Title:
Sanitary Lifting Device for a Toilet Seat or Seat Cover
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for use on a toilet that allows a user to move an element of the toilet without having to touch the element. The apparatus has a member with two ends, and a means to attach one end of the member to the toilet element such that pulling on the other end moves the toilet element. The member can be attached to the toilet element using a suction cup, an adhesive means, or a magnet. The elements which may be moved by using the apparatus include the toilet lid, toilet seat, and toilet tank lid. The apparatus may have a handle attached to the end where pulling force is applied, which can be constructed in a ring or a tubular shape. The apparatus can be constructed of materials making it inexpensive and portable or disposable. The apparatus can be threaded through a pulley structure, redirecting the force required to move the toilet element, making it easier to use.



Inventors:
Nwankwo, Lucky (Douglasville, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/861042
Publication Date:
03/27/2008
Filing Date:
09/25/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/10
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HUSON, GREGORY L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BakerHostetler (Philadelphia, PA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed:

1. An apparatus for use on a toilet comprising: a member with a first end and a second end, and a means for attaching the first end of the member to an attachment point on an element of the toilet, wherein pulling on the second end of the member will move the element of the toilet attached to the first end of the member.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein a handle is attached to the second end of the member.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the handle comprises a tubular structure.

4. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the handle comprises a ring.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the member is constructed of an elongated, flexible material.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the member is one of a string, a cord, a rope, a chain, a wire, a cable, or a tether.

7. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for attaching the first end of the member to the toilet is one of a suction cup or magnet.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for attaching the first end of the member to the toilet comprises an element with an adhesive component.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for attaching the first end of the member to the toilet further comprises means for removably attaching the first end of the member to the toilet.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the element of the toilet to which the first end of the member is attached is a toilet seat.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the element of the toilet to which the first end of the member is attached is a toilet lid.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the means for attaching the first end of the member to the toilet is one of a pair of magnets joined in a U-shaped configuration or a pair of elements, each element having an adhesive component, joined in a U-shaped configuration.

13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the member is threaded through a pulley structure, with the pulley structure having an attachment means to attach the pulley structure to a surface near the toilet, and wherein the pulling force applied to the second end of the member is redirected.

14. An apparatus for use on a toilet comprising: a member with a first end and a second end, the first end being formed into a loop which is wrapped around an element of the toilet, wherein pulling on the second end of the member will move the element of the toilet attached to the first end of the member.

15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein a handle is attached to the second end of the member.

16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the handle comprises a tubular structure.

17. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the handle comprises a ring.

18. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the element of the toilet around which the first end of the member is wrapped is a toilet seat.

19. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the element of the toilet around which the first end of the member is wrapped is a toilet lid.

20. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the member is threaded through a pulley structure, with said pulley structure having an attachment means to attach the structure to a surface near the toilet thereby redirecting the pulling force applied to the second end of the member.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to U.S. provisional application 60/847,968, filed Sep. 27, 2006, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to a toilet, and, more particularly, to a device used to move an element of a toilet without requiring physical contact by the user with the element.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Most toilets in the developed western world include a seat element and a lid element which are pivotably attached to the top of the commode. The seat and/or lid must be lifted or lowered, depending on the requirements of the user. This is typically done by hand. Concern about sanitation when lifting or lowering the seat or lid when using toilets is common, especially when using public facilities. This concern is demonstrated by the number of inventions patented that attempt to address this problem. Those patents can be grouped into three main categories of apparatuses: those that allow the user to directly raise the lid or seat, those that allow the user to raise or lower the seat or lid using foot actuation, and those that incorporate systems to assist or automate seat and lid operation. While each of these purports to address some aspect of the sanitation problem created by the need to raise and lower toilet elements, none provides the flexibility, portability, and disposability needed to completely address the problem.

