US 20020164921 A1
A jumping toy comprising a projectile comprising a cushioned head, a propulsion mechanism, a base, and, in some embodiments, a releasable catch mechanism that prevents the propulsion mechanism from activating until the catch mechanism is released. In various embodiments, the propulsion mechanism may comprise a spring with the cushioned head attached to the spring; the base may comprise a launching tube into which the spring is compressed; the toy may comprise an article with a spring mounted in an inner compartment; or the toy may comprise a launching apparatus comprising a projectile interface and a base, wherein movement of the projectile interface relative to the base creates stored energy that is subsequently converted to kinetic energy and transferred to the projectile.
1. A jumping toy comprising:
a projectile comprising at least a cushioned head, a cushioned body, or both;
a propulsion mechanism for propelling the projectile;
a base for the propulsion mechanism; and
a releasable catch mechanism comprising at least a first element attached to the projectile and a second element attached to the base such that the first element engages the second element to prevent the propulsion mechanism from activating until the catch mechanism is released.
2. The jumping toy of
3. The jumping toy of
4. The jumping toy of
5. The toy of
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7. The toy of
8. The toy of
9. The toy of
10. The toy of
11. The toy of
12. A jumping toy comprising:
a projectile comprising a spring and a cushioned head attached to the spring;
a base on or in which the spring is compressed; and
a releasable catch mechanism comprising at least a first element attached to the projectile and a second element attached to the base such that the first element engages the second element to hold the spring in a compressed configuration until the catch mechanism is released.
13. The toy of
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27. The toy of
28. A jumping toy comprising:
a cushioned projectile; and
a launching apparatus comprising a projectile interface and a base, wherein movement of the projectile interface relative to the base into a first position creates stored energy in the apparatus that when released from the first position is converted to kinetic energy transferred to the projectile.
29. The toy of
a platform having a first end and a second end, the first end pivotally connected to a first end of the base; and
a spring connected between the base and the platform at a location between the first end and the second end of the platform and the first end and a second end of the base;
wherein the first position is located by depressing the platform second end in a direction toward the base second end such that the spring compresses to provide the stored energy.
30. The toy of
31. The toy of
an extended arm having the projectile interface at or near a first end and a pivotable connection to the base at or near the second end; and
a resilient member attached between the base and the extended arm;
wherein pivoting the arm relative to the base into the first position places the resilient member in tension to create the stored energy.
32. A jumping toy comprising:
an article having at least one inner compartment comprising an inner top and an inner bottom, a spring mounted in the compartment, and a releasable delay mechanism comprising at least a first element attached to the inner top and a second element attached to the inner bottom such that the first element engages the second element for a first period of time when the spring is compressed and then releases, causing the spring to expand and the toy to jump.
33. The toy of
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40. The toy of
41. The toy of claim 40 wherein the projectile jumps a distance of at least the height of the projectile.
42. The toy of claim 40 wherein the projectile jumps a distance of at least twice the height of the projectile.
 The invention will next be illustrated with reference to the figures. The figures are intended to be illustrative rather than limiting and are included herewith to facilitate the explanation of the method of this invention. Referring now to FIGS. 1-10, there are shown a number of exemplary embodiments. Various features are illustrated with respect to each embodiment; these features may be combined with one another as desired to form additional embodiments that are not illustrated herein.
 A most basic embodiment of the invention, shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, comprises a projectile 10 comprising spring 12 and a cushioned end 16 attached to the spring. Base 14 is shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B attached to the opposite end of spring 12. Cushioned end 16 may be permanently attached to spring 12, or detachable. The invention further comprises a releasable catch mechanism (not shown in FIGS. 1A and 1B, but exemplary embodiments shown in detail in FIGS. 2A-4B). When spring 12 is compressed, such as by a user's hand 11, against a solid object, such as floor 15, the releasable catch mechanism (not shown) is engaged to hold the toy in the compressed configuration until the mechanism is released and the projectile jumps. Spring 12 may be unencased, as shown in FIGS. 1A-1B, or encased in a bellows 38, as shown in FIGS. 2A-4A. The toy has the ability to leap off a variety of surfaces such as: hardwood floors, stone, brick, concrete, asphalt, linoleum, tile, carpet, glass, etc. without any special type of platform. The height of the jump is preferably greater than one-half the height of the toy, more preferably greater than the height of the toy, and even more preferably greater than 10 times the height of the toy. The height h of the toy is the height from the bottom of the base to the top of the cushioned head when the releasable catch mechanism is engaged (i.e. when the spring is compressed, for spring-propelled projectiles).
