Title:
Toilet splash guard
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a splash guard for containing the contents of a toilet during plunging with a plunger. The splash guard comprises a pliable shield having a top side, a bowl side, an upper opening, a lower opening, an elastic element and a drape member, the upper opening having a periphery sized and shaped for receiving the underside of a toilet seat, the elastic element disposed along the periphery for enveloping the underside of the toilet seat by overlapping with a portion of the upper side of the toilet seat, thereby retaining the splash guard in position relative to the toilet seat, whereby when the toilet seat is in a down position, the top side faces up and the bowl side faces the toilet bowl. The lower opening is sized for slideably receiving the elongated handle of the plunger, the drape member attached in proximity to the periphery and when the toilet seat is down, draping sufficiently into the toilet bowl so as to shield the rim from receiving splashes or waste during plunging with the plunger.



Inventors:
St. John, Thomas E. (Elgin, IL, US)
Application Number:
12/221523
Publication Date:
02/04/2010
Filing Date:
08/04/2008
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E03D9/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PHILLIPS, CHARLES E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LAW OFFICES OF DONALD J. POCHOPIEN (LONG GROVE, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A splash guard for containing the contents of a toilet having a bowl, a rim, and a seat, during plunging said toilet bowl with a plunger having an elongated handle and a plunger bulb, comprising a pliable shield having a top side, a bowl side, an expandable upper opening, a lower opening, an elastic element and a drape member, the upper opening having a periphery sized and shaped for receiving the underside of a toilet seat but not said toilet bowl, the elastic element engaging and disposed along the periphery for enveloping the underside of the toilet seat by expansively overlapping with a portion of the upper side of the toilet seat, thereby retaining the splash guard in position relative to the toilet seat, whereby when the toilet seat is in a down position, the top side faces up and the bowl side faces the toilet bowl, the lower opening sized for slideably receiving the elongated handle of the plunger, the drape member attached in proximity to the periphery and when the toilet seat is down, draping sufficiently into the toilet bowl and in proximity to said rim so as to shield the rim from receiving splashes or waste during said plunging with said plunger.

2. The splash guard of claim 1, wherein the pliable shield comprises a polymeric film.

3. The splash guard of claim 2, wherein the polymeric film is clear.

4. The splash guard of claim 2, wherein the polymeric film is selected from the group consisting of polyethylene, polypropylene, and a combination thereof.

5. The splash guard of claim 2, wherein the drape member has a length within the range of 1 to 8 inches.

6. The splash guard of claim 5, wherein the drape member has a length within the range of 2 to 6 inches.

7. The splash guard of claim 6, wherein the drape member has a length within the range of 2 to 4 inches.

8. The splash guard of claim 5, wherein the drape member is attached to the underside of the pliable shield by heat sealing.

9. The splash guard of claim 5, wherein the drape member is attached to the underside of the pliable shield by ultrasonic welding.

10. The splash guard of claim 1, wherein the pliable shield further comprises a tear strip that is in substantial proximity to said lower opening.

11. The splash guard of claim 10, wherein the tear strip is in contact with said lower opening.

12. The splash guard of claim 10, wherein the tear strip is colored.

13. The splash guard of claim 10, wherein said tear strip is at least 3 inches long.

14. The splash guard of claim 13, wherein said tear strip is within the range of 3.5 to 8 inches long.

15. The splash guard of claim 1, wherein said lower opening is off center relative to said upper opening.

16. A splash guard of claim 1, wherein the lower opening has a shape selected from the group consisting of a slit, an oval, an ellipse and a circle.

17. The splash guard of claim 16, wherein the lower opening has a shape selected from the group consisting of an oval, an ellipse and a circle.

18. The splash guard of claim 17, wherein the lower opening has the shape of a circle.

19. The splash guard of claim 18, wherein the lower opening is a circle having a diameter within the range of 0.5 inches to 1.5 inches.

