CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
- TECHNICAL FIELD
This application is related to, claims priority from and the benefit of provisional patent application Ser. No. 61/220,432, entitled Protective Cover, filed Jun. 25, 2009, by the same inventor, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
This disclosure relates generally to protective covers such as anti-hail car covers and more particularly to an inexpensive, one-size-fits-all protective cover.
Protecting automobiles and other vehicles from hail is a problem that many people have tackled over the years. Although many approaches have been offered over the years, it is fair to say that they involve one or both of two features: (1) thick padding, or (2) fluid-filled pouches such as cushions. Undoubtedly, these features protect against hail and falling debris, but the protection comes at a price, both financially and operationally.
Financially, padded or cushioned covers are expensive. Operationally, thick padded covers are cumbersome to deploy over a car and bulky to stow in between uses. Covers with cushions are also cumbersome and bulky.
Fastening the cover to the vehicle after deployment can be a challenge. Bungee cords, elastic perimeter cords, magnets and other approaches have been employed by others. Magnets may scratch the finish of the vehicle. An over-abundance of cords may be confusing to a user.
The problem with an elastic perimeter is that the elastic always wants to be in a contracted state. So when one slips the elastic round the front end of a vehicle, for example, the entire bulk of the cover is scrunched up on the hood of the vehicle. The cover has to be stretched out over the length of the vehicle while constantly maintaining tension on the front of the cover so that stays in place over the front. As anyone who has tried this knows, it can be a very exasperating experience.
Many protective covers for automobiles are fitted to a particular model or models. As natural consequence, covers for automobiles are often available only at dealerships or automotive supply stores.
All of these factors: bulkiness, awkward fastening mechanisms, and specific fitting make most protective covers for vehicles too expensive and unpleasant to use for all but the most fanatical customers. It can be depressing to spend a lot of money one a high end hail-protecting cover for your car, only to realize that you never really use it.
Accordingly there remains a long felt but unmet need for an protective cover that is easy to deploy and secure to the object being protected, that is easily rolled up or folded for easy storage in between uses, which is so inexpensive that the cover can even be disposable and where, to a great extent, one size fits all so that such a cover could be found for retail sale at a general purpose store such as a supermarket, convenience store, or gas station.
Additionally, a protective cover for exposed items other than automobiles would be advantageous. For example, patio furniture such as a class-topped table or a grill can also be damaged by hail or falling debris such as from a construction site, and so would also benefit from a protective cover.
A cover at least partially protects at least one item from one or more falling objects. An exemplary embodiment provides a flexible cover having a top side and a bottom side and a perimeter; a plurality of fluid-filled pockets dispersed along the bottom side of the cover; a channel formed around the perimeter of the cover material to house a drawstring, the channel having an opening that exposes at least a portion of the drawstring; and a drawstring disposed within the channel, wherein the cover positioned over an item may be selectively at least partially secured in position by pulling on the drawstring through the channel opening such that the perimeter of the cover tightens around the item.
A specific exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure provides a disposable cover to at least partially protect a vehicle from hail damage. The inexpensive flexible cover has a top side and a bottom side and a perimeter; a plurality non-foam air bubbles dispersed along the bottom of the cover; a channel formed around the perimeter of the cover material to house a drawstring, the channel having an opening that exposes at least a portion of the drawstring; and a drawstring disposed within the channel. The cover positioned over an item may be selectively at least partially secured in position by pulling on the drawstring through the channel opening such that the perimeter of the cover tightens around the item.
Alternative specific embodiments provide for selectively inflatable bladders that can be inflated for use to protect against hail or debris, and deflated for storage after the hazard has passed. Kits for the embodiments with selectively inflatable bladders are disclosed.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present disclosure describes methods for protecting a vehicle or other items from damage by hail or failing objects. For example, a method of the present disclosure for at least partially protecting one or more item from one or more falling objects involves providing a cover as described herein, positioning the cover over an item to be protected; and pulling on the drawstring through the channel opening to at least partially secure the cover to the item by tightening the perimeter of the cover around the item.
For a more complete understanding of the present disclosure, and the advantages thereof, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is an isometric perspective bottom view of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 2 is an isometric perspective top view of the protective cover of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is an isometric perspective view of a protective cover of the present disclosure deployed over an item.
