Title:
CUSHION COVER APPARATUS WITH CONNECTION MECHANISMS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Covers are secured to cushions that have an outer surface that has connection mechanisms that allow multiple cushions to be coupled to each other and an inner surface that will not damage the surface of the cushions. The covers are secured to the cushions with straps or elastic materials. The connection mechanism includes hook areas and loop areas that cover the outer surface of the covers. The cushions are coupled with the hook area of a cushion is pressed against the loop area of another cushion.



Inventors:
Balchunas, Robert (San Francisco, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/943409
Publication Date:
05/21/2009
Filing Date:
11/20/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
297/219.1
International Classes:
A47C31/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
MCPARTLIN, SARAH BURNHAM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DERGOSITS & NOAH LLP (San Francisco, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A cover for a cushion comprising: an inner surface of the cover; an outer surface of the cover having an attachment system wherein a first portion of the outer side is covered with hooks and a second portion of the outer side is covered with loops; and a securing mechanism coupled to the cover for securing the cover around the cushion.

2. The cover of claim 1 wherein an area of the cover that covers an edge of the cushion includes the first portion of the connector side is covered with hooks and the second portion of the connector side is covered with loops.

3. The cover of claim 1 wherein an area of the cover that covers front side of the cushion includes the first portion of the connector side is covered with hooks and the second portion of the connector side is covered with loops.

4. The cover of claim 1 wherein the securing mechanism includes an elongated strap having a first surface covered with hooks.

5. The cover of claim 1 wherein the cover includes an open end and an elastic material that is attached to the open end.

6. The cover of claim 1 wherein the cover includes a portion that is made of a two way stretch fabric which secures at least a portion of the cover around the cushion.

7. The cover of claim 1 further comprising: a flap that extends from the outer connector side of the cover; wherein a portion of the flap is covered with the loops

8. A construction system comprising: a plurality of covers each having a cushion side, a connector side of the cover having a hook and loop attachment system wherein a first portion of the connector side is covered with hooks and a second portion of the connector side is covered with loops; wherein each of the plurality of covers is attached to a cushion and the first portion of the connector side covered with hooks on a first cushion is coupled to the second portion of the connector side covered with loops on a second cushion.

9. The construction system of claim 8 wherein the areas of the covers that cover edges of the cushions include the first portions of the connector sides that are covered with hooks and the second portions of the connector sides that are covered with loops.

10. The construction system of claim 8 wherein areas of the covers that correspond to edges of the cushions include the first portions of the connector sides that are covered with hooks and the second portion of the connector sides that are covered with loops.

11. The construction system of claim 8 wherein the securing mechanism includes an elongated strap having a first surface covered with hooks.

12. The construction system of claim 8 wherein the securing mechanism includes an elastic material that is stretched around the cushion.

13. The construction system of claim 8 wherein the securing mechanism includes a way stretch fabric which secures at least a portion of the cover around the cushion.

14. A cover comprising: a open end for inserting the cushion; an inner surface of the cover that contacts the cushion; an outer surface of the cover having an attachment system wherein a first portion of the outer side is covered with hooks and a second portion of the outer side is covered with loops; and a securing mechanism coupled to the cover for securing the cover around the cushion.

15. The cover of claim 14 wherein an area of the cover that covers an edge of the cushion includes the first portion of the connector side is covered with hooks and the second portion of the connector side is covered with loops.

16. The cover of claim 14 wherein an area of the cover that covers front side of the cushion includes the first portion of the connector side is covered with hooks and the second portion of the connector side is covered with loops.

17. The cover of claim 14 wherein the securing mechanism includes an elongated strap having a first surface covered with hooks.

18. The cover of claim 14 wherein the securing mechanism includes an elastic material attached to the open end.

19. The cover of claim 14 wherein the securing mechanism includes a two way stretch fabric which secures at least a portion of the cover around the cushion.

20. The cover of claim 14 further comprising: a flap that extends from the outer connector side of the cover; wherein a portion of the flap is covered with the hooks.

Description:

BACKGROUND

Children have used cushions and pillows to create temporary play structures. The pillows and cushions are normally used with sitting furniture in a living room of a house but when they are removed from the furniture, they can be used as components of a play structure. The cushions that form the walls are balanced against each other and then a roof cushion can be placed on top of the wall cushions.

