Title:
IMPACT COLLAPSIBLE NON-RIGID LAP TRAY WITH FOUR SURROUNDING HIGH SIDES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to lap trays, specifically to non-rigid automobile lap trays with four surrounding high sides, constructed from FDA-approved materials for safe contact with food, having properties available to withstand temperatures greater than 200° F. The non-rigid automobile lap tray is formed through one of several processes: they can be compression molded or transfer molded if a rubber or silicone material is used, or injection molded with non-rigid plastic materials.



Inventors:
Grant, Margaret Jean (Sunnyvale, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/754868
Publication Date:
12/06/2007
Filing Date:
05/29/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHU, KING M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARGARET JEAN GRANT (SUNNYVALE, CA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A lap tray with a substantially rectangular base having continuous high sides, the said high sides generally perpendicular to the base, with a flange along the top or partial top of said high sides, molded from temperature resistant, non-rigid, flexible material, such as silicone or other materials which are considered safe for contact with food, such that the said lap tray is impact collapsible from an impact such as inflation of an automobile airbag.

2. A lap tray molded from temperature resistant, non-rigid, flexible material, which is considered safe for contact with food such that the said lap tray is impact collapsible from an impact of an inflating automobile airbag.

3. The lap tray of claim 1 to further comprise of two integrated attachment options on each of the right and left sidewalls generally at the rear of the tray.

4. The lap tray of claim 1 wherein there are flaps fixed to the bottom of the right and left sidewalls.

5. The lap tray of claim 1 to further comprise of two non-integral, non-removable clips on top of two side flaps, having a top and bottom, wherein the bottom of the clip is to be locked or heat-sealed to top of a flap, and the top of said clip creates an operable hook for attachment to the lap tray.

6. The lap tray of claim 1 such that the lap tray can be rolled and stored away.

7. The lap tray of claim 1 wherein there is a semi-circular portion of a rear wall that angles away from the tray and increases in wall height in a circular manner.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefits of U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/808,853, filed on May 30, 2006 entitled “NON-RIGID LAP TRAY WITH FOUR SURROUNDING HIGH SIDES”.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to an impact collapsible lap tray composed of FDA approved flexible, non-rigid material for safe contact with food. In addition, these materials must be temperature resistant. The temperature resistance prevents the melting of the lap tray in climates of extreme temperatures within an automobile interior, or during the course of cleaning the lap tray in a dishwasher. Moreover, the flexible nature of the material allows a roll up to store away the lap tray.

The most common travel lap tray designs incorporate a flat rigid material as a base, generally have the option to hold a drink container, and exhibit a small edge around the periphery. Overkamp, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,305,532, and Neville in U.S. Pat. No. 5,862,933 show rigid Travel/Portable Lap trays. However, the rigid lap tray is likely to cause a safety hazard within an automobile if an airbag were to deploy either from the front of the car or from the sides in rear seats, where a rigid lap tray would be in the path of the airbag. By using a non-rigid lap tray, this hazard is avoided. In addition, storing a rigid tray is awkward within the interior of a car making it less accessible when needed.

Dedrick, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,671,479 shows a Reversibly Collapsible Lap Tray that is non-rigid and will collapse for easy storage (not impact). It has a spring within a web made out of thin fabric. The purpose is to enable the lap tray to collapse into a small size upon completion of use. It does not address the use of a lap tray requiring high sides to keep food, cell phones, toys, or other items from disbursing.

Sussman, in U.S. Pat. No. 5,497,885 shows a Lap Tray for Carrying Food that does have high sides and partitions in addition to a drink holder, with extensions underneath that extend a short distance downwardly against the legs of the user to stabilize the tray against lateral displacement. The lap tray is made from molded fibre paper, has internal sections, and is disposable in nature.

Rotstein, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,116,166 shows a collapsible child travel tray but it is not collapsible on impact. Also it is collapsible on hinges rather than flexible nature of the composing material.

Demaio and Piera, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,958,577 shows a Roll-Up Lap Tray made from material that is rigid, but in small, connected strips which allow it to be rolled up and stored in a cylindrical configuration. Again, the lap tray is missing the high sides to needed to prevent lateral movement of food and objects and one that is collapsible on impact

Spindler, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,128,781 shows a Tray and Bib Food-Catching Apparatus. Although this Lap tray is made of a flexible sheet of material, it is limited to an age requiring a bib and most likely not used within a travelling automobile, but in a highchair. Further, the tray is not impact collapsible.