Proposed solutions that allow the user to directly raise the seat or lid usually require permanent attachment to the toilet seat, which would then be used directly by the user. But such an apparatus is likely to become as unsanitary as the seat, defeating the main purpose of the apparatus. Examples of such inventions are U.S. Pat. No. 6,721,964 to Marshall, U.S. Pat. No. 6,983,492 to Larson, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,842,916 to Gunn. Each of those lifters allows the user to lift the seat or lid without direct contact, but the lifting element is permanently affixed to the edge of the seat and is likely to be contaminated as well. Temporarily affixed lifters still require direct contact with the most likely soiled parts of the toilet seat or lid, greatly reducing their sanitation utility. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 6,163,894 to Simonds discloses a clip-on type lifter that requires attachment to edge of the seat, as does U.S. Pat. No. 5,619,758 to Burkett. Both of those inventions involve the use of substantial materials making them bulky for the user to transport, and unlikely to be manufactured in a cost effective way that would allow them to be disposable. Moreover, they do not provide significant assistance to people with limited movement or other disabilities.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,305,032 to Jones discloses a direct lifter with a detachable wand that the user grasps on one end by hand. The user then attaches the other end of the wand to an element permanently affixed to a toilet seat or lid, and manipulates the seat or lid by movement of the wand. Due to the permanently affixed element, Jones does not allow for the portability and flexibility required.

There are also examples of foot actuated inventions that allow raising and lowering of a toilet seat or lid by pressing on a pedal or otherwise actuating a device by foot. Examples include U.S. Pat. No. 7,134,150 to Stewart, U.S. Pat. No. 6,738,990 to Jackson, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,103,506 to Munford, et al. While those inventions accomplish the goal of lifting toilet seats and lids without touching them with the hands, they all require permanent installation of substantial hardware, rendering them non-portable, non-disposable, and expensive to manufacture.

Several attempts have been made to solve the problem of sanitary toilet seat and lid operation that provide alternatives to direct lifting or lifting via foot actuation. Such apparatuses typically require substantial and permanently installed hardware. A few examples include U.S. Pat. No. 6,567,995 to Holt, U.S. Pat. No. 6,934,974 to Pantos, et al, and U.S. Pat. No. 6,915,532 to Mohammed. While those inventions address at least some of the sanitation issues addressed by the present invention, they do not allow for the portability, versatility, and potential disposability desired.

What is needed in the art is a lifter that can be used with almost any toilet, is simple to use, portable, and inexpensive to manufacture. It is an object of the invention to produce an apparatus for moving elements of a toilet, thereby allowing a user to change the element's position without direct contact with the element and the user's hands. It is also an object of the invention to produce such an apparatus that can be either temporarily or permanently affixed to the seat or lid without any modification of the seat or lid, and removed when the user is finished for reuse or disposal. The apparatus may be most useful for lifting or lowering a toilet seat or lid, but other uses are contemplated as being part of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention overcomes the problems left unsolved and provides a simple, inexpensive apparatus that can be used with all types of toilets that have seats or lids. The invention enables the user to raise or lower the lid, seat, or other element of a toilet without contact with the element, thereby reducing the likelihood that the user will come into contact with germs or contaminants. Due to its few parts and simple design, the present invention can be manufactured inexpensively and carried as a lightweight, portable apparatus to lift toilet elements, or as a disposable lifter that can be discarded after use. It can also be permanently affixed, providing a permanent solution to this toilet sanitation problem.

The present invention includes an apparatus for moving elements of a toilet without direct contact by the user's hands. The apparatus contains a member with two ends which is attached to a toilet element at the first end with an attachment means, and optionally a handle attached to the second end. The apparatus is operated by pulling up or down on the second end of the member, thereby moving the toilet element. The member may be attached temporarily using several attachment means, including, but not limited to, a suction cup for attaching to any smooth surface of the toilet, an attachment element with an adhesive portion for adhering to a toilet element, or a magnet or several magnets for attaching to a toilet element that is constructed of iron, metal with iron content, or is otherwise magnetic. The member may be attached more permanently using an adhesive in combination with an attachment means such as a suction cup, or physically attached with a screw or similar permanent attaching means. The member may be constructed of any suitable material that allows the invention to function properly, including, but not limited to, rope, string, chain, cord, cable, tether, or wire. The optional handle may be constructed of any suitable material capable of carrying out the functionality described herein, including, but not limited to, plastic, wood, metal, or any of the materials that could be used for the member.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings, the same reference numbers identify elements with the same functionality. The drawings are briefly described as follows.

