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United States Patent Application 20170231440
Kind Code A1
Adams; Beverley P. ;   et al. August 17, 2017

SHIELDING DEVICE

Abstract

A shielding device for covering an opening of a toilet bowl that contains a liquid. The shielding device helps inhibit backsplash from the liquid when an object is exuded into the liquid, and also helps to at least partially inhibit contact between a user and the sides, the inner peripheral region, and the outer peripheral region of the toilet bowl. The device is effective for creating sanitary conditions when a user is sitting or standing over the opening of the toilet bowl.


Inventors: Adams; Beverley P.; (Elk Grove, CA) ; Watkins; Jamal C.; (Cape Coral, FL)
Applicant:
Name City State Country Type

Adams; Beverley P.
Watkins; Jamal C.

Elk Grove
Cape Coral

CA
FL

US
US
Family ID: 1000001988859
Appl. No.: 15/045928
Filed: February 17, 2016


Current U.S. Class: 1/1
Current CPC Class: A47K 13/16 20130101
International Class: A47K 13/16 20060101 A47K013/16

Claims



1. A device consisting essentially of: a disposable resilient panel being configured to fit over an opening of a toilet bowl, wherein said resilient panel being operable to at least protect a user's genitalia from contact with a backsplash of toilet liquid contents due to an exuded object when urinating or defecating; a mount surface, wherein said mount surface being configured to at least engage a perimeter region and sides of the toilet bowl; a peripheral portion, in which said peripheral portion comprises a seat cover being configured to at least overlay a perimeter of the toilet bowl, wherein the perimeter of the toilet bowl is at least partially covered by said peripheral portion, and in which said peripheral portion further comprises at least a front apron being configured to shield a user's leg from touching the outer surface of the toilet bowl, wherein said front apron is operable to fold over the rim of the toilet bowl opening and fall close to the ground surface; an aperture portion, wherein said aperture portion being disposed concentrically to the peripheral portion, in which said aperture portion is being operable to align with the opening of the toilet bowl and to allow passage of the exuded object; and a shield portion, wherein said shield portion being configured to extend from proximate opposite ends of the peripheral portion, and wherein said shield portion traverses said aperture portion, in which a support surface of the shield portion is configured to be operable to break a force from the exuded object, thereby, prevent said backsplash of toilet liquid contents.

2. The shielding device of claim 1, said shield portion is configured to break away from at least one of proximate ends of the peripheral portion after a predetermined weight of the exuded object has been exceeded.

3. A shielding device consisting essentially of: a flushable resilient panel being operable to protect a user's genitalia from contact with a backsplash of toilet liquid contents due to an exuded object when urinating or defecating; a mount surface, wherein the mount surface being operable to engage a peripheral section of an opening element; a peripheral portion, in which said peripheral portion comprises at least a seat cover being operable to overlay a perimeter of the opening element, and in which said peripheral portion further comprises at least a front apron being configured to shield a user's leg from touching the outer surface of the toilet bowl, wherein said front apron is operable to fold over the rim of the toilet bowl opening and fall close to the ground surface; an aperture portion, wherein the aperture portion being disposed concentrically to the peripheral portion, in which said aperture portion is being operable to align with the opening element and to allow passage of the exuded object; and a shield portion, wherein said shield portion being configured to extend from proximate opposite ends of the peripheral portion, and wherein said shield portion being further configured to traverse said aperture portion, in which a support surface of the shield portion is configured to be operable to break a force from the exuded object, thereby, prevent the backsplash of toilet liquid contents.

4. The shielding device of claim 3, in which said opening element comprises at least an opening section of a toilet bowl.

5. The shielding device of claim 4, in which said exuded object comprises at least feces, urine, or bodily fluids that are exuded by a user into a liquid of the toilet bowl.

6. The shielding device of claim 5, in which said shield portion is configured to break a force from the exuded object, to at least partially prevent a backsplash from the liquid.

7. The shielding device of claim 6, in which said shield portion is configured to break away from the peripheral portion after a predetermined weight of the exuded object has been exceeded.

8. The shielding device of claim 4, in which said mount surface being further operable to engage an inner peripheral section and an outer peripheral section of said toilet bowl.

9. The shielding device of claim 4, in which said mount surface comprises at least an adhesive being configured to form a secure placement over the toilet bowl.

10. The shielding device of claim 4, in which said peripheral portion being further operable to at least partially cover a perimeter, an inner rim, and an outer rim of the toilet bowl.

11. The shielding device of claim 4, in which said the peripheral portion being further operable to be disposed over a rim of the toilet bowl opening and fall close to a ground surface.

12. The shielding device of claim 3, in which said peripheral portion is approximately elongated, being operable to be disposed over an approximately oval toilet bowl.

13. The shielding device of claim 3, in which said shield portion comprises a front end, wherein said front end being operable to be disposed proximate to a genitalia of a user.

14. The shielding device of claim 13, in which said shield portion comprises a rear portion, said rear portion being operable to be disposed proximate to a buttocks of the user.

15. The shielding device of claim 3, in which said shield portion is approximately elongated and substantially extends from proximate opposite ends of the peripheral portion, traversing the aperture.

16. The shielding device of claim 14, in which said shield portion is operable to break away from the peripheral portion after a predetermined weight of the exuded object has been exceeded.

17. The shielding device of claim 3, in which said shielding device is configured to at least partially inhibit contact between a user of a toilet bowl and a side, an inner peripheral region, and an outer peripheral region of said toilet bowl.

18. A device consisting essentially of: means for protecting a user's genitalia from contact with a backsplash of toilet liquid contents due to an exuded object when urinating or defecating; means for engaging a peripheral section of the toilet bowl; means for overlaying a perimeter of the toilet bowl; means for shielding a user's leg from touching the outer surface of the toilet bowl; means for allowing passage of said exuded object; and means for breaking a force from an exuded object, said breaking means being configured to be operable to prevent said backsplash of toilet liquid contents, said breaking means being configured to extend from proximate opposite ends of said overlaying means.

