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United States Patent Application 20030010371
Kind Code A1
Langley, Kenneth L. January 16, 2003

Portable rain seat enclosure

Abstract

A portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure for protecting its occupant includes: (a) a seat assembly including a seat back and a seat bottom; (b) at least two matching, flexible, lightweight, looped frame members attached to two opposite sides of he seat assembly and extending in an upward direction from the seat bottom; and (c) a flexible, water-resistant fabric sheet supported by the frame members, the frame members being attached to or inserted in the fabric sheet, the fabric sheet comprising at least two side panels, a rear panel, and a front flap. A method for folding a portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure is also included herein.


Inventors: Langley, Kenneth L.; (Rock Hill, SC)
Correspondence Address:
    Dougherty Clements & Hofer
    6230 Fairview Road
    Suite 400
    Charlotte
    NC
    28210
    US
Serial No.: 906291
Series Code: 09
Filed: July 16, 2001

Current U.S. Class: 135/117; 135/120.1; 135/90
Class at Publication: 135/117; 135/120.1; 135/90
International Class: E04H 015/04; E04H 015/58; E04H 015/00; E04H 015/32


Claims



What is claimed is:

1. A portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure for protecting its occupant, the enclosure comprising: (a) a seat assembly comprised of a seat back and a seat bottom; (b) at least two matching, flexible, lightweight, looped frame members attached to two opposite sides of the seat assembly and extending in an upward direction from the seat bottom; and (c) a flexible water-resistant fabric sheet supported by the frame members, the frame members being attached to or inserted in the fabric sheet, the fabric sheet comprising at least two side panels, a rear panel, and a front flap.

2. A seat enclosure according to claim 1, wherein the front flap is coupled to the side panels by means of twin zippers on the opposite long side edges of the front flap.

3. A seat enclosure according to claim 2, wherein the seat bottom and seat back are square and are identical to one another.

4. A seat enclosure according to claim 1, wherein the fabric sheet is a polyvinyl chloride coated nylon blend fabric.

5. A seat enclosure according to claim 1, wherein the frame members are Fiberglass or graphite rods.

6. A seat enclosure according to claim 4, wherein a front edge of the seat bottom, and the seat back, hold carry straps.

7. A seat enclosure according to claim 1, in the form of a carry bag for transportation and storage.

8. A method of folding a free standing, pop-up rain seat enclosure, the enclosure comprising seat bottom connected at one end to a seat back, two opposite, vertically extending side panels, and a rear panel connecting the side panels and attached to the seat assembly, the method comprising the steps of: (a) folding the side panels in over the front of the rear panel, with one side panel over the other; (b) twisting the top and bottom portion of this folded enclosure in opposite directions into a FIG. 8 configuration; (c) folding the top portion of the folded enclosure down over the bottom portion, forming interleaved circular loops; (d) closing the seat bottom and seat back to meet one another; and (e) fastening the seat bottom to the seat back.

9. A method according to claim 8, wherein step (c) further comprises tucking in extra fabric after folding the top portion over the bottom portion.

10. A method according to claim 8, wherein the seat bottom is fastened to the seat back by means of corresponding strips of hook and loop along the front edges of the seat bottom and seat back.
Description



BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Technical Field

[0002] The present invention is a portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure for providing the occupant privacy or protection from inclement weather or insects, which forms a carry bag when folded. A method for folding the enclosure is also included.

[0003] 2. Background Information

[0004] Many audience members at outdoor sporting events are disappointed when they are rained out of their seats. Many attendees struggle with inadequate ponchos or obtrusive umbrellas. Similarly, hordes of mosquitoes can disrupt an outdoor sporting event, or wildlife observation in the woods. Some people do not like to don insect sprays, which are sometimes ineffective, nor do they enjoy insects flying in their faces while they are attempting to concentrate.