 The releasable catch mechanism may be a delay releasable catch mechanism or a manual releasable catch mechanism. Delay releasable catch mechanisms may be random or predictable. One embodiment of a random delay releasable catch mechanism is shown in FIGS. 2B and 2C. In releasable catch mechanism 20, first catch element 22 engages second catch element 24 when spring 12 is compressed. Releasable catch mechanism 20 may comprise a microloop/microhook engagement, such as a VELCRO® fastener, as shown in FIGS. 2B and 2C, wherein first catch element 22 is a pad of microloops and second catch element 24 is a pad of microhooks, or vice-versa.
 In another random delay releasable catch mechanism embodiment, shown in FIGS. 3A-3C, releasable delay mechanism 30 may comprise a suction cup 32 and a flat surface 34 with a bleed hole 36. Catch mechanism 30 may be adjustable, such as providing a wheel 40 underlying bleed hole 36 with a cutout 42 which changes the size of bleed hole 36 as wheel is turned in the direction of arrow A. Other mechanisms for varying the size of the bleed hole may also be provided.
 The sizing of spring 12 with respect to random delay releasable catch mechanisms 20 and 30 is such that the spring force slightly exceeds the retention force exerted by the catch mechanism. In this configuration, the spring stays in a compressed position only a short amount of time until the spring overcomes the retention force and expands, making the toy jump. Because the amount of time that it takes for the spring force to overcome the retention force is subject to chaotic factors (such as how many microhooks and microloops are engaged, how much air has been displaced from the suction cup and how much air is let in by the bleed hole, or whether there are other factors such as vibration of the surface on which the toy in the compressed configuration is placed), these types of releasable catch mechanisms are considered to have a “random delay.” Even though the bleed hole size may be adjustable between a relatively long delay and a relatively short delay, the delay is still not completely predictable, and is thus considered random for the purposes of this disclosure.
 In a predictable delay releasable catch mechanism, shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, releasable catch mechanism 50 may comprise a upper catch 52 and a lower catch 54, each in the shape of interlocking hooks. Lower catch 54 may be attached to a geared spring-motor mechanism 55 that moves catch 54 from position B (solid lines in FIG. 4B) to position C (dashed lines in FIG. 4B) after a set amount of time. Geared spring-motor mechanisms are well known in the art of toy design. The amount of delay time can be varied depending on how far wheel 56 is turned. The releasable catch mechanism is considered a “predictable delay” mechanism because if the wheel is turned approximately the same amount each time, the delay time will be essentially the same each time (ignoring spring wear over time). Lower catch 54 may automatically be positioned in engagement with upper catch 52 upon spring 12 being compressed into an engagement position, such as by upper catch depressing a winding button or lever (not shown) that moves catch 54 to position B, or wheel 56 may merely be turned simultaneously when spring 12 is compressed into engagement position.
 In a “jumping bean” embodiment 60, shown in FIGS. 5A and 5B, launch mechanism 70 is completely contained within the toy. Jumping bean 60 comprises a covering 62, such as a plush fabric, enclosing stuffing 64 and formed into any shape, but preferably into the shape of a sphere, bean, egg, or the like. Launch mechanism 70, comprising spring 12 and one of the predictable or random delay releasable catch mechanisms discussed above (not shown in FIG. 5A or 5B), is contained within compartment 66. Where the releasable catch mechanism incorporates an adjustable timing mechanism similar to wheels 40 or 56 shown in FIGS. 2A/2B and 3A/3B respectively, the adjustable mechanism may be in the form of a wheel, key, knob, or the like (not shown) that protrudes through covering 62.