FIG. 4 is an isometric perspective view of a cut away detail of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 5 is a side cross-section view of an alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 6 is a top view of another alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 7 is a bottom view of yet another alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 8A is a top view of an additional alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure.
FIG. 8B is a side view of the alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of FIG. 8A.
FIG. 1 is an isometric perspective bottom view of a protective cover of the disclosure. Referring to FIG. 1 of the drawings, the reference numeral 100 generally designates a flexible protective cover embodying features of the present disclosure. Cover 100 provides bottom or under side 110 having dispersed across its surface a plurality of fluid-filled bladders such as air bubbles 120 contained in suitable material such as plastic or rubber.
Circumscribing a perimeter around cover 100 is hem 130 defining channel 135 extending the length of the perimeter. Channel 135 holds or houses drawstring 140 which is disposed through the entire length of channel 135, preferably with an excess amount of length. Openings or apertures 150 a,b permit egress of drawstring 140 ends 142,144.
FIG. 2 is an isometric perspective top view of the protective cover of FIG. 1. Specific exemplary embodiments provide top side 210 of cover 100. Top 210 is smooth and uniform in topography relative the bubbled underside 110. Alternative embodiments of top 210 may further provide one or more materials that are waterproof or water repellant for additional protection of the item.
Specific embodiments provide one or more commercial logo, or decorative colors or designs, such as, for example, the colors or insignia of a sports team, displayed on surface 210.
FIG. 3 is an isometric perspective view of a protective cover of the present disclosure. Cover 100 is deployed over an item 310, such as vehicle, to be protected. Top 210 is exposed to and protects item 310 from the elements such as the sun or rain, while bubbled bottom 110 cushions the item 310 against impacts from hail or wind-blown litter, as well as from falling debris such as might occur near a construction site.
Drawstring extends out of openings 150 a,b. In the alternative embodiment of FIG. 3, drawstring 140 is a loop-type drawstring that does not have ends 142,144 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2.
FIG. 4 is an isometric perspective view of a cut away detail of a protective cover of the present disclosure. Specific embodiments provide bubbles 120 of a unitary piece with top 210 and loop drawstring 140 egresses out of hem or channel 130 through openings 150 a,b so that a portion of drawstring 140 is exposed and available to be pulled.
FIG. 5 is a side cross-section view of an alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure. In the embodiment of FIG. 5, the single layer of bubbles 120 such as depicted in FIG. 4 has been folded over. A single layer of bubbles 120 on the underside of top surface 210 includes voids 525 between the individual bubbles. Voids 525 may be weak spots in cover 100 such that a falling object of sufficient mass or velocity may deform surface 210 at such a void 525 enough to impact the item being protected. Accordingly, an alternative embodiment is contemplated wherein the top layer of bubbles 120 is folded over to form a lower surface 510 having lower layer of bubbles 520 so that bubbles 120 and 520 intermesh to at least partially fit into the voids 525 to reinforce cover 100 at voids 525. The layers of the double layer embodiment may be joined together around perimeter hem 135.
Operationally, cover 100 is deployed over item 310. Cover 100 is not necessarily fitted to the item and so initially flexible cover 100 fits loosely or baggily. Accordingly, a user may adjust the fit over item 310 as desired. Once cover 100 is suitably arranged over item 310, cover 100 may optionally be secured over and around item 310 by pulling drawstring 140 (or drawstring ends 142,144, as applicable) to reduce the circumference of the perimeter of cover 100, thus tightening the perimeter around item 310 until cover 100 is suitably secured around item 310. Drawstring 310 may then be selectively tied with a releasable knot to ensure that cover 100 does not become loose and unsecure. To selectively remove cover 100 from item 310, simply release the knot and pull hem 130 to expand the perimeter of cover 100 until cover 100 can be removed. Cover 100 may be rolled up of folded for convenient storage until it is needed again.
Preferably, a protective cover of the present disclosure is manufactured from inexpensive and easily mass-produced materials such as plastic, rubber, neoprene or Tyvek®. Top 210 and underside 110 and bubbles 120 are preferably of a unitary construction not unlike bubble wrap used for packing, but alternative embodiments contemplate multi-part construction. For example, a plastic bubble-wrap bottom 110 may be annealed to a tarp or weather-proofed cloth top 210.
