Title:
Protective head gear for aquatic sports
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A protective head-gear apparatus and a method for making the same is disclosed. The protective head-gear apparatus is buoyant and includes a cap and ear-guard that covers a user's ears while wearing the cap. The ear-guards include pads of cushions that are formed from a buoyant material and which are vented to allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements and allow the user to hear wearing the protective head-gear apparatus. In further embodiments of the invention, the ear-guards include outer shells or covers that are also vented. The ear-guard elements are permanently attached to the cap or alternatively are configured to detachably couple to the cap through an attachment mechanism.



Inventors:
Mix, John (Brentwood, CA, US)
Application Number:
12/315565
Publication Date:
06/11/2009
Filing Date:
12/04/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/68, 2/209.13, 2/423, 2/425
International Classes:
A42B7/00; A42B1/04; A42B1/12; A42B1/24
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Primary Examiner:
HARMON, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JAMES A. GAVNEY JR (San Mateo, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A protective head-gear apparatus comprising: a) a support structure for securing to a user's head; and b) flotation ear-guard elements coupled to the support structure, such that the flotation ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user, while the support structure is secured to the user's head.

2. The protective head-gear apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flotation ear-guard elements includes vented padding structures formed from a foam material.

3. The protective head-gear apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flotation ear-guard elements further includes matched vented outer shells or covers formed from a plastic material.

4. The protective head-gear apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flotation ear-guard elements detachably couple to the support structure.

5. The protective head-gear apparatus of claim 1, wherein the flotation ear-guard elements detachably couple to the support structure through coupling features on the matched vented covers or outer shells.

6. The protective head-gear apparatus of claim 1, wherein the support structure is a cap.

7. A buoyant head-gear comprising: a) a cap; and b) ear-guard elements coupled to a cap, such that the ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user, while the cap is positioned over user's head.

8. The buoyant head-gear of claim 7, wherein ear-guard elements include vented foam structures.

9. The buoyant head-gear of claim 8, wherein the flotation ear-guard elements further include matched vented outer covers or shells formed from plastic.

10. The buoyant head-gear of claim 7, wherein the ear-guard elements are detachably coupled to the support structure.

11. The buoyant head-gear of claim 10, wherein the ear-guard elements detachably couple to the cap through coupling features on the matched vented outer covers or shells.

12. The buoyant head-gear of claim 7, wherein the cap is formed from an elastic synthetic rubber material.

13. A protective head-gear system comprising: a cap structure; a set of interchangeable flotation ear-guard elements that detachably couple to the cap structure, such that the ear-guard elements protect a user's ear from impact while wearing the cap structure over the user's head.

14. The protective head-gear system of claim 13, wherein ear-guard elements are fenestrated to allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements.

15. The protective head-gear system of claim 13, wherein the ear-guard elements detachably couple to the cap structure through fenestrated covers or shells that house the foam cushion elements.

16. A method of making a buoyant protective head gear, the method comprising: a) fashioning a cap structure; b) forming buoyant ear-guard elements; and c) coupling the buoyant ear-guard elements to the cap structure, such that the buoyant ear-guard elements are positioned over a user's ears with the cap positioned over the user's head.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the ear-guard elements are fenestrated or-vented.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the ear-guard elements include padding structures formed from foam and matched covers or shells formed from plastic.

19. The method of claim 18, wherein the ear-guard elements are detachably coupled to the cap structure through attachment features on the matched covers or shells and the cap structure.

20. The method of claim 16, wherein the cap structure is formed from a synthetic rubber.

21. The method of claim 16, wherein coupling the buoyant ear-guard elements to the cap structure comprising one or more of sewing or gluing the buoyant ear-guard elements to the cap structure.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This Application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119(e) from the U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/005,726, filed on Dec. 7, 2007 and titled “WATER POLO CAP AND EARGUARD.” The co-pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/005,726, filed on Dec. 7, 2007 and titled “WATER POLO CAP AND EARGUARD” is hereby incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to sports protection equipment. More specifically, this invention relates to a device for providing head protection while playing water sports.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In the sport of water polo, players must wear caps to designate what team a player is on, to differentiate between individual players (typically by displaying numbers, color, or design), and to protect the ears and eardrums of a player from impacts with fast moving balls and other players. Furthermore, the standard water polo earguard is typically made of a hard plastic or polymer with low impact absorption.

