Patent application title: MODULAR TOY ASSEMBLY
Richard Esterle (Pittsburgh, PA, US)
Cal-Side (USA) Ltd. dba Monkey Business Sports
IPC8 Class: AA63H3308FI
Class name: Amusement devices: toys construction toy interfitting elements
Publication date: 2012-06-28
Patent application number: 20120164912
Connectable planar toy pieces have base shapes of regular or irregular
polygons of various side counts. Connectability is achieved by way of an
extension hook on each side of each piece, creating slots with
bead-shaped protrusions therein. This arrangement allows two pieces to
snap together when one piece is connected to another either slot-to-slot
or slot-to-edge. Several pieces may be so connected, forming a variety of
possible shapes and structures.
1. A toy comprising a first piece having a front planar surface, a rear
planar surface, a thickness, and at least three side edges, wherein each
side edge includes a hook extension beginning at a first end of the side
edge and extending substantially parallel to the side edge, forming a
slot between the hook extension and the side edge; the slot having a
width, an open first end, a terminus at a second end, and two connector
beads disposed near the terminus with one bead on each side of the slot;
and the width of the slot is greater than the thickness of the piece.
2. The toy of claim 1, further including a second piece, wherein the pieces are configured to snap together by mating any one slot on the first piece with any one slot on the second piece and applying sufficient force such that the pair of beads in the slot of the first piece are urged past the pair of beads in the second slot.
3. The toy of claim 1, wherein each slot has a first length and each side edge has a second length, and the first length is at least about one half of the second length.
4. The toy of claim 1, wherein each hook extension has an outer perimeter, and at least a portion of the outer perimeter includes a lip.
5. The toy of claim 4, wherein the lip is sized to allow the connector beads in a slot of a second piece to snap onto the perimeter of the first piece, holding the second piece onto the first piece.
6. The toy of claim 4, wherein the outer perimeter is curvilinear.
7. The toy of claim 1, wherein the beads are spherical and have a diameter; and the beads are disposed less than or equal to about one diameter from the terminus.
8. The toy of claim 1, wherein the beads disposed in a slot are spaced apart from each other.
9. The toy of claim 1, wherein at least one of the planar surfaces includes texturing in the form of a plurality of concentric ridges.
10. The toy of claim 1, wherein the piece includes a central hole.
11. The toy of claim 1, wherein each hook extension includes at least one hole.
12. A set of toys comprising a plurality of pieces each piece having a front planar surface, a rear planar surface, a thickness, and at least three side edges, wherein each side edge includes a hook extension beginning at a first end of the side edge and extending substantially parallel to the side edge, forming a slot between the hook extension and the side edge; the slot having a width, an open first end, a terminus at a second end, and two beads disposed near the terminus with one bead on each side of the slot; and the width of the slot is greater than the thickness of the piece.
13. The set of toys of claim 12, wherein each side edge of each piece has a length, and the length of each side edge of each piece is substantially the same.
14. The set of toys of claim 12, wherein at least one piece has a different number of sides than at least one other piece.
15. The set of toys of claim 12, wherein the pieces are configured to allow at least a first piece and a second piece to fit together by mating any one slot on the first piece with any one slot on the second piece and applying sufficient force such that the pair of beads in the slot of the first piece are urged past the pair of beads in the second slot.
16. The toy of claim 12, wherein each slot has a first length and each side edge has a second length, and the first length is at least about one half of the second length.
17. The toy of claim 12, wherein each hook extension has an outer perimeter, and at least a portion of the outer perimeter includes a lip.
18. The toy of claim 17, wherein the lip is sized to allow the connector beads in a slot of a second piece to snap onto the perimeter of the first piece, holding the second piece onto the first piece.
19. The toy of claim 17, wherein the outer perimeter is curvilinear.
20. The toy of claim 12, wherein the beads are spherical and have a diameter; and the beads are disposed less than or equal to about one diameter from the terminus.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
 This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. §119 and applicable foreign and international law of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/369,590 filed Jul. 30, 2010 which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
 Children enjoy using their imaginations by playing with construction toys to create objects of their own design. Examples of such toys include Tinkertoy® construction sets, Lego® bricks, and the toy set disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,593,337, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
 Connectable planar toy pieces have base shapes of regular or irregular polygons of various side counts. Connectability is achieved by way of an extension hook on each side of each piece, creating slots with bead-shaped protrusions therein. This arrangement allows two pieces to snap together when one piece is connected to another either slot-to-slot or slot-to-edge. Several pieces may be so connected, forming a variety of possible shapes and structures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a plan view of various illustrative toy pieces.
 FIG. 2 is a plan view of an illustrative toy piece with a four-sided polygon base shape.
 FIG. 3 is a side view of the toy piece of FIG. 2.
 FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a portion of two illustrative toy pieces snapped together.
 FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the pieces of FIG. 4, shown from an orthogonal angle to the view of FIG. 4.
 FIG. 6 is a perspective view of two illustrative pieces, indicating one possible slot-to-slot connection path.