[0005] The portable seat enclosure of the present invention offers protection from inclement weather, such as rain showers, sun, and insects. This flexible, free-standing rain seat includes an inside padded seat assembly having a seat bottom and seat back; a vertically extending rear panel attached to and extending from the seat back; a vertically extending front flap sewn or otherwise attached at its upper end to the upper end of the rear panel; and two vertically extending opposite side panels attached to the two opposite sides of the rear panel. The front flap and rear panel are generally rectangular in shape, and the front panel extends longer than the rear panel, so that it can cover a user's legs. Each generally egg-shaped side panel is sewn at a back edge to a corresponding side edge of the rear panel, and is attached at a front edge by a two sided zipper to a corresponding side edge of the front flap. The panels are constructed of a water-resistant, lightweight, durable material, such as nylon, plastic, mesh, or the like. Structural integrity is provided by thin, tubular, flexible frame members sewn onto the side seams of the side panels. The seat bottom forms the floor of the rain seat enclosure.

[0006] The present enclosure preferably includes a spring mechanism so that the enclosure pops up like an umbrella when it is opened by a user. Several hook and loop straps are preferably used to enclose the packet when the enclosure is in a folded position for storage and ease of transport. When the straps are unfastened, the user guides the unfurling of the enclosure.

[0007] The seat enclosure of the present invention fits neatly into a structure suitable for use in a standard stadium sized seat when it is in an erect position, and the enclosure folds into a compact, lightweight carry bag configuration that is easy to carry up stadium stairs or bleachers. As a bonus, the enclosure includes a comfortable seat cushion and a seat back, and is quite easy for a user to deploy and fold up. A flexible strap or straps are preferably provided along the front edge of the seat bottom for carrying the enclosure when it is in a folded position. The enclosure is preferably made with at least one panel window so that the user, as well as people sitting behind the user, can see the game, race, parade, or other outdoor event. Ventilation is provided by a number of vents in the panels.

[0008] One, and preferably two, front zippers allow various degrees of coverage, according to the user's desires. When the zippers are zipped up, the front flap extends down over the legs of the user for almost complete coverage. The front flap of the enclosure can alternatively be flipped back over the top of the enclosure for an open front. Egress and ingress is provided through the front of the enclosure.

[0009] Unlike when one must hold an umbrella, a user's hands are free within the enclosure to read a sports program, use binoculars, eat, drink, etc. Prior to the present invention, an outdoor sport attendee holding an umbrella would not have both hands free. An adult can even hold a small child on his lap within the enclosure. The enclosure optionally includes side slots so that the user can extend his or her arms out to get a drink, for example. This enclosure provides protection from wind, rain, sun, cool temperatures, insects, etc.

[0010] With camouflage material, this seat enclosure can alternatively be used as a blind for hunting, fishing, bird watching, etc., with protection from insects, cool temperatures, and bad weather. With mesh covering, it can be used at the beach as a sun shield, particularly for a child or older person needing greater protection from the sun. It can be also used for camping or picnicking.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0011] The present invention is a portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure for protecting its occupant, including:

[0012] (a) a seat assembly comprised of a seat back and a seat bottom;

[0013] (b) at least two matching, flexible, lightweight, looped frame members attached to two opposite sides of the seat assembly and extending in an upward direction from the seat bottom; and

[0014] (c) a flexible, water-resistant fabric sheet supported by the frame members, the frame members being attached to or inserted in the fabric sheet, the fabric sheet comprising at least two side panels, a rear panel, and a front flap. A method for folding a portable, free-standing, pop-up seat enclosure is also included herein.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS

[0015] A more complete understanding of the invention and its advantages will be apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein examples of the invention are shown, and wherein:

[0016] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to the present invention, shown in an erect, closed position;

[0017] FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to the present invention, shown in an erect, open position;

[0018] FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a skeletal rain seat enclosure according to the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to FIG. 2, shown in a partially folded position;

[0020] FIG. 5 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to FIG. 2, shown in a partially folded position;

[0021] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to FIG. 2, shown in a further partially folded position; and

[0022] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a rain seat enclosure according to the present invention, shown in a storage position.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0023] In the following description, like reference characters designate like or corresponding parts throughout the several views. Also, in the following description, it is to be understood that such terms as "front," "back," "within," and the like are words of convenience and are not to be construed as limiting terms. Referring in more detail to the drawings, the invention will now be described.