The preferred material for this invention is silicone. Hompanera and Maria, in U.S. Pat. No. 6,197,359 have introduced a method of making silicone for bake ware. Many of the current silicone bake-ware products have high sides and flanges, but depart in similarity of design from the standpoint of the instant invention for a lap tray design as seen in FIGS. 1-4. One can find in bake ware inventions and claims food attributes such as food release in bake ware and insulation qualities of silicone in household or industrial uses. Eating from and cooking within are two different uses, and insulating and release properties are of little or no importance to this invention of a lap tray.

Hence there is a need a non-rigid, flexible lap tray that is permanent in nature, having high sides surrounding an open cavity with no partitions, which is easy to clean, is temperature resistant, and is flexible enough to collapse on impact and roll up to store away.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an impact collapsible lap tray, made of non-rigid, flexible material having high sides surrounding an open cavity with no partitions, that is easy to clean, is temperature resistant, and is flexible enough to collapse on impact and roll up to store away.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an isometric view of the lap tray showing the flaps extended using the top attachment option.

FIG. 2 is an isometric view of the lap tray of FIG. 1 showing flaps extending downward from the lap tray, using the bottom attachment option.

FIG. 3 is an isometric view of the embodiment for general use of the lap tray of FIG. 1 with fixed flaps extending downward from the lap tray.

FIG. 4 is an isometric view of FIG. 3 as seen from the underside.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The preferred embodiment in this invention for the lap tray is to use a silicone material, the method comprising the steps of: providing the lap tray with a bottom base, side walls extending upwardly generally at right angles from the bottom base, each side wall having a peripheral inwardly projecting or outwardly projecting flange, with side walls encapsulating the base. The lap tray is a generally rectangular shape and departs from this form at the rear side of the base where the walls form a semicircular inset into the rear side. The lap tray is made with stabilizing flaps (FIGS. 1-4, 15) having two attachment options in the lap tray for children, and fixed flaps in the lap tray for general use. The stabilizing flaps for children have a series of half-circle rows on one side to add weight and flexibility. The flaps are designed to travel straight out over a car seat or booster seat arm, and then flop downward. On the underside of the lap tray as seen in FIG. 4, base 10a, several rows of reinforcing material may be added to provide rigidity and friction for non-slippage purposes.

In a principle embodiment of the invention is seen in FIGS. 1-4. The lap tray, with a generally rectangular base 10 is made up of non-rigid, flexible material, preferably silicone, and is designed to collapse on impact, either upwards or downwards, by a force such as delivered by airbag inflation. In adapting the lap tray for children, one must take into account that automobile seats are generally angled downward toward the back of the seat. Compounding this feature is the possibility that a car seat and booster seat may also be designed with a downward angle. With possible double angling, anything placed in a lap tray with low sides or no sides would end up against the child. To address this problem the tray has high sides 11, 12 and 13 and an inwardly extending flange 16, as seen in FIGS. 1-2. Future designs could include a wedge-shaped foam pillow to be used underneath the tray to lessen the angle.

As part of the principle embodiment, the non-rigid, flexible material these materials must be temperature resistant to 200° F. and above. The benefit of the high temperature resistance is to prevent the melting of the lap tray in climates of extreme temperatures within an automobile interior, or during the course of cleaning the lap tray in a dishwasher. Moreover, the flexible nature of the material allows a roll up to store away the lap tray.

In a safety-conscious environment, there are elaborate laws for child safety in automobiles. As a natural consequence of these laws, car seats and booster seats have evolved in a much more safe, but complicated manner. An adult is required to strap the seats to the automobile, and, through a series of smaller straps, strap the child to the car seat or booster seat. To do this, an adult must feed the child's body through the straps and bring all the parts together in order to snap the straps together for a complete hold. More times than not, this duty is performed while the child twists, arches, and verbalizes in grave protest. Many adults have two or three children to fasten into the car seats on a daily basis. The present invention is designed to be easy to install, particularly as the last step in this process, without any additional snaps or straps or hooks or fasteners to further complicate the car situation.

The lap tray for general use is similar to the child's lap tray in that it has a flat base with four high sides and flaps extending outward or downward from the right and left side of the base made from materials exhibiting the same properties. It differs in design in that the flaps are fixed, or non-removable as seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, flaps 15. Since the side flaps drape over the outside of the legs, or function as an expander, the width of the flap is designed to be wider than the flap found in the child lap tray design. The angle of the semi-circular wall 17, in between the semi-circular wall side panels 17a, at the rear as seen in FIGS. 3 and 4, differs slightly in that this section in the rear of the base angles outward from the lap tray and rises slightly higher than the surrounding walls. This modification is necessary to address universal body types where the slight rise travels up against the body to protect clothing from potential food spills. This slight rise is also designed without a flange in order to decrease the margin between the clothing and the lap tray.

