Patent application title: Removable Moisture-Resistant Ball Cover
Cindy Deangelis-Duffy (San Diego, CA, US)
SWAG COMPANY, INC.
IPC8 Class: AA63B3906FI
Class name: Games using tangible projectile projectile, per se; part thereof or accessory therefor comprising cover for core; blank or closure therefor
Publication date: 2013-01-17
Patent application number: 20130017912
A removable moisture-resistant ball cover is provided. The ball cover
substantially encloses a ball, such as a tennis ball, and includes an
opening which can be expanded to attach the ball cover over the ball or
remove the ball cover from the ball. The ball cover may be made from a
silicone rubber material so as to be resistant to the absorption of
liquid and also flexible enough to be easily attached and detached from
the ball. The opening may be shaped in a variety of manners, such as a
circular, crescent or oval, to permit the opening to be easily expanded
to attach or detach the cover from the ball. The ball cover is
sufficiently thin to maintain the functionality and usefulness of the
dimensions of the ball but sufficiently thick to avoid being easily
damaged by an animal which may chew on the ball with the ball cover.
1. A removable ball cover comprising: a flexible covering configured to
substantially surround a ball; and an opening disposed on the covering
which flexibly expands to permit the flexible covering to substantially
surround the ball.
2. The removable ball cover of claim 1, wherein the flexible covering is a moisture-resistant material.
3. The removable ball cover of claim 2, wherein the moisture-resistant material is silicone rubber.
4. The removable ball cover of claim 3, wherein the flexible covering is approximately 1.5 millimeters (mm) thick.
5. The removable ball cover of claim 1, wherein the flexible covering is a spherical shape that is configured to substantially surround a spherical ball.
6. The removable ball cover of claim 1, wherein the width of the opening is less than the diameter of the ball.
7. The removable ball cover of claim 6, wherein the width of the opening is between approximately 5 mm to 35 mm.
8. The removable ball cover of claim 7, wherein the opening is circular-shaped.
9. The removable ball cover of claim 7, wherein the opening is substantially crescent-shaped.
10. The removable ball cover of claim 1, wherein the width of the opening is approximately 0 mm, such that the flexible covering entirely encloses the ball.
11. The removable ball cover of claim 1, wherein the flexible covering is configured to substantially enclose a rubber ball with a felt outer layer.
12. The removable ball cover of claim 11, wherein the flexible covering is configured to substantially enclose a tennis ball.
 This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/506,570, filed Jul. 11, 2011, now pending, the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein in their entirety.
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates to a covering for a tennis ball or the like, and more specifically to a removable, moisture-resistant covering for covering a ball that is used when playing with an animal.
 2. Description of Related Art
 Many domesticated animals, such as dogs, enjoy playing with balls. In particular, dogs enjoy playing with tennis balls due to their size, shape, flexibility and other properties. A tennis ball is most often made from a rubber material covered by a layer of felt, and is generally small enough to fit into a dog's mouth and can be easily gripped and chewed due to its flexibility.
 However, when a dog plays with a tennis ball, the ball quickly absorbs the saliva from the dog's mouth and can become wet and subsequently very dirty due to contact with the ground. The tennis ball will also easily absorb water on the ground or from a puddle, creek or other natural body of water; and this water may be dirty or unsanitary for the dog or the person touching the ball.
 In particular, a person who is playing with the dog by throwing the tennis ball will get his or her hands dirty very quickly. In addition, when throwing the ball, the saliva absorbed into the surface of the ball may be rapidly expelled, landing on the person or nearby surfaces such as furniture, carpeting, etc. which the person did not intend to get dirty.
 Several different tennis ball launchers have even been developed to avoid having to pick up a saliva-covered tennis ball. However, the ball launchers are still problematic in that the ball is still covered in saliva and dirt, and the saliva is still expelled from the surface from the ball when it is launched. Even with most ball launchers, a person must still pick up the ball and load it into the launcher before launching it. Finally, some dog owners avoid letting their dogs chew on tennis balls because they are afraid that chewing on the dirt stuck to the tennis ball may wear down a dog's teeth.
 Embodiments described herein are directed to a removable ball cover configured to substantially enclose an absorbent ball such as a tennis ball with a moisture-resistant covering. The moisture-resistant covering prevents saliva, water or other moisture, along with dirt and other substances from absorbing into the ball or sticking to its surface. The removable ball cover is configured with an opening which can expand to substantially enclose the ball and be subsequently removed.
 In one exemplary embodiment, a removable ball cover may comprise: a flexible covering configured to substantially surround a ball; and an opening disposed on the covering which flexibly expands to permit the flexible covering to substantially surround the ball.
 The flexible covering may be a moisture-resistant material.
 The moisture-resistant material may be a silicone rubber.
 The flexible covering may be approximately 1.5 millimeters (mm) thick.
 The flexible covering may be a spherical shape that is configured to substantially surround a spherical ball.
 The width of the opening may be less than the diameter of the ball.
 The width of the opening may be between approximately 10 mm and 35 mm.
 The opening may be circular-shaped.
