Title:
Toy Tether
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus for tethering an object includes a length of elastic material having a first end with a first baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to an object suitable for being handled by a baby and a second end opposing the first end, the second end having a second baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to a child carrier, thereby tethering the object to the child carrier.



Inventors:
Richard, Jennifer (Miramar, FL, US)
Daly, Kelly (Delray Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/769800
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
06/28/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A44B99/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LANDOLFI, JR., STEVEN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JENNIFER RICHARD (MIRAMAR, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for tethering an object, the apparatus comprising: a length of elastic material having: a first end with a first baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to an object suitable for being handled by a baby; and a second end opposing the first end, the second end having a second baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to a child carrier, thereby tethering the object to the child carrier.

2. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising: a sleeve of material surrounding at least a portion of the length of elastic material.

3. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein: the baby-safe clasp includes a snap fastener.

4. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein: the baby-safe clasp includes VELCRO.

5. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein: the baby-safe clasp includes a button.

6. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising: a third baby-safe clasp mechanically coupled to the length of elastic between the first end and the second end.

7. The apparatus according to claim 1, further comprising: a third baby-safe clasp mechanically coupled to the length of elastic adjacent one of the first end and the second end.

8. The apparatus according to claim 7, wherein at least one of the first, the second, and the third baby-safe clasps are removably attached to the length of elastic.

9. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the baby-safe clasp comprises: a first piece of material having a first clasping portion; and a second piece of material having a second clasping portion able to securely mate to the first clasping portion.

10. The apparatus according to claim 8, wherein at least one of the first and the second piece of material includes: a first end coupled to the length of elastic; and a second end opposing the first end and having the second clasping portion.

11. The apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the baby-safe clasp comprises: a length of material having a first fastener portion and a second fastener portion able to securely mate to the first clasping portion.

12. An apparatus for tethering an object, the apparatus comprising: an elastic band; a sleeve surrounding at least a portion of the elastic band; a first piece of material at a first end of the elastic band; a second piece of material at the first end of the elastic band; a first fastener portion attached to the first piece of material; a second fastener portion attached to the second piece of material, wherein the second fastener portion mating with the first fastener portion to physically and removably couple the elastic band to an object; a third piece of material at a second end of the elastic band; a fourth piece of material at the second end of the elastic band; a third fastener portion attached to the third piece of material; and a fourth fastener portion attached to the fourth piece of material, wherein the fourth fastener portion mating with the third fastener portion to physically and removably couple the elastic band to a baby carrier.

13. The apparatus according to claim 12, wherein the first and second pieces of material are baby safe.

14. The apparatus according to claim 12, wherein: at least one of the first, second, third, and fourth fastener portions includes at least one of a snap fastener, VELCRO, and a button.

15. The apparatus according to claim 12, further comprising: a fifth piece of material adjacent one of the first and second ends of the elastic band; a sixth piece of material adjacent one of the first and second ends of the elastic band; a fifth fastener portion attached to the fifth piece of material; and a sixth fastener portion attached to the sixth piece of material, wherein the sixth fastener portion mates to the fifth fastener portion so as to physically couple the elastic band to a baby toy.

16. An apparatus for tethering an object, the apparatus comprising: an elastic band having: a first end, the first end having at least one of: a first fastener having: a first piece of material having: a first fastener portion; and a second fastener portion mating with the first fastener portion physically and removably coupling the elastic band to an object; and a second fastener having: a first piece of material; a second piece of material; a first fastener portion attached to the first piece of material; a second fastener portion attached to the second piece of material, wherein the second fastener portion mates to the first fastener portion physically and removably coupling the elastic band to an object; and a second end, the second end having at least one of: a third fastener having: a third piece of material having: a third fastener portion; and a fourth fastener portion mating to the third fastener portion physically and removably coupling the elastic band to a baby-safe object; and a fourth fastener having: a third piece of material; a fourth piece of material; a third fastener portion attached to the third piece of material; a fourth fastener portion attached to the fourth piece of material, the fourth fastener portion mating to the third fastener portion so physically and removably coupling the elastic band to a baby-safe object.