A problem with these structures that are only balanced against each other is that they are very fragile. What is needed is a mechanism that allows the cushions to be temporarily secured to each other.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed towards a system for connecting cushions to allow children to build structures. Cushion covers are attached to cushions with straps that wrap around the cushion and attach to another portion of the cover. In an embodiment, the straps may use a hook and loop coupling mechanism. An inner portion of one end of the strap may be covered with a loop surface and an outer portion of the opposite end of the strap may be covered with a hook surface. The strap can be adjusted so that the cover is snug around the cushion and then the opposite ends of the strap can be coupled. While a single strap can be sufficient to hold the cover in place, the cover can also be held around the cushion with multiple straps. In other embodiments, the coupling mechanism can be: hooks and hooks, buckles, temporary adhesives, snaps, buttons, etc. It is also possible to tie the cover to the cushion with lines that are coupled to the cover. In this embodiment, the lines can be tied in knots to secure the cover to the cushion.

Once the covers have been placed around the cushions, the cushions can be coupled together. In an embodiment, the outer surface of the cover includes hooks and loops. The cushions are held together when the hook portion of a first cushion contacts the loop portion of a second cushion. Ideally, the connection area will have sufficient area for the connection to be fairly strong. Additional cushions can be connected until the desired structure is formed.

In an embodiment, the cushion cover includes a flap portion that extends from the outer surface. The flap preferably includes a connector mechanism that allows the cushions to be coupled to the flap. The flap adds some flexibility because it can rotate relative to the cushion and provides a strong connection to other cushions while allowing the connected cushions to move. Thus, the cushions do not have to be precisely aligned.

In addition to cushions, other objects can be used in the structure. A flexible sheet of material may be used as a tent like cover to the structure. A pole can be attached to the connection covers and used to support the tent. The pole may having a flat base that allows the pole to stand upright. In an embodiment, the pole can be made of a soft and flexible material such as foam. While strong enough to support a cover, it can also be flexible so that it can be bent into an arch. This flexibility can be useful in providing a safer play structure component and provides more options for creating different types of structures. Portions of the pole may be covered with connectors such as hook and/or loop surfaces so that it can be coupled to a cushion. In an embodiment, the length of the pole is adjustable. For example, the pole may have separate upper and lower portions that are concentrically arranged so the pole can be extended telescopically.

Accessories can also be used with the connector cushion covers. Examples include, a steering wheel, controls, levers, pedals, brakes, lights, sound recordings, etc. The cushion covers are preferably made of a cloth material that can easily be stored in a compact manner and washed in a washing machine.

In another embodiment, the inventive cover is secured to the cushion with elastic rather than straps. The cover may resemble a bag having an open end and a closed end. The elastic may surround the open end so that when the cushion is inserted into the cover, the elastic will contract around the cushion and hold the cover in place. The elastic can be an elongated structure that runs around the open end. Alternatively, some or all of the cover can be made of elastic cloth that can stretch in all directions. When the cushion is inserted into the cover, the cover can contract around the cushion and conform to the shape of the cushion. The cover can also have open areas which expose the cushion and may reduce the costs of production of the cover. The outer surface of the cover includes coupling mechanisms so the cover can be coupled to other cushions. In an embodiment, the coupling mechanism includes areas of hooks and loops or any other described fasteners.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be more fully understood by reference to the following detailed description of the invention in conjunction with the drawings:

FIG. 1 is a view of a cushion and a cover;

FIG. 2 is a top view of a cushion and a cover;

FIG. 3 is a view of a cushion and a cover;

FIG. 4 is a view of a cushion and a cover having a strap and buckle;

FIG. 5 is a top view of a cushion and a cover having a strap;

FIG. 6 is a view of cover that completely covers the cushion;

FIG. 7 is a view of two cushions each having covers;

FIG. 8 is a view of a flap that is coupled to an edge of a cover;

FIG. 9 is a view of a strip that couples the ends of two covers;

FIG. 10 is a view of a structure having poles and a flexible cover;

FIG. 11 is a view of a structure having flexible poles and a flexible cover;

FIG. 12 is a view of a structure having a planar covering;

FIG. 13 is a steering wheel attachment accessory;

FIG. 14 is a pedal attachment accessory;

FIG. 15 is a shift lever attachment accessory;

FIG. 16 is a light attachment accessory;

FIG. 17 is a cushion and partial covering having an elastic portion;

FIG. 18 is a cushion inserted into the partial covering;

FIG. 19 a partial covering; and

FIG. 20 is a cushion inserted into the partial covering.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Cushions such as sofa cushions and throw pillows can be used as construction block to create play structures by balancing the cushions on their sides and leaning them against each other. A problem with this type of construction is that the structure built in this manner can easily fall apart. The assembly and deconstruction of the play structure may be entertaining for a short period of time, but it can be tiresome to build something that may only remain standing for a few minutes. What is needed is a system that allows cushions that are commonly placed on sitting furniture to be coupled together so that more sturdy play structures can be built.