19. The shielding device of claim 18, said means for breaking a force from an exuded object is configured to break away from said overlaying means after a predetermined weight of the exuded object has been exceeded.

20. The shielding device of claim 18, in which said engaging means comprises at least means for forming a secure placement of said protecting means over the toilet bowl.
Description



CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] Not applicable.

RELATED CO-PENDING U.S. PATENT APPLICATIONS

[0002] Not applicable.

FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

[0003] Not applicable.

REFERENCE TO SEQUENCE LISTING, A TABLE, OR A COMPUTER LISTING APPENDIX

[0004] Not applicable.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE

[0005] A portion of the disclosure of this patent document contains material that is subject to copyright protection by the author thereof. The copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent document or patent disclosure for the purposes of referencing as patent prior art, as it appears in the Patent and Trademark Office, patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0006] One or more embodiments of the invention generally relate to a shielding device. More particularly, the invention relates to a shielding device that at least partially covers an opening containing a liquid to help inhibit backsplash from the liquid when an object is exuded into the liquid, and also inhibits contact with an inner peripheral region and an outer peripheral region of the opening.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0007] The following background information may present examples of specific aspects of the prior art (e.g., without limitation, approaches, facts, or common wisdom) that, while expected to be helpful to further educate the reader as to additional aspects of the prior art, is not to be construed as limiting the present invention, or any embodiments thereof, to anything stated or implied therein or inferred thereupon.

[0008] The following is an example of a specific aspect in the prior art that, while expected to be helpful to further educate the reader as to additional aspects of the prior art, is not to be construed as limiting the present invention, or any embodiments thereof, to anything stated or implied therein or inferred thereupon. By way of educational background, another aspect of the prior art generally useful to be aware of is that

[0009] Typically, a toilet bowl is a sanitation plumbing fixture used for the disposal of human feces, urine and bodily fluids. The toilet bowl is often found in a bathroom. The toilet bowl can be designed for people who prefer to sit or for people who prefer to squat and use a squat toilet. The toilet bowl operatively connects to a sewer and water treatment facility.

[0010] It is known that toilet bowls are an important element of a sanitation system. By flushing away the feces and urine, potential disease are inhibited. Thus, diseases, including cholera can be largely prevented when effective sanitation and water treatment prevents fecal matter from contaminating waterways, groundwater, and drinking water supplies.

[0011] Often, toilet bowls are filled with water to a water level. The water carries away the feces and urine when the toilet bowl is flushed. The water is potentially insanitary due to its contact with the waste. Further, backsplash from the toilet bowl often contacts the user of the toilet bowl.

[0012] In view of the foregoing, it is clear that these traditional techniques are not perfect and leave room for more optimal approaches.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] The present invention is illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings and in which like reference numerals refer to similar elements and in which:

[0014] FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective frontal view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0015] FIG. 2 illustrates a top view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0016] FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0017] FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl and illustrating an exemplary mount surface, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0018] FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;

[0019] FIG. 6 illustrates a perspective bottom view of an exemplary shielding device, illustrating the mount surface in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention; and

[0020] FIG. 7 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary Turkish toilet, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

[0021] Unless otherwise indicated illustrations in the figures are not necessarily drawn to scale.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF SOME EMBODIMENTS

[0022] The present invention is best understood by reference to the detailed figures and description set forth herein.

[0023] Embodiments of the invention are discussed below with reference to the Figures. However, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the detailed description given herein with respect to these figures is for explanatory purposes as the invention extends beyond these limited embodiments. For example, it should be appreciated that those skilled in the art will, in light of the teachings of the present invention, recognize a multiplicity of alternate and suitable approaches, depending upon the needs of the particular application, to implement the functionality of any given detail described herein, beyond the particular implementation choices in the following embodiments described and shown. That is, there are modifications and variations of the invention that are too numerous to be listed but that all fit within the scope of the invention. Also, singular words should be read as plural and vice versa and masculine as feminine and vice versa, where appropriate, and alternative embodiments do not necessarily imply that the two are mutually exclusive.

[0024] It is to be further understood that the present invention is not limited to the particular methodology, compounds, materials, manufacturing techniques, uses, and applications, described herein, as these may vary. It is also to be understood that the terminology used herein is used for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention. It must be noted that as used herein and in the appended claims, the singular forms "a," "an," and "the" include the plural reference unless the context clearly dictates otherwise. Thus, for example, a reference to "an element" is a reference to one or more elements and includes equivalents thereof known to those skilled in the art. Similarly, for another example, a reference to "a step" or "a means" is a reference to one or more steps or means and may include sub-steps and subservient means. All conjunctions used are to be understood in the most inclusive sense possible. Thus, the word "or" should be understood as having the definition of a logical "or" rather than that of a logical "exclusive or" unless the context clearly necessitates otherwise. Structures described herein are to be understood also to refer to functional equivalents of such structures. Language that may be construed to express approximation should be so understood unless the context clearly dictates otherwise.

[0025] All words of approximation as used in the present disclosure and claims should be construed to mean "approximate," rather than "perfect," and may accordingly be employed as a meaningful modifier to any other word, specified parameter, quantity, quality, or concept. Words of approximation, include, yet are not limited to terms such as "substantial", "nearly", "almost", "about", "generally", "largely", "essentially", "closely approximate", etc.

[0026] As will be established in some detail below, is well settle law, as early as 1939, that words of approximation are not indefinite in the claims even when such limits are not defined or specified in the specification.

[0027] For example, see Ex parte Mallory, 52 USPQ 297, 297 (Pat. Off. Bd. App. 1941) where the court said "The examiner has held that most of the claims are inaccurate because apparently the laminar film will not be entirely eliminated. The claims specify that the film is "substantially" eliminated and for the intended purpose, it is believed that the slight portion of the film which may remain is negligible. We are of the view, therefore, that the claims may be regarded as sufficiently accurate."