17. The apparatus according to claim 16, wherein the tether is baby safe.

18. The apparatus according to claim 16, wherein: at least one of the fastener portions includes at least one of a snap fastener, VELCRO, and a button.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to tethering objects, and more particularly relates to a tether for securing baby toys to a baby carrier.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

One problem that parents of young children constantly face is a child's natural compulsion to throw things. As a result, it is not at all uncommon to see toys and other objects emitted from baby strollers as they are pushed through public places. This compulsion routinely results in lost or dirty and unsanitary items, such as pacifiers, bottles, toys, and others. Therefore, parents are forced to constantly monitor their children's handling of an object and to regularly take inventory of all objects within reach of the child. Because many times items are simply lost, parents are also forced to purchase replacement items. Even when the items are found, they cannot be immediately returned to the child due to germs that may have attached themselves to the item when it came into contact with the ground.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,150,504 ('504 Patent) discloses a tether apparatus for releasably attaching juvenile articles to the clothing of an infant. However, the tether of the '504 patent is designed to attach directly to the child. When parents or others pick the child up, they will have to deal with the tethered item as well or will have to take the extra step of unattaching the tether. In addition, the '504 patent requires both a male post-type attachment end and a female loop-type element. These attachment types involve an expense in manufacturing, packing, shipping, add points of failure, and also add complication in operation.

Other tethers and tie downs exist, but none secure baby items through use of baby-safe attachment mechanisms. Therefore a need exists to overcome the problems with the prior art as discussed above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly, in accordance with the present invention, disclosed is an apparatus for tethering an object, where the apparatus includes a length of elastic material having a first end with a first baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to an object suitable for being handled by a baby and a second end opposing the first end, the second end having a second baby-safe clasp capable of mechanically coupling the length of elastic to a child carrier, thereby tethering the object to the child carrier.

In accordance with another feature, an embodiment of the present invention includes a sleeve of material surrounding at least a portion of the length of elastic material.

In accordance with a further feature of the present invention, the baby-safe clasp includes a snap fastener.

In accordance with a further feature of the present invention, the baby-safe clasp includes VELCRO.

In accordance with another feature, there is provided a third baby-safe clasp mechanically coupled to the length of elastic between the first end and the second end.

In accordance with yet another feature, the baby-safe clasp includes a first piece of material having a first clasping portion and a second piece of material having a second clasping portion able to securely mate to the first clasping portion.

With objects of the invention in view, there is also provided a length of material having a first fastener portion and a second fastener portion able to securely mate to the first clasping portion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying figures, where like reference numerals refer to identical or functionally similar elements throughout the separate views and which together with the detailed description below are incorporated in and form part of the specification, serve to further illustrate various embodiments and to explain various principles and advantages all in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view from the front of a prior-art baby stroller;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view a tether in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the tether of FIG. 1 with a variation of a material sleeve in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the baby stroller of FIG. 1 with the tether of FIG. 2 attached in accordance with the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

While the specification concludes with claims defining the features of the invention that are regarded as novel, it is believed that the invention will be better understood from a consideration of the following description in conjunction with the drawing figures, in which like reference numerals are carried forward. It is to be understood that the disclosed embodiments are merely exemplary of the invention, which can be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific structural and functional details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but merely as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to variously employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed structure. Further, the terms and phrases used herein are not intended to be limiting; but rather, to provide an understandable description of the invention.

The present invention, according to an embodiment, overcomes problems with the prior art by providing a tethering device that easily, quickly, and removably secures virtually any baby-related item to a baby carrier, thereby preventing objects thrown by a child from becoming lost or making contact with the ground.

