Title:
Promotional methods using sudoku puzzles having embedded logos and other graphical elements
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Modifications of Sudoku puzzles are described that are adapted for promoting companies and products, as well as for conventional game use. The present puzzles include graphical elements on the puzzle face, depicting images such as logos, trademarks, and other characters and shapes.



Inventors:
Oliphant, Arnold (Poway, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/728211
Publication Date:
04/10/2008
Filing Date:
03/22/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
705/14.73
International Classes:
A63F9/00
View Patent Images:
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Other References:
http://www.allbookstores.com/100-Samuari-Sudoku-PUzzles-Peter/0890955141331, "100 Samurai Sudoku Puzzles by Peter Greene", retrieved on 1/4/2012.
Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Convergent Law Group LLP (Golden, CO, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for promoting an organization or product, comprising providing at least one Sudoku puzzle display comprising graphic elements corresponding to said organization or product.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein said graphic elements comprise a graphic overlay on said set of cells.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein said given symbols are arranged in a pattern corresponding to said graphic elements.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein said graphic elements are overlaid on the face of said puzzle, such that said numbers or symbols are embedded in the graphic overlay.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein said graphic elements comprise a logo or trademark.

6. The method of claim 1, wherein said graphic elements correspond to an organization or product.

7. The method of claim 1, wherein said graphic elements contain numbers or alphabetic characters.

8. The puzzle representation of claim 1, wherein said given symbols are non-alphanumeric symbols.

9. The method of claim 1, wherein a person solving said puzzle receives or is entitled to at least one incentive.

10. The method of claim 1, wherein said Sudoku puzzle display comprises a printed puzzle.

11. The method of claim 1, wherein said Sudoku puzzle display comprises an electronic device display.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein additional graphic elements become visible upon electronic solution of said puzzle.

13. A Sudoku puzzle representation, comprising a set of cells, wherein said set of cells includes at least 24 cells and a portion of said cells contain given symbols; and graphic elements represented on the face of said puzzle.

14. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said graphic elements comprise a graphic overlay on said set of cells.

15. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said given symbols are arranged in a pattern corresponding to said graphic elements.

16. The puzzle representation of claim 15, wherein said graphic elements are overlaid on the face of said puzzle, such that said numbers or symbols are embedded in the graphic overlay.

17. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said graphic elements comprise a logo or trademark.

18. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said given symbols correspond to an organization or product.

19. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said given symbols are numbers or alphabetic characters.

20. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said given symbols are non-alphanumeric symbols.

21. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein a person solving said puzzle receives or is entitled to at least one incentive.

22. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said puzzle representation comprises a printed puzzle.

23. The puzzle representation of claim 13, wherein said puzzle representation comprises an electronic device display.

24. The puzzle representation of claim 23, wherein additional graphic elements become visible upon electronic solution of said puzzle.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of Oliphant, U.S. Provisional Application 60/785,040, filed Mar. 22, 2006, entitled Promotional Methods Using Sudoku Puzzles Having Embedded Logos and Other Graphical Elements, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety, including drawings.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to Sudoku puzzles that include graphical elements such as logos, trademarks, general symbols, and the like.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The following discussion is provided solely to assist the understanding of the reader, and does not constitute an admission that any of the information discussed or references cited constitute prior art to the present invention.

The popular number puzzle called Sudoku consists of 81 cells in a nine by nine matrix. Typically seventeen to forty of these cells are specified with given values of the numbers from one to nine. The remaining cells of the matrix are determined by the solver while following the basic rules of Sudoku. The rules are that there should be only one solution and that the numbers one to nine should appear only once in each row, column, and three by three box of the matrix.

Even though numbers are typically used as a convenience to identify the nine cells in a box, any set of nine symbols will suffice to identify the nine cell types. Using the alphabet can allow for more than nine cell types and larger matrix sizes while still using only one character.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention concerns development of Sudoku puzzles and other grid-based number or symbol games. The present methods and puzzles contain selected graphic elements which are represented at least in part by the distribution of given numbers or symbols in the cells of the grid and/or by graphic overlays. In particular, the graphic elements can include depictions that correspond to a company or other organization, so that the puzzles can be used for promotional or branding purposes.