[0028] Note that claims need only "reasonably apprise those skilled in the art" as to their scope to satisfy the definiteness requirement. See Energy Absorption Sys., Inc. v. Roadway Safety Servs., Inc., Civ. App. 96-1264, slip op. at 10 (Fed. Cir. Jul. 3, 1997) (unpublished) Hybridtech v. Monoclonal Antibodies, Inc., 802 F.2d 1367, 1385, 231 USPQ 81, 94 (Fed. Cir. 1986), cert. denied, 480 U.S. 947 (1987). In addition, the use of modifiers in the claim, like "generally" and "substantial," does not by itself render the claims indefinite. See Seattle Box Co. v. Industrial Crating & Packing, Inc., 731 F.2d 818, 828-29, 221 USPQ 568, 575-76 (Fed. Cir. 1984).

[0029] Moreover, the ordinary and customary meaning of terms like "substantially" includes "reasonably close to: nearly, almost, about", connoting a term of approximation. See In re Frye, Appeal No. 2009-006013, 94 USPQ2d 1072, 1077, 2010 WL 889747 (B.P.A.I. 2010) Depending on its usage, the word "substantially" can denote either language of approximation or language of magnitude. Deering Precision Instruments, L.L.C. v. Vector Distribution Sys., Inc., 347 F.3d 1314, 1323 (Fed. Cir. 2003) (recognizing the "dual ordinary meaning of th[e] term ["substantially"] as connoting a term of approximation or a term of magnitude"). Here, when referring to the "substantially halfway" limitation, the Specification uses the word "approximately" as a substitute for the word "substantially" (Fact 4). (Fact 4). The ordinary meaning of "substantially halfway" is thus reasonably close to or nearly at the midpoint between the forwardmost point of the upper or outsole and the rearwardmost point of the upper or outsole.

[0030] Similarly, term `substantially` is well recognize in case law to have the dual ordinary meaning of connoting a term of approximation or a term of magnitude. See Dana Corp. v. American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc., Civ. App. 04-1116, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 18265, *13-14 (Fed. Cir. Aug. 27, 2004) (unpublished). The term "substantially" is commonly used by claim drafters to indicate approximation. See Cordis Corp. v. Medtronic AVE Inc., 339 F.3d 1352, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2003) ("The patents do not set out any numerical standard by which to determine whether the thickness of the wall surface is `substantially uniform.` The term `substantially,` as used in this context, denotes approximation. Thus, the walls must be of largely or approximately uniform thickness."); see also Deering Precision Instruments, LLC v. Vector Distribution Sys., Inc., 347 F.3d 1314, 1322 (Fed. Cir. 2003); Epcon Gas Sys., Inc. v. Bauer Compressors, Inc., 279 F.3d 1022, 1031 (Fed. Cir. 2002). We find that the term "substantially" was used in just such a manner in the claims of the patents-in-suit: "substantially uniform wall thickness" denotes a wall thickness with approximate uniformity.

[0031] It should also be noted that such words of approximation as contemplated in the foregoing clearly limits the scope of claims such as saying `generally parallel` such that the adverb `generally` does not broaden the meaning of parallel. Accordingly, it is well settled that such words of approximation as contemplated in the foregoing (e.g., like the phrase `generally parallel`) envisions some amount of deviation from perfection (e.g., not exactly parallel), and that such words of approximation as contemplated in the foregoing are descriptive terms commonly used in patent claims to avoid a strict numerical boundary to the specified parameter. To the extent that the plain language of the claims relying on such words of approximation as contemplated in the foregoing are clear and uncontradicted by anything in the written description herein or the figures thereof, it is improper to rely upon the present written description, the figures, or the prosecution history to add limitations to any of the claim of the present invention with respect to such words of approximation as contemplated in the foregoing. That is, under such circumstances, relying on the written description and prosecution history to reject the ordinary and customary meanings of the words themselves is impermissible. See, for example, Liquid Dynamics Corp. v. Vaughan Co., 355 F.3d 1361, 69 USPQ2d 1595, 1600-01 (Fed. Cir. 2004). The plain language of phrase 2 requires a "substantial helical flow." The term "substantial" is a meaningful modifier implying "approximate," rather than "perfect." In Cordis Corp. v. Medtronic AVE, Inc., 339 F.3d 1352, 1361 (Fed. Cir. 2003), the district court imposed a precise numeric constraint on the term "substantially uniform thickness." We noted that the proper interpretation of this term was "of largely or approximately uniform thickness" unless something in the prosecution history imposed the "clear and unmistakable disclaimer" needed for narrowing beyond this simple-language interpretation. Id. In Anchor Wall Systems v. Rockwood Retaining Walls, Inc., 340 F.3d 1298, 1311 (Fed. Cir. 2003)" Id. at 1311. Similarly, the plain language of claim 1 requires neither a perfectly helical flow nor a flow that returns precisely to the center after one rotation (a limitation that arises only as a logical consequence of requiring a perfectly helical flow).

