Title:
Seat for a toilet including a target illuminating feature
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A toilet seat incorporating a laser pointing device for creating a target to increase accuracy during standing urination. Several embodiments of decorative and/or functional lighting may also be combined in various embodiments of the toilet seat. Power may be supplied from an internal battery pack or, optionally, from an external power supply connected to the power grid. Numerous versions of sensors and/or controls may be implemented to switch one or more features on or off depending upon such factors as ambient light levels, the proximity of a person to the toilet seat, etc. In some embodiments, timers may be used to control one or more features. Ancillary devices such as audio annunciatiors, audio message generators, and fragrance generators may also be included.



Inventors:
Taylor, Carlos (Virginia Beach, VA, US)
Moffett III, Noah (Norfolk, VA, US)
Moore, Andrew (Chesapeake, VA, US)
Application Number:
12/804718
Publication Date:
02/02/2012
Filing Date:
07/29/2010
Assignee:
TAYLOR CARLOS
MOFFETT, III NOAH
MOORE ANDREW
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K13/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LOEPPKE, JANIE MEREDITH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WILLIAMS G. SYKES (VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A toilet seat, comprising a seat portion and a lid portion hingedly affixed to one another and to a toilet bowl, the improvement comprising: a) a pointing device for projecting a beam into said toilet bowl to form a target therein; b) means for actuating said pointing device operatively connected thereto; and c) a power source operatively connected to at least one of said pointing device and said means for actuating.

2. The toilet seat as recited in claim 1 wherein said pointing device comprises a laser.

3. The toilet seat as recited in claim 1 wherein said pointing device is disposed on an inside surface of said lid portion.

4. The toilet seat as recited in claim 3 wherein said pointing device comprises an aiming mechanism to direct said beam to a desired location in said toilet bowl.

5. The toilet seat as recited in claim 1 wherein said means for actuating comprises at least one device selected from the group: a proximity sensor, a room occupancy sensor, an ambient light level sensor, a gravity actuated switch, a timer, and a manual switch.

7. The toilet seat as recited in claim 1 wherein said power source comprises at least one power source selected from the group: a battery pack, and a power source connected to an AC distribution grid.

8. The toilet seat as recited in claim 7 wherein said battery pack is contained within at least one of said lid portion and said seat portion.

9. The toilet seat as recited in claim 7 wherein said power source connected to an AC distribution grid comprises a power supply having an input adapted for connection to an AC power source, a transformer, and a rectifier for providing a low voltage, DC output.

10. The toilet seat as recited in claim 9, wherein said power source comprises a ground fault interrupter (GFI).

11. The toilet seat as recited in claim 9, wherein said power source comprises a “brick” style power supply.

12. The toilet seat as recited in claim 1, further comprising: d) an illumination device affixed to at least one of said lid portion and said seat portion, said illumination device being operatively connected to said power source.

13. The toilet seat as recited in claim 12, further comprising: d) an illumination device affixed to at least one of said lid portion and said seat portion, said illumination device being operatively connected to said power source.

14. The toilet seat as recited in claim 13, wherein said illumination device comprises at least one selected from the group: an illumination device affixed to an outside edge of said lid portion, an illumination device affixed to an outside edge of said seat portion, an illumination device affixed to an inside major surface of said lid portion, an illumination device affixed to an outside major surface of said lid portion, and an illumination device affixed to a lower major surface of said seat portion.

15. The toilet seat as recited in claim 11, further comprising: e) a control mechanism operatively connected to at least one of said illumination source and said power source.

16. The toilet seat as recited in claim 15 wherein said control mechanism comprises at least one device selected from the group: a proximity sensor, a room occupancy sensor, an ambient light level sensor, a gravity actuated switch, a timer, a dimmer, and a manual switch.

17. The toilet seat as recited in claim 11 wherein said power source comprises at least one power source selected from the group: a battery pack disposed in at least one of said lid portion and said seat portion, a battery pack disposed externally to said toilet seat, and a power source connected to an AC distribution grid comprising a power supply having an input adapted for connection to said AC distribution grid, a transformer, and a rectifier for providing a low voltage, DC output, and a ground fault interrupter (GFI).