Described now are exemplary embodiments of the present invention. With reference to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a view of a baby stroller 100. Baby strollers are known in the art and are typically lightweight transportation devices used to transport babies safely and easily from one place another. It should be noted that the term “baby,” as used herein, is not referring to or limited to a child of any particular age, but is meant to refer to children in general. The use of a stroller is merely exemplary and the present invention not in any way limited to use only with strollers. The present invention can be used with any structure for transporting and receiving (e.g. car seats, cribs, highchairs, and others).

The baby stroller 100 includes a baby-holding area 106, designed to comfortably and securely hold a baby. The baby-holding area has sides 108 and 110 to prevent the baby from falling out of or otherwise getting out of the stroller 100. Most strollers 100 also have a restraint 112 that prevents the baby from falling forward and out of the stroller. However, the sides 108, 110 and restraint 112 are not designed to prevent objects from being thrown out of or simply falling out of the baby-holding area.

The baby stroller 100 shown in FIG. 1 is made of a framework 102, which is generally aluminum and/or plastic tubing, but the invention is not limited to any particular type of framework. The framework 102 includes several portions that are accessible for, as will be explained in detail below, attaching a tether that secures objects to the stroller 100; for non-stroller embodiments, the framework also has such securing portions.

With reference now to FIG. 2, the present invention advantageously provides a tether 200 that prevents objects from being ejected from a baby carrier to a distance longer than the length of the tether 200. In this embodiment, the tether 200 includes a length of elastic material 202 with a securing mechanism 204 on each end 206 and 208. The securing mechanism 204, as will be explained, can be several different clasping designs. Regardless of the particular clasp selected, the present invention allows the tether 200 to be secured to both the stroller 100 at one end of the tether 100, and to an object at another end of the tether 100, while remaining “baby-safe;” that is, the present invention tethers objects to the stroller 100 through a clasping mechanism 204 that is void of rough or sharp edges, choking hazards, pinching mechanisms, and any other properties that should be avoided when dealing with babies or young children.

In the embodiment shown in FIG. 2, the tether 200 has a clasp 204 that includes a pair of extending arms 210 and 212. The arms 210 and 212 are each attached to the length of elastic material 202 at a first end 214 and 216, respectively, thereof and are unattached at a second end 218 and 220, respectively. So that the arms 210 and 212 are able to grab an object, each of them is provided with one half of a fastener pair. A “fastener,” as used herein, is meant to refer to a device that mechanically joins or affixes two or more objects together. As an example, the first arm 210, as shown in FIG. 2, has attached to it a piece of VELCRO® 222. Correspondingly, the second arm 212 also has a piece of VELCRO® 224 that is of an opposite type from the piece on the other side. More specifically, VELCRO® is a “hook and loop” fastener consisting of two layers: a “hook” side, which is a piece of fabric covered with tiny plastic hooks, and a “loop” side, which is covered with even smaller and “hairier” plastic loops. There are many variations to this which include hooks on both sides, for example. When the two sides are pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops and hold the pieces together. VELCRO® is advantageous in that it is easy to use, easily adjusts to a variety of sizes, is relatively maintenance free, baby-safe, and convenient. In addition, when separating two pieces of VELCRO®, a characteristic ripping sound is heard. This can alert a parent to the tether 100 being removed from the stroller 100 or from an object.

The invention, however, is not limited to any particular type of fastener. For instance, the arms can each have one half of a pair of snap fasteners 226 and 228, as shown at the end 208 of the length of elastic 102 opposing the first end 206. A snap fastener (also called snap, popper, or press stud) is a pair of interlocking discs commonly used in place of buttons to fasten two objects together. Snap fasteners can be attached to the arms by hammering, plying, or sewing. For plying snap fasteners, special snap pliers are readily available. Other types of fasteners can be, for example, magnets, button and a loop, button 302 and a hole 304 (shown in FIG. 3), and many others.

As shown in FIG. 3, the aesthetics of the tether 200 can be improved by providing a decorative sleeve 300 around the length of elastic material 102. The decorative sleeve 300 can be selected from any material, and in some embodiments, is specifically selected so as to match the color and pattern of a stroller, car seat, or other baby carrier. In this way, parents can choose the best looking tether for their situation from among several choices. Parents may even be persuaded to purchase several tethers 100 so that they will have one for each carrier.