[0032] The reader should appreciate that case law generally recognizes a dual ordinary meaning of such words of approximation, as contemplated in the foregoing, as connoting a term of approximation or a term of magnitude; e.g., see Deering Precision Instruments, L.L.C. v. Vector Distrib. Sys., Inc., 347 F.3d 1314, 68 USPQ2d 1716, 1721 (Fed. Cir. 2003), cert. denied, 124 S. Ct. 1426 (2004) where the court was asked to construe the meaning of the term "substantially" in a patent claim. Also see Epcon, 279 F.3d at 1031 ("The phrase `substantially constant` denotes language of approximation, while the phrase `substantially below` signifies language of magnitude, i.e., not insubstantial."). Also, see, e.g., Epcon Gas Sys., Inc. v. Bauer Compressors, Inc., 279 F.3d 1022 (Fed. Cir. 2002) (construing the terms "substantially constant" and "substantially below"); Zodiac Pool Care, Inc. v. Hoffinger Indus., Inc., 206 F.3d 1408 (Fed. Cir. 2000) (construing the term "substantially inward"); York Prods., Inc. v. Cent. Tractor Farm & Family Ctr., 99 F.3d 1568 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (construing the term "substantially the entire height thereof"); Tex. Instruments Inc. v. Cypress Semiconductor Corp., 90 F.3d 1558 (Fed. Cir. 1996) (construing the term "substantially in the common plane"). In conducting their analysis, the court instructed to begin with the ordinary meaning of the claim terms to one of ordinary skill in the art. Prima Tek, 318 F.3d at 1148. Reference to dictionaries and our cases indicates that the term "substantially" has numerous ordinary meanings. As the district court stated, "substantially" can mean "significantly" or "considerably." The term "substantially" can also mean "largely" or "essentially." Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary 1817 (1983).

[0033] Words of approximation, as contemplated in the foregoing, may also be used in phrases establishing approximate ranges or limits, where the end points are inclusive and approximate, not perfect; e.g., see AK Steel Corp. v. Sollac, 344 F.3d 1234, 68 USPQ2d 1280, 1285 (Fed. Cir. 2003) where it where the court said [W]e conclude that the ordinary meaning of the phrase "up to about 10%" includes the "about 10%" endpoint. As pointed out by AK Steel, when an object of the preposition "up to" is nonnumeric, the most natural meaning is to exclude the object (e.g., painting the wall up to the door). On the other hand, as pointed out by Sollac, when the object is a numerical limit, the normal meaning is to include that upper numerical limit (e.g., counting up to ten, seating capacity for up to seven passengers). Because we have here a numerical limit--"about 10%"--the ordinary meaning is that that endpoint is included.

[0034] In the present specification and claims, a goal of employment of such words of approximation, as contemplated in the foregoing, is to avoid a strict numerical boundary to the modified specified parameter, as sanctioned by Pall Corp. v. Micron Separations, Inc., 66 F.3d 1211, 1217, 36 USPQ2d 1225, 1229 (Fed. Cir. 1995) where it states "It is well established that when the term "substantially" serves reasonably to describe the subject matter so that its scope would be understood by persons in the field of the invention, and to distinguish the claimed subject matter from the prior art, it is not indefinite." Likewise see Verve LLC v. Crane Cams Inc., 311 F.3d 1116, 65 USPQ2d 1051, 1054 (Fed. Cir. 2002). Expressions such as "substantially" are used in patent documents when warranted by the nature of the invention, in order to accommodate the minor variations that may be appropriate to secure the invention. Such usage may well satisfy the charge to "particularly point out and distinctly claim" the invention, 35 U.S.C. .sctn.112, and indeed may be necessary in order to provide the inventor with the benefit of his invention. In Andrew Corp. v. Gabriel Elecs. Inc., 847 F.2d 819, 821-22, 6 USPQ2d 2010, 2013 (Fed. Cir. 1988) the court explained that usages such as "substantially equal" and "closely approximate" may serve to describe the invention with precision appropriate to the technology and without intruding on the prior art. The court again explained in Ecolab Inc. v. Envirochem, Inc., 264 F.3d 1358, 1367, 60 USPQ2d 1173, 1179 (Fed. Cir. 2001) that "like the term `about,` the term `substantially` is a descriptive term commonly used in patent claims to `avoid a strict numerical boundary to the specified parameter, see Ecolab Inc. v. Envirochem Inc., 264 F.3d 1358, 60 USPQ2d 1173, 1179 (Fed. Cir. 2001) where the court found that the use of the term "substantially" to modify the term "uniform" does not render this phrase so unclear such that there is no means by which to ascertain the claim scope.

[0035] Similarly, other courts have noted that like the term "about," the term "substantially" is a descriptive term commonly used in patent claims to "avoid a strict numerical boundary to the specified parameter."; e.g., see Pall Corp. v. Micron Seps., 66 F.3d 1211, 1217, 36 USPQ2d 1225, 1229 (Fed. Cir. 1995); see, e.g., Andrew Corp. v. Gabriel Elecs. Inc., 847 F.2d 819, 821-22, 6 USPQ2d 2010, 2013 (Fed. Cir. 1988) (noting that terms such as "approach each other," "close to," "substantially equal," and "closely approximate" are ubiquitously used in patent claims and that such usages, when serving reasonably to describe the claimed subject matter to those of skill in the field of the invention, and to distinguish the claimed subject matter from the prior art, have been accepted in patent examination and upheld by the courts). In this case, "substantially" avoids the strict 100% nonuniformity boundary.

[0036] Indeed, the foregoing sanctioning of such words of approximation, as contemplated in the foregoing, has been established as early as 1939, see Ex parte Mallory, 52 USPQ 297, 297 (Pat. Off. Bd. App. 1941) where, for example, the court said "the claims specify that the film is "substantially" eliminated and for the intended purpose, it is believed that the slight portion of the film which may remain is negligible. We are of the view, therefore, that the claims may be regarded as sufficiently accurate." Similarly, In re Hutchison, 104 F.2d 829, 42 USPQ 90, 93 (C.C.P.A. 1939) the court said "It is realized that "substantial distance" is a relative and somewhat indefinite term, or phrase, but terms and phrases of this character are not uncommon in patents in cases where, according to the art involved, the meaning can be determined with reasonable clearness."

[0037] Hence, for at least the forgoing reason, Applicants submit that it is improper for any examiner to hold as indefinite any claims of the present patent that employ any words of approximation.