20. The splash guard of claim 2, wherein the polymeric film has a thickness within the range of 0.5 to 5 mils.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is in the field of disposable sanitation devices. More particularly, the present invention is in the field of disposable splash guards for use during the plunging of a toilet bowl. The present invention is useful because it provides a barrier that prevents substantially all of the waste and water from exiting the bowl while using a plunger therein.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

U.S. Pat. No. 4,458,368, entitled “Plunger with Anti-Splash Shield,” issued to Webb on Jul. 10, 1984. The '368 patent teaches a device for preventing splashing during plunging that comprises a circular or oval shield having an resilient means for expanding the shield to sealably engaging the toilet bowl under the rim. The resilient means is disclosed as an expandable band of steel or plastic. ['368 at col. 2, lines 48-50.] It is also preferably molded within the outer edge of the shield. ['368 at col. 2, lines 48-50.] The shield on this device also has a centrally positioned hole for slideably engaging the shaft of the plunger during plunging. A problem with this device is that it requires contact with the bowl to position the shield. Another problem is that the resilient means requires a large piece of packaging to accommodate the resilient means, which means that it requires more storage space until needed.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,487,730, entitled “Anti-Splash Guard” issued to Pardo, et al., on Dec. 3, 2002. The '730 patent teaches a splash guard comprising a circular shield having an upper opening for slideably receiving the shaft of a plunger and a lower opening having a periphery with a continuous elastic element 50 disposed adjacent thereto for receiving a portion of the outside surface 52 of the toilet bowl. A problem with guard of the '038 patent is that the elastic will tend to cause the guard to slip back where it is adjacent the seat and unable to grab any outside surface. As the outside shape of the bowl becomes less round or less indented toward the toilet seat, the tendency to slip increases. Also, because the shield of the '730 patent overlaps the outside of the bowl, water and waste that is splashed up along the top edge of the bowl would leak over the side of the bowl and onto the floor. An object of the present invention is to provide a splash guard for use during plunging that would seat firmly onto a toilet and that substantially prevents any splashes from running down the outside surface of the toilet bowl.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,594,831, entitled “Anti-Splash Guard” issued to Pardo, et al., on Jul. 23, 2003. The '831 patent teaches a splash guard in FIGS. 4-7 comprising a solid sealed surface that is sized and shaped to cover the outside of the toilet bowl and that has a further extension to accommodate a plunger handle and plunger bulb operatively positioned inside of the toilet bowl. The splash guard of the '831 patent further comprises a bulbous pocket built in the front for catching effluent. One problem with the splash guard of the '831 patent is that it hangs over the outside of the toilet, such that any waste water that splashes over the rim of the toilet during plunging will run down the side of the toilet and leak onto the floor. Another problem with the splash guard of the '831 patent is that it contains the handle of the plunger on the waste side of the splash guard such that the handle will become contaminated during use and require substantial cleaning. Also, because the splash guard and the plunger are subject to substantial movement during plunging, the movement may cause the splash guard to slip back allowing water and waste to further elude containment. Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide a shield that isolates the gripping portion of the plunger handle from direct contact with the waste and waste water in a plugged toilet. A further object of the present invention is to provide a splash guard that substantially prevents waste water from running down the outside surface of the toilet bowl during plunging.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention has multiple embodiments. In one embodiment it is directed to a splash guard for containing the contents of a toilet having a toilet bowl, a rim, and a seat, during plunging with a plunger having an elongated handle and a plunger bulb. The splash guard comprises a pliable shield having a top side, a bowl side, an upper opening, a lower opening, an elastic element and a drape member, the upper opening having a periphery sized and shaped for receiving the underside of a toilet seat, the elastic element disposed along the periphery for enveloping the underside of the toilet seat by expansively overlapping with a portion of the upper side of the toilet seat, thereby retaining the splash guard in position relative to the toilet seat, whereby when the toilet seat is in a down position, the top side faces up and the bowl side faces the toilet bowl. The lower opening is sized for slideably receiving the elongated handle of the plunger, the drape member attached in proximity to the periphery and when the toilet seat is down, draping sufficiently into the toilet bowl so as to shield the rim from receiving splashes or waste during plunging with the plunger.