[0024] Turning first to FIGS. 1 and 2, a seat enclosure according to the present invention, which is generally referred to as 10, includes:

[0025] (a) a seat assembly 11 comprised of a seat back 12 and a seat bottom 13;

[0026] (b) at least two matching, flexible, lightweight, looped frame members 14 attached to two opposite sides of the seat assembly 11 and extending in an upward direction from the seat bottom; and

[0027] (c) a flexible, water-resistant fabric sheet 15 attached to and supported by the frame members 14, the fabric sheet comprising a front flap 16.

[0028] As shown in FIG. 1, the enclosure 10, which is intended to protect a user against inclement weather, is a structurally self-contained unit that pops-up into an erect position ready for immediate use. Immediate use is desirable, so that the user does not get too wet when it rains, for example. One user can easily deploy the enclosure, normally within seconds. Deployment is not complicated, and the user can be of almost any age.

[0029] As shown in FIG. 1, a user sits inside the enclosure, face forward. With a long front flap, as shown, the enclosure covers all of the user except his feet. The enclosure 10 seats one or, in a pinch, two users. For example, an adult can sit in the enclosure facing forward with a child on his or her lap. It can be used, for example, in a stadium seat or on bleachers. The only portion of the erect enclosure that usually contacts the stadium seat is the bottom of the seat assembly.

[0030] As shown in FIG. 3, the enclosure's skeleton is provided by the two matching frame members 14, which are attached to the sides of the seat assembly 11. Each frame member forms a close loop. The looped frame member 14 may be an individual thin strip which is bent into a loop configuration. The ends of the individual strip are fastened by a clip or other fastening means, and hidden beneath the seat cover or within the seam. The frame member 14 is made of a metal or plastic, for example, that can be readily twisted or folded without breaking. For example, Fiberglass or graphite rods, or metal wire may be employed. The lower rear portion of each frame member 14 passes through a front side portion of the seat back. The frame member may either pass through a reinforcement strip 17 adhered to the front seat back, as shown in FIG. 3, or it may pass behind the seat back cover material. The frame member next passes out the lower end of the reinforcement strip 17 and next to the seat bottom 13 along its edge. The frame member may be sewn, clasped, or otherwise affixed to the seat assembly 11. Any suitable means of affixing the frame members to the seat assembly can alternatively be used. As shown in FIG. 3, the frame loops project forward beyond the front edge of the seat back. The egg-shaped frame loops are designed to support the enclosure 10 around a person sitting in the seat assembly 11, without impinging on neighboring stadium seats, yet providing optimal coverage to the user.

[0031] Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, the seat assembly 11 is designed to fit closely in a standard sized stadium seat. The embodiment shown comprises webbed side straps 19 for further maintaining the seat back in an upright position once the enclosure has been deployed. The seat bottom 13 has a carry handle 20 attached to its front edge 18 for carrying the enclosure once it has been folded up. At the center is a front hook and loop strip 21 for holding the enclosure in a closed position once it has been folded up. Hook and loop strips 22 may also be provided on top of the seat bottom 13 for attachment to corresponding hook and loop strips on the enclosure material. The seat assembly 11 is preferably padded and made of a durable, water-resistant material which can be cleaned. It may alternatively be one-piece, with a seat back portion and a seat bottom portion. The seat back may be connected to the seat bottom by tubular frame segments, or other means. The seat bottom and seat back are square and are identical to one another.

[0032] As seen in FIGS. 1 and 2, the flexible fabric sheet 15 covering the enclosure 10 is a flexible, durable, lightweight, water-resistant fabric that blocks sunlight, such as nylon, plastic, mylar, microfiber, or the like. A polyvinyl chloride (PVC) coated nylon blend that is resistant to ultraviolet light is preferred. The outside of the fabric may hold school or sports emblems, or advertising logos, for example. The outside of the fabric may have camouflage coloring, where the seat enclosure will be used as a blind for hunting, fishing, bird watching, etc., with protection from insects, cool temperatures, and bad weather. The fabric may be mesh or include mesh segments, where the seat enclosure will be used at the beach as a sun shield, particularly for a child or older person needing greater protection from the sun. The enclosure can be also used for camping or picnicking.