 In yet another embodiment, the launching apparatus may comprise a projectile interface and a base, wherein movement of the interface relative to the base into a first position creates stored energy in the apparatus that when released from the first position is converted to kinetic energy transferred to the projectile. For example, toy 100 shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B comprises a soft projectile 102 used with an external launching apparatus 104. Launching apparatus 104 comprises a base 106 and a platform 108 which are attached in pivoting engagement, such as with a hinge or pin, at their respective first ends 107 and 109. A spring 110 is attached between base 106 and platform 108 at a location between ends 107 and 109 and ends 103 and 105. Projectile 102 is launched by pressing on end 105, such as with a user's hand 99, to compress spring 110 to create the stored energy, as shown in FIG. 6B, and then releasing, as shown in FIG. 6A.
 The term “launching apparatus” encompasses any type of apparatus similar to that shown in FIGS. 6A and 6B, as well as catapults, springboards, or other movable surfaces adapted to impart motion to the projectile, and include other designs known in the art. For example, a springboard type of launching apparatus may comprise a flexible strip 500, such as of plastic, wood, or metal, as shown in FIG. 6C in communication with base 502. Strip 500 may be deformed by depressing it in the direction of arrow X to create the stored energy, such that the strip bounces back in the direction of arrow Y when released due to the resiliency of the strip. Base 502 may be attached to strip 500, or strip 500 may use the edge of any surface as a base, such as where a user holds down one end of the strip against a surface and depresses the other end of the strip to deform it.
 A catapult type of launching apparatus, as shown in FIG. 6D, may comprise a projectile interface 600, such as a cup, seat, peg, hole, or the like, at the end of an extended arm 602 in or on which projectile 604 may be placed. The interface may be any interface with the projectile that can hold the projectile in place while the arm is cocked and released. Arm 602 is pivotable relative to base 606, and may be cocked by pivoting it along arc Z to create tension in resilient member 608 to create the stored energy, which may, for example, be a spring, an elastic or rubber band, or the like. As shown in FIG. 6D, elastic member 608 is attached at one end to arm 602 and attached at the other end to base 606. Arm may then be released such that the arm travels in the direction opposite arc Z until it hits optional stop 610, or otherwise decelerates sufficiently such that projectile 604 flies away.
 As shown in FIGS. 7A and 7B, yet another embodiment 150 comprises a decorative head 152 connected to spring 154 that is launched by compressing the spring into tube 156 and engaging a manual releasable catch mechanism 158. This embodiment is “self-contained” to the extent that the toy can be launched without putting it down on another surface. In one form of manual releasable catch mechanism 158 as shown in FIG. 7C, decorative head 152 merely fits over the open end of tube 156 and is pressed downward such that frictional resistance between inner surface of head cap 160 and outer surface of tube end 162 keep the head in place. Tube 156 is held in the user's hand 164 and aimed in the direction of the desired launch, and then the user pushes upward on the bottom of the decorative head 152 in the direction of arrow F, until the head slides off the end of tube 156 and launches through the air.
 In another embodiment, shown in FIG. 8A-D, manual releasable catch mechanism 168 comprises a flexible tab 170 comprising a release button 172 that becomes seated in catch hole 174 when head 176 is depressed far enough. When it is desired to launch head 152, button 172 is pressed by the user's finger 173 as shown in FIG. 8C, flexing tab 170 such that button becomes unseated from hole 174 and spring 12 is allowed to expand. Tube 156 may have a single catch hole 174, as shown in FIG. 7A, or may have numerous catch holes for different levels of jumping distance or height. As shown in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 7D, the further projectile 176 is pushed down, the lower catch hole 174 a-c into which release button 172 may be seated, and the more spring 154 is compressed, providing more height and force to the leap when released. Other types of releasable catch mechanisms may also be used without limitation, including manual, random delay, and predictable delay catch mechanisms.
 One category of toys in which the present invention may particularly well-suited, may be in the category of soft, plush characters. The launching mechanism and leaping action creates an action plush toy that is different from the majority of plush toys that normally don't do anything. Where the spring toy is launched out of a tube, the tube can also be decorated to be part of the body of the toy. For example, in one embodiment, toy 200 may comprise a human or animal form (such as a cat, as shown in FIG. 9) in which a projectile portion 202 is connected to spring 203, and launched from tube 204. Projectile portion 202 may be the head, another appendage, or any portion of the character. Projectile portion 202 may further emit a sound when it leaps into the air and/or lands, such as through the use of a battery-operated microchip and speaker arrangement activated by an impact-activated switch, as are known in the art. Projectile portion 202 is preferably soft and lightweight so as to be safe for children. Tube 204 may also be covered with a plush covering and stuffing to be soft and cuddly.