18. The toilet seat as recited in claim 11 wherein said illumination source comprises at least one downward pointing light emitting diode generating an output having a wavelength in the ultraviolet portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.

19. The toilet seat as recited in claim 12 further comprising: e) an ancillary device attached to at least one of said lip portion, said seat portion or, another portion of said toilet, said ancillary device being operatively connected to said power source and adapted to generated at least one output selected from the group: an audio annunciation, an audio message, and a fragrance; and f) a control mechanism operatively connected to at least one of said ancillary device and said power source.

20. The toilet seat as recited in claim 19 wherein said control mechanism comprises at least one device selected from the group: a proximity sensor, a room occupancy sensor, an ambient light level sensor, a gravity actuated switch, a timer, a dimmer, and a manual switch.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention pertains to toilet seats and, more particularly, to toilet seats having one or more ancillary features included therein or attached thereto.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Toilet seats are well know and are provided in numerous sizes, shapes, colors, textures, etc. to provide both functionality and to properly blend into a particular décor. Virtually all non-institutional toilet seats incorporate a seat portion and a cover or lid portion and are removably secured to the toilet bowl making the toilet seats readily replaceable.

Typically both the seat portion and the lid portion are hingedly affixed to the toilet bowl and the lid or both the seat and lid may be readily moved between a flat orientation (i.e., closed position) wherein a major plane of each is substantially parallel to the floor and an open, upright orientation wherein the seat portion and the lid are substantially perpendicular to the floor.

In typical use, both the lid and seat portions of the toilet seat are kept in a closed orientation. For seated use, the lid is raised but the seat is left in the horizontal orientation.

For standing use, for example male urination, both the lid and the seat are preferably moved (i.e., raised) from the closed, horizontal orientation to the open, upright orientation.

Complaints abound regarding the use of a toilet for male urination without raising the seat portion. Numerous additional complaints are made regarding failure to lower the seat after male urination.

Further complaints are directed toward males regarding their inability to confine a urine stream to a central region of the toilet bowl. Failure to do so typically results in urine being splashed on or outside of the toilet bowl.

It would, therefore, be advantageous to provide a toilet seat that facilitates accurate placement of a urine stream during male urination.

DISCUSSION OF THE RELATED ART

Numerous toilet seat illumination arrangements may be found in the prior art. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 3,982,288 for NIGHT LIGHT TOILET SEAT, issued Sep. 28, 1976 to Mel Borne provides an improved toilet seat that serves as a night light to assist a person in finding a toilet seat in a darkened room.

U.S. Design Pat. No. DES 349,760 for COMBINED HEATED AND ILLUMINATED TOILET SEAT, issued Aug. 16, 1994 to Zachery Schlumpf provides a toilet seat with an interior warming element as well as an illumination device.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,736,471 for TOILET LIGHT. Issued Apr. 12, 1988 to Patrick G. Johnson provides a light mounted on the underside of a toilet lid. Lifting the toilet lid activates the light.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,611,089 for APPARATUS FOR PROVIDING LIGHT TO A TOILET SEAT AND COVER, issued Mar. 18, 1997 to Kent J. Cretors teaches an illuminating unit within a toilet seat to illuminate an interior region of a toilet bowl.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,748,096 for TOILET BOWL ILLUMINATION DEVICE INCLUDING AUDIBLE ANNUNCIATOR FOR REMINDING USER TO MOVE TOILET SEAT FROM UPPER RETRACTED POSITION TO LOWER SEATING POSITION AFTER USE, issued May 5, 1998 to Laurel G. Kaufer teaches an illuminating and annunciating device for a toilet having a bowl, and a seat which is movable between a lower seating position and an upper retracted position, includes an illumination unit for illuminating the bowl for nighttime standing urination. An annunciator unit generates an audible indication which reminds a user to move the seat from the retracted position to the seating position after use.