Further alternative embodiments include a sleeve into which clover 100 is selectively removably disposed. A sleeve of such alternative embodiments may provide decoration and/or may provide additional cushioning protection such as having a fleece- or felt covered surface to provide added assurance that cover 100 will not harm the finish of the vehicle or other item 310 during use.
Preferably, however, the basic cover 100 is constructed from inexpensive materials so that cover 100 is disposable and may be optionally discarded after one or only a few uses.
The use of a cover 100 of the present disclosure provides many advantages over the prior art including low cost and the lack of any highly specific fit. The present protective cover may be available at convenience stores rather than specialty store. This is a significant advantage because a person can run to a nearby store and obtain a cover 100 at the first warnings of hail or even during bad weather and quickly obtain inexpensive protection that can be easily and effectively deployed by a single person. In areas where such occurrences are rare, the user will feel more comfortable purchasing the present cover because it is not, a major investment for a seldom used article.
Turning now to the other alternative embodiments, FIG. 6 is a top view of another alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure. Car cover 600 provides a plurality of selectively inflatable bladders 610 contiguous with perimeter skirt 620. Cover 600 may be stored with Bladders 610 in an un-inflated state for compactness. Bladders 610 are in fluid communication such that they may be selectively inflated for use over a vehicle with a compressed gas canister through valve port not shown in this FIG. 6 (but see FIG. 7 for an example).
Continuing with FIG. 6, a plurality of grommets 630 are arranged around the perimeter of cover 600 through skirt 620. Drawstring 640 is laced through grommets 630 and through cinch clasp 650 to provide means for securing cover 600 to a vehicle during use. Once cover 600 is draped over the vehicle and bladders 620 inflated, drawstring 640 may be pulled tight around the body of the car and cinched secure with cinch clasp 650. After the hazard has passed, cover 600 may be removed from the vehicle and deflated by letting the air escape from bladders 610 via the port. See FIG. 7.
FIG. 7 is a bottom view of yet another alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure. Similar to the embodiment of FIG. 6, vehicle cover 700 provides a plurality of selectively inflatable bladders 710 in fluid communication with each other. Perimeter skirt 720 is contiguous with bladders 710. Fastening straps 720 are attached to at the corners of skirt 720 to fasten cover 700 to a vehicle. Port 740 provides a valve or selectively openable closure (not shown) through which bladders 610 may be inflated with compressed gas such as may be provide with canister 750 through connector 760 which is selectively attached to port 740. Bladders 610 may be selectively un-inflated by releasing the gas in the bladders through port 740 by opening port 740. In operation, cover 700 is draped over a vehicle and secured to the vehicle with corner straps 720 stretched under the vehicle bumpers. Bladders 710 are inflated with canister 750 via port 740.
Alternative embodiments provides kits that include a protective cover of the present disclosure together with canister of compressed gas for inflating bladders and the necessary connectors, and instructions for use of the kit. The instructions may be printed and may also be available online.
FIG. 8A is a top view of an additional alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of the present disclosure. FIG. 8B is a side view of the alternative exemplary embodiment of a protective cover of FIG. 8A. FIGS. 8A and 8B are described together herein below. Vehicle cover 800 provides main body portion 810, which may be put over the top of a vehicle for use as a protective cover, and side drapes 820, 822 which drape down the side of a vehicle when body 810 is disposed over the top of the vehicle. Side drapes 820,822 serve to provide some protection to the sides of the vehicle against debris or hail that may be wind blown, for example.
Side drapes 820,822 are formed from skirts 830,832 which extend from each of the length-wise sides of body 810. The terminal perimeter of Skirt 830 provides selectively inflatable side bladder 840, which bladder further serves as a weight to cause skirt 830 to drape suitable along the side of the vehicle. Likewise, Skirt 842 provides selectively inflatable side bladder 832.
Body 810 provides selectively inflatable body bladders 850. Individual bladders 850 are separated by spacers 860 and connected by fluid conduits 870 which passage for the ingress and egress of gas for the selective inflation and deflation of bladders 840, 830 and 832 through a port (not shown) on the underside of cover 800. A pair of extended body bladders 880,882 extend from body 810 and are in fluid communication with side bladders 840,842, respectively.
Many modifications and other embodiments of the protective cover described herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which this disclosure pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the disclosure is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.