Thus, in a first aspect, the invention concerns a method for promoting an organization or product, where the method involves providing at least one Sudoku puzzle display that includes graphic elements corresponding to the organization or product.

In certain embodiments, the given numbers or symbols in the puzzle are arranged in a pattern corresponding to the graphic elements; the graphic elements include a graphic overlay on the face of the puzzle, such that the numbers or symbols are embedded in the graphic elements; the graphic overly is overlaid on the face of the puzzle; the Sudoku puzzle display includes a printed puzzle; the Sudoku puzzle display includes an electronic device display of the puzzle; the graphic elements include a company name (which may be abbreviated or truncated), a trademark, or a logo; the graphic elements include one or more numbers or letters or both.

In embodiments involving an electronic display of the puzzle, in certain embodiments at least some of the graphic elements become visible upon solution of the puzzle, e.g., at least part of a graphic overlay; additional graphic elements (e.g., graphic overlay) become visible upon electronic solution of the puzzle; a person solving the puzzle electronically receives or is entitled to at least one incentive, e.g., including access to additional games or puzzles, a product discount, and/or a prize or points toward earning a prize.

In certain embodiments involving an electronic display of the puzzle, a person solving the puzzle electronically triggers an audio output from the electronic device, e.g., a message concerning sponsorship of the puzzle by a particular company or organization.

A related aspect of the invention concerns a Sudoku puzzle representation that includes a set of cells with graphic elements, where the set of cells includes at least 16 cells and a portion of the cells contain given symbols. The given symbols may be distributed to form at least some of the graphic elements and/or and a graphic overlay is overlaid on the set of cells.

In certain embodiments, the puzzle representation is as described for the preceding aspect, or is used in the preceding aspect.

In particular embodiments, the set of cells is a grid of 81 cells; the set of cell is a 9×9 grid; the set of cells is a 12×12 grid; the set of cells is a non-square grid of cells; the set of cells is a non-rectangular set of cells; the set of cells includes 144 cells or more; the set of cells is a compilation of adjacent or overlapping grids; the puzzle representation is stored in a computer-accessible data storage device; given symbols correspond to an organization or product; the given symbols are numbers; the given symbols are alphabetic characters; the given symbols are non-alphanumeric symbols.

Another related aspect concerns a method for providing or creating a Sudoku puzzle representation by displaying a Sudoku puzzle containing graphic elements, e.g., given symbols distributed in the shape of the graphic elements and/or a graphic overlay.

The method can further involve selecting cells in a pattern corresponding to a pre-selected graphic element, screening sets of symbols that constitute valid Sudoku sets that are adequately specified by the selected cells such that only one valid solution exists, and filling the selected cells with symbols while leaving the other cells empty.

In other cases, the method also involves filling the selected cells with numbers while following the basic rules of the Sudoku puzzle. When the selected cells have been filled, the puzzle is evaluated and those puzzles are kept as valid that can be shown by the basic rules of Sudoku to have all of the remaining cells adequately specified such that only one unique solution is possible.

As used herein the terms “Sudoku” and “Sudoku puzzle” refer to a class of puzzles that provide a set of cells arranged in various shapes. Some of the cells are provided with a given number or symbol while the user is expected to determine the appropriate number or symbol for the remaining cells using a set of predetermined rules. The predetermined rules include the constraint that each number or symbol be allowed only once in subsets of the cells. In many cases, the Sudoku has 81 cells in a 9×9 cell rectangular arrangement, with 9 3×3 cell boxes. In standard Sudoku, the numbers 1 to 9 are used, and each number should appear only once in each row, column, and box of cells.

In particular embodiments, the Sudoku puzzle is as described for one of the preceding aspects.

In another aspect, the invention concerns Sudoku as described herein (e.g., for a preceding aspect) where the Sudoku is downloadable or downloaded to a personal communications device (e.g., cell phone, PDA or similar communications device having a display of sufficient size and resolution to provide legible display of the Sudoku. Likewise, the invention concerns a personal communications device having downloaded and/or stored in electronic memory at least one of the present Sudoku. In certain embodiments, at least 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, or more of the present Sudoku are downloaded and/or stored in the personal communications device. Highly preferably, the stored Sudoku can be selected, display, and completed on the device screen.