The pliable shield and elastic element of the present invention are sized and shaped for reversibly engaging the toilet seat but not the toilet bowl. The toilet seat is typically ½ inch to ⅔ inch thick and the splash shield need only overlap a portion of the upper surface of the toilet seat so that the elastic element can partially retract to hold the pliable shield up against the bottom surface of the toilet seat. In contrast, the outside surface of the toilet bowl typically goes down several inches before it begins to taper sufficiently so that at least a portion of an elastic band can attempt to engulf it. A large portion of the back of the bowl can never be engulfed by the elastic band because the band can only go down as far as the rim. Moreover, the inability to obtain any overlap for the back portion of the bowl and its immediate vicinity would cause the present shield to slide back off the bowl and not be operable for its intended purpose.

A problem with at least one of the prior art anti-splash guards is that after use, the dirty splash guard has to be slid up and over the elongated plunger handle to be discarded. This transfer unsanitary waste directly to the plunger handle. Another object of the present invention is to eliminate the unsanitary removal of the splash guard from the plunger. Thus, in another embodiment, the splash guard described above has a tear strip that widens the lower opening to allow a used splash guard of the present invention to drop away into a rubbish container after use, without further contaminating the plunger handle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective exploded view of one embodiment of the splash guard of the present invention in combination with a toilet and a plunger. The splash guard is sized and shaped for mounting over the under side of a toilet seat and has a substantially circumferential drape member extending therefrom for preventing splashing water and waste from accessing the toilet rim.

FIG. 2 discloses a side view of one embodiment of the splash guard of the present invention operatively positioned on a toilet seat with its drape member circumferentially draping over the inner rim of the toilet and into the bowl, thereby preventing splashes of water and waste from having access to the top rim and the ability to flow down the toilet's outside surface and onto the floor.

FIG. 3 discloses an alternate embodiment of the present invention having one embodiment of a tear strip that allows enlargement of the minor opening for removal of the plunger on the clean side of the splash guard so as not to contaminate the plunger handle with material deposited during plunging on the waste side.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a sanitary device for use with a plugged toilet that is unable to wash away water and waste after flushing. More particularly, the present invention is used with a typical toilet that has as components, a toilet bowl, a toilet seat and a toilet rim at the top of the toilet bowl. In one embodiment, the present invention is directed to a splash guard for mounting on the underside of a toilet seat during plunging of the bowl of a plugged toilet with a typical plunger having an elongated handle and a plunger bulb. The splash guard comprises a pliable shield having a top side, a bowl (under) side, an upper opening, a lower opening, an elastic element and a drape member, the upper opening having a periphery sized and shaped for receiving the underside of a toilet seat, the elastic element disposed along the periphery for enveloping the underside of the toilet seat by overlapping with a portion of the upper side of the toilet seat, thereby retaining the splash guard in position relative to the toilet seat, whereby when the toilet seat is in a down position, the top side faces up and the bowl side faces the toilet bowl. The lower opening is sized for slideably receiving the elongated handle of the plunger. The drape member is attached in proximity to the periphery of the splash shield, such that when the toilet seat is down, the drape member drapes sufficiently into the toilet bowl so as to shield the rim of the toilet bowl from receiving splashes of water or waste during plunging of the toilet bowl with the plunger.

In the splash guard of the present invention, the pliable shield is typically made of a water resistant pliable material. Preferably, the pliable shield is made of a pliable polymeric material. In a preferred embodiment, the pliable polymeric material is clear. The clarity allows one to see through the polymeric material while plunging the toilet bowl with the splash guard in place. Suitable polymeric materials are well known in the art. Examples of pliable polymeric materials are polyesters (e.g., biaxial oriented polyethylene terephthalate), or polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and mixtures of PE and PP. Preferred pliable polymeric materials are polyethylene, polypropylene and mixtures thereof. These polymeric materials are commercially available in thin film sheets ranging in thickness from 0.5 mils to 5 mils. Any of these thicknesses would be suitable for use in the invention. Preferably, the thickness of the film used in the splash guard ranges from 1-5 mils; more preferably from 1-4 mils; most preferably about 2 mils (i.e., 2±0.1 mils). A preferred polymer film is a 2 mil polyethylene film.

