CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This patent application claims priority to Provisional Patent Applications 60/775,097 filed Feb. 20, 2006 and 60/808,184 filed May 24, 2006. Those applications are herein incorporated by reference.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to inflatable novelty devices and, more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to a novelty device incorporating an inflatable balloon and mailable package assembly.
2. History of Related Art
The use of novelty devices for greeting cards and general commercial use is well known. A variety of card and balloon novelty devices exist that incorporate an inflatable balloon in conjunction with a greeting card. Considerable design effort has been expended in recent years in improving greeting cards with inflatable element attachments. In the main, the inflatable elements comprise balloons and are hereinafter referred to in that manner. Silver metalized balloons have been around since the 1970s. These foil balloons are sometimes called Mylar balloons and may be made from sandwiched sheets of plastic (polyethelene) or nylon that are then coated with aluminum. The mechanism for inflating the balloon has been, in certain instances, an area of innovation. Likewise, the manner of message display in conjunction with the balloon has also been an area of innovation.
In general, novelty devices incorporating balloons have not been limited to greeting cards, but also have used inflatable objects mounted in containers with moveable lids. Inflation means provided within an assembly facilitate rapid expansion of the inflatable object beyond the bounds of the container. Inflation causes the lid to move into an open position and a fully inflated object is presented into view.
Finally, the use of novelty devices as referenced above has included the area of “general commercial use.” This area includes a multitude of designs and items. For example, the placement of a child's toy in a package of edible foodstuff is well known. The practice dates back many decades and often comprised a small molded plastic device and/or other item placed with the packaged foodstuff to engender joy and/or entertainment in addition to consumption of the foodstuff. In more recent decades, the use of such novelty devices for general commercial use has been extended to fast-food restaurants. In such restaurants, novelty devices have been included in numerous marketing programs in order to encourage customers.
It would be an advantage, therefore, to provide a method of and package for a novelty device which could be beneficial for greetings, general commercial use, and related systems and programs. Consistent therewith, the following aspects of improvements will be defined below and include, but not be limited to, improved balloon and package designs.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates to a package with an inflatable balloon assembled therein for subsequent inflation, the package being adapted for one of (1) mailing and subsequent positioning and presentation formed by an inflated balloon greeting, (2) the use of the package as a container for articles to be enjoyed in conjunction with the uninflated balloon assembled therein prior to or with the balloon's inflation and (3) related applications. More particularly, one aspect of the invention includes a three-dimensional envelope assembly adapted for containing an inflatable balloon in an uninflated condition. The uninflated balloon allows for compact packaging and it may then serve as a greeting, a novelty device, a toy, and/or surprise relative to the package. In one embodiment, the package is adapted for transmittal through local, national, and/or international postal and/or delivery services. In one embodiment, the balloon is made of mylar/film, or the like.
In one embodiment, the balloon may be inflated and deflated a plurality of times, allowing multiple recipients to enjoy and/or participate in the package. In another embodiment, the package is adapted for serving as a container for articles. The articles may be toys, confetti, novelty devices, and/or in some applications, foodstuffs, such as french-fries, candy, and the like. It should be noted that special packaging and sanitary considerations may be taken into account for such applications More particularly, relative to the last above-mentioned embodiment, the package may be provided in an assembly adapted for use in restaurants, and particularly fast-food restaurants, where the inflatable balloon may comprise a form of a surprise an/or novelty relative to the foodstuff served within the package. The balloon may be inflated either before or after consuming the foodstuff and additional enjoyment of the foodstuff purchase facilitated. Such “secondary” enjoyment from a primary purchase decision can create a buying incentive for subsequent purchases, therein improving the marketability of the item of the primary purchase. In the business of “fast food” restaurants, such “marketing” incentives have been, and often are, primary resources for market dominance and/or commercial leadership.
In one embodiment, the above-described inflatable greeting package includes a plurality of specially designed flaps adapted for the dual function of securing the inflatable balloon therein and serving as a stand for the package once the balloon has been inflated. These flaps may be used as part of a stand-up display of the balloon with or without the packaging of “foodstuff” as described above. A variety of flap designs may be used. In another embodiment, an attachable stand may be included with the package adapted to be attached to the outside of the package for supporting the package in an upright position.