There are a number of deficiencies with prior art earguards. The earguards are formed out of hard plastic and thus are lacking on comfort and not optimal for absorbing the impact with another players or objects such as a fast moving water polo ball. Further, the hard plastic can give the protection device negative buoyancy causing it to sink to the bottom of the water facility. Therefore there is a need for a head protection device that provides better protection impact absorption, is configurable for distinguishing players and teams while being light enough to float on the water.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed protective head-gear apparatus and a method for making the same. The head-gear apparatus is preferably a buoyant protective head-gear apparatus for use while performing water sports, such as water polo. The head-gear apparatus includes a support structure for securing to a user's head. In a preferred embodiment of the invention the support structure is a cap structure that is formed from cloth, synthetic rubber or any other elastic material or combination of materials suitable for use in an aquatic environment.

The head-gear apparatus further includes flotation ear-guard elements that are coupled to the support structure or cap structure, such that the flotation ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user while the support structure is secured to the user's head. The flotation ear-guard elements include padding structures that are formed from a foam material or other buoyant cushion material or combination of materials. The padding structures are preferably vented or fenestrated to allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements and allow the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user's ears. In accordance with the embodiments of the invention, the ear-guard elements further include outer shells or covers formed from a plastic material or any other suitable material or combination of materials. The outer shells or covers are also preferably vented allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements and allow the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user's ears. The vent features on the outer covers or shells are preferably matched to the vent features on the cushioning structure and hence are referred to herein as matched vented outer covers or shells.

In further embodiments of the invention flotation ear-guard elements are configured to detachably couple to the support structure. For example, the padding structures fit into a sleeve features on the inside or outside surface of the support structure or cap structure. Alternatively, the flotation ear-guard elements detachably couple to the support structure or cap structure through coupling features on the outer covers or shells that snap, fit, twist or otherwise are securely attached to matched couplings features on the support structure or cap structure.

In accordance with the method of the present invention, a buoyant protective head gear is made by fashioning a cap structure and forming buoyant ear-guard elements from a suitable material or combination materials, such as described above. After the cap structure and buoyant ear-guard elements are formed, the buoyant ear-guard elements are coupled to ear portions of the cap structure, such the buoyant protective head gear floats in water. The ear-guard elements include padding structures with or without outer covers or shells. The ear-guard elements preferably include vented features that allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements and allow the user to hear while the ear-guard elements are positioned over ears of the user's ears, such as described above and below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a head protection apparatus with a frame structure and protective ear-guards, in accordance with the embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a head protection apparatus with a cap and protective cover protective ear-guards, in accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a protective ear-guard with vented logo features, in accordance with the embodiments of the invention.

FIGS. 4A-B show views of protective ear-guards with vented logo features, in accordance with alternative embodiments of the invention.

FIG. 5 shows a block-flow diagram outlining step for making a buoyant protective head gear, in accordance with the method of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1 protective head-gear apparatus 100 includes a support structure 105 for securing to a user's head. The protective head-gear apparatus 100 also includes flotation ear-guard elements, such as the flotation ear-guard element 202 shown. The ear-guard elements 202 couple to the support structure 105 at ear positions 103 and 103′ on the support structure 105, such that the ear-guard elements cover a user's ears while the protective head-gear apparatus 100 is secured to the user's head via the support structure 105.

Still referring to FIG. 1, a flotation ear-guard elements 202 include padding structures 102 that are preferably formed from a foam material or another buoyant cushion material or combination of materials. The padding structures 102 include vented or fenestrated features 131 and 131′ that allow water to pass through the ear-guard element 202 and allows the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard elements 202 are positioned over a user's ears. In accordance with the embodiments of the invention, the ear-guard elements 202 further include outer covers or shells 101 that are formed from a plastic material or any other suitable material or combination of materials. The outer covers or shells 101 also preferably have vented or fenestrated features 121 and 121′ that allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements 202 and allows the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard elements 202 are positioned over a user's ears. The vented or fenestrated features 121 and 121′ on the outer covers or shells are preferably matched to the vented or fenestrated features 131 and 131′ on the cushioning structures 102.

