The present invention relates generally to a protective glove for use in contact sports such as hockey or lacrosse and, more particularly, to a protective glove having direct molded accents incorporated therein.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
In contact sports, such as lacrosse or hockey, where sticks are essential elements of the game, a player's hands and wrists are especially vulnerable to injury when being checked by another player's stick. For this reason, players typically utilize padded gloves to protect their hands, wrists and lower forearms during play.
Typical gloves for such contact sports generally comprise a hand portion coupled to a plurality of finger portions and a thumb portion. The hand portion, the finger portions, and the thumb portion each have a respective palm portion and a protective back portion having a plurality of pads disposed thereon. The gloves typically have a protective cuff that is coupled to a lower edge of the hand portion and extends below the back portion to protect the wearer's wrist and forearm.
The protective back portions of the plurality of finger portions and the thumb portion are formed in such a way so as to allow them to flex in a manner corresponding to a wearer's respective finger or thumb and further are designed with protective foam padding that protects against impact.
In addition, the outer visible surfaces of the protective back portions of the fingers, thumbs and/or back of the hand may display different colors and designs that are sewn into the glove that allow for customization of a glove to the wearer's preferences. These designs are typically panels of polyurethane or another durable, flexible and water-resistant material having predetermined color schemes that are sewn over the protective foam pads to a desired configuration or pattern. The decorative features of the glove are therefore limited to the color schemes available in the material panels and are further limited by the attachment configurations of these panels to the foam pads and to the inner material layer of the glove. Thus, the customizability of the gloves is inherently limited by these considerations, especially in terms of adding intricate designs such as logos or other source identifiers that are highly desirable to the manufacturer or end user.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
It is therefore an advantage of the present invention to provide a protective sports glove having its visible outer surface displayed in a virtually endless array of logos, numbers, shapes, or other contrasting features.
It is another advantage of the present invention to provide a protective sports glove with intricate designs formed thereon.
In accordance with the above and the other advantages of the present invention, a protective sports glove is provided. The glove includes decorative accents coupled to the outer material layer of the gloves. The decorative accents allow the outer visible surfaces to include intricate features such as logos, numbers, shapes, designs, or other contrasting features that allow the glove to be customized in an infinite number of potential variations. The accents are durable and also add abrasion resistance to the gloves during usage, therein increasing their usable lives.
The decorative accents may be applied in many different ways. According to one embodiment, high frequency welding such as radio frequency welding or dielectric welding is utilized to couple a thermoplastic material to an outer material layer. Ideally, the decorative accents are raised at least 0.2 mm outward from the outer material layer. While high frequency welding is one preferred method for coupling the thermoplastic material to the outer material layer, other preferred methods may alternatively be utilized, including injection molding, gluing, silk screening and heat welding.
The decorative accents can be applied to the outer material layer prior to the layer being coupled to the padding for the glove, or may be introduced to the outer material layer after it has been coupled to the padding of the glove.
The decorative accents may be formed on any visible outer portion of the glove, including the backside portion of the hand portion, the backside portion of at least one of the plurality of finger portions, the cuff portion, the wrist guard and the backside portion of the thumb portion, and any combinations thereof. The decorative accents may also be applied on a portion of the palm side of any of the finger portions, hand portion or thumb portion.
These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description of the invention, when viewed in accordance with the accompanying drawings and appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a protective sports glove in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a top view of the protective sports glove of FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the protective sports glove of FIG. 1; and
FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the direct molded accent taken along the line 4-4 in FIG. 2.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
Referring now to the Figures, which illustrate a protective sports glove 10 in accordance with the present invention. The drawings illustrate the right hand glove, however, it will be understood that the left hand glove has the same configuration, but opposite orientation. The disclosed glove 10 is preferably for use in the game of lacrosse. However, it should be understood that the disclosed glove 10 might be used in a variety of other contact stick sports, including hockey.
