BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to postage stamps, and specifically postage stamps that can be individualized with a personal photograph.
Each piece of mail requires postage, and as such provides an opportunity to make a small statement based on the type of stamp chosen. Typical postage stamps contain artistic designs, words, scenes of nature, portraits of famous persons, or depictions of historical events and interesting places. Stamps are mass produced, making it impossible for a consumer to create their own personalized stamp.
Being able to personalize postage stamps by incorporating a photograph would allow people to make a much more powertul statement.
The mail system is often used to notify friends and family of important events such as graduations, weddings, birthdays, new babies, as well as to convey good wishes on holidays, or to show off a new car, a new house, or a favorite pet. Though there are many different stamp designs, a consumer must choose among those available and is not able to create his or her own personalized stamp to fit the occasion. Using a photo stamp would be entertaining and would allow a customer to share a photograph of an important event. Thus, it would be a significant advancement in the art to allow for personalizing postage stamps by incorporating individual photos.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention allows for personalizing postage stamps by printing a photographic image onto a prepared stamp blank.
The stamp blanks are preprinted with such required indicia as country of origin and denomination, but contain a blank area upon which a small photographic image can be printed. Several stamp blanks are arranged on a web, which may consist of either a long strip of stamps or a sheet of stamps. Each individual stamp blank has perforated or pre-cut edges so that it can be easily removed from the web. The stamps may be self adhesive, or may contain a moisture sensitive adhesive layer that can be activated by licking the back of the stamp.
The blank area on the stamp is filled by printing a 5 photographic image on it. The photographic image may be obtained in a variety of ways and must be digitized so that it can be electronically sent to a printer. The photographic image can result from scanning a photograph or ~Im negative to obtain digital image data. A photograph can be taken in a kiosk or similar environment and digitized to obtain 10 digital image data. Or, a consumer can provide a photograph that is digitized and stored on a digital medium such as a floppy disk or CD.
Regardless of the manner in which it is obtained, the resulting digital image data is formatted so that it fits on the stamp blank and is prepared for printing. The digital image data is then sent to a 15 printer which prints the photographic image onto the stamp blank. Once printed, the completed photo stamps are dispensed to the customer.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 is a flow diagram showing the process for creating a photo stamp.
20 FIG. 2 is a plan view of a portion of the stamp blank web.
FIG. 3 is an illustration of the finished product where a photographic image has been printed on the blank area of the stamp blank.
FIG. 4 is an enlarged side view of the stamp blank.
FIG.1 shows the steps involved in creating a photo stamp.
The first step 10 requires the production of a stamp blank web which holds a number of individual stamp blanks. The second step 12 is to produce digital image data. The third step 14 is printing the digital 30 image data on the individual stamp blanks to create a personalized postage stamp. The fourth and final step 16 is dispensing the finished postage stamp to the customer.
FIG. 2 shows a stamp blank web 20 consisting of several individual stamp blanks 22. The web 20 may be a variety of sizes and may contain a differing number of stamp blanks 22. For instance, the web 20 may consist of a long strip of stamp blanks 22, one stamp high 5 by several long, or the web 20 may also consist of several stamp blanks 22 arranged as a sheet, several stamps high by several wide. It is also possible to print stamp blank webs 20 on sheets that are foldable and thus are easily inserted into foldable carriers. The stamp blanks 22 themselves can be of varying shapes and sizes, though the most 10 common shape for a stamp is a rectangle.
Each stamp blank 22 is separated from the stamp blank web 20 by perforations or pre-cut edges 24. The stamp blank 22 also contains pre-printed indicia 28, such as country of origin and denomination. The pre-printed indicia 28 may also consist of any 15 markings needed to aid in automated sorting or handling of mail, such as bar codes. A blank area 26 is left so that a photographic image can be printed on the stamp blank 22 thus creating an individualized postage stamp.