In yet another aspect, the balloon novelty design includes the utilization of sound and/or light wherein the units may either be pushed or switch activated so that sound may be heard or a greeting played for the user. When light is activated, the balloon may light up internally and glow. Other options consistent with the improvements set forth herein, relate to the balloon having a writeable surface wherein a child could color the balloon using permanent markers or the balloon could be printed on a back portion with a 3D image, the front of the balloon having viewing areas which have the appropriate red/blue filters. In this way, users could look through the balloon to see the 3D image.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
A more complete understanding of the method and apparatus of the present invention may be obtained by reference to the following Detailed Description when taken in conjunction with the accompanying Drawings wherein:
FIG. 1 is an exploded view of the basic components of an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 is a cutaway view of an embodiment of the present invention showing a balloon in a stuffed position inside the packaging.
FIG. 3 is an embodiment of the present invention showing the balloon fully enclosed within the packaging.
FIG. 4 shows a demonstration of a balloon inflation of an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 5 is an embodiment of the invention with a writable surface and adapted for the receipt of decorative stickers.
FIG. 6 is an embodiment of the present invention where a combination of images on a plurality of layers creates a 3D image.
FIG. 7 shows a user looking through viewing openings in a balloon of one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 8 is an embodiment of the present invention wherein a musical cartridge is included inside of the package.
FIG. 9 is an embodiment of the present invention wherein a light cartridge for lighting the balloon is included.
FIG. 10 is an embodiment of the present invention where a balloon is adhered to a cardboard backing.
FIG. 11 shows the balloon and backing of FIG. 10 ready for printing according to one embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 12 is a component of an embodiment of the outer packaging used in the present invention.
FIG. 13 is an assembled package of an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 14 is a side cutaway view of the embodiment of the present invention of FIG. 13.
FIG. 15 is a method of folding a balloon and package of an embodiment of the present invention.
It has been found by the Applicant of the present invention that a combination of a package having at least one inflatable element mounted therein in an uninflated state can provide numerous benefits for both a sender as well as a user. The following description will illustrate multiple embodiments of the package of the present invention in FIGS. 1 through 15.
Referring first to FIG. 1, an exploded view of a package 1 is shown according to one embodiment of the present invention. The components of the package 1 include a balloon 10, a valve 11, a container 12, a brace 13, and an attachable stand 14. The balloon 10 may be of any material, but in one embodiment, the balloon 10 is a foil-film balloon, such as a Mylar balloon. The bulbous portion of the balloon 10 can be of any shape or size, such as, for example a circle, a star, a teddy-bear head, a heart, or other desired shape. In one embodiment, the balloon 10 has a tab 22 on one side of a neck portion. The tab 22 is sealed off from the inside of the balloon 10 and allows for securing the balloon 10 to the container 12 without compromising the ability of the balloon 10 to hold pressurized air. In an alternative embodiment, the balloon 10 may be secured to the inside of the container 12 with glue or a fastener or other securing means without the use of tab 22. Additionally, in one embodiment of the present invention, the balloon 10 has a wider neck portion and a narrower neck portion or stem. The wider neck portion of the balloon 10 helps to keep the balloon 10 from twisting when fully inflated. In one embodiment of the present invention, the brace 13 may be attached in a middle portion of the container 12 to secure the balloon 10 in place when in an uninflated, stored position within the container 12. The elongated stem of the balloon 10 extends past one side of the brace 13 and allows ease of inflation by the user. The attachable stand 14 can be attached to an outside of the container 12 as will be described in more detail below for propping the container 12 in an upright position when the balloon 10 is fully inflated. The valve 11 disposed in an open end of the balloon 10 can be made of many different materials such as, for example, PVC. Additionally, the valve 11 may be a one-way valve only allowing air to enter the balloon 10, or a two-way valve allowing the balloon 10 to be inflated and deflated a plurality of times. The valve 11 may have a stopper that can be inserted in one end and, in one embodiment, air cannot exit the balloon 10 unless pressure is applied to the sides of the valve 11.
