Title:
Street Soccer Ball
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A novel street soccer ball having a carcass of a tough, durable material for improved wear on hard surfaces and a filler material to reduce and deaden the bounce of the soccer ball is disclosed. The inflatable bladder is similar to bladders used in many sports balls and is inflatable to provide adequate performance and feel to the soccer ball. Inside the inflatable bladder, a stuffing or filler material is included that deadens the bounce of the soccer ball to improve play of the soccer ball on hard surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, or dirt. While the stuffing or filler material is located inside the inflatable bladder, the air pressure of the bladder is the primary contributor to the shape and feel of the ball, and the stuffing or filler material primarily contributes to deadening the ball's bounce.



Inventors:
Winn, Travis J. (Provo, UT, US)
Application Number:
12/060605
Publication Date:
10/02/2008
Filing Date:
04/01/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
473/594, 473/604
International Classes:
A63B41/00; A63B43/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KIRTON MCCONKIE (SALT LAKE CITY, UT, US)
Claims:
What is claimed and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is:

1. A reduced-bounce soccer ball comprising: a carcass; an inflatable bladder; and a filler material loosely located inside the inflatable bladder, the filler material being provided in an amount to effectively deaden the bounce of the soccer ball.

2. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the carcass comprises a plurality of panels.

3. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 2, wherein the panels are stitched together to form the carcass.

4. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 3, wherein the panels are formed from a rubberized fabric.

5. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the carcass is formed from a high-durability material to provide improved wear characteristics to the reduced-bounce soccer ball.

6. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the carcass comprises a durable surface layer and a second layer that provides shape and strength to the durable surface layer.

7. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the carcass comprises a plurality of panels of rubberized fabric.

8. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the filler material comprises between five and thirty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce soccer ball.

9. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the filler material comprises between ten and twenty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce soccer ball.

10. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the filler material comprises a material chosen from the group of: polyester; cotton; and polystyrene.

11. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 1, wherein the reduced-bounce soccer ball has a weight between 12 and 16 ounces, a circumference between 25 and 26 inches, and wherein the filler material comprises between ten and twenty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce soccer ball.

12. A reduced-bounce soccer ball comprising: a high-durability carcass; an inflatable bladder; and a filler material loosely located inside the inflatable bladder, the filler material comprising between five and thirty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce soccer ball, and wherein the filler material is provided in an amount to effectively deaden the bounce of the soccer ball.

13. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 12, wherein the filler material comprises a material chosen from the group of: polyester; cotton; and polystyrene.

14. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 12, wherein the filler material comprises between ten and twenty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce soccer ball.

15. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 12, wherein the high-durability carcass comprises a plurality of panels.

16. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 15, wherein the panels are formed from a rubberized fabric.

17. A reduced-bounce street soccer ball comprising: a high-durability carcass having a durable surface layer and a second layer that provides shape and strength to the durable surface layer; an inflatable bladder; and a filler material loosely located inside the inflatable bladder, the filler material comprising between ten and twenty percent of the total weight of the reduced-bounce street soccer ball, and wherein the filler material is provided in an amount to effectively deaden the bounce of the soccer ball.

18. The reduced-bounce street soccer ball of claim 17, wherein the inflatable bladder comprises a valve and a material selected from the group of: latex rubber; and butyl rubber.

19. The reduced-bounce soccer ball of claim 17, wherein the filler material comprises a material chosen from the group of: polyester; cotton; and polystyrene.

20. The reduced-bounce street soccer ball of claim 17, wherein the high-durability carcass comprises a plurality of panels formed from a rubberized fabric.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/909,675, filed Apr. 2, 2007.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a soccer ball, and more particularly to a durable, low- to mid-bounce soccer ball for use as a street soccer ball, such as on hard and/or abrasive surfaces such as dirt and asphalt.

