuzz 310 on surface area 305 is advantageously implemented as an integral part of coupler 100. More specifically, fuzz 310 can be the loop fasteners of a hook and loop fastener set. Therefore, the strip of hook fasteners and fuzz 310 form coupler 100 and therefore a set of hook and loop fasteners.

As discussed above, head 205 includes tennis strings 215. In a conventional tennis racket such as racket 200, tennis strings 215 are disposed within outer perimeter 210 of head 205. It is further appreciated that a portion 220 of the tennis strings 215 protrudes from outer perimeter 210 as loops. The strip of hook fasteners as part of coupler 100 advantageously is disposed over the tennis string loops portion 220 thereby protecting the portion 220 from damage. It is generally appreciated that outer perimeter 210 often hits the ground during tennis play. Coupler 100 therefore advantageously protects the head 205, the outer perimeter 210 and string portions 220.

In general, system 400 can operate as a ball-racket coupler kit, once again, generally including tennis racket 200 having outer perimeter 210, tennis ball 300 having fuzzy outer surface area 305 and sheet of hook fasteners for disposition along outer perimeter 210 and for interconnection with the fuzzy outer surface area 305 of tennis ball 300.

In general, the kit includes means for connecting the hook fasteners to the outer perimeter, which is typically adhesive as discussed above.

Furthermore, as also described above, fuzzy outer surface area 305 and the sheet of hook fasteners are hook and loop fasteners, which function as an outer string protector and/or a racket outside edge protector. In general, the sheet of hook fasteners is a tennis ball coupler.

Referring to FIG. 5 and FIG. 6, hook arrangement 110 is comprised of a plurality of hook 111 on a surface 112 with an adhesive backing 113. A plurality of hook 111 is disposed on surface 112 such that two adjacent rows of hook 111 are replicated across surface 112. In each replication of the two adjacent rows of hook 111 the hooks in first of the adjacent rows face the hooks on the second of the adjacent row. In addition the facing hooks are not directly across from each other rather they are positioned such that each facing hook faces the gap between the two nearest facing hooks, as shown in FIG. 6. This arrangement optimizes the ability to engage the loops on a tennis ball.

The foregoing description and drawings comprise illustrative embodiments of the present invention. Having thus described exemplary embodiments of the present invention, it should be noted by those skilled in the art that the within disclosures are exemplary only, and that various other alternatives, adaptations and modifications may be made within the scope of the present invention. Merely listing or numbering the steps of a method in a certain order does not constitute any limitation on the order of the steps of that method. Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which this invention pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing description and the associated drawings. Although specific terms may be employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited to the specific embodiments illustrated herein, but is limited only by the following claims.