U.S. Pat. No. 6,279,180 for ADHESIVE BACKED PHOTOLUMINESCENT PANELS FOR COMMODE AND METHOD OF USE, issued Aug. 28, 2001 to Jonathan Marc Bell et al. teaches photoluminescent panels secured by adhesive to the inside surface of the rim of a toilet bowl. The photoluminescent panels emit light when ambient illumination falls below a threshold level. Additional photoluminescent material may be adhered to the lid of the toilet seat.

Published United States Patent Application No. 2001/0037520 for NOVELTY TOILET SEAT AND RELATED ACCESSORIES, published Nov. 8, 2001 upon application by Saghl Farzanehfar provides a toilet seat incorporating a flashing light, a heater, and music functions.

Published United States Patent Application No. 2004/0226082, published Nov. 18, 2004 upon application by John B. Squicciarini shows a toilet seat having a light emitting outer edge using a side emitting optical fiber positioned within the channel disposed in the seat edge. Some embodiments also include one or more illuminators positioned within the seat elsewhere on a toilet.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,123,130 for ILLUMINATED COMMODE TRAINING KIT, issued Jun. 23, 1992 to James M. Sanders provides a kit of components including a ring member for securement to and about a commode member including an illumination source to provide directional training to a child in the proper use of a commode during limited light conditions. Electroluminescent layers or fiber optic cable provides illumination selectively to the various components of the system.

None of the patents and published patent applications, taken singly, or in any combination are seen to teach or suggest the novel seat for a toilet including a target illuminating feature of the present invention.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with the present invention there is provided a toilet seat incorporating a laser pointing device for creating a target to increase accuracy during standing urination. Several embodiments of decorative and/or functional lighting may also be combined in various embodiments of the toilet seat. Power may be supplied from an internal battery pack or, optionally, from an external power supply connected to the power grid. Numerous versions of sensors and/or controls may be implemented to switch one or more features on or off depending upon such factors as ambient light levels, the proximity of a person to the toilet seat, etc. In some embodiments, timers and/or manual switches may be used to control one or more features. Ancillary devices such as audio annunciatiors, audio message generators, and fragrance generators may also be included.

It is, therefore, an object of the invention to provide a toilet seat having illuminating devices included within to provide general and/or decorative illumination.

It is another object of the invention to provide a toilet seat having a downward-directed illuminating source disposed on a lower surface of a toilet seat.

It is an additional object of the invention to provide a toilet seat optionally including illuminating devices disposed on a portion of an outside edge of a toilet seat.

It is a further object of the invention to provide a toilet seat in combination with a toilet seat lid and having one or more illuminating devices disposed on at least one surface or an edge of the lid.

It is a still further object of the invention to provide a toilet seat incorporating a laser target device, at least one type of general or decorative illumination and a least one other ancillary function.

It is yet another object of the invention to provide a toilet seat that is hygienic and easily cleaned.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various objects, features, and attendant advantages of the present invention will become more fully appreciated as the same becomes better understood when considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference characters designate the same or similar parts throughout the several views, and wherein:

FIGS. 1a and 1b are top perspective, pictorial, schematic views of a typical toilet seat of the prior art in closed and open orientations, respectively;

FIG. 2a is a top, perspective, pictorial, schematic view of a first embodiment of a toilet seat in accordance with the invention in an open orientation;

FIG. 2b is a detailed, side, elevational, schematic view of one embodiment of targeting device of the toilet seat of FIG. 2a;

FIG. 3 is a simplified electrical block diagram of a first embodiment of an electrical power supply and control system for use with a toilet seat of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective schematic view of a toilet having a toilet seat having a built-in battery back attached thereto in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 5a is a perspective schematic view of a toilet having a toilet seat with built-in night lights in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 5b is a detailed view of a portion of the toilet seat of FIG. 5a;

FIG. 6a is a side perspective, schematic view of a toilet having a toilet seat having a downward directed lighting device attached thereto;

FIG. 6b is a detailed, bottom perspective, schematic view of toilet seat of FIG. 6a; and

FIG. 7 is a bottom, perspective, schematic view of an alternate embodiment of the toilet seat of FIGS. 6a and 6b with downward directed lighting devices disposed thereupon.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention provides a number of embodiments of toilet seats having features including a means for providing a target for standing urination, general and decorative illumination, self-sanitization, audio annunciation, and fragrance generation. The features may be combined in a number of different combinations and may be powered by batteries housed in a compartment within the toilet seat or by power supplied from the AC mains.