For one embodiment, the tether 100 is of elastic material 202 to provided flexibility and economy of size. When the tether 100 is to be made longer, a baby or parent merely needs to tug on it. This elastic property also allows it to stretch when accidentally trapped between two objects and will not have a tendency to quickly jerk on the baby carrier. The elastic will, instead, exert an increasing force on the carrier. In addition, the elastic property of the tether 100 renders it less of a strangling hazard, even if it somehow became entangled around a baby's neck, it would expand enough to allow the baby to breath.

So that the tether 100 will retain this elastic property, the length of the material sleeve 300 is selected to be substantially equal to the length of the elastic band 102 when fully or significantly stretched. If the material sleeve 300 were the same length of the elastic band 102 at rest, the material sleeve 300, which does not have an elastic property, would prevent the band from stretching. Alternatively, a material having an elastic property, such as spandex, could be selected and made the same length of the elastic band 202.

In other embodiments, the present invention includes one or more additional clasps 306 that are attached to the tether 200 between the first 206 and second 208 ends. The additional clasp 306 advantageously allows multiple toys, or similar objects, to be attached to the tether 200. The additional clasp 306 can have the same characteristics as the other clasps 204 or can have a different clasping mechanism and/or a different loop size to hold objects of a varying sizes. The additional clasp 306 can be located anywhere along the length of the tether 200.

Also shown in FIG. 3 is a different kind of a clasp 314 that is a single length of material 308. The material 308 has, along its length, a male 310 and a female 312 fastener that mechanically joins or affixes one portion of the length of material 308 to another portion of the material 308. The particular fastener shown attached to the length of material 308 is VELCRO®, however, as in the other clasps, any fastener can be used. Clasp 314 can be used at either end 206, 208 of the tether 200 instead of the two-armed clasps shown in FIG. 3.

In one embodiment of the present invention, the clasps 204 are removable and can be interchanged with alternate clasps. Examples of alternate clasps include clasps with different loop sizes, clasps with different clasping mechanisms, clasps with different colors or patterns, clasps of different widths, and others.

FIG. 4 shows one example of how the inventive tether 200 can be attached to the stroller 100. A first one of the clasps 204 of the tether 200 is attached to the frame 102 of the stroller 100 at a point 402 along the frame 102. Advantageously, the present invention is versatile and can be attached at many locations along almost any baby carrier. At an opposing end of the tether 200, a baby toy 404 is coupled to the tether 200 by a second one of the clasps 204. Through use of the present invention, as shown in FIG. 4, the baby toy 404 is securely attached to the stroller 100. If the baby toy 404 is thrown or dropped, the tether 200 will ensure that the toy 404 remains tethered, or coupled, to the stroller 100. As stated above, by adding multiple clasps, as shown in FIG. 3, multiple objects can be tethered to the stroller 100 or any other baby carrier or object.

The present invention provides a versatile device that tethers virtually any object to virtually any other object. The invention is safe to babies and eliminates a parent's need to constantly monitor the objects within reach of their children. The invention can be provided in any material, color, and pattern, so as to give the appearance of an original manufacturer's part. In addition, the invention is not limited to any number of fasteners along it's body or at its ends.

Although specific embodiments of the invention have been disclosed, those having ordinary skill in the art will understand that changes can be made to the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The scope of the invention is not to be restricted, therefore, to the specific embodiments, and it is intended that the appended claims cover any and all such applications, modifications, and embodiments within the scope of the present invention.

The terms “a” or “an”, as used herein, are defined as one, or more than one. The term “plurality”, as used herein, is defined as two, or more than two. The term “another”, as used herein, is defined as at least a second or more. The terms “including” and/or “having”, as used herein, are defined as comprising (i.e., open language). The term “coupled”, as used herein, is defined as connected, although not necessarily directly, and not necessarily mechanically.