It will be understood that the configuration and components that make up the glove are not critical and may vary as desired. In accordance with the exemplary embodiment shown in the drawings, the glove 10 has a top portion 12 and a bottom portion 14 which therebetween define an interior space for receipt of a player's hand. The glove 10 has a cuff portion 16, a hand portion 18 coupled to the cuff portion 16, a plurality of finger portions 20 extending from the hand portion 18 and a thumb portion 22 also extending from the hand portion 18. The glove 10 also preferably includes a wrist guard 24 that is preferably disposed over the gap or space 26 between the cuff portion 16 and the hand portion 18. The cuff portion 16 and the wrist guard 24 are preferably coupled to the hand portion 18 through a series of elastic members (not shown), which allow the cuff portion 16 and wrist guard 24 to move with respect to the hand portion 18 as the wearer flexes his wrist during play. It will be understood that other suitable attachment mechanisms such as lacing may also be utilized.
In addition, a subcuff 21 may be located within the cuff portion 16 and coupled to the inside of the cuff portion using one or more elastic straps (not shown). The subcuff 21 is tightly wrapped around the wearer's wrist and protects the wrist during play when the wrist is bent in such a manner that it would otherwise be exposed beneath the cuff portion 16 during usage.
While the sports glove 10, as shown in FIGS. 1-4, includes a cuff portion 16, a wrist guard 24, and a subcuff 21, it should be understood that the glove 10 is just representative of one preferred embodiment of the present invention. Alternative sports gloves that are encompassed within the present invention may not include any of these features, or may include less than all of these features, and still fall within the spirit of the present invention.
The hand portion 18 extends between the gap or seam 26 and the finger portions 20 and includes a rear portion 38 and a palm portion 40. The rear portion 38 preferably has an inner material layer 42 and an outer material layer 44 having a plurality of protective padded portions 46 secured therebetween, therein creating flex lines 48 between adjacent padded portions 46, allowing a wearer's hand to flex during play. As shown, the individual protective padded portions 46 are moveable with respect to one another along their respective flex lines 48. Preferably, the flex lines 48 includes stitching, in the form of thread 50, that couples together the inner material layer 42 and the outer material layer 44 between the respective adjacent padded portions 46. Alternatively, the inner material layer 42 and the outer material layer 44 may be coupled together by alternative methods well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The rear portion 38 of the hand portion 18 may also include a plurality of vent openings (not shown) formed therein to provide ventilation to a wearer's hand. The vent openings may be formed along the respective flex lines 48, or formed through an individual padded portion 46. The padded portions 46 are preferably formed of a shock absorbing material, such as foam. However, other protective portions, such as a resilient or hard plastic may also be utilized. Further, while the padded portions 46 are displayed in a particular configuration on FIGS. 1-4, it should be understood that the particular configuration of the padded portions is not limited to the design displayed, but instead encompasses any potential padded portion configuration envisioned by those of ordinary skill in the art.
The finger portions 20 each have a respective padded portion 54 that extends from the rear portion 38 to a respective tip 56 of each finger portion 20. As with the hand portion 18, a plurality of padded portions 54 are disposed between the inner material layer 42 and the outer material layer 44 that protect a wearer's fingers. In addition, a flex line 58 is created between each respective padded portion 54 corresponding to the knuckle that allows the wearer's fingers to flex along the knuckle during use. The inner material layer 42 and outer material layer 44 are preferably stitched together along these flex line 58 using thread 60. Similarly to the padded portions 46 above, the finger portions 20 may have more or less flex lines and pads as desired and still fall within the spirit of the present invention.
The hand portion 18 of the glove 10 has a first side portion 62 connecting the side 64 of the hand portion 18 to the palm portion 40. The other side 66 of the hand portion 18 has a side portion 68 that extends between the hand portion 18 and a thumb portion 22. The thumb portion 22 is in turn connected to the palm portion 40 on its other side and also includes one or more padded portions 70 secured between the inner material layer 42 and outer material layer 44.
In one embodiment, the palm portion 40 consists of a durable, wear resistant natural synthetic material 37, such as leather or synthetic leather, and may include a plurality of openings 39 formed therein. Alternative gloves, however, may be formed without the openings 39. Coupled within the openings 39 is a stretchable, breathable material 41 such as mesh that provides cooling airflow to a wearer's hand. However, other materials may be included in the openings 39 such as other breathable materials or tackified materials. The openings 39 are preferably formed in areas of the palm portion 40 that are not intended to primarily contact a lacrosse stick handle or hockey stick handle during use. The palm portion 40 may have a variety of different configurations and may be constructed of a variety of different materials not disclosed herein and still fall within the spirit of the present invention.