[0033] Continuing with FIGS. 1 and 2, the fabric may be one-layer (preferred) or made of two layers, or a plurality of individual sheets laminated together. The fabric sheet 15 preferably includes a vertically extending rear panel 23, two opposite, matching side panels 24, and the front flap 16. The upper end of the front flap 16 is sewn to the upper end of the rear panel 23, although they may be made of a single long, narrow, continuous piece of fabric. The lower end of the rear panel 23 is sewn or otherwise fastened to the top of the seat back 12. The fabric sheet 15 can extend around over the bottom face of the seat assembly 11, if desired.

[0034] As shown in FIG. 2, one frame member 14 extends through a hem along the edge of each side panel 24 Any other suitable means of attachment may be used for attaching a portion of the frame members to the side panels. The rear edges of the side panels 24 are sewn to the side edges of the rear panel 23, and the rear portion of the bottom edge of each side panel 24 is sewn to the edge of the seat bottom 13. The fabric sheet 15 is stretched across the two frame loops 14. The frame loops and the seat assembly 11 hold the waterproof fabric taut so that it does not cloy around the occupant as a poncho does when it rains. A front draped portion 25 of each side panel 24 hangs loosely down. A strip of hook and loop 26 is attached to each front portion of the side panels, facing outward, for removably binding the front draped portions 25 to one another behind the occupant's knees or legs once he is seated inside the enclosure 10. The front flap and rear panel are generally rectangular in shape, and the front flap 16 is longer than the rear panel 23, so that it can cover a user's legs, as shown in FIG. 1. Each side panel 24 optionally includes a side slot 27 so that the user can extend her hands or arms out to get a drink, grasp her child, hold her neighbor's hand, etc. Thus, the enclosure does not limit interaction with others. Ventilation is provided by a number of vents (not shown) in the panels.

[0035] As illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the preferred embodiment of the enclosure 10 has at least one transparent window 28 in the front flap 16, and side panels 24. The enclosure 10 may also have a window in the rear panel 23, so that the user, as well as people sitting behind the user, can see the game, race, parade, etc. The windows are positioned at the occupant's eye level.

[0036] As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the front flap 16 is coupled to the remainder of the enclosure by means of twin two-sided zippers 29 on the opposite long side edges of the front flap 16. It is also contemplated that other suitable means of openable closure, such as hook and loop strips, could replace these rust-proof zippers. Once the enclosure is erected, the occupant preferably flips the front panel back over the top of the enclosure in order to enter the enclosure. The occupant can sit in the enclosure with the front flap thrown back, as shown in FIG. 2. To fully close the enclosure 10, he pulls the front flap 16 down in front of him and pull both zipper pulls 30 down. The zippers 29 extend from an upper portion of the front flap 16 near the adult occupant's head down to approximately the knees of the occupant. If desired, he can then fasten corresponding hook and loop strips 31 on the lower sides of the front flap below the zippers 29 to tighten the enclosure around him. The occupant in FIG. 1 is shown sitting on bleachers 32 in the enclosure 10 in a fully closed position. Alternatively, the front flap 16 can be rolled up and held to the inside of the enclosure by two opposite small straps (not shown) with hook and loop strips. This makes it easier for the occupant to lower the flap.

[0037] Turning now to FIGS. 4 through 6, when the user is finished using the enclosure, he or she folds it into a storage position so that it will pop-up when it is next deployed. A preferred method for folding the enclosure 10 for storage, where the enclosure 10 comprises a seat bottom 13 connected to a seat back 12, two opposite, vertically extending side panels 24, and a rear panel 23 connecting the side panels 24 and attached to the seat assembly 11, includes the steps of:

[0038] (a) folding the side panels 24 in over the front of the rear panel 23, with one side panel 24 over the other, as shown in FIG. 4;

[0039] (b) twisting the top and bottom portions 33, 34 of this folded enclosure in opposite directions into a FIG. 8 configuration, as shown in FIG. 5;

[0040] (c) folding the top portion 33 of the folded enclosure down over the bottom portion 34, as shown in FIG. 6, forming interleaved circular loops;

[0041] (d) closing the seat bottom 13 and seat back 12 to meet one another; and

[0042] (e) fastening the seat bottom 13 to the seat back 12.