Still referring to FIG. 1, it may be seen that the package 1 is constructed of a container 12 with a balloon 10 in association therewith. As described in more detail below, the balloon 10 is adapted for containment in a deflated, stored position within the container 12 to therein provide the configuration affording greeting, surprise, message conveyance, commercial novelty, and the like. It may be seen that the package 1 can be constructed from relatively inexpensive members to provide an assembly that is useful, enjoyable and commercially beneficial. For example, the container 12 may be constructed of cardboard, plastic, or other material. Additionally, the container 12 may have a protective coating for better preservation during mailing. It may also be seen that the shape and size of the container are particularly adapted for the containment of the uninflated balloon 10. It may be seen that the proportional size between the various elements of the unfolded container 12 may also vary in accordance with the requisite size needed for containing items. For example, in one embodiment, the container 12 may be used to enclose additional items, such as a foodstuffs.
Referring now to FIG. 2, there is shown one embodiment of the uninflated balloon 10 in an uninflated state disposed within the container 12. It may be seen that the uninflated balloon 10 has an inflation/closure valve or nozzle 11 that is small enough to be contained within the container 12. It can also be seen that the container 12 may be large enough to hold other items such as foodstuffs in a lower portion in addition to holding the balloon 10 in an upper portion. The brace 13 can be seen holding the balloon 10 in an upper portion of the container 12 wherein the brace 13 prevents incorrect stuffing by restricting the balloon 10 to the upper portion of the container 12. In this way, ease of inflating the balloon 10 can be insured. It can also be seen that the tab 22 is attached both to the balloon 10 and to the container 12. Various configurations of securing the balloon 10 to the container 12 are contemplated including, but not limited to, sealing the tab 22 between two edges of the container 12, sealing the tab 22 against an inside portion of the container 12, or attaching the balloon 10 directly to the container 12 without use of the tab 22. It should also be noted that the precise angle of the inflationary valve 11 and/or the location, size, marketing, configuration, grommet placement, and/or other aspects thereof may vary in accordance with the principles of the present invention.
Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown one embodiment of the package 1 according to the principles of the present invention. It may be seen that the container 12 is specifically adapted to hold items and, in this particular embodiment, can also be closed for pre-packaged items. It can be seen that the balloon 10 and any other items may be fully enclosed inside the container 12. In one embodiment, the tab 22 may be attached to one side edge of the container 12 and allowed to extend therethrough for attachment and aesthetic purposes. In this particular view, it can be seen that the package 1 is adapted for being sent by local, national and/or international mail or other delivery means to a recipient.
Referring now to FIG. 4, one embodiment of the package 1 with the balloon 10 at various stages of inflation is shown. The top and bottom flaps of the container 12 are opened to allow the valve 11 to be withdrawn from one end of the container 12 and to allow the balloon 10 to extend from another end. In one embodiment, any items enclosed with the container 12 may be removed when the bottom flaps are opened. Once the bottom flaps are open, the stem portion of the uninflated balloon 10 containing the valve 11 contained within the container 12 may be distended from a bottom portion of the package 1 for purposes of inflation. The openable flap allows access to the uninflated balloon 10 which also includes a nozzle 11 for easy inflation by the user and/or recipient of the container. As air is passed through the nozzle 11, the balloon 10 inflates in a manner shown herein to extend upwardly from the container 12. Inflation may be effected by a user in the manner common in inflation of conventional balloons. In this manner, the recipient of the package then becomes the user and upon discovery of the balloon 10 therein causes the balloon 10 to be inflated either by manual inflation or by an inflation device (e.g., compressed air). In either case, the uninflated balloon 10 becomes inflated and extends upwardly and outwardly through the upper portion of the container 12 to be enjoyed by the user, or in one embodiment, display a message or design printed on the face thereof.