 The opening may be substantially crescent-shaped.
 The width of the opening may be approximately 0 mm, such that the flexible covering entirely encloses the ball.
 The flexible covering may be configured to substantially enclose a rubber ball with a felt outer layer.
 The flexible covering may be configured to substantially enclose a tennis ball.
 Additional aspects related to the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will be apparent from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. Aspects of the invention may be realized and attained by means of the elements and combinations of various elements and aspects particularly pointed out in the following detailed description and the appended claims.
 It is to be understood that both the foregoing and the following descriptions are exemplary and explanatory only and are not intended to limit the claimed invention or application thereof in any manner whatsoever.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, exemplify the embodiments of the present invention and, together with the description, serve to explain and illustrate principles of the invention. Specifically:
 FIG. 1A illustrates a perspective view of a ball cover with an opening substantially enclosing a ball, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 1B illustrates a perspective view of the ball cover with an opening when the ball cover is not surrounding the ball, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of the opening of the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 3 illustrates a view of a slit-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 4 illustrates a circular-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 5 illustrates a heart-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 6 illustrates a pod-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 7 illustrates a square-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 8 illustrates a star-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention;
 FIG. 9 illustrates a triangular-shaped opening for the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention; and
 FIG. 10 illustrates the ball cover with a plurality of protrusions extending from the surface of the ball cover, according to one embodiment of the invention.
 In the following detailed description, reference will be made to the accompanying drawings. The aforementioned accompanying drawings show by way of illustration, and not by way of limitation, specific embodiments and implementations consistent with principles of the present invention. These implementations are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other implementations may be utilized and that structural changes and/or substitutions of various elements may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of present invention. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be construed in a limited sense. Additionally, the various embodiments of the invention as described may be implemented in the form of software running on a general purpose computer, in the form of a specialized hardware, or combination of software and hardware.
 FIG. 1A is a perspective view of one embodiment of a ball cover 102 which substantially surrounds a ball 104. The ball 104 is visible through an opening 106 in the ball cover 102. The ball cover 102 is a spherical-shaped, hollow covering which is fitted around a spherical-shaped ball 104. However, the ball cover 102 may be shaped differently depending on the type of ball which it is intended to cover. For example, the ball cover 102 could be an ovoid (egg) shape or a football shape if it is designed to cover an ovoid-shaped ball or a football. FIG. 1B illustrates the ball cover 102 when it is not surrounding the ball, demonstrating the spherical shape and hollow nature of the ball cover 102 when it is not in use. The opening 106 provides a view of the hollow interior of the ball cover 102.
 The ball cover described herein is beneficial for use in covering a tennis ball that will be used as a toy for an animal such as a dog, although the benefits of the embodiments of the invention are not limited thereto. The ball cover may be made from a moisture-resistant material to repel moisture from the surface and prevent moisture from being absorbed into the ball.
 The ball cover may be removable so that the cover may be selectively used in environments where the ball is more likely to get wet or dirty, but removed in an environment where the ball is more likely to stay clean. The ball cover may also be removable so that it can be separately cleaned and so that the ball can continue to be used on different balls in the event that one ball wears out. The opening permits the ball cover to be attached with the ball and removed from the ball, as will be further described herein.
 FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the opening 106 of the ball cover, which also shows a thickness 108 of the ball cover at an edge 110 of the opening 106. The ball cover should have a thickness that is sufficiently thin so as to minimally increase a diameter 112 of the ball (see FIG. 1). In one embodiment, the ball cover is approximately 1.5 millimeters (mm) thick, although it could range in thickness from approximately 1.0 mm to approximately 5 mm. With a thin cover, the size of the ball will still be acceptable to animals, such as dogs, which prefer to keep the ball in their mouths and even chew on the ball. Furthermore, the cover should still permit the ball to be placed in any of the numerous ball-throwing apparatuses that are designed to receive a tennis ball. As it is anticipated that the ball cover will be subject to significant compression and tearing from an animal which bites or chews on the ball, the ball cover should still be sufficiently thick to prevent it from being torn or punctured.
 The ball cover may be made from a rubber or molded plastic material, such as a silicone rubber or a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) plastic. The silicone rubber may be a non-toxic material. The material should be at least resistant to moisture, but other rubber and plastic compounds could be used which are moisture-proof or water-proof, in that no moisture will penetrate the surface. In another embodiment, the material may be moisture-repellent and have properties which prevent moisture from adhering to the surface. This could be achieved by selecting a material which is moisture-repellent or by coating the surface of the ball cover with a moisture-repellent chemical compound such as a silicone or fluorocarbon. If a moisture-repellent coating is used, the ball cover may not need to be formed from a moisture-resistant material, and could be a material such as canvas, nylon or any other durable fiber, natural or synthetic. The ball cover 102 may be elastic to the point that the opening 106 can be stretched to fit over the ball 104 when the ball cover 102 is being attached to the ball. The ball cover 102 should fit tightly around the ball 104 once it is attached, so that there is no significant movement of the ball cover 102 while attached with the ball 104. The ball cover 102 should also fit tightly around the ball 104 so that no significant gaps exist between the ball and the ball cover at the edge 110 of the opening 106, as any significant gap will permit moisture and dirt to absorb into the ball.