 Animal or human tube forms may further include any of the releasable catch mechanisms such as shown and described above, and such catch mechanisms may be hidden. For example, the cat figure shown in FIG. 9 may have movable front legs 205 and the release button (not shown) may engage a catch hole (not shown) in tube 204 that is covered by fabric covering over the tube. Moving leg 205 may cause the leg or a lever or cam (not shown) attached to the leg to hit the release button, causing the head to release. In another embodiment similar to the arrangement shown in FIG. 7C, leg 205 may be pivoted from a first position into a second position when head 202 becomes seated on tube 204 such that pivoting the leg back to the first position may cause some portion of the leg to exert force F (as shown in FIG. 7C) to release the frictional engagement between the head and tube 204.
 As shown in FIG. 10, projectile portion 210 may further comprise a parachute 212 that deploys to allow the projectile portion to gently float back down to the ground after being propelled into the air by spring 214. In yet another embodiment, the projectile portion may comprise a cord having one end attached to the projectile portion and one end attached to the tube to limit the jumping distance and/or make the projectile easier to retrieve.
 Any of the embodiments described herein may be provided as part of a kit, or various accessories may be sold separately, enabling the toy to be used in different games. For example, one such kit may comprise a basketball hoop with which the user may play a game wherein points are scored when the projectile portion passes through the hoop. Another kit may comprise a football goal post, where the projectile is a football and the object is to score field goals, or a hockey or soccer net, where the projectile is a puck or ball and the object is to score goals. Other games may include distance or height jumping, where an exemplary corresponding kit may include a high-jump bar or other barriers to be leapt over; shooting games, where one user shoots at a target or at another player, including forms of tag, where an exemplary kit may include a target, such as even a wearable target for playing tag; and a bowling-type game, where an exemplary kit may include pins or other objects to be knocked over.
 The toy is designed to be easy to manufacture and affordable to the masses. The toy is preferably small, light weight, and portable, as well as soft and safe, so that it does not cause personal injury or damage to furnishings. The projectile portion of the toy is preferably cushioned and covered in a plush fabric. The spring is preferably permanently attached to the projectile portion of the toy, but may also be detachable, with interchangeable projectile portions for attaching to a standard spring and/or interchangeable springs for attaching to the projectile portion to provide different amounts of jumping force. Kits may include sets of multiple springs and or multiple heads. As used herein, the term “head” is not limited to the head of an animal or human character that the toy resembles (and may in fact, be an arm, a leg, or body portion), but refers to the cushioned portion of the projectile that is attached to the spring.
 Any of the embodiments described herein may be of any size or shape, and may resemble something inanimate, such as a vehicle (including but not limited to rockets, airplanes, helicopters, and the like) or a sports object (including but not limited to balls, pucks, football helmets, and the like), or animate, such as without limitation, an anthropologic or an animal form (including but not limited to insects, fish, birds, and the like), including human or animal characters known to children through cartoons, comic books, movies, TV shows, books, and the like. The category of “anthropologic” toys includes technically non-human, yet human-like, entities such as space aliens, superheroes, cartoon characters, animal/human or inanimate object/human combinations, and the like. The decorative heads may also create a series of collectible characters of various names. Collectible sets may comprise groups of unique character appearances and names. Multiple sets of characters, for example all related to different themes, may be provided. Collector cards may be made available to go with the characters, and kits may include such cards and toys together. The cards may be designed for playing card games similar to games known in the art, or unique games specific to these collector cards.