The lap tray comes with side flaps as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, flap 15, designed with rows of thicker material on only one side 15a as seen in FIG. 2, to allow the flap 15 to drape over the arms of the car seats and booster seats. These flaps 15 can work for a lap of an adult as well. Such a design allows for ease of placement, where the weight and angle of the lap tray work to keep it in place, and the flaps act as stabilizers or weighting devices in the absence of straps. For optimum fit of a particular model of car seat or booster seat, the side flaps have an upper and lower attachment option on the sides of the lap tray as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, areas 18. This is accomplished by the design of two non-removable; rigid plastic hooks at the top end of each flap as seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, clips 14. However, these side flaps 15 are not necessary, but optional. The lap tray is designed to simply sit in the lap, or can be lifted out of the lap with the use of the flaps 15 over the side rails or a car seat or booster seat.

If it is an adult preference to secure the child's lap tray rather than have it merely drape over the child and car seat or booster seat, several options can be designed or employed. These options are provided by way of example without any limitation thereto. 1) The child's lap tray model could be manufactured with integrated “semi-circular pre-formed, arms”, or sold with a separate “strapping device” that would be placed around the sides and back of a child, or sides and back of the car seat or booster seat. 2) Depending upon the materials used for the flaps, which may differ from the materials used for the lap tray, an adult could use Velcro as a means of attachment, as described below.

To secure the lap tray to the car seat or booster seat, the side flaps may easily be flipped over and re-hooked to one of the attachment options. Once completed, the smooth surface of the flap would then face the body of the car seat or booster seat. A Velcro Square can then be applied to the hard surface or protective fabric of the sides of the car seat or booster seat, with its corresponding mate applied to the underside of the flap in correct alignment. As a second option, a strapping device can be employed attaching to the bottom of one flap, traversing underneath the car seat or booster seat and coming back up, attaching to the bottom of the recipient flap.

A car seat, stroller, or highchair manufacturer could also produce an attachable lap tray to accommodate their particular product. A possible design might be to install two large snaps below the arm rests on the right and left sides of the car seat, stroller or highchair with opposite snap ends on shorter, possibly wider flaps located on the left and right sides of the lap tray. One side could then be unsnapped and the lap tray rolled up and secured to the other side in some clever manner while still having two snaps in place. Another possible design would be to have only one snap on the right or left side with two on the opposite side. An adult would unsnap the two snaps and after the lap tray is rolled up, swivelled the roll down and around to be fastened. Still another design could be to create stationary, smaller flaps integrated into the rear sides of the lap tray wall, in the shape of a wedge style with the rear side vertical, that would travel straight up the inside of the sidewalls of the car seat and attach in a clever manner.

The most important advantage of this invention is a contribution toward safety within the automobile. The lap tray will immediately collapse during a car accident, a deployment of an air bag, or other pressure preventing injury to the passengers.

The invention lends itself to a safer and cleaner automobile environment. As a benefit of the lap tray non-rigidity, the lap tray can keep a pacifier, bottle, or toy from being thrown onto the floor in the rear of the car where an adult may have to divert their attention while driving to satisfy a screaming child. As a cleanliness feature for use in the car, an adult can feed their children within lap tray; limit the food fallout to the lap tray rather than on the seats or carpeting. As an adult safety use in the car, as laws become more restrictive on the use of a cellular phone in the automobile, the lap tray can be used to hold a mobile phone so that the driver would be able to use an ear wire attachment with the phone resting in the lap tray, and not divert their attention from the road by hunting around for the ringing phone.

The lap tray can be rolled up and tucked away in a sack, or constricted in a roll using an elastic band, Velcro band, or other products as a binding or securing agent, or simply folded, and in the case of use within an automobile, placed under the seat or in the glove compartment.

Other uses of the lap tray could be within the home, eating on the sofa, or in a production or manufacturing area where an employee would be seated at an assembly line working with small parts kept in the lap tray; used as a hobby aid, used in the airline industry, or any other industries or health-related facilities where there is need of a permanent, flexible to semi-flexible, washable, lap tray with high sides.

Future models of the tray can include, but are not limited to, adding semi-rigid reinforcement materials to one or more embodiments. Depending on the type of lap tray, the encapsulated flange may also provide a semi-rigid structural support. By controlling the geometry of the flange, it is possible to strengthen and stabilize the lap tray. A further embodiment of the invention provides for a reinforcing elements consisting semi-rigid plastic material, such as a honeycomb plate under the base of the lap tray to be held in place by tucking it into four corner diagonal pockets while in use. Still other permutations in design could include an addition of a wide band forming a cavity in the corner to support a cup; and a tray design featuring a smaller, more rectangular cavity with extensions that join with the flaps, or other designs and functions in the area of the flaps.

The present invention may be modified in many different ways without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as set forth in this disclosure. Accordingly, the scope of the invention is properly defined by the claims set forth below.