The drape member is made of the same or a different polymeric material than the pliable shield. Preferably, it is made of the same polymeric material as used for the pliable shield. The drape member can be the same thickness as the pliable shield or different. Preferably, it is the same thickness. However, the drape member cannot be so thick as to fail to drape (hang) when the splash guard is mounted to the underside of a toilet seat and the seat is in the down position. Preferably, the thickness of the film used in the splash guard ranges from 1-5 mil; more preferably from 1-4 mils; most preferably most preferably about 2 mils (i.e., 2±0.1 mils). A preferred polymer film is a 2 mil polyethylene film. The drape member is attached to the bottom of the pliable shield near its periphery. Typically, the drape member is attached to the underside of the pliable shield from 1 inch to 3 inches from the widest edge of the mounted splash guard. More typically, the drape member is attached from 1 inch to 2 inches from the widest edge of the mounted splash guard. The above distances from the widest edge, allow the drape member to drape near or over the inside rim of the toilet bowl so as to shield the inside rim of the toilet bowl from receiving splashing water and waste during plunging, thereby preventing splashing water or waste from reaching the top rim of the toilet bowl. Water and waste that does not reach the top rim of the toilet bowl cannot spill over the toilet bowl rim and onto the floor.

Various well known methods are useful for attaching the drape member to the pliable shield. In one embodiment, the drape member is attached by fusing one edge of the drape member to the bottom surface of the pliable shield using high frequency electrical energy (heat sealing). Methods and devices for heat sealing films are well known in the art. See e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 3,969,176 (Bassett), entitled “Method for Heat Sealing Polyester Film,” which issued Jul. 13, 1976; U.S. Pat. No. 4,036,676 (Pennington), entitled “Heat Sealing of Plastic Sheets,” which issued Jul. 19, 1977; and U.S. Pat. No. 4,267,005 (Bamaby), entitled “Heat Sealing Apparatus,” which issued May 12, 1981; all of which are incorporated herein by reference for their specific disclosure of a method and device for heat sealing of plastic films. In another embodiment, the drape member is attached to the bottom of the pliable shield by using the well-known technique of ultrasonic welding. Methods and devices for effecting ultrasonic welding are well-known in the art. See, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 4,461,662 (Onishi), entitled “Ultrasonic Welding Apparatus,” which issued Jul. 24, 1984; and U.S. Pat. No. 3,939,033 (Grgach), entitled “Ultrasonic Welding and Cutting Apparatus,” which issued Feb. 17, 1976; all of which are incorporated herein by reference for their specific disclosure of a method and device for the ultrasonic welding of plastic films. A third method for attaching the drape member to the bottom of the pliable shield is applying a third material, such as an adhesive. Suitable adhesives for adhering plastic films are well-known in the art. Examples of adhesives include heat sealing adhesives (see U.S. Pat. No. 3,935,134 (Bassett), entitled “Heat Sealing Adhesives,” which issued Jan. 27, 1976), hot-melt adhesives, methylmethacrylate, and the like. The term “hot melt adhesive” as used herein also includes the application of heated polyolefins such as PE or PP. Examples of suitable hot melt adhesives are found in the following U.S. Pat. No. 6,590,063 (Poessnecker), entitled “Low-Melting Copolyamide and their use as Hot-melt Adhesive,” which issued Jul. 8, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 6,582,762 (Fiassat), entitled “Sprayable Hot-melt Adhesives,” which issued Jun. 24, 2003; U.S. Pat. No. 5,922,805 (Bouttefort),” entitled “Poly-urethane-based Single-component Hot-melt Adhesives with Improved Initial Cohesion,” which issued Jul. 13, 1999; U.S. Pat. No. 4,678,832 (Pospich), entitled “Hot-melt Adhesives of Partially Saponified Vinyl Ester Copolymers,” which issued Jul. 7, 1987, all of which are incorporated herein by reference for their specific disclosures of hot-melt adhesives and their method of application.

When the splash guard is operatively mounted (see e.g., FIG. 2) to the underside of a toilet seat and the toilet seat is in the down position, the drape member has sufficient length to drape into the toilet bowl and shield the inside rim (and/or the top rim) of the toilet bowl from splashes of water and waste that occur in the toilet bowl during plunging. Typically, the drape member has a length within the range of 1 to 8 inches; more typically, the drape member has a length within the range of 2 to 6 inches; most typically, the drape member has a length within the range of 2 to 4 inches.