FIG. 1 is a side view of one embodiment of the invention in its operating environment, with a suction cup attaching the apparatus to the top of a lid of a toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the same embodiment of the invention as in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a top view of the same embodiment of the invention as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 in its operating environment, with a suction cup attaching the apparatus to the top of a lid of a toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 4 is a top view of the embodiment of the invention as shown in FIG. 1-3 in its operating environment, with a suction cup attaching the apparatus to the top of a seat of a toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 5 is a front view of the embodiment of the invention as shown in FIG. 1-4 in its operating environment, with a suction cup attaching the apparatus to the bottom of a seat of a toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 6 is a side view of an alternative embodiment of the invention, with a magnet or adhesive element attaching the apparatus to the toilet and a ring-shaped handle affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 7 is a top view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 6 in its operating environment, with a magnet or adhesive element used to attach the apparatus to the top of the lid of a toilet, and a ring-shaped handle affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 8 is a side view of a third alternative embodiment of the invention, with a pair of magnets or adhesive elements used to attach the apparatus to the toilet and a longitudinally attached tubular handle affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 9 is a side view of yet another alternative embodiment of the invention, with a loop formed into one end of the member which is used to attach the apparatus to the toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 10 is a top view of the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 9 in its operating environment, with a loop formed into one end which is wrapped around the lid of a toilet, and a tubular handle is affixed to the opposite end.

FIG. 11 is a side view of a fifth alternative embodiment of the invention in its operating environment, with a suction cup used attach the apparatus to the top of the lid of a toilet, a tubular handle affixed to the opposite end, and the apparatus is threaded through a pulley affixed to a surface near the toilet.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

FIGS. 1-11 illustrate various embodiments of an apparatus for use on a toilet 150, which allow a user to move an element of the toilet such as lid 151 or seat 152 without having to touch the element with his or her hands.

FIG. 1 illustrates one embodiment of an apparatus 100 in its typical operating environment, attached to a toilet 150. Toilet 150 is composed of common elements found in a modern toilet, including a commode 153, a tank 154, a seat 152, and a lid 151. Seat 152 and lid 151 are commonly connected to toilet commode 153 with at least one hinge, allowing seat 152 or lid 151 to be placed in a “down” position where they are horizontally situated and resting on the commode, or an “up” position where they are vertically situated and resting against tank 154. Having both lid 151 and seat 152 in the “up” position allows full access to the interior of commode 153. Lid 151 alone may be in the “up” position with seat 152 down, which allows access to the interior of commode 153 through an opening in seat 152. Lid 151 must be in the “up” position for seat 152 to be in the “up” position. Toilet 150 may contain additional elements or fewer elements than illustrated here, or elements of varying styles, shapes, and dimensions than shown in FIG. 1 without affecting the functionality of the present invention.

In the embodiment illustrated by FIG. 1, and in further detail in FIG. 2, apparatus 100 has a member 101 with a suction cup 103 on the first end for attaching the first end to an attachment point on toilet 150, such as lid 151. Member 101 is preferably constructed of an elongated, flexible material such as rope, string, or wire, but could be constructed of any material capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. Suction cup 103 is preferably of a small enough size to allow attachment to any side or edge of a toilet seat 152 or a toilet lid 151, but may be of any size or shape capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. In this embodiment, suction cup 103 allows apparatus 100 to be affixed to toilet 150 for use and easily removed following use. This temporary affixation of apparatus 100 permits the reuse and portability of apparatus 100, and also prevents the need to permanently affix apparatus 100 to toilet 150. However, if permanent affixation is desired, a glue or adhesive may be used to attach suction cup 103 to toilet 150.