The cuff portion 16 preferably has a first set of eyelets 27 and a second set of eyelets 28 formed therein located at the respective ends 30, 32. A lace 34 or other securing device is preferably passed through the first and second set of eyelets 27, 28 to move the ends 30, 32 towards one another to surround a wearer's forearm when a wearer's hand is located in the interior space. As shown, the lace 34 is intended to pass around the underside of a wearer's forearm such that the tightness of the cuff portion 16 with respect to a wearer's forearm may be adjusted. The lace 34 may be maintained in its desired position at a desired tightness through the use of the cord lock 36 or other similar locking device.
The cuff portion 16 preferably has a first cuff portion 78, an adjacent second cuff portion 79, and an adjacent third cuff portion 80. The first cuff portion 78, the second cuff portion 79, and the third cuff portion 80 are each secured to the hand portion 18 at an upper border portion. The cuff portions 78, 79 and 80 are designed to cover and protect substantial portions of a wearer's wrist and forearm. The overlapping (split cuff) configuration of the cuff portions 78, 79 and 80 provides added protection to a wearer's wrist and forearm because of the double layer of padding. As one of ordinary skill appreciates the number of separate cuff portions is not limited to the three cuff portions as shown in FIGS. 1-4, but may include more or less cuff portions, and still fall within the spirit of the present invention. The cuff portion 16 includes an inner padded portion 93 surrounded by an outer material layer 95. The subcuff 21 includes an inner padded portion 101 surrounded by an outer material layer 103. The subcuff 21 may consist of a circular one-piece unit that fits snugly around the wrist of the wearer. Alternatively, the subcuff 21 may consist of a single strip wherein the ends are attached together with Velcro strips or a similar attachment mechanism to form a circular unit around the wrist, thus allowing the subcuff 21 to be size adjusted to fit snugly around the wearer's wrist according the wearer's preferences.
The term material, as used in the inner material layer 42, the outer material layer 44, the outer material layer 95, the outer material layer 98, and outer material layer 103 is understood in the broadest sense possible to include any natural or synthetic material that is durable and water-resistant. Preferably, this material is in the form of a natural or synthetic fabric such as nylon or polyurethane fabric. However, other preferred materials that may be utilized include natural or synthetic leather. In addition, the material may be formed of multiple layers, or may include an outer coating, that works in conjunction with the inner material to provide enhanced durability and moisture resistance or provide aesthetic properties to the inner material such as color or smoothness.
In accordance with one embodiment, coupled to an exterior surface of the outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 located above one or more of the padded portions 46, the finger padded portions 54, the wrist guard 24, the cuff portion 16, and/or the subcuff 21 are molded-on decorative accents 120. The decorative accents 120 may be formed in many different colors, shapes and sizes and can include intricate features such as logos, numbers, shapes, or other contrasting features that customize the gloves in an infinite number of potential variations. The accents 120 are durable and also add abrasion resistance to the back portion of the gloves during usage, therein increasing their usable lives.
FIG. 4 illustrates a cross-sectional view of a plurality of a decorative accents 120 displayed on each of the respective outer material layers 44, 95, 98 and 103of the finger portions 20, the hand portions 18, the wrist guard 24 the cuff portion 16 and the subcuff 21. It should be understood by one of ordinary skill that the displayed embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-4 illustrates only one of an infinite variety of potential shapes, sizes, color schemes and distribution of the decorative accents 120 on the respective outer material layers 44, 95, 98 and 103 of the finger portions 20, the hand portions 18, the wrist guard 24, the cuff portion 16 and the subcuff 21 and is not limited to the illustration shown therein. Further, the decorative accents 120 may be formed on less than all of the respective finger portions 20, hand portions 18, the wrist guard 24, the cuff portion 16 and the subcuff 21 and is not limited to the embodiment shown herein. Alternatively, the decorative accents 120 can be formed on other portions of the glove 10 not herein described as having decorative accents 120.
In addition, it should be understood that different shaped or sized decorative accents might be formed on each visible surface of the glove. By way of example, a multi-color shaped team logo may be formed on the wrist guard 24, while small white lettering indicating the team name or player name may be formed on the cuff portion 16.