[0038] Unless defined otherwise, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meanings as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. Preferred methods, techniques, devices, and materials are described, although any methods, techniques, devices, or materials similar or equivalent to those described herein may be used in the practice or testing of the present invention. Structures described herein are to be understood also to refer to functional equivalents of such structures. The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to embodiments thereof as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

[0039] From reading the present disclosure, other variations and modifications will be apparent to persons skilled in the art. Such variations and modifications may involve equivalent and other features which are already known in the art, and which may be used instead of or in addition to features already described herein.

[0040] Although Claims have been formulated in this Application to particular combinations of features, it should be understood that the scope of the disclosure of the present invention also includes any novel feature or any novel combination of features disclosed herein either explicitly or implicitly or any generalization thereof, whether or not it relates to the same invention as presently claimed in any Claim and whether or not it mitigates any or all of the same technical problems as does the present invention.

[0041] Features which are described in the context of separate embodiments may also be provided in combination in a single embodiment. Conversely, various features which are, for brevity, described in the context of a single embodiment, may also be provided separately or in any suitable subcombination. The Applicants hereby give notice that new Claims may be formulated to such features and/or combinations of such features during the prosecution of the present Application or of any further Application derived therefrom.

[0042] References to "one embodiment," "an embodiment," "example embodiment," "various embodiments," "some embodiments," "embodiments of the invention," etc., may indicate that the embodiment(s) of the invention so described may include a particular feature, structure, or characteristic, but not every possible embodiment of the invention necessarily includes the particular feature, structure, or characteristic. Further, repeated use of the phrase "in one embodiment," or "in an exemplary embodiment," "an embodiment," do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment, although they may. Moreover, any use of phrases like "embodiments" in connection with "the invention" are never meant to characterize that all embodiments of the invention must include the particular feature, structure, or characteristic, and should instead be understood to mean "at least some embodiments of the invention" includes the stated particular feature, structure, or characteristic.

[0043] References to "user", or any similar term, as used herein, may mean a human or non-human user thereof. Moreover, "user", or any similar term, as used herein, unless expressly stipulated otherwise, is contemplated to mean users at any stage of the usage process, to include, without limitation, direct user(s), intermediate user(s), indirect user(s), and end user(s). The meaning of "user", or any similar term, as used herein, should not be otherwise inferred or induced by any pattern(s) of description, embodiments, examples, or referenced prior-art that may (or may not) be provided in the present patent.

[0044] References to "end user", or any similar term, as used herein, is generally intended to mean late stage user(s) as opposed to early stage user(s). Hence, it is contemplated that there may be a multiplicity of different types of "end user" near the end stage of the usage process. Where applicable, especially with respect to distribution channels of embodiments of the invention comprising consumed retail products/services thereof (as opposed to sellers/vendors or Original Equipment Manufacturers), examples of an "end user" may include, without limitation, a "consumer", "buyer", "customer", "purchaser", "shopper", "enjoyer", "viewer", or individual person or non-human thing benefiting in any way, directly or indirectly, from use of, or interaction, with some aspect of the present invention.

[0045] In some situations, some embodiments of the present invention may provide beneficial usage to more than one stage or type of usage in the foregoing usage process. In such cases where multiple embodiments targeting various stages of the usage process are described, references to "end user", or any similar term, as used therein, are generally intended to not include the user that is the furthest removed, in the foregoing usage process, from the final user therein of an embodiment of the present invention.

[0046] Where applicable, especially with respect to retail distribution channels of embodiments of the invention, intermediate user(s) may include, without limitation, any individual person or non-human thing benefiting in any way, directly or indirectly, from use of, or interaction with, some aspect of the present invention with respect to selling, vending, Original Equipment Manufacturing, marketing, merchandising, distributing, service providing, and the like thereof.

[0047] References to "person", "individual", "human", "a party", "animal", "creature", or any similar term, as used herein, even if the context or particular embodiment implies living user, maker, or participant, it should be understood that such characterizations are sole by way of example, and not limitation, in that it is contemplated that any such usage, making, or participation by a living entity in connection with making, using, and/or participating, in any way, with embodiments of the present invention may be substituted by such similar performed by a suitably configured non-living entity, to include, without limitation, automated machines, robots, humanoids, computational systems, information processing systems, artificially intelligent systems, and the like. It is further contemplated that those skilled in the art will readily recognize the practical situations where such living makers, users, and/or participants with embodiments of the present invention may be in whole, or in part, replaced with such non-living makers, users, and/or participants with embodiments of the present invention. Likewise, when those skilled in the art identify such practical situations where such living makers, users, and/or participants with embodiments of the present invention may be in whole, or in part, replaced with such non-living makers, it will be readily apparent in light of the teachings of the present invention how to adapt the described embodiments to be suitable for such non-living makers, users, and/or participants with embodiments of the present invention. Thus, the invention is thus to also cover all such modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of such adaptations and modifications, at least in part, for such non-living entities.

[0048] Headings provided herein are for convenience and are not to be taken as limiting the disclosure in any way.

[0049] The enumerated listing of items does not imply that any or all of the items are mutually exclusive, unless expressly specified otherwise.

[0050] It is understood that the use of specific component, device and/or parameter names are for example only and not meant to imply any limitations on the invention. The invention may thus be implemented with different nomenclature/terminology utilized to describe the mechanisms/units/structures/components/devices/parameters herein, without limitation. Each term utilized herein is to be given its broadest interpretation given the context in which that term is utilized.

[0051] Terminology. The following paragraphs provide definitions and/or context for terms found in this disclosure (including the appended claims):

[0052] "Comprising." This term is open-ended. As used in the appended claims, this term does not foreclose additional structure or steps. Consider a claim that recites: "A memory controller comprising a system cache . . . " Such a claim does not foreclose the memory controller from including additional components (e.g., a memory channel unit, a switch).

