Title:
EXPANDABLE TOILET SEAT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to an expandable toilet seat. One embodiment of the toilet seat includes a seat platform that is movably coupled to a support member via two seat guides. The support member is coupled to a basin in a manner to allow traditional rotation of the seat platform with respect to the basin. The movable coupling between the seat platform and the support member allows the seat platform to expand in response to weight being displaced onto the top of the seat platform. This expansion of the seat platform automatically spreads the left and right buttocks of a user and comfortably accommodates the dimensions of a user's buttocks.



Inventors:
Coles, Peter (Salt Lake City, UT, US)
Engle, Jim (Sandy, UT, US)
Application Number:
11/849345
Publication Date:
12/27/2007
Filing Date:
09/03/2007
Assignee:
AUTOMATION ENGINEERING
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FETSUGA, ROBERT M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER IP PLLC (SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is:

1. 1-56. (canceled)

57. A method of using a toilet seat comprising the acts of: providing an expandable toilet seat including a seat platform that is expandable; lowering the buttocks onto the seat platform, thereby distributing weight onto the seat platform; and expanding the seat platform automatically in response to the weight, wherein the expansion of the seat platform simultaneously causes the right and left buttocks to expand away from one another.

58. The method of claim 57, wherein the seat platform includes a left side and a right side and wherein the left and right buttocks are lowered onto the corresponding left and right sides of the seat platform, and wherein the left and right sides of the seat platform are configured to expand in a manner that includes expansion away from one another.

59. The method of claim 58, wherein the expansion of the left and right sides of the seat platform include rotation away from one another about a pivot point.

60. The method of claim 59, wherein the pivot point is located substantially adjacent to a front portion of the toilet seat.

61. The method of claim 59, wherein the pivot point is located substantially adjacent to a rear portion of the toilet seat.

62. The method of claim 57, wherein the expansion of the seat platform causes the right and left buttocks to expand away from one another due to the friction between the buttocks and the seat platform.

63. The method of claim 57, wherein the expansion of the seat platform further causes the seat platform to comfortably accommodate the dimensions of the buttocks.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an expandable toilet seat. One embodiment of the present invention relates to a toilet seat that is configured to expand outward in response to a downward force.

2. Background

Toilets have long been used for facilitating the disposal of human bodily waste. A toilet generally includes a basin that is coupled to a sewage system and some form of flushing mechanism that is coupled to a water intake and to the basin to provide a method of flushing human waste with water. The basin may be positioned above the ground, as is common in western countries, or integrated into the ground. Likewise, the flushing mechanism may be coupled directly to the basin or may be positioned elsewhere. If the flushing mechanism uses gravity to perform the flushing function, it must generally be located above the basin. However, if the flushing mechanism uses another means for generating the water pressure, it may be located above or below the basin.

Toilets generally further include a toilet seat and a lid. The toilet seat is rotatably coupled to the basin such that it is disposed on top of the basin but can be rotated up out of the way. Likewise, the lid is rotatably coupled to the basin such that it is disposed on top of the seat but can be rotated up and out of the way. Various basin, seat and lid configurations are known in the art.

One of the major problems with conventional toilet seats is their inability to comfortably accommodate a variety of different users. Different groups of people require special considerations, including, large, small, elderly, or disabled people. For example, unusually large people may not be able to comfortably sit on a toilet seat that is shaped to accommodate one body size/shape.

Another limitation of conventional toilet seats involves the general need to perform a spreading adjustment of one or both buttocks after sitting on the toilet seat. It is generally preferable to spread the buttocks in order to minimize obstructions during the process of waste disposal. Likewise, the spreading of the buttocks also minimizes fecal contact with the skin. Unfortunately, the process of spreading one or both buttocks is uncomfortable and further exposes the individual to potentially unsanitary areas.

Therefore, there is a need in the industry for a toilet seat that comfortably accommodates a wide variety of individuals and prevents or minimizes the need to spread the buttocks during the process of waste disposal.

SUMMARY

The present invention relates to an expandable toilet seat. One embodiment of the toilet seat includes a seat platform that is movably coupled to a support member via two seat guides. The support member is coupled to a basin in a manner to allow traditional rotation of the seat platform with respect to the basin. The movable coupling between the seat platform and the support member allows the seat platform to expand in response to weight being displaced onto the top of the seat platform. This expansion of the seat platform automatically spreads the left and right buttocks of a user and comfortably accommodates the dimensions of a user's buttocks.