 Any of the embodiments described herein may optionally make a noise, or speak, and may make a sound or have a voice that compliments its character and is activated when it leaps or jumps. Any of the embodiments may also have any number of additional features including but not limited to: lights, streamers, a tail, helicopter blades, a gyro, wings, a cape, and/or a smoke trail, as desired and particularly as consistent with the inanimate or animated type or character of the toy. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 7A, the cushioned head may contain an electrical circuit (not shown) comprising a battery, an inertia sensor, a speaker, and a microchip as are known in the art. Eyes 153 of the toy may comprise lights powered by the battery and designed to light as the microchip plays back a sound upon the inertia sensor sensing that the toy has suddenly accelerated or decelerated, such as when launching or hitting an object. The toy may have both lights and sound, or only one or the other. Any of the embodiments may further comprise a restraining cord, such as an elastic band to keep the projectile from shooting too far or to keep the user from constantly having to retrieve the toy, or a parachute, preferably a parachute designed to deploy once the toy has reached the apex of its jump.
 Although described herein with propulsion systems comprising springs, any of the embodiments herein may comprise other propulsion systems, such as systems using compressed fluid (liquid or gas) or elastic bands, or catapult-type systems using springs, rubber bands, or the like. For spring-propulsion systems, the spring can be cocked by any method, such as compression, using the hand or foot, or a device, such as a crank, lever, pump, and the like. The spring system is preferably operated by hand, but may be operated by any method, such as by remote control, including by radio control. The spring propulsion systems of the present invention are not limited to any particular relationship between the spring and the toy. For example, the spring may be attached to the projectile or unattached to the projectile, contained completely within the projectile, contained partially within and partially outside the projectile such as traveling through the projectile, or may remain completely separate from the projectile.
 The toy, when activated, preferably makes a single big jump, but may instead have any number of smaller jumps. The jumping distance or height may be constant, or variable/adjustable, and the trajectory for the jump may also be fixed or adjustable. Preferably, the projectile is adapted to jump a distance that is at least half the height of the toy, and more preferably a distance of several feet.
 It should be understood that to the extent that specific examples are described above, the invention is by no means limited to these detailed examples. Those skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings of the present invention as set forth herein above, can effect numerous modifications thereto. These modifications are to be construed as being encompassed within the scope of the present invention as set forth in the appended claims.
FIG. 1A is a front view illustration of an exemplary embodiment of the invention in a compressed configuration.
FIG. 1B is a front view illustration of the embodiment of FIG. 1 in an expanded configuration as it leaps.
FIG. 2A is a front view illustration of an exemplary embodiment of the invention in an expanded configuration and having bellows surrounding the spring.
FIG. 2B is a longitudinal-section view illustration taken across line 2B-2B of FIG. 2A, showing an exemplary microhook/microloop releasable delay mechanism.
FIG. 2C is a longitudinal-section view illustration of the embodiment shown in FIG. 2B, in a compressed configuration.
FIG. 3A is a longitudinal-section view illustration showing a compressed configuration of an embodiment having an exemplary suction cup releasable delay mechanism.
FIG. 3B is a longitudinal-section view illustration showing the embodiment of FIG. 3A in an expanded configuration.
FIG. 3C is a cross-section view of the embodiment of FIG. 3B taken along lines 3C-3C, showing an exemplary adjustable bleed hole embodiment.
FIG. 4A is a partial longitudinal-section view illustration showing an expanded configuration of an embodiment having an exemplary catch and geared spring-release delay mechanism.
FIG. 4B is detailed perspective view illustration showing the exemplary catch and geared spring-release delay mechanism of FIG. 4A in an engaged configuration.
FIG. 5A is a side view of a compressed configuration of an exemplary jumping bean embodiment, showing the inner spring with dashed lines.
FIG. 5B is a cross-sectional view of an expanded configuration of the jumping bean embodiment of FIG. 5A, taken along lines 5A-5A.
FIG. 6A is a side view of an exemplary launching pad embodiment of the present invention in a released configuration.
FIG. 6B is a side view of the launching pad embodiment of FIG. 6A in a compressed configuration.
FIG. 7A is a side view of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention being launched from a launching tube.
FIG. 7B is a partial longitudinal section view of the embodiment of FIG. 7A with the spring in a compressed configuration.
FIG. 7C is a detailed cross-section view of the exemplary releasable catch mechanism of the embodiment of FIG. 7B taken along lines 7C-7C.
FIG. 8A is a perspective view of an exemplary tube-launched embodiment having a releasable catch mechanism comprising a release button and catch hole.