[0053] "Configured To." Various units, circuits, or other components may be described or claimed as "configured to" perform a task or tasks. In such contexts, "configured to" or "operable for" is used to connote structure by indicating that the mechanisms/units/circuits/components include structure (e.g., circuitry and/or mechanisms) that performs the task or tasks during operation. As such, the mechanisms/unit/circuit/component can be said to be configured to (or be operable) for perform(ing) the task even when the specified mechanisms/unit/circuit/component is not currently operational (e.g., is not on). The mechanisms/units/circuits/components used with the "configured to" or "operable for" language include hardware--for example, mechanisms, structures, electronics, circuits, memory storing program instructions executable to implement the operation, etc. Reciting that a mechanism/unit/circuit/component is "configured to" or "operable for" perform(ing) one or more tasks is expressly intended not to invoke 35 U.S.C. sctn.112, sixth paragraph, for that mechanism/unit/circuit/component. "Configured to" may also include adapting a manufacturing process to fabricate devices or components that are adapted to implement or perform one or more tasks.

[0054] "Based On." As used herein, this term is used to describe one or more factors that affect a determination. This term does not foreclose additional factors that may affect a determination. That is, a determination may be solely based on those factors or based, at least in part, on those factors. Consider the phrase "determine A based on B." While B may be a factor that affects the determination of A, such a phrase does not foreclose the determination of A from also being based on C. In other instances, A may be determined based solely on B.

[0055] The terms "a", "an" and "the" mean "one or more", unless expressly specified otherwise.

[0056] Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing conditions, concentrations, dimensions, and so forth used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term "about." Accordingly, unless indicated to the contrary, the numerical parameters set forth in the following specification and attached claims are approximations that may vary depending at least upon a specific analytical technique.

[0057] The term "comprising," which is synonymous with "including," "containing," or "characterized by" is inclusive or open-ended and does not exclude additional, unrecited elements or method steps. "Comprising" is a term of art used in claim language which means that the named claim elements are essential, but other claim elements may be added and still form a construct within the scope of the claim.

[0058] As used herein, the phase "consisting of" excludes any element, step, or ingredient not specified in the claim. When the phrase "consists of" (or variations thereof) appears in a clause of the body of a claim, rather than immediately following the preamble, it limits only the element set forth in that clause; other elements are not excluded from the claim as a whole. As used herein, the phase "consisting essentially of" limits the scope of a claim to the specified elements or method steps, plus those that do not materially affect the basis and novel characteristic(s) of the claimed subject matter.

[0059] With respect to the terms "comprising," "consisting of," and "consisting essentially of," where one of these three terms is used herein, the presently disclosed and claimed subject matter may include the use of either of the other two terms. Thus in some embodiments not otherwise explicitly recited, any instance of "comprising" may be replaced by "consisting of" or, alternatively, by "consisting essentially of."

[0060] Devices or system modules that are in at least general communication with each other need not be in continuous communication with each other, unless expressly specified otherwise. In addition, devices or system modules that are in at least general communication with each other may communicate directly or indirectly through one or more intermediaries.

[0061] A description of an embodiment with several components in communication with each other does not imply that all such components are required. On the contrary a variety of optional components are described to illustrate the wide variety of possible embodiments of the present invention.

[0062] As is well known to those skilled in the art many careful considerations and compromises typically must be made when designing for the optimal manufacture of a commercial implementation any system, and in particular, the embodiments of the present invention. A commercial implementation in accordance with the spirit and teachings of the present invention may configured according to the needs of the particular application, whereby any aspect(s), feature(s), function(s), result(s), component(s), approach(es), or step(s) of the teachings related to any described embodiment of the present invention may be suitably omitted, included, adapted, mixed and matched, or improved and/or optimized by those skilled in the art, using their average skills and known techniques, to achieve the desired implementation that addresses the needs of the particular application.

[0063] The present invention will now be described in detail with reference to embodiments thereof as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

[0064] There are various types of shielding devices for covering an opening of a toilet bowl that may be provided by preferred embodiments of the present invention. In one embodiment of the present invention, a shielding device is configured to at least partially cover an opening of a toilet bowl that contains a liquid. In this manner, the shielding device helps inhibit backsplash from the liquid when an object is exuded into the liquid, and also helps to at least partially inhibit contact between a user and the sides, the inner peripheral region, and the outer peripheral region of the toilet bowl.

[0065] In some embodiments, the device may be effective for creating sanitary conditions when a user is sitting or standing over the opening of the toilet bowl. The opening may include, without limitation, an opening for a toilet bowl that contains a liquid. The liquid rises to a liquid level inside the toilet bowl. Thus, the object may include feces, urine, and bodily fluids that are exuded by the user into the liquid of the toilet bowl, and which may splash upwardly towards the user from the force of the object striking the liquid at the liquid level.

[0066] In some embodiments, the device may include a generally resilient panel that is configured to fit over an opening. The panel comprises a mount surface and a support surface. The mount surface engages the inner peripheral region and the outer peripheral region, i.e., rim, of the opening, so as to enable the user to minimize contact with the toilet bowl. The sides of the toilet bowl may also be at least partially covered by the perimeter portion. The mount surface may also rests proximal and facing towards the liquid level inside the toilet bowl. The support surface engages the user and the object that is exuded by the user.

[0067] In some embodiments, the panel may further include a peripheral portion, an aperture, and a shield portion. The peripheral portion is configured to overlay the perimeter regions or sides of the toilet bowl. In one embodiment, the peripheral portion may cover the inner peripheral region and the outer peripheral region of the toilet bowl opening. In this manner, the user sitting or standing on the toilet bowl is in contact with the support surface of the panel, rather than the inner peripheral region, the outer peripheral region, the sides, or substantially any region of the toilet bowl.

[0068] The aperture may be disposed concentrically to the peripheral portion, so as to align with the toilet bowl opening. The shield portion is elongated and extends from opposite ends of the peripheral portion, traversing the aperture. The support surface of the shield portion breaks the force from the exuded object. This at least partially prevents backsplash from the liquid.