A toilet seat is typically a hinged assembly consisting of seat portion and lid portion, the assembly being bolted onto a toilet bowl for a flush toilet. A toilet seat consists of the seat itself, which is typically contoured for the user to sit on, and the lid, which covers the toilet when it is not in use. When the lid is down it can serve as a place to sit while one is cutting toenails, drying ones feet after a bath or shower, etc.

The seat is usually lifted during male urination, or when cleaning the toilet.

Referring first to FIGS. 1a and 1b, there are shown top, perspective, pictorial, schematic views of a typical toilet seat of the prior art in closed and open orientations, respectively, generally at reference number 100.

Toilet seat 100 has a seat portion 102 and a lid portion 104 hingedly joined thereto by hinges 106. Lid portion 104 is therefore rotatable through at least a 90° arc as shown by arrow 108.

Seat portion 102 has an upper surface 110 adapted to receive the buttocks, not shown, of a user of a toilet, not shown to which toilet seat 100 is attached. A central opening 112 of seat portion 102 allows for seated urination and defecation.

Lid 104 has an outer surface 114 and an inner surface 116.

Referring now to FIG. 2a, there is shown a top, perspective, pictorial, schematic view of a first embodiment of a toilet seat in accordance with the invention in an open orientation, at reference number 200. Toilet seat 200 incorporates a target illuminating device 202 disposed within lid portion 104. A transparent window 204 allows an aimed targeting beam 206 to project from targeting device 202, through window 204, and into a central portion of a toilet bowl, not shown, onto which toilet seat 200 is attached.

It will be recognized that at least two major sizes of toilet seat are manufactured for the United States market. These are generally referred to as “round” and “elongated” styles. In each style toilet seat, targeting device 202 is aimed slightly differently to accommodate the corresponding size difference of the toilet bowl with which each size toilet seat is used.

In the embodiment chosen for purposes of disclosure, targeting device 202 is a laser pointer disposed in an inner region of lid portion 104. Referring now also to FIG. 2b, there is shown a detailed, side, elevational, schematic view of one embodiment of targeting device 202. A laser pointer device 208 is affixed to a mounting block 210. Laser pointer device 208 has a major axis that is disposed substantially parallel to the major planes of outer surface 114 and inner surface 116 of lip portion 104.

Window 204 is affixed to a hollow portion 212 of lid portion 104 by screws 214. Gaskets 216, preferably compressed between window 204 and hollow portion 212 of lid portion 104 seal hollow portion 212 when screws 214 are tightened.

A mirror 218 on a mirror support 220 is hingedly affixed to mounting block 210, no hinge mechanism being shown for clarity. A spring 222 disposed between mounting block 210 and mirror support 220 exerts an upward force on mirror 218 on mirror support 220.

A setscrew 224 accessible through a hole 226 in window 202 is disposed to exert an adjustable, opposing downward force on mirror support 220 such that the angle of reflection, not specifically identified, of mirror 218 may be varied to aim targeting beam 206 to a particular location in a toilet bowl, not shown, to which toilet seat 200 is attached.

An elastomeric friction plug 228 seals hole 226 after setscrew 224 has been adjusted.

It will be recognized that targeting device 202 may be implemented in many other manners. For example, a laser diode and an attached lens, neither shown, could be press fit into a hole in inner surface 116 of lid portion 104 such that a beam therefrom would be directed to a desired spot, not shown, in a toilet bowl, not shown, to which the toilet seat is attached. Assuming that the beam from the laser diode and lens is axial, the angle could be readily controlled by the angle of a hole, not shown, in lid portion 104.

It will be recognized that electrical power must be provided to laser pointer 208 and two other light emitting and miscellaneous apparatus discussed in detail herein below. Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown a simplified electrical block diagram of a first embodiment of an electrical power supply and control system for use with toilet seat 200, generally at reference number 300.