In a preferred embodiment, the pliable shield of the splash guard further comprises a tear strip that is in substantial proximity to said lower opening. The function of the tear strip is allow the removal of the plunger head from a used splash guard without having to slide the used splash guard over the clean handle. The tear strip can tear in either direction. More preferably, the tear strip ends at the lower opening. The tear strip should be sufficient length to allow the removal of the plunger head from the splash shield-plunger combination. After use, the plunger-splash guard combination is placed over a waste receptacle. The tear strip is torn to enlarge the bottom hole to a size sufficient to slip over the plunger head and fall into the waste receptacle. Typically, the tear strip ranges in length from 3.5 inches to 8 inches. More typically, the length of the tear strip ranges in length from 4 inches to 7 inches. Although the tear strip could be longer, the additional length would provide no additional advantage. Optionally, the tear strip is colored to facilitate finding it on a used splash guard.

In the splash guard of the present invention, the lower opening can be positioned substantially centered on the pliable shield or it can be positioned off-centered to accommodate the two different toilet bowl configurations. Also, the shape of the lower opening can vary so long as the lower opening is not so large as to allow water and waste to splash up and out the opening during plunging of a plugged up toilet bowl. Suitable shapes for the lower opening are a slit, an oval, an ellipse (elliptical), or a circle (circular). Preferred shapes for the lower opening are an oval, elliptical or circular. The most preferred shape is circular. When the lower opening is circular, it has a preferred diameter ranging from 0.5 inches to 1.5 inches. The size of the lower opening varies depending upon the diameter of the plunger handle. To prevent any splashing of water or waste from exiting through the lower opening, the opening preferable slideably engages the elongated handle of the plunger during plunging. Traditionally, the conventional plunger has an elongated handle with a circular cross-section of 1 inch to 1.25 inches.

Examples of some of the embodiments of the present invention are provided in FIGS. 1-3 herein. FIG. 1 is a perspective exploded view of one embodiment of the splash guard 10 of the present invention in combination with a toilet 1 and a plunger 20. The toilet 1 has in relevant part a bowl 40 having an inside rim 31, a top rim 32, an outside rim 33 and an outside bowl surface 34. The toilet also has a toilet seat 35 with an underside 36 and topside 37 (not shown). The splash guard 10 comprises a pliable shield 11 having a major (upper) opening 19 on its top side that is defined by major edge 14, and further having a minor (lower) opening 12 that is defined by minor edge 13. The major edge 14 is associated with a resilient (or elastic) element 15. The resilient element 15 gathers the edge 14 of the pliable shield to a size smaller than its ungathered size and forming the as shown in FIG. 1. The resilient element 15 is stretchable to a size large enough to accept the bottom side 36 of the toilet seat 35 and then recoil over the top side 37 of the toilet seat so as to adhere itself to the toilet seat 35, such that the top side of the pliable shield 11 faces the bottom side 36 of the toilet seat 35. See FIG. 2. Once the splash guard 10 is mounted to the underside 36 of the toilet seat 35, the plunger handle 21 is inserted sequentially through the minor opening 12 and then the major opening in the pliable shield 11 of the splash guard 10 so that the plunger handle is on the top side of the splash guard 10 and the plunger bulb 22 is on the bottom (toilet bowl) side of the splash guard 10. See FIG. 2. As the toilet seat 35 is lowered to cover the top rim 32 of bowl 40, the substantially circumferential drape member 18, having bottom edge 17, hangs down and positions itself along the inside rim 31 of the toilet bowl 40 so as to shield the inside rim 31 from water 38 and any solid waste 39 that may be splashed up during plunging. Because water 38 and waste 39 in the toilet bowl 40 is prevented from hitting the inside rim 31 at the top of the toilet bowl 40, the water and waste cannot reach the top rim 32 so as to possibly roll over the top rim 32 and down outside rim 33 and outside bowl surface 34 onto the floor 70.