The present invention solves this problem by providing a connection mechanism that is temporarily secured to the cushions that allows the cushions to be coupled and held together. The cushions can then be connected to each other so that more sturdy play structures can be built. Since the cushions are coupled rather than balanced against each other, the play structures are then less prone falling apart. Another benefit is that more complex structures can be built since the pieces are less prone to falling.

In contrast to normal pillow covers that are essentially cloth bags that are designed to fit around a specific sized pillow, the inventive cushion covers are adjustable so that the covers can be secured to a wide variety of cushions. With reference to FIG. 1, a rectangular cushion 101 is illustrated that is covered with an embodiment of the cover 111. In an embodiment, the cover 111 has a strap 113 that is wrapped around the cushion 101 so that one end 115 of the cover can be secured to the opposite end 117. FIG. 2 is a top view of the cushion 101 and the cover 111 wrapped around the cushion 101. The overlapped region of the strap 113 that secures the cover 111 around the cushion 101 is more clearly illustrated.

The straps 111 may engage various mechanisms to hold them together. In an embodiment, the coupling mechanism uses “hook” and “loop” materials. Some areas of the cover are covered with the hook material and other areas of the cover that are covered with the loop material. For example, one end of a strap 117 may be covered with a hook material and the opposite end of the strap 115 can be covered with a loop material. The cover can be wrapped around the cushion and the hook and loop ends can be secured together to secure the cover to the cushion 101.

In other embodiments shown in FIG. 3, the cover 211 has two straps 213 that each wrap around different portions of the cushion 101 to more securely hold the cover 211 in place on the cushion 101. In other embodiments, the cover may have more than two straps 213. While two or more straps 213 may securely hold the cover 211 in place, a single strap should be adequate to hold the covers to most cushions.

The straps 213 may also include an elastic portion 221 that is stretched when the cover 211 is wrapped around the cushion. When the strap 213 is coupled, the stretched elastic portion 221 applies a compression force around the cushion 101. The elastic prevents the cover 211 from coming loose from the cushion 101 when the cushion 101 is compressed.

In other embodiments as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, a buckle 331 can be attached to one end of the strap 321. The cover 311 can be wrapped around the cushion 101 and the strap end 321 can be looped through the buckle 331. The outer surface of the strap end 321 can have a hook surface and a loop surface. The strap 321 can be placed through the buckle 331 and the hook surface can be attached to the loop surface. Because the hook material will bind to any portion of the loop material, the strap can be adjusted to fit various cushions sizes.

In other embodiments, other mechanisms are used to hold the straps to the cushion. Examples of the securing mechanisms include: buckles, snaps, buttons, zippers, hooks, etc. In each of these alternative embodiments, the securing mechanisms should be adjustable so the cover can be secured around cushions having various sizes and shapes. For example, a series of snaps, buttons, hooks can be placed along a length of the strap so the circumference of the cover can be adjusted. This adjustability can be important because pillows and cushions that are used on chairs and sofas have a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

In the preferred embodiment, the inventive covers should not damage the cushions nor easily slide against the cushion. In addition to the straps, the inner surface of the cover can also help to hold the cover in place. If the cushion slides within the cover, the cover can easily be separated from the cushion. In order to reduce slipping, the inner surface can be a high friction surface. The material and the texture of the inner surface of the cover can increase the friction between the cover and the cushion. The inner surface may have a soft of the cover is compressed against the outer surface of the cushion or pillow. The deformation of the inner surface by the cushion, results in friction that prevents sliding between the cover and cushion. The inner surface can also have a textured surface having indentations and/or protrusions that contact the outer surface of the cushion. These features also increase the friction between the cushion and the cover. In an embodiment, the inner surface has a high sliding friction surface such as an elastic material that will resist sliding against the cushion and will hold the cover in place. Other possible inner surface materials include foam rubber, textured fabrics such as towel or rug surfaces. These materials will resist sliding and not damage the cushions.

Many cushions include a textured fabric outer surface which provide a soft surface to rest against but may also function has a fuzzy loop material. This is problematic because the hook material of the cover may engage the outer surface of the cushion. When the hook material is separated from the outer surface of the cushion, the hook material can pull at the outer cushion surface causing damage to the cushion. In order to avoid this undesirable coupling, the cushion cover is preferably constructed without any hooks normally facing the cushion. For example, if the hook and loop closure embodiment, the hooks can face away from the cushion while the loops can face the cushion. In addition, to keeping the inner surface free of hooks, the cover may cover most exposed cushion surfaces or the entire cushion.