The decorative accents 120 are preferably composed of a thermoplastic material 124 that adheres to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 upon application. The thermoplastic material 124 must be flexible at a wide variety of different temperatures such that it does not easily chip or crack as the wearer flexes their hand. Further, as stated above, the thermoplastic material 124 must be durable, abrasion resistant and water resistant. Also, the thermoplastic material 124 should be compatible with the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 such that it easily adheres to the layer upon application and remains adhered to during the usable life of the glove 10. The thermoplastic material 124 is pigmented to a desired color and preferably contains other additives that aid in water resistance, light resistance, flexibility and adherence to the underlying outer material layer 44, 95 and 98 or other layer to which it is attached. Preferred thermoplastic materials 124 utilized to form the decorative accents 120 include polyvinyl chloride ("PVC"), ethylene vinyl acetate ("EVA") and various compositions of polyurethane.
The decorative accents 120 may be applied in many different ways. Preferably, high frequency (dielectric or radio frequency) welding is utilized to couple the thermoplastic material 124 to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 prior to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 being coupled around the respective padding and sewn onto the glove. Alternatively, however, the decorative accent 120 may be applied to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 after the outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 is coupled around the respective padding and sewn onto the glove. High frequency (dielectric or radio frequency) welding relies on the ability of the thermoplastic material 124 being joined to generate heat in a rapidly alternating electric field. Hence the technique is generally restricted to thermoplastic materials 124 such as PVC, EVA and various types of polyurethane.
During the high frequency welding process, the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 and the thermoplastic material 124 are subjected to a high frequency electric field applied between two metal bars. The dynamic electric field causes molecular vibration in the thermoplastic material 124. Some of the resulting oscillatory motion is converted into thermal energy, causing the thermoplastic material 124 to heat and flow. When the electric field is removed, the thermoplastic material 124 hardens to form the decorative accent 120 on the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103. The outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 is then coupled with foam padding and/or the inner material layer to form the representative portion of the sports glove. Ideally, the decorative accents 120 are at least 0.2 mm thick (i.e. extend at least 0.2 mm above the surface of the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103). It will be understood that the relationship of the decorative accents 120 to the portion of the glove to which it is applied may vary.
However, other preferred methods may alternatively be utilized to couple the thermoplastic material 124 to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103 and still fall within the spirit of the present invention. For example, other preferred methods include injection molding, gluing, silk screening and heat welding the thermoplastic material 124 to the respective outer material layer 44, 95, 98 and 103.
Thus, the present invention provides a relatively simple method for enhancing the decorative aspect of a sports glove. Team names, team logos, individual names, and numbering may be added to the outer visible surfaces of the sports gloves to make them more readily identifiable to the wearer or fans. In addition, sponsorship logos or advertising or style may be added to aid in marketing the gloves themselves. Also, logos or other advertising may be added to the gloves to aid in marketing the wearers of the gloves, or marketing the teams utilizing the customized gloves. Also, individuals may easily personalize the gloves to their own tastes by adding distinctive shapes and colors as desired. The methods for application are relatively inexpensive, and the designs of the gloves do not have to be changed in order to accommodate the decorative accents. Moreover, the gloves may be customized during the manufacturing process or, alternatively, may be customized in a post-manufacturing step. Of course, the decorative accents may also form the primary design decorations for the sports glove, as opposed to some of the customization described above. Thus, for example, simple decorative markings that a glove manufacturer may use as a source identifier on all their sports gloves, like for example a logo, may also be introduced using the same technique.
In addition to the decorative aspects described above, the decorative accents may also enhance the durability or abrasion resistance of the outer visible surfaces of the gloves to which the decorative accents are applied. Thus, wearer's or manufacturers may place the decorative accents 120 along outer surfaces that are especially prone to wear and tear during usage to increase the usable life of the glove. For this reason, the decorative accents may also be introduced to other portions of the glove to improve their durability or abrasion resistance of that particular portion of the glove. For example, one or more decorative accents could be introduced to areas of the glove that come in direct contact with a lacrosse stick during play, including but not limited to the palm portion 40 (including the natural synthetic material 37 and the breathable material 41 of the inner palm portion, the inner finger palm portion, and/or the inner thumb palm portion) to improve its grip and durability. Also, these same decorative accents could be added to the lace 34 or other features of the glove not specifically disclosed or illustrated herein.
While particular embodiments of the invention have been shown and described, numerous variations or alternate embodiments will occur to those skilled in the art. Accordingly, it is intended that the invention be limited only in terms of the appended claims.