These and other features and advantages of the present invention will be set forth or will become more fully apparent in the description that follows and in the appended claims. The features and advantages may be realized and obtained by means of the instruments and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims. Furthermore, the features and advantages of the invention may be learned by the practice of the invention or will be obvious from the description, as set forth hereinafter.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In order that the manner in which the above-recited and other advantages and features of the invention are obtained, a more particular description of the invention briefly described above will be rendered by reference to specific embodiments thereof which are illustrated in the appended drawings. Understanding that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are not therefore to be considered limiting of its scope, the invention will be described and explained with additional specificity and detail through the use of the accompanying drawings in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of the expandable toilet seat in a rotated down compressed configuration in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of the expandable toilet seat of FIG. 1 in a rotated down expanded configuration;

FIG. 3 illustrated a zoom perspective view of the expandable toilet seat of FIG. 1 in a rotated up compressed configuration;

FIG. 4 illustrates a top view of the expandable toilet seat of FIG. 1 in a rotated down compressed configuration; and

FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative expandable coupling system between a support platform and a basin.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention relates to an expandable toilet seat. One embodiment of the toilet seat includes a seat platform that is movably coupled to a support member via two seat guides. The support member is coupled to a basin in a manner to allow traditional rotation of the seat platform with respect to the basin. The movable coupling between the seat platform and the support member allows the seat platform to expand in response to weight being displaced onto the top of the seat platform. This expansion of the seat platform automatically spreads the left and right buttocks of a user and comfortably accommodates the dimensions of a user's buttocks. While embodiments of the present invention are directed towards an expandable toilet seat, the teachings of the present invention are also applicable to other areas. For example, the teachings of the present invention may be applied to an expandable toilet seat cover that could be placed on top of any existing toilet seat.

The term “expansion” is defined broadly to include both rotation and translation. For example, two objects can expand by rotating away from one another about a particular pivot point. Likewise, the two objects can expand by translating away from one another in opposite directions.

Reference is initially made to FIG. 1, which illustrates a perspective view of one embodiment of the expandable toilet seat in a rotated down compressed configuration in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The expandable toilet seat is designated generally at 100. The toilet seat 100 includes a seat platform 105, two seat guides 130, 135, two support members 120, 125, and two basin couplers 110, 115. The seat platform 105 may be shaped in any manner that provides an opening. The illustrated seat platform 105 is substantially oval shaped with a particular curvature towards the opening in the middle. Alternatively, the seat platform 105 may include two sections shaped to form an opening in the middle but still provide comfortable regions upon which a user's buttocks may rest. Various shapes, materials, textures, colors, etc may be implemented with the seat platform 105 and remain consistent with the present invention. The seat platform includes a separation point 107 which allows the seat platform to expand. The separation point 107 may be a gap as illustrated or may be a slit that is not noticeable in the compressed configuration. The seat platform 105 also includes some form of expansion resistance member that biases the toilet seat 100 into the compressed configuration illustrated in FIG. 1. In the illustrated embodiment, the seat platform 105 is composed of a plastic material and the expansion resistance member is the front portion of the seat platform. The front portion of the seat platform allows the remainder of the seat platform to expand under force but biases the seat platform back to the compressed configuration when the force is removed. Alternatively, a spring or other form of resistance member may be utilized and remain consistent with the present invention. It should also be noted that the resistance member may be disposed on either the front or rear portion of the seat platform.

The two seat guides 130, 135 are coupled at a fixed location to a rear portion of the seat platform 105 in the illustrated embodiment. The illustrated seat guides 130, 135 protrude out from the rear portion of the seat platform 105. Alternatively, the seat guides 130, 135 could be incorporated into the seat platform in an effort to hide their appearance and minimize the need for cleaning. The seat guides 130, 135 are designed to provide a movable coupling between the seat platform 105 and the support members 120, 125. As discussed in more detail with reference to FIG. 3, the seat guides 130, 135 are configured to slide along the support members 120, 125 and rotationally pivot with respect to the seat platform 105. Alternatively, a single seat guide could be utilized to provide the expanding motion.

The two support members 120, 125 are elongated members designed to assist in supporting the weight of the seat platform 105 as it expands. The illustrated support members 130, 135 each include a square shaped section and a round shaped section. The square shaped sections of the support members 120, 125 are movably coupled to the seat guides 130, 135. The movable coupling between the seat guides 130, 135 and the support members 120, 125 will be discussed in more detail with reference to FIG. 3. The square shaped sections of the support members 120, 125 are designed to minimize unwanted movement of the seat during expansion. The round shaped sections of the support members 120, 125 provide a rotatable coupling with the basin couplers 110, II 5. Alternatively, the two illustrated support members 120, 125 could be a single support member that extends behind the seat platform. Various configurations of the support members 120, 125 may be utilized and remain consistent with the present invention. One alternative support member configuration will be discussed with reference to FIG. 5.

The basin couplers 110, 115 are configured for fixably coupling to a basin. The illustrated basin couplers 110, 115 include a wedge section configured to couple to a basin and a cylinder section configured to provide a rotatable coupling with the round section of the support members 120, 125. The round section of the support members 120, 125 is diposed within the cylinder section of the basin couplers 110, 115 to allow rotation between the support members 120, 125 with respect to the basin couplers 110, 115. Various alternative configurations may be utilized that allow fixable coupling to the basin yet provide rotational freedom. The basin couplers 110, 115 may also be considered to be integrated within the support members 120, 125.

Reference is next made to FIG. 2, which illustrates a perspective view of the expandable toilet seat 100 of FIG. 1 in a rotated down expanded configuration. The sides of the seat platform 105 are expanded in a rotational manner about a pivot point located at approximately the front portion of the support member 105. The location of the pivot point around which the right and left portions of the seat platform 105 is able to rotatate out, is determined by the movable coupling between the seat guides 130, 135 and the support members 120, 125. Alternatively, the configuration of the seat guides 130, 135 and the support members 120, 125 could facilitate a translational expansion of the right and left portions of the seat platform.