As used herein, the term “graphical elements” refers to commonly identifiable shapes, e.g., numbers, alphabetic characters, logos, hearts, and the like.

As used herein in connection with graphical elements on the present puzzles, the terms “overlaid” and “overlay” mean that the graphical elements (e.g., characters or other identifiable shapes) are visibly present on the face of the puzzle, and at least partially within the puzzle grid.

As used herein in connection with graphical elements on the present puzzles, the term “embedded” means that at least a portion of a graphical overlay is matched to the distribution of given numbers in the puzzle.

The phrase “compilation of adjacent or overlapping grids” refers to a set of puzzles (i.e., 2, 3, 4, or more) that are arranged next to each other (i.e., adjacent) or overlap in the sense that there is a subset of cells that are common to each of two overlapping sets. Such overlap may, for example, involve cells at a side or a corner of two grids, such as the 9 cells in the 3×3 sections of overlapping corners of two 9×9 puzzles or the 27 cells in the 3×9 cells strips along a side of two 9×9 puzzles. Frequently the adjacent or overlapping puzzles are used to embed larger graphic elements than will fit in a single grid.

The term “personal communications device” is used herein to refer to a device providing 2-way wireless communications, including voice and other data transfers.

Additional embodiments will be apparent from the Detailed Description and from the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1a and 1b show a typical Sudoku puzzle and the completed solution.

FIGS. 2a and 2b show a Sudoku puzzle with the given numbers arranged in the shape of a heart with a heart graphic overlay and the completed solution, respectively.

FIGS. 3a and 3b shows the EXXON® company logo and a Sudoku puzzle representation of the Exxon logo.

FIGS. 4a and 4b show the HONDA® company logo and a Sudoku puzzle representation of the logo.

FIGS. 5a and 5b show the PHILLIPS® company logo and a Sudoku puzzle representation of the logo.

FIGS. 6a and 6b show the MCDONALD'S® company golden arches logo and a Sudoku puzzle representation of the logo.

FIGS. 7A and 7B show the letters IU® as the logo used by Indiana University, and the same logo represented in a Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 8 shows a flag in a Sudoku puzzle

FIG. 9 shows a stick figure of a man and woman as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 10 shows a dollar sign as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 11 shows musical notes as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 12 shows the symbol for female as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 13 shows the symbol for male as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIGS. 14a and 14b show the Chinese symbol shen and the same symbol as a Sudoku puzzle.

FIGS. 15a and 15b show the Chinese symbol jing and the same symbol as a Sudoku puzzle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention presents an advancement of the Sudoku number puzzles by providing graphical elements on the face of the puzzle. Such graphical elements can be used as promotional or branding devices. For example, the puzzle faces can include graphical elements such as symbols representative or suggestive of an organization (e.g., a company or school) or a product (e.g., a commercial device, object, or service). The inclusion of such graphical elements provides promotion or brand recognition advantages to a company, organization, product, or service associated with the particular symbol or symbols. Other graphical elements can also be used instead of or in addition to graphical elements relating to particular organizations or products.

Sudoku puzzles have become highly popular. Solving a Sudoku puzzle commonly requires anywhere from ten to sixty minutes, so the attention given to the image contained in the puzzle can be quite extensive. Presenting a puzzle with graphical elements (e.g., a graphic overlay image) to a user for such an extensive time will have considerable value in making an image well known to the public or reinforcing already well known images. Alternatively using a well known image could have considerable value in attracting users to the puzzle.

Though the inclusion of organization- or product-associated graphical elements is particularly advantageous, the puzzle faces can include other types of graphical elements, including a wide variety of recognizable shapes and symbols. Examples include numbers, letters, hearts, shapes shown in the various Figures, and many others.

In one implementation, the puzzle utilizes particular placements of the given numbers or other symbols in the matrix so that the arrangement of the given numbers creates or contains all or parts of identifiable images such as letters, numbers, trademarks, symbols, logos or icons. In current Sudoku puzzles, the given numbers or symbols are typically placed randomly in the matrix or sometimes in a radially or other symmetrical pattern. (Unless clearly indicated to the contrary, in order to reduce repetitiveness, reference herein to the presence or placement of numbers in Sudoku puzzles is intended to include the presence or placement of letters and/or other shapes and symbols.)