2. Background and Related Art

Soccer is one of the most popular sports worldwide. While organized soccer is often played on grass or synthetic-surface fields dedicated to the purpose, many unorganized soccer games occur on streets or dirt fields for various reasons. In some cases, it is simply a matter of convenience: when only a limited amount of time is available, it is often more convenient to simply play a quick game in the street than to take the time to find an available grass surface to play on. In other cases, playing on a dirt field or on the street is a matter of necessity: many people simply do not have access to a suitable grass surface to play on. Many fine soccer players have honed their skills playing soccer in the street or on dirt surfaces.

Playing soccer in the street or on a hard-packed dirt surface has certain disadvantages that are not adequately addressed by currently-available soccer equipment. For example, conventional soccer balls are typically designed for play on grass or synthetic grass surfaces, and do not perform in the same way on non-grass surfaces such as dirt, asphalt, concrete, etc., or they do not perform as would be desired for the limited space typically available for a street soccer game. For example, conventional soccer balls bounce too strongly on such surfaces; in a street soccer game, a ball that bounces too much may quickly leave the desired playing area, requiring lost playing time for ball recovery. Additionally, conventional soccer balls quickly wear out when used on such surfaces, as such surfaces tend to be much more highly abrasive than the typical grass or synthetic grass playing surface.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Embodiments of the street soccer ball have a carcass of a tough, durable material for improved wear on hard surfaces. The embodiments also have an inflatable, pressurized bladder similar to bladders used in many sports balls. Inside the inflatable bladder, a stuffing or filler material is included that deadens the bounce of the soccer ball to improve play of the soccer ball on hard surfaces such as those typically encountered in street soccer situations. The stuffing or filler material that reduces or deadens the bounce of the street soccer ball may be included inside the inflatable bladder in varying amounts; however, the stuffing or filler material is of an amount to deaden the bounce but is not of an amount such that the filler material or stuffing materially contributes to the maintaining of the shape of the street soccer ball as the ball is used. This function is provided by the inflatable bladder, and not by the filler or stuffing, as will be appreciated by the appended description and by reference to the Figures.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

The objects and features of the present invention will become more fully apparent from the following description and appended claims, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. Understanding that these drawings depict only typical embodiments of the invention and are, therefore, not 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 shows a perspective view of an embodiment of a soccer ball in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 shows a sectional view of a carcass and inflatable bladder of an embodiment of a soccer ball in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 shows a sectional view of the carcass and inflatable bladder of FIG. 2 and also shows filler material inside the inflatable bladder in accordance with embodiments of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 shows a partial cutaway view of an embodiment of a soccer ball in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A description of the embodiments of the present invention will now be given with reference to the Figures. It is expected that the present invention may take many other forms and shapes, hence the following disclosure is intended to be illustrative and not limiting, and the scope of the invention should be determined by reference to the appended claims.

Embodiments of the street soccer ball have a carcass of a tough, durable material for improved wear on hard surfaces. The embodiments also have an inflatable, pressurized bladder similar to bladders used in many sports balls. Inside the inflatable bladder, a stuffing or filler material is included that deadens the bounce of the soccer ball to improve play of the soccer ball on hard surfaces such as those typically encountered in street soccer situations. The stuffing or filler material that reduces or deadens the bounce of the street soccer ball may be included inside the inflatable bladder in varying amounts; however, the stuffing or filler material is of an amount to deaden the bounce but is not of an amount such that the filler material or stuffing materially contributes to the maintaining of the shape of the street soccer ball as the ball is used. This function is provided by the inflatable bladder, and not by the filler or stuffing, as will be appreciated by the following description and reference to the appended Figures, which are specifically incorporated into this detailed description by reference.

In the specification and in the claims, the term “inflatable bladder” means a bladder capable of being inflated so as to receive and hold an air pressure significantly higher than the ambient air pressure, consistent with air pressures typically used to inflate sports balls such as soccer balls. The bladder capable of being inflated may include materials standard to such bladders, such as latex and butyl, or any other material that is substantially airtight and suitable for use as a bladder.