[0069] FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective frontal view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, a shielding device 100 is configured to at least partially cover a toilet bowl 112, and specifically an opening 114 of the toilet bowl that contains a liquid, such as water or antibacterial flush. The shielding device helps inhibit backsplash from the liquid when an object is exuded into the liquid. The shielding device is also configured to at least partially inhibit contact between a user of the toilet bowl and the sides, the inner peripheral region, and the outer peripheral region of the toilet bowl, such that a user has minimal contact with bacteria and unsanitary liquid from the toilet bowl.

[0070] In some embodiments, the device may be effective for creating sanitary conditions when a user is sitting or standing over the opening of a toilet bowl. This is possible because contact with the inner and outer perimeter of the toilet bowl is minimized, and backsplash from the liquid contained in the toilet bowl is at least partially restricted. Though, in other embodiments, the opening may be for other types of containers and plumbing fixtures, other than a toilet bowl.

[0071] In some embodiments, the device may include a generally resilient panel 102 that is configured to fit over an opening. The panel comprises a mount surface and a support surface 104. The mount surface engages the inner peripheral region and the outer peripheral region, i.e., rim, of the opening, so as to enable the user to minimize contact with the toilet bowl. The sides of the toilet bowl may also be at least partially covered by the perimeter portion. The mount surface may also rests proximal and facing towards the liquid level inside the toilet bowl. The support surface engages the user and the object that is exuded by the user.

[0072] In some embodiments, the panel may further include a peripheral portion 106, an aperture 110, and a shield portion 108. The peripheral portion is configured to overlay a perimeter of the toilet bowl. In one embodiment, the peripheral portion may cover the inner peripheral region and the outer peripheral region of the toilet bowl opening. In this manner, the user sitting or standing on the toilet bowl is in contact with the support surface of the panel, rather than the inner peripheral region, the outer peripheral region, or substantially any region of the toilet bowl.

[0073] The aperture may be disposed concentrically to the peripheral portion, so as to align with the toilet bowl opening. The shield portion is elongated and extends from opposite ends of the peripheral portion, traversing the aperture. The support surface of the shield portion breaks the force from the exuded object. This at least partially prevents backsplash from the liquid.

[0074] FIG. 2 illustrates a top view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the opening may include, without limitation, an opening for a toilet bowl that contains a liquid. The liquid rises to a liquid level inside the toilet bowl. Thus, the object may include feces, urine, and bodily fluids that are exuded by the user into the liquid of the toilet bowl, and which may splash upwardly towards the user from the force of the object striking the liquid at the liquid level.

[0075] FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the device provides a more sanitary waste removal solution for a user. Those skilled in the art, in light of the present teachings, will recognize that public toilets are a refuge for bacteria such as Escherichia coli, methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), coliform, salmonella, rhinovirus, and streptococcus.

[0076] Further, in the art it is known that, although germs are more likely to be transmitted by unwashed hands, it would be comforting not to worry about the transmission of germs from the last person whose bare bottom touched the seat. The shielding device solves that problem and allows the user to urinate or defecate without fear of getting wet. The shielding device affords protection for the top and front of the toilet seat from water inside the toilet bowl, effectively eliminating bodily contact with the seat and front surfaces of the bowl as well as fluids and flushing water from inside the bowl.

[0077] FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl and illustrating an exemplary mount surface, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the panel of the shielding device may include a resilient composition, so as to conform to the toilet bowl and opening thereof. In some embodiments, the panel may be biodegradable and flushable in a sewage system. The panel may also have an antibiotic composition coating. Suitable materials for the panel may include, without limitation, paper, wax paper, and cardboard.

[0078] The panel may include a mount surface 400 that engages the perimeter regions and sides of the toilet bowl. In one embodiment, the mount surface may have an adhesion to form a secure placement over the toilet bowl when in use. The panel may also have a support surface on which the skin and/or clothes of the user is in contact while utilizing the toilet bowl. In one alternative embodiment, the panel may be flipped, such that the mount surface and the support surface are interchangeable.

[0079] FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary toilet bowl, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the peripheral portion of the panel at least partially covers the perimeter, inner rim, and outer rim of the toilet bowl. The peripheral portion may also fold over the rim of the toilet bowl opening and fall close to the ground surface. In this manner, a user's legs are fully protected from contact with the toilet bowl. The peripheral portion may be elongated, so as to fit over a generally oval toilet bowl.

[0080] FIG. 6 illustrates a perspective bottom view of an exemplary shielding device, illustrating the mount surface in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the aperture is generally concentric to the panel. The aperture aligns with the opening of the toilet bowl, so as to allow passage of the objects, i.e., feces, urine, bodily fluids. The aperture may be shaped as a circle, an oval, a slit, or a square.

[0081] In some embodiments, the shield portion is elongated and traverses across the aperture. The shield portion may be oriented in a direction that aligns with the user. Thus, a front end of the shield portion is proximate to the genitals, while a rear portion of the shield portion is proximate to the buttocks of the user. Though, the shield portion may be disposed in any direction across the aperture. The mount surface of the shield portion rests either in the liquid at the liquid level, or proximally above the liquid level. The support surface of the shield portion breaks the force from the exuded object. This at least partially prevents backsplash from the liquid.

[0082] FIG. 7 illustrates a perspective side view of an exemplary shielding device overlaying an exemplary Turkish toilet, in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. In one aspect, the shielding device may be used to cover an opening for a container that has the potential to create unsanitary backsplash conditions and on which a user is in close contact with. This may include a Turkish toilet, as depicted in FIG. 7. In the Turkish toilet, the user squats directly over the opening. Thus, the peripheral portion of the panel is not used for protecting the legs of the user, but rather the user stands on the peripheral portion. However, the aperture still aligns over the hole, and the shield portion still catches the exuded object, so as to restrict backsplash.