Still referring to FIG. 4, three views of a container/balloon combination are shown in accordance with the principles of the present invention. Once the package 1 has been received, the recipient is then able to open the package, inflate the balloon 10 and place it in an upstanding position due to the stand member 14 shown at the lower end thereof. The stand may be pre-attached to the outside of the container 12, or may be enclosed in the lower inside portion of the container 12 and be removed after the bottom flaps have been opened. Once the stand 14 has been removed from the container 12, it can be attached to the outside of the container 12 to hold the package 1 in an upright position. The stand 14 may be attached in any of a number of methods including having a sticky portion to stick to the container 12, or the stand 14 and the container 12 may have male and female portions adapted to mate and secure the stand 14 thereagainst. The stand 14 allows the balloon to be inflated and to assume a position that is enjoyable for the recipient/user. In an alternative embodiment, a variety of container 12 shapes and sizes may be afforded for extension of a lower flap member to assist the container 12 and the balloon 10 to remain in an upstanding position. The flap shape may vary as needed in accordance with the principles of the present invention. In one embodiment, the lower flap of the container 12 can be folded backwards to act as a stand for holding the package 1 upright. This may be advantageous for recipients of the package 1 when it is mailed or delivered as well as the recipients in a commercial establishment as described below.
Referring now to FIG. 5, an embodiment of the present invention is shown where a user may write on the surface of the balloon 10 or place stickers 15 thereupon. In one embodiment, the balloon 10 may be coated with a material to provide a writable surface thereupon. It may be seen that the writing, drawing, and/or stickers 15 on the face of the balloon 10 will not be readily available and/or viewable by the recipient of the package 1 until the balloon 10 is inflated. The term “recipient” is used herein as referring to individual or individuals receiving and/or otherwise acquiring the package 1 for the purpose of balloon inflation and the subsequent/enjoyment use thereof. The recipient may, for example, be the addressee of a sender transmitting the package 1 to the recipient to serve as a greeting. Likewise, in another embodiment, the package 1 may be acquired by the recipient in a commercial establishment, such as a fast-food restaurant in a configuration that allows the restaurant to sell select foodstuffs therein prior to the inflation of the uninflated balloon 10 secured therein. This aspect will be described in more detail below.
Referring now to FIG. 6, an embodiment of the present invention is shown wherein a three-dimensional image may be seen wherein the balloon 10 comprises a combination of a front film 16 and a back film 17. The back film 17 may be opaque and have anaglyph images printed on an inside surface. The front film 16 may be at least partially transparent to allow light to enter and be reflected off the back film 17. In one embodiment, substantially all of the front film 16 is transparent and filtered glasses, for example, red/green filtered glasses, may be used to view the 3D image. The package 1 may include these glasses by enclosing them in the lower portion of the container 12. In an alternative embodiment, the filters, for example, red and green filters, are included in conjunction with the front film 16. As shown in FIG. 6, these filters could form viewing holes through which a user could view the anaglyph images on the back film 17. In this embodiment, a user looks into the balloon through corresponding eyes, which filter light from the back image 17 resulting in a perceived three-dimensional image.
Referring now to FIG. 7, an example is shown of a user looking through view holes on the balloon 10 to see a three-dimensional image. In the embodiment shown, a left view hole may have a red filter for viewing a red star and a right view hole may have a blue-green filter for viewing a blue-green star. The images of the stars are made up of two layers, superimposed, that are slightly offset. When viewed through the color-coded view holes, acting as anaglyph glasses, they reveal an integrated stereoscopic image of a star. Various combinations of colors are comtemplated including red and blue, red and green, and red and cyan. Additionally, various anaglyph images are contemplated such as one or more of a star, a message, a picture, a scene, etc.
Referring now to FIG. 8, a music cartridge 18 enclosed within the package 1 is shown. The music cartridge 18 is placed inside the container 12 and once activated, plays a recorded melody or message. Various embodiments of the music cartridge 18 are contemplated including containing an assortment of prerecorded melodies and/or being adapted so that a message can be recorded by a first person and played back by a second person. Additionally, several way of activating the music cartridge 18 are contemplated such as a push button or an on/off switch included on the outside of the container 12.