FIG. 1 shows an embodiment of the street soccer ball 20. The street soccer ball has an outer surface, commonly known as a carcass 22. The carcass 22 may include a number of panels 24 that may be connected by a variety of mechanisms, such as by stitching or welding. In alternate embodiments, the carcass 22 may be molded or formed without panels 24. In such embodiments, faux panels 24 may be stamped or formed in the carcass 22, or the carcass 22 may be relatively smooth-surfaced. In a typical soccer ball configuration, the panels 24 may include a pattern of panels whereby six hexagonal panels 26 surround pentagonal panels 28, such that each hexagonal panel 26 is located adjacent three hexagonal panels 28 and three pentagonal panels 26. In this manner, the substantially-spherical soccer ball 20 may be formed by thirty-two panels 24. While the embodiment of the soccer ball 20 shown in FIG. 1 shows a soccer ball that may be made using thirty-two panels 24 having hexagonal and pentagonal shapes, other numbers, sizes, and shapes of panels 24 may be used for the carcass 22 to form the outer surface of the soccer ball 20, including fancifully-shaped panels 24. The actual numbers and shapes of the panels 24, the designs shown on the outer surface of the soccer ball 20, and the outward appearance of the soccer ball 20 are not deemed important to the functioning of the embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows an enlarged sectional view of the soccer ball 20 at the surface of the soccer ball 20. The sectional view of the soccer ball 20 shows the junction of two panels 24. In the embodiment shown, the panels 24 are joined by stitching 30. When stitching 30 is used to join the panels 24, the stitching 30 may be of any type of suitable thread, such as polyester thread, and the stitching 30 may be machine-stitched or hand-stitched. Each panel 24 may include several layers, as is illustrated in FIG. 2. The outermost layer may be a durable surface layer 32 that wears well during use so as to extend the life of the soccer ball 20 during use on abrasive surfaces such as asphalt, concrete, and dirt. While the durable surface layer 32 may be formed of any appropriate durable material, examples of materials suitable for the durable surface layer 32 include natural and synthetic rubber, as well as cordly kid material or any other durable material.

In some embodiments, the durable surface layer includes a material, such as rubber, that is subject to a substantial amount of deformation under stress. Therefore, a second layer 34 may be provided that limits the flexibility and deformation of the durable surface layer 32. This limitation on flexibility allows the soccer ball 20 to be inflated to a proper size limited by the second layer 34 without overly swelling under pressure that might otherwise occur if an unsupported durable surface layer 32 were used without the second layer 34. The second layer 34 may include a material or fabric and may itself be formed of several layers of material or fabric for extra strength. Additionally, when formed of several layers of fabric or material, the layers of fabric or material may be disposed at differing angles to increase the strength of the second layer 34.

The tensile strength of the second layer 34 serves an additional purpose in some embodiments of providing security to the stitching 30. The stitching 30 is less likely to tear through the fabric of the second layer 34 than it would if the stitching 30 extended solely through a substantially-compliant durable surface layer 32. In some embodiments, the durable surface layer 32 and the second layer 34 may be integrally or jointly formed. As one example, the fabric of the second layer 34 may be rubberized (thus forming the durable surface layer 32 on the second layer 34) so as to form a laminated material. The material, fabric, or cloth of the second layer 34 may be a natural or synthetic material, and the thicknesses of the durable surface layer 32 and the second layer 34 may be varied to provide extra strength, extra durability, and/or to vary the weight of the soccer ball 20.

In one embodiment, the thicknesses of each of the durable surface layer 32 and the second layer 34 are approximately one millimeter. In other embodiments, the durable surface layer 32 may be relatively thicker than the second layer 34 and the second layer 34 may be relatively thinner than the durable surface layer 32, such as is depicted in FIG. 2. In other embodiments, the durable surface layer 32 may be thinner and the second layer 34 may be thicker. In still other embodiments, both layers 32 and 34 may be thicker or thinner than approximately 1 millimeter. One of skill in the art will be able to readily determine suitable thicknesses for the durable surface layer 32 and the second layer 34 in order to provide a desired durability, strength, and weight of the soccer ball 20. Furthermore, one of skill in the art will readily appreciate that additional layers may be added to provide certain characteristics to the soccer ball 20, such as additional padding layers to vary the feel and touch of the soccer ball 20.