The embodiment shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2 has a laterally attached tubular handle 102 on the second end. Tubular handle 102 is preferably constructed of inexpensive, lightweight material to permit portability or disposability of the apparatus, yet strong enough to lift the weight of toilet seat 152 or toilet lid 151. Handle 102 may be constructed of any material and be of any size or shape capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. While not shown in the drawings, the apparatus can fully function without handle 102.

As shown in FIG. 1, apparatus 100 is attached to toilet lid 151 with a suction cup 103. In this application, a user operates apparatus 100 by grasping handle 102 attached to the second end of apparatus 100 and pulling up, which will lift toilet lid 151 into its upright position. By using apparatus 100 in this way, the user can lift lid 151 of the toilet without touching it directly with his or her hands. FIG. 3 further details this application of apparatus 100, providing a top view of the configuration. FIG. 3. illustrates suction cup 103 attached to the middle section of lid 151, but suction cup 103 of apparatus 100 may be affixed to any surface of toilet lid 151 that will allow it to attach properly.

FIG. 4 shows how apparatus 100 can be used to lift a toilet seat 152. Apparatus 100 is affixed to toilet seat 152 with suction cup 103. Similar to its application to toilet lid 151 as shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 3, suction cup 103 may be affixed to any area of toilet seat 152 that will allow it to attach properly. In this application, the user will grasp handle 102 and pull upwards, thereby raising toilet seat 152 to its “up” position. This allows the user to raise seat 152 without direct hand contact, preventing unwanted contact with contaminants. The apparatus may be used in a similar fashion to raise toilet lid 151. In the configuration illustrated in FIG. 4, apparatus 100 may also be used to lower toilet seat 152 or toilet lid 151.

FIG. 5 illustrates how apparatus 100 may be used to lower a toilet seat 152. In this application, with lid 151 and seat 152 both in the “up” position, suction cup 103 is affixed to the underside of toilet seat 152. Suction cup 103 may be attached to any surface of seat 152 that can support its affixation. The user will grasp apparatus 100 by handle 102, and pull down, lowering the seat to its “down” position. This allows the user to lower the seat without touching it. The apparatus may be used in a similar fashion to lower toilet lid 151. In the configuration illustrated in FIG. 5, apparatus 100 may also be used to raise toilet seat 152 or toilet lid 151.

FIG. 6 illustrates a second embodiment of the present invention, with an apparatus 600 for use on a toilet having a member 601 with an adhesive element 603 for attaching the first end to an attachment point on the toilet 150. Element 603 may be constructed of a magnetic material with a size that is sufficient to produce the magnetic adhesion required to lift or lower a typical toilet seat or lid, yet small and inexpensive enough to be easily portable or disposable. Alternatively, element 603 may be constructed of other materials capable of producing the necessary adhesion to adhere the embodiment to a toilet element. For example, element 603 may be composed of a plastic element coated with an adhesive substance on one side which, when pressed against a toilet seat or lid, adheres to the seat or lid. However, element 603 may be of any size, shape or material capable of carrying out the adhesive functionality described herein. Where element 603 is a magnet, it is preferably configured to be magnetically coupled to a magnetic portion of toilet 150, or alternatively to a magnetic attachment affixed to toilet 150. Likewise, if element 603 is non-magnetically adhesive, it is preferably constructed to adhere to elements of the toilet which a user may wish to actuate, such as the lid or seat. In this embodiment apparatus 600 also has a ring-shaped handle 602 attached to the second end of member 601. Ring handle 602 is preferably small and light enough to be easily portable and inexpensive enough to be disposable, yet strong enough to lift the weight of toilet seat 152 or toilet lid 151. Ring handle 602 may be constructed in any size or shape capable of carrying out the functionality described herein.

FIG. 7 illustrates how this second embodiment of the apparatus 600 can be applied to manipulate a toilet lid 151. Apparatus 600 is affixed adhesively or magnetically to lid 151 using element 603 attached to a portion of the lid 151. The user can raise lid 151 by pulling up on ring handle 602 and thereby moving the toilet lid to the “up” position. This embodiment of the apparatus 600 may also be attached to any other adhesional or magnetic, movable element of toilet 150, such as toilet seat 152, and used to move that element.