In further embodiments of the invention flotation ear-guard elements 202 are configured to detachably couple to the support structure 105 via coupling features 135 and 141 on the outer covers or shells 101. In use, the coupling features 135 and 141 snap, fit, twist or otherwise securely attach to matched couplings features 133 and 143 on the support structure 105.

Referring now to FIG. 2, in a preferred embodiment of the invention a protective head gear apparatus 200 includes a cap structure 205. The cap structure is preferably formed from an elastic synthetic rubber material. The protective head gear apparatus 200 further includes flotation ear-guard elements 202′, such as the flotation ear-guard elements 102 (FIG. 1). The flotation ear-guard elements 202′ are attached to each side of the cap structure 205, such the that flotation ear-guard elements 202′ cover a user's ears with the cap secured over the user's head 207, as shown. In further embodiments of the invention the cap structure 205 includes a strap or belt features 209 and 209′ for securing the cap structure 205 over the user's head 207.

As described above, with reference to the flotation ear-guard elements 202, the flotation ear-guard elements 202′ include padding structures 102′ that are preferably formed from a foam material or other buoyant cushion material or combination of materials. The padding structures 102′ include vented or fenestrated features 141 and 141′ that allow water to pass through the ear-guard element 202′ and allows the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard elements 202′ are positioned over a user's ears. In accordance with the embodiments of the invention, the ear-guard elements 202′ further include outer covers or shells 101′ that are formed from a plastic material or any other suitable material or combination of materials. The outer covers or shells 101′ also preferably have vented or fenestrated features (not shown) that allows water to pass through the ear-guard elements 202′ and allows the user to hear while the flotation ear-guard element 202′ are positioned over the user's ears.

Still referring to FIG. 2, in further embodiments of the invention, the outer covers or shells 101′ are sleeve features formed from elastic synthetic rubber material that is the same or different from the material used to fashion the cap structure 205. In accordance with the embodiment of the invention, the padding structures 102′ fit into the sleeve features from an inside or outside surface or the cap structure 205.

FIG. 3 shows a view of a protective ear-guard 300 with vented logo features 301, in accordance with the embodiments of the invention. The protective ear-guard 300 further includes side vented features 313, 313′ and 313″ that surround a periphery 311 of the protective ear-guard 300. As described above, with reference to FIGS. 1 and 2, the protective ear-guard 300 is preferably buoyant and includes a padding structure and can also include a cover or shell. The protective ear-guard 300 is permanently attached to a cap 205 (FIG. 2) or is configured to detachably couple the cap structure 205 through coupling features, sleeve features, or any other suitable mechanism or combination of mechanisms.

FIGS. 4A-B show views of protective ear-guards 403 and 405 with vented logo features, in accordance with alternative embodiments of the invention. Again the protective ear-guards 403 and 405 are preferably buoyant and include padding structures with or without matched covers or shells. The protective ear-guards 403 and 405 are permanently attached to a cap 205 (FIG. 2) or are configured to detachably couple the cap structure 205 through coupling features, sleeve features, or any other suitable mechanism or combination of mechanisms.

FIG. 5 shows a block-flow diagram 500 outlining step for making a buoyant protective head gear, in accordance with the method of the invention. In the step 501 a cap structure is fashioned and in the step 503 buoyant ear-guard elements are formed from a suitable material or combination materials, such as described above. After the cap structure is fashioned in the step 501 and buoyant ear-guard elements are formed in the step 503, the buoyant ear-guard elements are coupled to ear portions of the cap structure in the step 505, such the buoyant protective head gear floats in water. The ear-guard elements include padding structures that have vented features and allow water to pass through the ear-guard elements. As described above, the ear-guard elements can include matched vented covers or shells. The ear-guard elements are coupled to the cap structure in the step 505 by sewing or gluing the ear-guard elements to the ear portions of the cap structure or, alternately, the ear-guard elements are coupled to the cap structure in the step 505 through coupling features, sleeve features, or any other suitable mechanism or combination of mechanisms.

The present invention has been described in terms of specific embodiments incorporating details to facilitate the understanding of the principles of construction and operation of the invention. As such, references herein to specific embodiments and details thereof are not intended to limit the scope of the claims appended hereto. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modifications can be made in the embodiments chosen for illustration without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the ear-guard elements can have any number of shapes, designs, vent configurations and colors.





 
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