FIG. 2 shows one additional feature of the soccer ball 20. FIG. 2 also shows an inflatable bladder 36. As is commonly known in the art, using an inflatable bladder such as the inflatable bladder 36 is desirable for sports balls because it provides a desirable rigidity and bounce characteristic for sports balls without requiring that the carcass 22 be airtight. For example, one embodiment of the soccer ball 20 may have a recommended inflation pressure of 0.7-1.0 Bar (or approximately 10-15 pounds per square inch (PSI)). Another embodiment may have a recommended pressure complying with Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Football Association—FIFA) rules of 8.5-15.6 PSI. The pressures given are by way of example, and not limitation, and are meant merely to show that it is desirable to have an inflatable bladder for soccer balls such as soccer ball 20. It is difficult or impossible to make a stitched carcass airtight and capable of containing this kind of pressure on its own, so the inflatable bladder 36 is provided to give the soccer ball 20 this capability. The inflatable bladder is typically substantially spherical, and may be made of a substantially flexible material, such as latex rubber or butyl rubber, to allow the inflatable bladder to press up against and conform to the inner surface of the carcass 22 when inflated, as seen in FIG. 2. The embodiments of the invention embrace any thickness of the inflatable bladder 36 capable of providing the necessary airtight inflation and pressure to give the soccer ball 20 the desired performance. By way of example and not limitation, the inflatable bladder may have a thickness of approximately one-half to one millimeter.

In use, it is typically desired that the soccer ball 20 have a certain feel and performance when kicked by a soccer player. This feel and performance necessitates a certain range of internal pressures contained by the inflatable bladder 36. If the internal pressure is too low, the soccer ball 20 will deform too much when kicked, headed, etc., and will not perform properly. A typical properly-inflated soccer ball, however, has too much bounce to be used as a street soccer ball. Therefore, the soccer ball 20 may be provided with a filler material or stuffing (hereinafter referred to as “filler 38”) loosely located inside the inflatable bladder 36, as illustrated in FIG. 3.

In some embodiments, the filler 38 is wholly contained inside the inflatable bladder 36, and when the inflatable bladder 36 is fully inflated and the soccer ball 20 has been used for a period of time, the filler 38 may be naturally distributed substantially evenly inside the inflatable bladder 36. This distribution may occur because the filler 38 is only loosely located inside the inflatable bladder 36, and it therefore is free to shift and expand as the soccer ball 20 is kicked and otherwise played with. The filler 38 may be any type of natural or synthetic material, and typically makes up only a modestly small amount of the total weight of the soccer ball 20. By way of example and not limitation, the filler 38 may make up approximately ten percent of the total mass of the soccer ball 20 in one embodiment. In other embodiments, the filler 38 may make up between approximately five and thirty percent of the mass of the soccer ball 20. Exemplary amounts of filler 38 are approximately five, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and thirty percent of the total mass of the soccer ball 20.

The total amount of the filler 38 located in the inflatable bladder 36 generally provides an insubstantial amount of force on the carcass 22 when the soccer ball 20 is fully inflated. That is to say, that the air pressure inside the inflatable bladder 36 is primarily responsible for the outwardly-directed force applied to the inner surface of the carcass 22, and any force applied by the filler 38 when the soccer ball 20 is at rest is generally small when compared to the force applied by the air pressure. Thus, when the inflatable bladder 36 is deflated, the soccer ball 20 may be readily deformed and/or compressed, such as may be done for storing or shipping the soccer ball 20 in a smaller container than would be required to store or ship the soccer ball 20 in an inflated state. This may be appreciated by reference to FIG. 4, which shows a cutaway view of one embodiment of the soccer ball 20.