FIG. 8 illustrates a third embodiment of the present invention, with an apparatus 800 for use on a toilet having a member 801 with a pair of adhesive or magnetic elements 803 joined in a U-shape for attaching the first end of member 801 to an attachment point on toilet 150. Pair of elements 803 is preferably constructed of an adhesive or magnetic material with a size that is large enough to produce the adhesion or magnetic force required to lift or lower a typical toilet seat or lid, yet small enough and inexpensive enough to be easily portable or disposable. If pair of elements 803 is magnetic, the magnets may be of any size, shape or material capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. Alternatively, if pair of elements 803 contain adhesive portions, the adhesive portions may be constructed of any material or combination of materials capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. It is contemplated that similar embodiments may be constructed that are configured with more than two adhesive or magnetic elements. Pair of elements 803 is preferably configured to be adhesively coupled to an adhesional element of toilet 150, magnetically coupled to a magnetic portion of toilet 150, or alternatively magnetically coupled to a magnetic attachment affixed to toilet 150. This embodiment also preferably includes a longitudinally attached tubular handle 802 attached to the second end of member 801.

FIG. 9 illustrates a fourth embodiment of the present invention, with an apparatus 900 for use on a toilet 150 having a member 901 with a first end formed into a loop 903 which can be wrapped around an element of toilet 150. This allows the user to move an element of toilet 150 in a similar manner as the other listed embodiments, using loop 903 to surround and grasp the toilet element, such as lid 151. This embodiment preferably includes a laterally attached tubular handle 902 attached to the second end of member 901.

FIG. 10 illustrates an application of apparatus 900. Apparatus 900 is affixed to toilet 150 with the first end of apparatus 900 formed into a loop and attached to toilet lid 151 by wrapping around the lid. The user would operate apparatus 900 by pulling up on tubular handle 902 which is attached to the second end of member 901, whereby toilet lid 151 would then be raised to the “up” position. Apparatus 900 could also be used in a similar manner to raise toilet seat 152, or to lower either lid 151 or seat 152.

FIG. 11 illustrates a fifth embodiment of the present invention, as used in its operating environment. The first end of apparatus 1100 is attached to the top of toilet lid element 151 with a suction cup 1103. Apparatus 1100 has a laterally attached tubular handle 1102 on the second end. Apparatus member 1100 is threaded through a pulley structure 1104 which is attached to a surface 1105 near toilet 150. Pulley structure 1104 redirects the force applied by the user to apparatus 1100 at handle 1102 such that pulling down on handle 1102 will raise toilet lid 151. Pulley structure 1104 is preferably small and easily installed so that apparatus 1100 is as compact as possible, but pulley structure 1104 may be constructed in any size, shape, or of any material capable of carrying out the functionality described herein. This embodiment of the invention may also be used to raise toilet seat 152 rather than lid 151. This embodiment would be especially advantageous for handicapped facilities, providing a redirection of the force required to move a toilet element so that it is easier for persons with limited mobility of the upper extremities to manipulate the toilet.

It should be noted that with any of the embodiments described herein, the handle elements are interchangeable and will work with any of the other embodiments. It should also be noted that other attachment types are contemplated as within the scope of this inventions, as well as other methods of temporarily or permanently attaching the invention to a toilet element. It is also contemplated that the present invention may be attached to other elements of a toilet beyond those explicitly described herein, including, but not limited to, the lid of a toilet tank.

In conclusion, herein is presented an apparatus for use with a toilet that allows for movement of toilet elements without direct contact with the toilet. It should be understood that numerous variations are possible while adhering to the inventive concept. For example, it is contemplated that any of the attachment types illustrated here, or any others not shown, can be used with any handle structure, whether or not illustrated here, or no handle structure. It is also contemplated that the attachment point on the toilet can be any surface that allows the functionality herein described, and the invention may be used to move any movable element of a toilet. Many variations and other possible modifications are contemplated as being part of the present invention.