With reference to FIG. 6, a cushion cover 411 is illustrated that covers the entire cushion. In this embodiment, the cover may resembled a large pillow case with an open slot end 441. The cushion in placed into the cover 411 and the straps 421 are secured around the cushion. The excess cover material is secured under the straps 421. Because the entire cushion is covered, the hooks cannot contact or damage the outer surface of the cushion.

In an embodiment, the outer surface of the covers include hook and loop type fasteners that are used to secure the cover to the cushion and couple the covered cushions to each other. Hook and loop fasteners consist of two surfaces: a “hook” surface, which is a piece of fabric covered with tiny plastic hooks, and a “loop” surface, which is covered with smaller “fuzzy” plastic loops. When the two sides are pressed together, the hooks catch in the loops and hold the pieces together. With reference to FIG. 7, the outer surface of the covers 111 includes surfaces that are covered with hooks 441 and other surfaces that are covered with loops 443. When the hook 441 areas of one cover 111 engage the loop 443 areas of another cover 111, the covers 111 are coupled together. In other embodiments, the coupling mechanism may only have hook 441 surfaces. When the hook 441 surfaces are pressed together, the hooks 441 of one surface engage the hooks 441 of another surface to hold the pieces together. The strength of the connection can be proportional to the contact areas of the hook 441 and loop 443 or hook 441 and hook 441. More contact area will product a stronger connection. Ideally, the connection between the cushion covers 111 should be in a planar manner with a large hook 441 area coupled to a large loop 443 area. Because the covers 111 are flexible, the alignment of the hook 441 and loop 443 areas does not have to be perfect however, the connection strength will increase with proper alignment. When the cushions 101 are separated the hooks 441 of both covers 111 are released. The covers 111 are then free and able to be attached to other covers 111. Because there are typically fewer hooks per area, the hook/loop connection may be stronger than a hook/hook connection.

In another embodiment shown in FIG. 8, flexible flaps 551 that have coupling mechnanisms are attached to the ends of the covers 541. The flaps 551 can be covered with both a hook 541 area and a loop 543 area. The flaps 551 can function has hinges that allow the cushions 101 to be coupled in a flexible manner. Specifically, the flap 551 of one cushion 101 can be coupled to the edge of a second cushion 101. Because the flap 551 can rotate relative to the cover 541, the second cushion 103 can be secured to the first cushion 101 and rotate relative to the first cushion 101. This feature allows the cushions 101, 103 to be angled in any manner but still held together with a high strength connection. The flexible flap 551 also allows the covers 511 to conform to the shape of the attached cover 511. This flexibility of the flaps 551 increases the hook and loop connection area and therefore strengthens the connection.

In yet another embodiment shown in FIG. 9, connector strips 621 can be used connect the cushion covers 611. The connector strip 521 can be an elongated structure having the connection mechanism of the covers 611. If the connection mechanism is the hook and loop surface, the connector strip includes corresponding hook and loop surfaces. The connector strip 521 can be coupled to edges of the first and second cushion covers 611 to hold the cushions 101 together.

The basic structures are built by connecting the covered cushions together. Various accessories can also be used with the covered cushions to enhance the structures. For example with reference to FIG. 10, a tent covering 771 can include connectors 773 at the edges which can be secured to the cushion covers 711. A pole 721 having connectors around the outer diameter can be coupled to the cushions 101 to provide stability. The top of the pole 721 can provide a lift point for the tent covering 771. In an embodiment, the length of the pole 721 is adjustable. For example, the pole 721 may have separate upper and lower portions that are concentrically arranged so the pole 721 can be extended telescopically.

Alternatively as shown in FIG. 11, a flexible pole 725 can be attached to the connection covers 711 and used to support the tent. The pole 725 may be made of a soft and flexible material such as foam. While the flexible pole 725 may be strong enough to support a cover 773, it can also be flexible so that it can be bent into an arch. This flexibility can be useful in providing a safe play structure component. Portions of the pole 725 may be covered with connectors such as hook and/or loop surfaces so that it can be coupled to a cover 711.

In another embodiment illustrated in FIG. 12, a more rigid thin planar structure 871 can be used with the coupling system as a roof for the structure. A side of the planar structure 871 can have a coupling mechanism so that it can be coupled to the cushion covers 811 and held in place on the structure.