Referring now to FIG. 9, a light cartridge 19 enclosed within the package 1 is shown. In this embodiment, the balloon 10 may be constructed using a combination of transparent and opaque films to allow light transmission therethrough. Once activated, the light cartridge may light up the inside or outside of the balloon 10. The light cartridge 19 may be disposed within the balloon 10 for lighting up the inside of the balloon, or alternatively, the light cartridge 19 may be disposed outside the balloon 10. A plurality of ways of activating the light cartridge 19 are contemplated.
Referring now to FIG. 10, a balloon 10 being affixed to a backer 20 is shown. The balloon 10 is adhered to the backer 20 in order to allow a user to print a user-defined image on the balloon 10. A coating may be added to the outside of the balloon 10 to allow proper printing through a plurality of printers, such as a bubble-jet printer or an inkjet printer. The sides of the cardboard backer 20 may be folded down or removed to accommodate smaller printers or wider balloons. In this manner, the user may customize the balloon 10 and then install the balloon 10 into the container 12 as described above.
Referring now to FIG. 11, an example of the balloon 10 and the backer 20 being inserted into a printer is shown. After the balloon 10 has been printed on, the user can remove the balloon 10 from the backer 20 and assemble the package 1. The backer 20 may be of any type capable of being run through a printer including paper, plastic, cardboard, and cardstock. After an image has been printed on the balloon 10, a user may further modify the balloon using a marker or stickers.
Referring now to FIG. 12, an outer cover 21 is shown for use in conjunction with the container 12. Referring now to FIGS. 13, the outer cover 21 is shown attached to the top of the container 12. FIG. 14 shows a cutaway of a side view of the container 12 with the outer cover 21 attached. From this view, it may be seen that the balloon 10 extends from a top portion of the container 12 and is folded inside the outer cover 21. A user may remove the outer cover 21 and write a message on the balloon 10 before stuffing the balloon 10 into the container 12 and preparing the package 1 to be mailed to a recipient.
Referring now to FIG. 15, a method of folding the balloon 10 within the outer cover 21 is shown. This process may be carried out to prepare the package 1 for retail sale. The balloon 10 is in a deflated state and is laid flat extending from the top of the container 12. The sides of the balloon 12 are folded to a width smaller than the width of the outer cover 21. The folded balloon 10 is then placed upon the outer cover 21. The balloon 10 and outer cover 21 together are folded down and flaps of the outer cover 21 are sealed. In this manner, the balloon 10 is contained and protected within the outer cover 21.
The above described embodiments of the package 1 of the present invention can be seen to be particularly adapted for a user as well as a sender. The term “sender” is used herein to include both the person mailing and/or transmitting the package through the mails and/or delivery service as well as a sales person in a commercial establishment sending the package 1 to the recipient for subsequent use in conjunction with other items. For example, the sender in a fast-food restaurant could be the clerk who is providing the foodstuffs within the package 1 as described above. The package 1 may be configured for holding foodstuff items, such as french fries, outside the container 12 such as in a pouch portion thereagainst. The container 12 may be affixed to such a pouch, such as a french-fry pouch, or one side of the container could act as a side of the pouch for separating the foodstuff from the balloon 10. The container 12 may also be configured to enclose the foodstuff completely. In that embodiment, the container 12 may include a section separating foodstuffs stored in a lower portion from the uninflated balloon 10 stored in an upper portion. The size and shape of the package 1 may also vary in order to hold the quantity foodstuff items for purposes of effective sales and marketing and profitable remuneration relative to a program utilizing such novelty devices in association with the sale of other items.
An additional embodiment is also contemplated where the container 12 is formed of plastic, such as injection-molded plastic. In that way, an air channel may be formed as part of the container 12 wherein one end of the air channel is attached to an opening of the balloon 10 and an other end of the air channel is a valve for inflating the balloon. The uninflated balloon 10 may be stored in the container 12 and inflated to reveal a design or message according to the principles disclosed above. Additionally, a compartment for containing foodstuffs may also be affixed to the container 12.
Although various embodiments of the method and apparatus of the present invention have been illustrated in the accompanying Drawings and described in the foregoing Detailed Description, it will be understood that the invention is not limited to the embodiments described herein.