A so-called “brick” power supply 302 is equipped with electrical connector blades 304 to facilitate connecting power supply 302 directly into a standard 110 volt AC electrical outlet, assuming a United States implementation. It will be recognized that blades 304 may be modified for connection to the electrical power grid in other parts of the world. For example, in Europe, the connector prongs are round and the supply voltage is typically 220 volts. Such modification is believed to be well known to those of skill in the art and is not further discussed herein. However, the invention is not considered limited to the particular plug configuration (e.g., blades 304) or supply voltage. Rather, the invention is intended to include and plug configuration and/or supply voltage.

Power supply 302 may include an optional ground fault interrupter (GFI) 306 because of the proximity of use of electrical power supply 300 to water in the toilet itself or elsewhere in a bathroom in which the toilet is located.

A low voltage cable 308 provides low voltage (i.e., less than 24 volts DC) for use in powering the numerous configurations of toilet seats of the present invention. The exact DC output voltage may be selected to be compatible with the various electrical accessories and sub-systems used with different configurations of toilet seat.

A first sensor/control 310 is provided to sense a first environmental condition. Sensor 310 may be a simple gravity or other switch mechanism, not specifically identified, that activates targeting device 202 whenever toilet lid portion 104 and toilet seat portion 106 are raised. Such gravity switches are believed to be well known and, consequently, are not further discussed herein.

In more sophisticated implementations, a second, optional sensor 312 may be added in series with first sensor/control 310. Such a second sensor could be chosen from many possible environmental sensors. For example, a room ambient light sensor may be used to only activate targeting device 202 during low ambient light conditions.

In other embodiments, optional sensor/control 312 may be an occupancy sensor so that targeting device 202 is activated only when a person is in the vicinity of toilet seat 200. Occupancy sensors are believed to be well known to those of skill in the art and are not further discussed herein. Of course any known type of occupancy sensor may be utilized as optional second sensor/control 312. Also, occupancy sensors may contain timers to keep a light or other accessory activated for a predetermined time after occupancy is no longer detected and the invention is seen to include occupancy sensors with or without such timing components.

It will be further recognized that the order of first/sensor control 310 and second, optional sensor control 312 may be reversed as long as a series relationship of control is maintained. Also, the particular type of sensor (e.g., gravity switch, occupancy sensor, pressure switch, etc.) may be assigned to either first sensor/control 310 or optional second sensor control 312.

In alternate embodiments, an external AC power source may be replaced by a battery pack housed either within lid portion 104 or externally thereto.

Referring now to FIG. 4, there is shown a side, perspective, schematic view of a toilet 402 having a toilet seat 400 attached thereto. Toilet 402 forms no part of the present invention and is included merely to illustrate the environment in which toilet seat 400 is generally utilized.

Toilet seat 400 has a self-contained battery pack 404 disposed within a lid portion 104 thereof. Battery pack 404 may be accessed through access hatch 406 on an inner surface 116 of lid portion 104 of toilet seat 400. The constructions of such battery packs 404 and access hatches 406 is believed to be well known to those of skill in the art and, consequently no further details are provided herein. It will also be recognized that the exact size and position of battery pack 404/access hatch 406 may be varied. In addition, access hatch 406 may be provided on upper surface 114 of lid portion 104, this arrangement not being illustrated in FIG. 4.

As mentioned hereinabove, additional features may be added to a toilet seat. FIG. 4 illustrates two additional features. A plurality of downward-pointing light sources 408 is disposed on a lower surface of seat portion 102 of toilet seat 400. Downward-pointing light sources 408 direct illumination into the bowl 412 of toilet 402 when seat portion 102 of toilet seat 400 is in a downward, horizontal orientation.

Also shown on toilet seat 400 is a pair of edge light sources 414 attached to an outer edge of lid portion 104.

Both plurality of light sources 408 and/or lid edge lights 414 may be controlled by any of the sensor/controller arrangements, some of which are shown in FIG. 3 and others of which are discussed in more detail hereinbelow.