[0043] In the first step, the front flap 16 folds lengthwise when the side panels are folded over one another. The zippers 29 are preferably pulled down prior to beginning this folding process. It does not matter whether the left or right side panel 24 is folded on top. Since the seat bottom 13 is preferably not affixed to the frame members 14, the seat bottom dangles down slightly during the first few steps, which means that the top portion 33 can fit neatly into the seat assembly 11.

[0044] In the second step, twisting the top and bottom portions 33, 34 of the folded enclosure causes the two frame loops within the enclosure to likewise form FIG. 8 configurations. The user must firmly grip the folded enclosure 10 at this point or the side panels will spring back into an erect position.

[0045] In the third step, the top 35 of the top portion 33 is inserted into the juncture between the seat bottom 13 and the seat back 12. The step of tucking in any excess fabric optionally follows the third step.

[0046] As shown in FIG. 7, the enclosure folds into a carry bag for storage. In the fifth step, the seat bottom 13 is preferably fastened to the seat back 12 by means of corresponding strips of hook and loop 21 along the front edges of the seat bottom and seat back. The front edge 18 of the seat bottom, and the seat back, preferably hold carry straps 20, so that a carry bag is formed. The carry bag can resemble a briefcase, as shown in FIG. 7, tote bag, backpack, etc. The user can easily carry the bag, which is relatively soft and durable, by its handles 20 to the outdoor event and can then use it as a cushion. The user may, for example, sit on the bag until it starts raining, or another adverse condition is faced, such as mosquitoes, too much sun, or a chill wind. The user may then open the bag, thereby deploying the enclosure. To deploy the enclosure 10, the user simply releases the fastening strap (hook and loop strip 21) and assists the frame members 14 to their erect position.

[0047] The enclosure can be used as a deer blind, an enclosure for bird watching, etc. The enclosure can also be used just for privacy, e.g., for breast feeding a baby, or as a wall between the user and an annoying seat mate, or as a semi-sheltered, temporary location for one's belongings, particularly where the transparent windows are small or extra flaps of material are provided inside the windows to cover the windows when desired. However, although the enclosure 10 affords some visual concealment, it does not afford much protection against theft.

[0048] From the foregoing it can be realized that the described device of the present invention may be easily and conveniently utilized as a seat enclosure. It is to be understood that any dimensions given herein are illustrative, and are not meant to be limiting.

[0049] While preferred embodiments of the invention have been described using specific terms, this description is for illustrative purposes only. It will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that various modifications, substitutions, omissions, and changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention, and that such are intended to be within the scope of the present invention as defined by the following claims. It is intended that the doctrine of equivalents be relied upon to determine the fair scope of these claims in connection with any other person's product which fall outside the literal wording of these claims, but which in reality do not materially depart from this invention.

[0050] Without further analysis, the foregoing will so fully reveal the gist of the present invention that others can, by applying current knowledge, readily adapt it for various applications without omitting features that, from the standpoint of prior art, fairly constitute essential characteristics of the generic or specific aspects of this invention.

BRIEF LIST OF REFERENCE NUMBERS USED IN THE DRAWINGS

[0051] 10 seat enclosure

[0052] 11 seat assembly

[0053] 12 seat back

[0054] 13 seat bottom

[0055] 14 looped frame members

[0056] 15 flexible fabric sheet

[0057] 16 front flap

[0058] 17 reinforcement strip

[0059] 18 front edge of seat bottom

[0060] 19 webbed side strap

[0061] 20 carry handle

[0062] 21 front hook and loop strip

[0063] 22 seat hook and loop strip

[0064] 23 rearpanel

[0065] 24 side panel

[0066] 25 front portion of the side panel

[0067] 26 hook and loop strips on side panel

[0068] 27 side slot

[0069] 28 window

[0070] 29 zipper

[0071] 30 zipper pull

[0072] 31 hook and lop strip on front flap

[0073] 32 bleachers

[0074] 33 top portion o folded enclosure

[0075] 34 bottom portion of folded enclosure

[0076] 35 top of top portion

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