FIG. 2 discloses a view of the above described splash guard 10 of the present invention operatively positioned on a toilet seat 35. In its operative position with the toilet seat 35 in the down position, the resilient element 15 is seen as overlapping a substantial portion of the upper surface 37 of toilet seat 35 so as to hold the top surface of the pliable shield 11 against the bottom surface (or underside) 36 of toilet seat 35. Also when the splash guard 10 is operatively positioned on the toilet seat 35 and the toilet seat 35 is in the down position, drape member 18 circumferentially drapes over the inner rim 31 of the toilet bowl 40, thereby preventing splashes of water and waste from having access to the top rim 32, which in turn prevents splashed water and waste from having the ability to flow down the outside bowl surface 34 and onto the floor 70. When the plunging is complete, one need only lift the plunger handle 21 until the plunger bulb contacts the toilet side surface of the pliable shield 11. Further lifting of the plunger handle 21 will stretch the elastic element 15 until the large opening 19 increases in size to disengage the splash shield 10 from the lowered toilet seat 35. The removed splash guard 10 then may be placed in a waste receptacle (not shown) and safely discarded.

FIG. 3 is a drawing of an alternate and preferred embodiment of the splash guard 50 the present invention having a tear strip 60 that allows enlargement of the minor opening 52 for separation of any plunger from the splash guard 50 on the clean (top) side of the splash guard 50. In the absence of the tear strip 60, the plunger 20 most often would be separated from a used splash guard 50 by pushing the plunger handle (not shown) back down through the minor opening 52, or by lifting the used splash guard 50 over the clean upper portion of the plunger handle (not shown). A problem with this is that when the plunger handle is pushed back through the minor opening 52, the plunger handle goes from the clean (top) side of the used splash guard to the soiled and wet underside of the splash guard where the upper portions of the otherwise clean plunger handle can become contaminated. The tear strip 60, which provides for the optional enlargement of minor opening 52, eliminates the above described problem.

Thus, in another embodiment, the present invention is directed to a splash guard 50 as shown in FIG. 3 comprising a pliable shield 51 having a major (upper) opening 59 on its top side that is defined by major edge 54, and further having a minor (lower) opening 52 that is defined by minor edge 53. The major edge 54 is associated with a resilient (or elastic) element 55. The resilient element 55 gathers the edge 54 of the pliable shield to a size smaller than its ungathered size and forming the major (upper) opening 59. The splash guard 50 has drape member 58 having a top edge 56 and a bottom edge 57. The drape member 58 is attached via its top edge 56 to the bottom side of the pliable shield 51. In use, the resilient element 55 is stretchable to a size large enough to accept the bottom side of a toilet seat (as shown in FIG. 2) and then recoil over the top side of the toilet seat so as to adhere itself to the toilet seat, such that the top side of the pliable shield 51 faces the bottom side of the toilet seat. Once the splash guard 50 is mounted to the underside of the toilet seat (as per FIG. 2), the plunger handle is inserted sequentially through the minor opening 52 and then the major opening 59 in the pliable shield 51 so that the plunger handle is on the top side of the pliable shield 51 of the splash guard 50 and the plunger bulb (not shown) is on the bottom (toilet bowl) side of the splash guard 10. After use, the plunger handle is lifted up and it pulls on the pliable shield 51 which in turn stretches the elastic member 55 to a size greater than the toilet seat, thereby releasing the splash guard from the toilet seat. After use, the used splash guard 50 and plunger (not shown) can be placed over a waste receptacle (not shown) and the tear strip 60 engaged to tear along its length thereby enlarging minor opening 52 to a size large enough to allow the used splash guard 50 to drop away from the plunger head (not shown) and into the waste receptacle (not shown). Preferably, the tear strip 60 is associated with a tab 61 for ease in initiating the tear. While the tab 61 for the tear strip 60 is shown in FIG. 3 as being at the distal end of the tear strip 60 relative to the minor opening 52, it may optionally be proximal (not shown) to the minor opening 52 such that when the tab is pulled, the plunger handle acts to provide opposing pressure relative to the direction of pull and facilitates tearing the pliable shield 51 along tear strip 60. It is within the scope of the present invention that the tab 61 alone be colored, or that the tab 61 and tear strip 60 in combination be colored to be readily observable when required for use.

It is intended that the invention not be limited to the particular embodiments disclosed, but that the invention will include all embodiments falling within the scope of the appended claims.