Referring now also to FIGS. 5a and 5b, there is shown yet another embodiment of a toilet seat in accordance with the invention, generally at reference number 500. Toilet seat 500 is typically transparent or translucent with a plurality of light sources 502 embedded therein. Toilet seat 500 is shown attached to a toilet 402 that forms no part of the invention.

Interior lights sources 502 are typically LEDs but may, of course be implemented using alternate technologies. Interior light sources 502 may be powered by a power system such as power supply/control 300 (FIG. 3) or battery pack 404 (FIG. 4).

Interior light sources 502 may be turned on or off using a wide variety of sensors and/or controls, some of which have previously been described. A proximity (i.e., an occupancy) sensor, not shown, may be combined with an ambient light sensors, manual switches, etc. to activate interior light sources 502 as a person approaches toilet 402/toilet seat 500. It will be recognized that alternate sensor/control solutions may be known to those of skill in the art. Consequently, the invention is not considered limited to the sensor/control options chosen for purposes of disclosure. Rather, the invention includes any and all sensor/control systems.

Edge light sources 414 discussed hereinabove, are also provided on toilet seat 500.

Referring now to FIGS. 6a and 6b, there are shown a side perspective, schematic view of a toilet having an alternate embodiment of a toilet seat 600 in accordance with the invention and a detailed, bottom perspective, schematic view of toilet seat 600. Toilet 402 forms no part of the invention and is included merely to show the intended operating environment of toilet seat 600.

Toilet seat 600 has a ring shape light source 602 disposed on lower surface 410 of seat portion 102 substantially completely encircling central opening 112.

A battery pack 502 is shown in lid portion 104 of toilet seat 600 for powering ring light 602. It will be recognized, however, that ring light 602 may readily be powered by an external power supply/control system 300 as seen in FIG. 3.

Ring light 602 shines downward into bowl 412 of toilet 402.

Ring light 602 typically consists of a series of LED devices arranged in a circular configuration. It will be recognized, however, that light sources other than LEDs believed to be known to those of skill in the art may be substituted therefor.

If ring light 602 is implemented using LED devices, not specifically identified, emitting energy in what is considered to be ultraviolet wavelengths, ring light 602 then forms a germicidal device considered potentially useful to controlling bacteria and other microbes within bowel 410 of toilet 402. For germicidal purposes, it may be desired to externally and continuously power ring light 602 to maximize potential germicidal effects.

Referring now also to FIG. 7, there is shown a bottom, perspective, schematic view of an alternate embodiment of a toilet seat with downward directed lighting devices, generally at reference number 700. Toilet seat 700 is similar to toilet seat 600 (FIGS. 6a, 6b) except that ring light 602 is replaced with a plurality of individual down shining lighting devices 702. Down shining lighting devices 702 are disposed at intervals around the perimeter of a lower surface 410 of seat portion 102.

Individual down shining lighting devices typically consist of LED devices arranged in a circular configuration. It will be recognized, however, that light sources other than LEDs believed to be known to those of skill in the art may be substituted therefor.

If individual down shining lighting devices 702 are implemented using LED devices, not specifically identified, emitting energy in what is considered to be ultraviolet wavelengths, individual down shining lighting devices 702 then form a germicidal device considered potentially useful to controlling bacteria and other microbes within bowel 410 of toilet 402. For germicidal purposes, it may be desired to externally and continuously power individual down shining lighting devices 702 to maximize potential germicidal effects.

While several features have been individually disclosed in one or more embodiments of the toilet seats 200, 400, 500, 600, and 700, it will be recognized that any logical combination of features may be combined into various configurations. Consequently, while specific configurations have been disclosed, numerous combinations and permutations of the disclosed features may be implemented without departing from the invention.

Since other modifications and changes varied to fit particular operating requirements and environments will be apparent to those skilled in the art, the invention is not considered limited to the example chosen for purposes of disclosure, and covers all changes and modifications which do not constitute departures from the true spirit and scope of this invention.

Having thus described the invention, what is desired to be protected by Letters Patent is presented in the subsequently appended claims.





 
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