In addition to building type structures, it is also possible to use the inventive system to contruct other objects such as vehicles including cars, boats, planes, space ships, etc. In these configurations, the accessories may include control mechanisms associated with the vehicles such as a movable steering wheel 951 shown in FIG. 13. In order to attach the steering wheel 951 to the structure, the wheel 951 can be mounted to a rod 955 that extends from a planar piece 957. The opposite side of the planar piece 957 can have a hook and/or loop surface so that it can be mounted on an outer side of a cushion cover. Other controls can include buttons 975, horns 989, knobs/levers/shifter 981 shown in FIG. 14, pedals 985 shown in FIG. 15, lights 991 shown in FIG. 16, etc.

In an embodiment some of the accessories can include some functionality. For example, the horn 989 may emit a horn sound when the horn control is actuated. With reference to FIG. 16, a light 991 may illuminated when the light control 975 is actuated. The light 991 and horn 989 may be powered by batteries that are housed within the accessories. The devices may be wired or wirelessly controlled. For example, the light 991 and light controller button 975 may be separate components. The light controller button 975 can be mounted within the play vehicle while the light 991 device can be mounted to an outer surface of the vehicle. When the light controller button 975 is actuated, a signal is transmitted to the light 991 and the light 991 is illuminated. The controller button 975 may have other audio signals such as the sounds: radio, control tower radio communications, airplane taking off, airplane landing, car accelerating, car braking, turn signal sound, ambulance/fire truck siren, microphone, etc.

While the cushion cover has been described as surrounding an entire cushion and being secured to the cushion with straps, in an alternative embodiments, the cover may only surround a portion of the cushion and be secured to the cushion with elastic. With reference to FIGS. 17 and 18, a cover 830 is illustrated having a closed end 831 and an open end 835. The outer surface of the cover 830 can have hook 841 and loop 843 surfaces that can be loced at the closed end 831 or any outer surface of the cover 830. The open end 835 can include an elastic material that normally causes the open end 835 to contract. The elastic material can stretch in one direction or in multiple directions. For example, the elastic can stretch so the diameter of the open end 835 can be expanded so that the end of a cushion 851 can be inserted into the cover 830. In other embodiments, the elastic material can stretch in multiple directions and the entire cover can be made of the elastic material so that the cover 830 will fit tightly around the inserted portion of the cushion 835 and will conform to the shape of the cushion 851.

In another embodiment, cushion cover can have open holes. With reference to FIGS. 19 and 20, a cover 930 is shown having open holes 965 is illustrated. The primary purpose of the elastic material is to hold the cover 930 to the cushion 851. It may be more cost effective to contruct a cover 930 having holes 965 so that less material is used to produce the covers 930. In this embodiment, the connection surface 931 is at the end of the cover 930 and includes hook 941 and loop 943 areas. The connection surface 931 can be attached to elongated sections 939 which are coupled to an elastic loop 935. When the cushion 851 is inserted into the cover 930 the elastic loop 935 is stretched and secured around the cushion 851.

The elastic embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 17-20 can simplify the operation of the inventive covers. Rather than securing the covers to the cushions with straps, the user can simply expand the opening of the cover and pull the cover over the cushion. Similarly, the elastic embodiment, can be easier to remove from the cushion since the user can simply pull the cover at the closed end from the cushion. The cover will slide off the cushion and stored until the next use.

Examples of suitable elastic materials include Spandex, rubber, Lycra, neoprene, bungee cord, shock cord, etc. If the elastic material is used in a flexible fabric, the stretch can be one, two, four or eight-way stretch material. The stretch fabrics can include Lycra/Spandex, Nylon and/or Polyester yarns woven. The construction and elasticity can vary depending upon the desired compression of the cushion and the range of cushion sizes that the cover can be attached to. A thicker material may be more durable and provide more cushion compression while a thinner material can be more stretched over a wider range of cushions more easily. In the preferred embodiment, the stretch fabric provides high abrasion resistance and good durability with maximum stretch.

The stretch fabric of a blend of nylon or polyester with little (less than 2%) or no Lycra or Spandex provides additional durability. As a result, these fabrics have superior abrasion resistance, stretch recovery. Because there is little or no Lycra/Spandex, the fabric will not wear out over time, provides good UV resistance and durability and is not adversely affected by saltwater and do not dry out, wear out or break down with extended use.

It will be understood that the inventive cushion cover apparatus has been described with reference to particular embodiments, however additions, deletions and changes could be made to these embodiments without departing from the scope of the inventive system. It is well understood that these components and the described configuration can be modified and rearranged in various other configurations.