[0083] In one alternative embodiment, the panel is sufficiently long, so as to cover a portion of the bathroom floor. In another alternative embodiment, the panel is fabricated form recyclable material. In yet another alternative embodiment, the shield portion breaks away from the peripheral portion after a predetermined weight of the exuded object has been exceeded.

[0084] Those skilled in the art will readily recognize, in light of and in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, that any of the foregoing steps may be suitably replaced, reordered, removed and additional steps may be inserted depending upon the needs of the particular application. Moreover, the prescribed method steps of the foregoing embodiments may be implemented using any physical and/or hardware system that those skilled in the art will readily know is suitable in light of the foregoing teachings. For any method steps described in the present application that can be carried out on a computing machine, a typical computer system can, when appropriately configured or designed, serve as a computer system in which those aspects of the invention may be embodied. Thus, the present invention is not limited to any particular tangible means of implementation.

[0085] All the features disclosed in this specification, including any accompanying abstract and drawings, may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features.

[0086] It is noted that according to USA law 35 USC .sctn.112 (1), all claims must be supported by sufficient disclosure in the present patent specification, and any material known to those skilled in the art need not be explicitly disclosed. However, 35 USC .sctn.112 (6) requires that structures corresponding to functional limitations interpreted under 35 USC .sctn.112 (6) must be explicitly disclosed in the patent specification. Moreover, the USPTO's Examination policy of initially treating and searching prior art under the broadest interpretation of a "mean for" claim limitation implies that the broadest initial search on 112(6) functional limitation would have to be conducted to support a legally valid Examination on that USPTO policy for broadest interpretation of "mean for" claims. Accordingly, the USPTO will have discovered a multiplicity of prior art documents including disclosure of specific structures and elements which are suitable to act as corresponding structures to satisfy all functional limitations in the below claims that are interpreted under 35 USC .sctn.112 (6) when such corresponding structures are not explicitly disclosed in the foregoing patent specification. Therefore, for any invention element(s)/structure(s) corresponding to functional claim limitation(s), in the below claims interpreted under 35 USC .sctn.112 (6), which is/are not explicitly disclosed in the foregoing patent specification, yet do exist in the patent and/or non-patent documents found during the course of USPTO searching, Applicant(s) incorporate all such functionally corresponding structures and related enabling material herein by reference for the purpose of providing explicit structures that implement the functional means claimed. Applicant(s) request(s) that fact finders during any claims construction proceedings and/or examination of patent allowability properly identify and incorporate only the portions of each of these documents discovered during the broadest interpretation search of 35 USC .sctn.112 (6) limitation, which exist in at least one of the patent and/or non-patent documents found during the course of normal USPTO searching and or supplied to the USPTO during prosecution. Applicant(s) also incorporate by reference the bibliographic citation information to identify all such documents comprising functionally corresponding structures and related enabling material as listed in any PTO Form-892 or likewise any information disclosure statements (IDS) entered into the present patent application by the USPTO or Applicant(s) or any 3.sup.rd parties. Applicant(s) also reserve its right to later amend the present application to explicitly include citations to such documents and/or explicitly include the functionally corresponding structures which were incorporate by reference above.

[0087] Thus, for any invention element(s)/structure(s) corresponding to functional claim limitation(s), in the below claims, that are interpreted under 35 USC .sctn.112 (6), which is/are not explicitly disclosed in the foregoing patent specification, Applicant(s) have explicitly prescribed which documents and material to include the otherwise missing disclosure, and have prescribed exactly which portions of such patent and/or non-patent documents should be incorporated by such reference for the purpose of satisfying the disclosure requirements of 35 USC .sctn.112 (6). Applicant(s) note that all the identified documents above which are incorporated by reference to satisfy 35 USC .sctn.112 (6) necessarily have a filing and/or publication date prior to that of the instant application, and thus are valid prior documents to incorporated by reference in the instant application.

[0088] Having fully described at least one embodiment of the present invention, other equivalent or alternative methods of implementing a shielding device for a toilet bowl according to the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art. Various aspects of the invention have been described above by way of illustration, and the specific embodiments disclosed are not intended to limit the invention to the particular forms disclosed. The particular implementation of the shielding device for a toilet bowl may vary depending upon the particular context or application. By way of example, and not limitation, the shielding device for a toilet bowl implementations; however, similar techniques may instead be applied to a shielding device that includes a resilient panel that covers the perimeter of a toilet bowl opening to prevent contact with the edges, and overlays the liquid level in the toilet bowl opening to prevent backsplash, which implementations of the present invention are contemplated as within the scope of the present invention. The invention is thus to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the following claims. It is to be further understood that not all of the disclosed embodiments in the foregoing specification will necessarily satisfy or achieve each of the objects, advantages, or improvements described in the foregoing specification.

[0089] Claim elements and steps herein may have been numbered and/or lettered solely as an aid in readability and understanding. Any such numbering and lettering in itself is not intended to and should not be taken to indicate the ordering of elements and/or steps in the claims.

[0090] The corresponding structures, materials, acts, and equivalents of all means or step plus function elements in the claims below are intended to include any structure, material, or act for performing the function in combination with other claimed elements as specifically claimed.

[0091] The corresponding structures, materials, acts, and equivalents of all means or step plus function elements in the claims below are intended to include any structure, material, or act for performing the function in combination with other claimed elements as specifically claimed. The description of the present invention has been presented for purposes of illustration and description, but is not intended to be exhaustive or limited to the invention in the form disclosed. Many modifications and variations will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention. The embodiment was chosen and described in order to best explain the principles of the invention and the practical application, and to enable others of ordinary skill in the art to understand the invention for various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated.

[0092] The Abstract is provided to comply with 37 C.F.R. Section 1.72(b) requiring an abstract that will allow the reader to ascertain the nature and gist of the technical disclosure. It is submitted with the understanding that it will not be used to limit or interpret the scope or meaning of the claims. The following claims are hereby incorporated into the detailed description, with each claim standing on its own as a separate embodiment.

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