As illustrated in FIG. 2, the seat guides 130, 135 are extended outward along the square sections of the support members 120, 125. Since the seat guides 130, 135 to the seat platform 105 at a particular location, the right and left portions of the seat platform 105 are also expanded thereby creating the illustrated expanded configuration. In order to facilitate a smooth expansion motion of the seat guides 130, 135 in the illustrated embodiment, the seat guides 130, 135 are configured to rotate with respect to the seat platform 105 as they move along the support members 120, 125. This rotation will be illustrated and described in more detail with reference to FIG. 3. In addition, because of the expansion resistance member of the seat platform, the illustrated extended configuration of the toilet seat 100, only occurs in response to a force exerted upon the seat platform 105. Once the force is removed from the seat platform 105, the expansion resistance member will cause the seat platform 105 to compress back to the compressed configuration illustrated in FIG. 1.

The degree of expansion may be proportional to the force applied to the seat platform 105. For example, a lighter individual may exert a lower downward force upon sitting on the seat platform 105 than a heavier individual. The resistance member in the seat platform 105 may be sufficiently strong to only expand the seat platform 105 by an amount proportional to the force exerted upon it. Alternatively, the seat platform 105 may simply expand completely whenever a force greater than a particular amount is exerted upon the seat platform 105. The square sections of the support members 120, 125 may also include caps or stops that prevent the seat guides 130, 135 from expanding beyond the support members 120, 125.

Reference is next made to FIG. 3, which illustrated a zoom perspective view of the expandable toilet seat 100 of FIG. 1 in a rotated up compressed configuration. FIG. 3 also includes a basin 205 for reference purposes. FIG. 3 clearly illustrates the movable coupling between the seat guides 130, 135 and the support members 120, 125. The rotatable coupling between the support members 120, 125 and the basin couplers 110, 115 is also illustrated. As discussed above, the seat guides are coupled to the seat platform 105 at fixed locations. However, the seat guides 130, 135 are free to rotate with respect to the seat platform 105 in order to facilitate a smooth expansion motion. The seat guides 130, 135 are also configured to provide a movable coupling to the support members 120, 125. As illustrated, the seat guides 130, 135 include a square groove that interfaces with the square section of the support members 120, 125. Likewise, the rotation of the seat platform 105 (i.e. the raising of the seat out of the way), causes the support members 120, 125 to also rotate with respect to the basin couplers 110, 115 as illustrated.

Reference is next made to FIG. 4, which illustrates a top view of the expandable toilet seat 100 of FIG. 1 in a rotated down compressed configuration. FIG. 4 also includes a basin 205 for reference. The fixed coupling between the basin couplers 110, 115, and the basin 205 is clearly illustrated in this figure. Likewise, the coupling between the seat platform 105 and the seat guides 130, 135 is also illustrated in this figure. As described above, the seat guides 130, 135 are coupled to the seat platform at a fixed location but are free to rotate with respect to the seat platform 105. This figure also illustrates the elongated shape of the support members 120, 125 which include both a square section and a round section to facilitate moveable coupling with the seat guides 130, 135 and rotational coupling with the basin couplers 110, 115 respectively.

Reference is next made to FIG. 5, which illustrates a perspective view of an alternative expandable coupling system between a support platform and a basin. The coupling system is designated generally at 300. There are generally two types of coupling systems between existing toilet seats and basins. One system couples the toilet seat to the basin at the outer end of the basin and on either side of the lid coupling. The second system couples the toilet seat to the basin approximately near the center of the basin and between the two coupler locations of the lid and the basin. In order for the expandable toilet seat of the present invention to be compatible with an existing toilet system of the second type, an alternative coupling system, like the one illustrated in FIG. 5, must be utilized between the seat platform and the basin.

The coupling system 300 includes two basin couplers 310, 315, a support member 320, and two seat guides 330, 335. The basin couplers 310, 315 are fixably coupled to a basin using the lower posts that extend down. The basin couplers also include lateral posts that would facilitate the rotatable coupling of a lid. The support member 320 is rotatably coupled to the basin couplers 310, 315. The support member 320 is substantially round and thereby allowed to rotate within a socket provided by both basin couplers 310, 315. As discussed above, the basin couplers 310, 315 may be considered part of the support member 320 thereby creating a rotational coupling with respect to the basin. The seat guides 330, 335 are movably coupled to the support member 320 in the manner shown. In this embodiment, the seat guides 130, 135 are free to rotate and translate with respect to the support member 320. The seat guides 130, 135 are coupled to the seat platform (not shown) at a fixed location.

Thus, as discussed herein, the embodiments of the present invention embrace an expandable toilet seat. One embodiment of the present invention relates to a toilet seat that is configured to expand outward in response to a downward force. The present invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from its spirit or essential characteristics. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects only as illustrative and not restrictive. The scope of the invention is, therefore, indicated by the appended claims rather than by the foregoing description. All changes that come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.