FIG. 3 is an illustration of a finished photo stamp. An 20 image 30 has been printed in what was previously the blank area 26 leaving the pre-printed indicia 28 visible. The image 30 can be printed on the stamp blank 22 using dye sublimation printing, ink jet printing, or any other suitable printable method.
Because the photographic image 30 is sent to the printer 25 electronically, it is necessary for the image 30 to be in digital form.
Thus the second step 12 of creating a photo stamp is to produce digital image data. This digital image data can be obtained in a variety of ways.
Digital image data can be collected by using a scanner to scan a photographic film negative or photograph. When using a scanner to 30 scan a film negative, the film negative's image is projected onto a linear scanner. The scanner scans the image and collects an electronic representation of it. This electronic image is converted into digital form, and if necessary, can be processed to make the image suitable for printing. The digital data can then be sent to a printer. in a similar manner, a photograph or other image could also be scanned.
Digital image data can also be obtained by having a 5 photograph taken on site, either in a kiosk or similar environment. At the kiosk, the resulting photograph can be converted into digital image data, processed to prepare it for printing, and sent to a printer. Once printed, the photo stamps are dispensed to the customer at the kiosk.
Alternatively, a digital camera could be utilized to collect digital image 10 data, which would eliminate the need to digitize an image taken on a standard camera.
Another possibility for collecting the necessary digital image data is for a customer to provide it in digital form initially. A
customer could bring in a floppy disk or CD which contains digital image 15 data for a photographic image which could then be processed and sent to a printer. It is likewise possible for a customer to email the digital image data to the photo stamp provider.
The third step 14 in creating a photo stamp is to print the digital image data on a stamp blank 22. Before being sent to the printer 20 the digital image data may need to be processed to sharpen the image or adjust coloring. The digital image data may further need to be sized and shaped so that it does not obscure the pre-printed indicia 28 appearing on the stamp blank 22. After any necessary processing, the digital image data can be printed on the stamp blank 22. The term 25 printer refers to any machines used to print the photo stamps. The most preferable method of printing is dye sublimation, though ink jet printing or other suitable methods can be used. Dye sublimation is superior because the printed image 30 is the most permanent. When printed with an ink jet printer, the image 30 may run if it is exposed to moisture.
30 The finished photo stamp is then ready to be dispensed to the consumer for use.
FIG. 4 is a greatly enlarged side view of a stamp blank web 20 showing an adhesive layer 42 coating the bottom surface 46 of the stamp blank 22. The bottom surface 46 coated with the adhesive layer 42 is attached to a backing surface 40. To use the photo stamp, 5 a customer peels the stamp blank 22 from the backing surface 40 and adheres it to another surface, leaving the top surface 44 containing the image 30 and preprinted indica 28 visible.
There are several options available for the adhesive used on the adhesive layer 42. The stamp may be self-adhesive with the bottom surface 46 being coated with a pressure sensitive adhesive. If self-adhesive, the stamp can simply be peeled from the backing surface 40 and adhered to a piece of mail. The backing surface 40 may be constructed from a material or coated with a substance to allow the stamp to remain in place, yet not stick too strongly to the backing surface 40 so that it is easy to peel the stamp from the backing surface 40. The backing surface 40 may be paper or plastic, and may vary in rigidity depending on the type of stamp web 20 used. If a long thin web is used, the backing may be of a paper or plastic that is sufficiently flexible to allow the web 20 to be rolled into a coil.
20 It is also possible for the adhesive layer 42 to consist of a moisture sensitive adhesive that is activated by applying a small amount of moisture, such as saliva when a person licks the surface. Once the adhesive is activated by the moisture, the stamp can be adhered to a piece of mail. if the adhesive layer 42 remains dry, the layer 42 is not sticky and the stamps can be stored in a roll or as a sheet without a backing surface 40.
Although the present invention has been described with reference to preferred embodiments, workers skilled in the art will recognize that changes may be made in form and detail without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.