In FIG. 4, a portion of the carcass 22 has been cut away to show the inflatable bladder 36 in a not-fully-inflated state. Additionally, the inflatable bladder 36 has been cut away to show a depiction of the filler 38 inside the inflatable bladder 36. As may be seen from FIG. 4, the inflatable bladder 36 and filler 38 may take up substantially less space inside the carcass 22 in a non-fully-inflated state than is available. Thus, the filler 38 typically does not primarily serve to maintain the shape of the soccer ball 20, as this function is primarily performed by inflating the inflatable bladder 36. Instead, the filler 38 performs the primary function of lessening or deadening the amount of bounce of the soccer ball 20, making the soccer ball 20 in accordance with the embodiments of the invention more suitable for use on hard surfaces and as a street soccer ball, as it provides a low- to medium-bounce ball.

By way of example and not limitation, the filler 38 may be any natural or synthetic material, and need not be entirely uniform or consistent. Examples of suitable materials for filler 38 include cotton such as raw-type cotton of the consistency used for cotton balls, fused polyester such as used for typical batting material, or other similar natural or synthetic materials. Even scrap pieces of cloth or of the above materials may be used, providing a convenient use for such scrap materials left over from other textile manufacturing processes. Even thread, yarn, or other materials may be used. In some instances, using a synthetic material less prone to moisture-related rot problems may be desirable over the use of natural materials to limit any problems with mold or otherwise related to inflation using humid air. Additionally, the filler 38 may be treated with a treatment to reduce such potential problems. Other materials may be used for the filler 38 as long as the material fulfils the purposes of the filler 38 described herein. Other examples of materials that could potentially be used for the filler 38 include microbeads such as the polystyrene foam beads sometimes used in pillows and toys and the like.

The filler 38 deadens and reduces the bounce of the soccer ball 20 by absorbing some of the energy of the soccer ball that would otherwise be transferred into a rebound by the soccer ball after hitting a surface. When soccer balls 20 in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention bounce, the filler 38 shifts inside the inflated inflatable bladder 36 to absorb a portion of the energy of impact, thus reducing the amount of energy that remains in the carcass 22 and inflatable bladder 36 to be released in the bounce. This is advantageous for a street soccer ball, as the size of the playing area and the number of players is often reduced, and a low- to mid-bounce ball is less likely to bounce out of the playing area and is easier to control. Thus, any material that performs the described functions may be used as the filler 38, whether fibrous or non-fibrous.

FIG. 4 also shows a valve 40 attached to the inflatable bladder 36. The valve 40 has an aperture (not shown) that passes through the carcass 22 to allow inflation of the inflatable bladder 36 using a pump and needle. The valve aperture may be all that is visible from the outside of the soccer ball 20, and many types of valves and valve attachments are known in the art and are embraced for use with the embodiments of the present invention. When the inflatable bladder 36 is manufactured, it may be manufactured having a small hole at the location where the valve 40 is to be located. Then, before the valve 40 is attached to the inflatable bladder 36, the filler 38 may be placed inside the inflatable bladder 36. Once the valve 40 is attached to the inflatable bladder 36, the filler 38 is permanently contained within the inflatable bladder. Other methods may be used to insert the filler 38 in the inflatable bladder 36, and the above method of inserting the filler 38 into the bladder 36 is provided by way of example.

While soccer balls in accordance with the embodiments of the present invention may be made of varying sizes and weights, including FIFA standard/official size 3 (23-24 inches in circumference and between 11-12 ounces), size 4 (25-26 inches in circumference and 12-13 ounces), and size 5 (27-28 inches in circumference and 14-16 ounces), it is anticipated that the embodiments of the soccer ball 20 may vary from standard soccer ball characteristics. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, the soccer ball 20 may have size and weight characteristics closely approximating the size and weight of a futsal ball. One such embodiment of the soccer ball 20 has a circumference of 25 to 26 inches (or 64-66 centimeters) and a weight of 15 to 16 ounces (or 430 to 445 grams). Any other circumference and weight is embraced by the scope of the embodiments of the invention.

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 which come within the meaning and range of equivalency of the claims are to be embraced within their scope.