In certain embodiments of the current invention, the given numbers (or at least most of the given numbers) are placed such that they form particular recognizable images. These given cells may be chosen either to represent the image or to leave those cells blank that will represent the image. The image may also be drawn to overlay or partially overlay the Sudoku puzzle to more clearly define the image being represented.

In other embodiments, the image is displayed on the puzzle without requiring corresponding placement of the numbers. Such embodiments are beneficial in various applications, including for example, for representation of symbols and names that cannot be readily represented using placement of given numbers.

Techniques for creating valid Sudoku puzzles are known, and can be carried out by hand or by computer. Such computer techniques can be readily coded by persons familiar with the puzzle requirements using any of a variety of available programming languages. One technique of generating valid puzzles for the current invention is illustrated with reference to a 9×9 puzzle grid but can be applied to other Sudoku puzzles, e.g., other Sudoku puzzle configurations. The technique is to select the cells of the 81 cell matrix that will be used to represent the image. Sets of the 81 numbers that create a valid Sudoku set are then screened by a computer for those sets that are adequately specified by the selected cells such that only the one individual valid solution is possible. When a set of 81 numbers is found that is individually defined by the selected cells then the cells are filled that have been determined to represent the image and the remaining cells are left empty to be filled as an exercise for the user. As indicated, the method can be applied with minimal adaptation to Sudoku puzzles having different numbers of cells and/or having configurations different from a square grid and/or using different symbols.

Another technique to generate puzzles for the current invention is to fill the selected cells with numbers sequentially while following the basic rules of the Sudoku puzzle. When all of the selected cells have been filled then the puzzle is evaluated and those puzzles are kept as valid that can be shown by the basic rules of Sudoku to have all of the remaining cells adequately specified such that only one unique solution is possible.

It is recognized that many of the common variants of the 81 cell Sudoku puzzle will also accept the application of the current invention. Some of the Sudoku variants have either a smaller or larger matrix. Those puzzles with a larger matrix would permit the incorporation of more characters and/or more complex images. Also, larger or more complex images can be represented by containing a portion of the image within the matrix and drawing the remaining aspects outside of the matrix.

The size, complexity, and/or resolution of the images can also be increased by using overlapping puzzles or by placing several puzzles adjacent to each other. For example, it is possible to depict more than three number or letter characters by placing multiple Sudoku puzzles adjacent to each other.

The puzzles of the present invention can be presented in various ways. In many cases, the puzzles will be printed. Examples of such printed representations include newspaper puzzles and puzzle books. In other cases, the puzzles are presented electronically. Such electronic versions are usually stored in a storage device accessible by an electronic device (e.g., computer memory or computer accessible data storage device). The electronic version can be displayed, e.g., by printing or by displaying on an electronic device display (e.g., a computer monitor, mobile phone screen, or PDA screen). The electronic versions will, in many cases, be accessible over a communications network, e.g., the Internet.

Such electronic puzzle versions allow additional features to be incorporated. For example, additional features can be incorporated that are triggered by a person solving the electronic puzzle. Such features can simply constitute a text, graphical, and/or audio acknowledgment of the successful solution.

In other cases, the successful solution triggers a promotional incentive or right to obtain such incentive. Often the inventive will correspond to a particular organization or company. For example, the incentive may include a discount or a coupon, or the like. In some cases, puzzles can be sponsored by a particular organization such that the puzzles presented contain promotional features corresponding to that organization.

As indicated above, the present Sudoku can advantageously be downloaded and solved on personal communications devices such as mobile telephones, PDAs, and the like. Such downloads and completion of the Sudoku on the device can be accomplished using conventional equipment and methods. Using such equipment and methods, the Sudoku can be transmitted over the internet or other wireless communications network and downloaded to the communications device. Likewise, the Sudoku can be transmitted to the communications device from a computer or another wireless communications device using conventional equipment and data transmission protocols, e.g., using wired, IR, or RF (e.g., Bluetooth) connections.

The present invention is illustrated in the Drawings by examples of Sudoku puzzles overlaid with graphic elements. All of the puzzles depicted in the Drawings are standard 81 cell puzzles.

FIG. 1a shows a conventional Sudoku puzzle with 27 given numbers; FIG. 1b shows the solution to the puzzle of FIG. 1a.