 The opening 106 may include a variety of shapes and sizes, but is generally smaller than the diameter 112 of the ball 104 itself so that the ball is substantially covered by the ball cover 102. The opening 106 may be significantly smaller than the diameter 112 of the ball 104, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate a crescent-shaped opening 106, although the opening 106 could be circular, oval or even rectangular or triangular as long as the opening 106 is capable of being stretched out larger than the diameter 112 of the ball 104 to provide for easy removal. In another embodiment, the opening 106 could take an abstract shape, such as a bone, a star or even a silhouette of an animal such as a dog. In the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the opening 106 is capable of being manually stretched so that it can be attached and detached from the ball 104 quickly and easily, and at the same time still cover the substantial surface of the ball 104. In one embodiment, the opening 106 may be approximately 25 mm in width or diameter, but may be as small as approximately 5 mm in width or diameter. However, the size of the opening 106 may be varied widely and may be up to approximately 35 mm in width or diameter.
 The opening 106 could also be negligible in size but with a large width to facilitate greater coverage of the ball but still allow the ball cover 102 to be easily removed, as illustrated by the slit-shaped opening 114 in FIG. 3. In this embodiment, the opening is a small slit 112 where little if any of the surface of the ball 104 is exposed. For the opening 106 to be small enough for the ball cover 102 to cover almost the entire surface of the ball 104, the ball cover 102 should be made from a material which is able to stretch to a size larger than the diameter 112 of the ball 104 and then contract back to a resting position which tightly fits around the entire surface of the ball 104. In the exemplary embodiment in FIG. 3, the height of the slit may be approximately 0.25 inches and have a width of approximately 3 inches.
 Various other shapes for the opening 106 may be provided with unique functional and aesthetic features, as shown in FIGS. 4-9. FIG. 4 illustrates a circular opening 116; FIG. 5 illustrates a heart-shaped opening 118; FIG. 6 illustrates a pod-shaped opening 120; FIG. 7 illustrates a square-shaped opening 122; FIG. 8 illustrates a star-shaped opening 124; and FIG. 9 illustrates a triangle-shaped opening 126. The shapes of the openings illustrated here are exemplary only, and other shapes are possible. Shapes such as the circular-shaped opening 116 in FIG. 4 provide for easily enclosing the covering around the ball or removing the covering from the ball since the circular-shaped opening is essentially the same shape as the ball.
 FIG. 10 illustrates an alternate embodiment of the ball cover 102 where a plurality of protrusions 128 extend outward from the surface of the ball cover 102. The protrusions 128 may provide a unique texture and provide additional appeal to both the dog and the user. The protrusions 128 may be made from the same material as the ball cover 102, such as latex rubber.
 In a further embodiment (not shown), the opening could be essentially nonexistent with a width or diameter of 0.0 mm when surrounding the ball, with the ball cover covering the entire surface of the ball. In this embodiment, the opening would be an incision-like slit in the ball cover which would need to be pulled apart as with the previous embodiments in order to remove the ball cover from the ball. However, the incision-like slit would provide for complete coverage of the ball and hence protection of the entire surface of the ball.
 The embodiments of the ball cover described herein provide protection for a ball, such as a tennis ball with an absorbent, felt surface. The ball cover repels moisture, such as saliva from a dog, and thus prevents the ball from becoming wet and dirty when the dog is playing with the toy. A person may then play with the dog by picking up and throwing the ball without worrying about a significant amount of saliva, dirt or other foreign material gathering on the ball and transferring to hands, clothes, carpeting, furniture, etc. Furthermore, the ball cover is sufficiently thin so that the tennis ball with the ball cover attached thereon may still be used with ball launching toys.
 While various embodiments of the present invention have been described above, it should be understood that they have been presented by way of example only, and not of limitation. The breadth and scope of the present invention should not be limited by any of the above-described exemplary embodiments. Where this document refers to technologies that would be apparent or known to one of ordinary skill in the art, such technologies encompass those apparent or known to the skilled artisan now or at any time in the future. In addition, the invention is not restricted to the illustrated example architectures or configurations, but the desired features can be implemented using a variety of alternative architectures and configurations. As will become apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art after reading this document, the illustrated embodiments and their various alternatives can be implemented without confinement to the illustrated example. One of ordinary skill in the art would also understand how alternative functional, logical or physical partitioning and configurations could be utilized to implement the desired features of the present invention.
 Furthermore, although items, elements or components of the invention may be described or claimed in the singular, the plural is contemplated to be within the scope thereof unless limitation to the singular is explicitly stated. The presence of broadening words and phrases such as "one or more," "at least," "but not limited to" or other like phrases in some instances shall not be read to mean that the narrower case is intended or required in instances where such broadening phrases may be absent.
Patent applications in class Comprising cover for core; blank or closure therefor
Patent applications in all subclasses Comprising cover for core; blank or closure therefor