FIG. 8B is a detailed plan view of the tab and release button of the embodiment shown in FIG. 8A.
FIG. 8C is a cross-sectional view of the tab shown in FIG. 8B, taken along lines 8C-8C.
FIG. 8D is a perspective view of an exemplary tube-launched embodiment having a releasable catch mechanism comprising a release button and multiple catch holes.
FIG. 9 is a side view of an exemplary tube-launched embodiment in the shape of an animal.
FIG. 10 is a front view of an exemplary embodiment having a parachute.
 This invention relates to toys, and more particularly to toys that can be caused to jump or leap.
 Over the years, a number of toys have been developed which can jump or leap as a result of various mechanisms. Many such toys incorporate springs to provide a number of entertaining actions. There is still room in the art, however, for toys that provide a leaping and jumping action in a novel and fun way.
 Plush toys are a very popular category of toys, yet plush toys typically have no action associated with them. It is thus desirable to add a dynamic character to plush toys, to provide more action and fun.
 In accordance with this invention, there is provided a toy figure that jumps or leap, not as a small bounce or hop, but that covers a relatively large vertical and/or horizontal distance, preferably a jump or leap greater than one-half the height of the toy, more preferably a jump greater than the height of the toy, and even more preferably a jump greater than twice the height of the toy. The jumping toy comprises a projectile comprising a cushioned head or body, a propulsion mechanism for the cushioned head or body, a base for the propulsion mechanism, and a releasable catch mechanism for preventing the propulsion means from activating until released. In a preferred embodiment, the propulsion mechanism comprises a spring attached to the cushioned head. The releasable catch mechanism comprises at least a first element attached to the projectile and a second element attached to the base such that the first element engages the second element to hold the spring in a compressed configuration until the catch mechanism is released. The releasable catch mechanism may comprise a random delay releasable catch mechanism, a predictable delay releasable catch mechanism, or a manual releasable catch mechanism.
 In one embodiment, the random delay releasable catch mechanism comprises a set of microloops and microhooks. In another embodiment the releasable catch mechanism comprises a suction cup and a flat surface. The random delay may be adjustable between a relatively shorter random delay and a relatively longer random delay. In another embodiment, the predictable delay releasable catch mechanism comprises an upper catch and a lower catch, the lower catch connected to a geared spring motor adapted to pivot the lower catch from a first position engaged with the upper catch to a second position disengaged from the first catch release mechanism after an preset amount of time, which may be adjustable.
 The base may comprise a launching tube into which the spring is compressed and the cushioned projectile is released. In one embodiment, the manual releasable catch mechanism comprises a friction fit between the cushioned projectile and the tube. In another embodiment, the manual releasable catch mechanism comprises or a release button on the cushioned projectile that engages one or more catch holes on the tube.
 In one embodiment, the spring may be attached to the base and may further comprise bellows that enclose the spring. In other embodiments, the projectile may further comprise a parachute. In yet other embodiments, the projectile may comprise a mechanism for making a noise or may comprise lights and mechanism for lighting the lights. The toy may be in the form of an animate object or an inanimate object. The toy may further comprise at least one accessory, such as but not limited to, basketball hoop, a football goalpost, a hockey or soccer net, a high-jump bar, a set of objects to be knocked down, or a bullseye target, for playing an interactive game.
 In another embodiment, the jumping toy may comprise a cushioned projectile and a launching apparatus. The term “launching apparatus” encompasses any type of launching board, catapult, springboard, or other movable surface adapted to impart motion to the projectile. The launching apparatus comprises a projectile interface and a base, wherein movement of the interface relative to the base into a first position creates stored energy in the apparatus that when released from the first position is converted to kinetic energy transferred to the projectile.
 In yet another embodiment, the jumping toy comprises an article, such as in the shape of a sphere, egg, or bean, having at least one inner compartment comprising an inner top and an inner bottom, a spring mounted in the compartment, and a releasable delay mechanism comprising at least a first element attached to the inner top and a second element attached to the inner bottom such that the first element engages the second element for a first period of time when the spring is compressed and then releases, causing the spring to expand and the toy to jump.
 This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/275,575, filed on Mar. 14, 2001, and incorporated herein by reference.