FIG. 2a shows a Sudoku puzzle having 36 given numbers compatible with the shape of a heart, with an overlaid and partially embedded heart shape. FIG. 2b shows the solution to the puzzle of FIG. 2a.

FIG. 3a shows the logo for Exxon. FIG. 3b shows a puzzle with the given numbers compatible with the overlapping letters XX and an Exxon logo overlaid on the puzzle.

FIG. 4a shows the logo for Honda. FIG. 4b shows a puzzle with the given numbers representing the letter H and the Honda logo overlaid on the puzzle.

FIG. 5a shows the logo for Philips. FIG. 5b shows a puzzle with the given numbers representing the letters PH and a Phillips logo overlaid on the puzzle.

FIG. 6a shows a logo for McDonald's. FIG. 6b shows a puzzle with the given numbers compatible with the arches of the logo overlaid on the puzzle. Two additional given numbers are required to provide sufficient information for a unique solution.

FIG. 7a shows a logo for Indiana University (IU). FIG. 7b shows a puzzle with 33 given numbers, and with the IU logo overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 8 shows a puzzle with 43 given numbers, with graphical elements depicting a flag overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 9 shows a puzzle with the given numbers compatible with graphical elements depicting a stick figure of a man and woman overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 10 shows a puzzle with 39 given numbers, with graphical elements depicting a dollar sign overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 11 shows a puzzle with 41 given numbers, with graphical elements depicting two musical notes overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 12 shows a puzzle with 35 given numbers, with graphical elements depicting the symbol for female overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 13 shows a puzzle with 34 given numbers, with graphical elements depicting the symbol for male overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

FIG. 14a shows the Chinese symbol shen. FIG. 14b shows the same symbol with the graphical elements depicting shen overlaid and embedded in the puzzle. This exemplary puzzle illustrates the use of additional given numbers outside the graphical elements to provide a valid Sudoku puzzle.

FIG. 15a shows the Chinese symbol jing. FIG. 15b shows the same symbol with the graphical elements depicting jing overlaid and embedded in the puzzle.

All patents and other references cited in the specification are indicative of the level of skill of those skilled in the art to which the invention pertains, and are incorporated by reference in their entireties, including any tables and figures, to the same extent as if each reference had been incorporated by reference in its entirety individually.

One skilled in the art would readily appreciate that the present invention is well adapted to obtain the ends and advantages mentioned, as well as those inherent therein. The methods, variances, and compositions described herein as presently representative of preferred embodiments are exemplary and are not intended as limitations on the scope of the invention. Changes therein and other uses will occur to those skilled in the art, which are encompassed within the spirit of the invention, are defined by the scope of the claims.

It will be readily apparent to one skilled in the art that varying substitutions and modifications may be made to the invention disclosed herein without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. For example, variations can be made to the particular graphical elements selected and to the mode of puzzle representation. Thus, such additional embodiments are within the scope of the present invention and the following claims.

The invention illustratively described herein suitably may be practiced in the absence of any element or elements, limitation or limitations which is not specifically disclosed herein. Thus, for example, in each instance herein any of the terms “comprising”, “consisting essentially of” and “consisting of” may be replaced with either of the other two terms. The terms and expressions which have been employed are used as terms of description and not of limitation, and there is no intention that in the use of such terms and expressions of excluding any equivalents of the features shown and described or portions thereof, but it is recognized that various modifications are possible within the scope of the invention claimed. Thus, it should be understood that although the present invention has been specifically disclosed by preferred embodiments and optional features, modification and variation of the concepts herein disclosed may be resorted to by those skilled in the art, and that such modifications and variations are considered to be within the scope of this invention as defined by the appended claims.

In addition, where features or aspects of the invention are described in terms of Markush groups or other grouping of alternatives, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention is also thereby described in terms of any individual member or subgroup of members of the Markush group or other group.

Also, unless indicated to the contrary, where various numerical values or value range endpoints are provided for embodiments, additional embodiments are described by taking any 2 different values as the endpoints of a range or by taking two different range endpoints from specified ranges as the endpoints of an additional range. Such ranges are also within the scope of the described invention.

Thus, additional embodiments are within the scope of the invention and within the following claims.





 
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