 FIG. 7 is a plan view of several illustrative toy pieces woven together in an approximately planar arrangement.
 FIG. 8 is a perspective view of several illustrative four-sided toy pieces connected to form a polyhedral surface.
 Various illustrative connectable toy pieces in accordance with the present disclosure are depicted in FIGS. 1-8. FIG. 1 shows a plan view of three examples of toy pieces 10. As depicted in FIG. 1, each toy piece 10 may have a central base shape 12 in the form of a substantially planar polygon, side hook extensions 22, and slots 30.
 Being polygonal, base shape 12 has a plurality of side edges 14. Base shape 12 may have any number of side edges 14 such that base shape 12 takes the form of a regular or irregular polygon. For example, toy piece 10a has three side edges 14 and a triangular base shape 12a; toy piece 10b has four side edges 14 and a square base shape 12b; and toy piece 10c has five side edges 14 and a pentagonal base shape 12c. While regular polygons are depicted in FIG. 1, other shapes are also possible. For example, a four-sided toy piece 10 may have a base shape 12 in the form of a parallelogram or diamond rather than a square.
 As depicted in FIGS. 1 through 3, base shape 12 of each toy piece 10 may also include a central hole 16, a plurality of textural features 18, and a thickness 20. Central hole 16 may be any suitable size and shape that allows spindling, stringing, and/or aesthetically pleasing passage of light through what may be an otherwise opaque material. For example, central hole 16 may take the shape of a circle, as depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2, or a star, crescent, polygon, football, or any other shape. Other similar holes or perforations in base shape 12 may be provided for similar reasons. These perforations may be in addition to or instead of central hole 16, and may be various shapes and sizes.
 Textural features 18 may be any raised or recessed features formed on the front and/or rear planar face of base shape 12 to allow both decorative appeal and facilitation of handling. As depicted in FIG. 2, textural features 18 may include concentric ridges taking the shape of the particular base shape of the toy piece.
 Toy piece 10 may have a coplanar hook extension 22 extending from each side edge 14 of base shape 12 as depicted in FIGS. 1 and 2. As shown in the drawings, one end of hook extension 22 may form a continuous surface with base shape 12 and extend from one end of side edge 14 toward the other end of side edge 14, forming a slot 30 along each side edge 14. Each hook extension 22 may have a curvilinear outer peripheral edge 26 and one or more holes 24. Peripheral edge 26 may include a peripheral lip 28, causing peripheral edge 26 to have a greater thickness than thickness 20 of base shape 12, and enhancing the structural rigidity of toy piece 10. Holes 24 in hook extensions 22 may be any suitable size and shape, and may allow toy pieces 10 to be laced together or strung individually.
 Each slot 30 is formed by an inner edge of hook extension 22 and a corresponding parallel side edge 14. Slot 30 may extend approximately half way or more across side edge 14, and may include a mouth 32, a terminus 34, a width 36, and two or more connector beads 38. Mouth 32 is formed as an opening into slot 30 formed by a terminal end of hook extension 22 and one end region of side edge 14. Slot 30 extends across approximately one half of the length of side edge 14, ending at terminus 34, where the parallel sides of slot 30 end and come together. The parallel edges of hook extension 22 and side edge 14 are spaced apart to form width 36, which is greater than thickness 20 to facilitate slot-to-slot connection of two toy pieces 10, described below.
 Also facilitating connection of toy pieces 10, at least two connector beads are formed as protrusions near terminus 34, with at least one connector bead on either side of slot 30 and disposed across from each other. Connector beads 38 may be any suitable shape configured to narrow slot 30 and also protrude orthogonally on either side of the plane of base shape 12. A pair of connector beads 38 is configured to snap onto a surface placed between the two beads. Connector beads 38 may be spaced apart from each other so as to narrow slot 30 without touching. Orthogonal protrusion facilitates retention of a corresponding pair of connector beads 38 on a second surface. In some examples, connector beads 38 are spherical protrusions of a certain diameter (d) which may be located within approximately one diameter (d) from terminus 34. More than one pair of connector beads 38 may be disposed in each slot 30.
 This snapping together, or mating, of two toy pieces 10 utilizing a pair of connector beads 38 on each toy piece 10 is depicted in FIGS. 4 and 5, which are cross sectional views taken along respectively marked section lines in FIG. 2. The phantom line in FIG. 2 shows an illustrative second toy piece 10e being inserted into a slot 30 of toy piece 10d. FIGS. 4 and 5 depict the relationship of two pairs of spherical connector beads 38 of toy pieces 10d and 10e after having been snapped together.
 As two toy pieces 10d and 10e are slotted together, their respective connector beads 38 meet and temporarily block further movement, due to the fact that connector beads 38 narrow the width of slot 30. With application of additional force, the respective pairs of connector beads 38 may be urged to elastically snap past each other, thus causing the connector beads 38 of each toy piece 10 to be captured by the terminus 34 and connector beads 38 of the other toy piece 10. At this point, the two toy pieces are snapped together. However, further force may be applied in the direction of the terminuses, causing connector beads 38 to pass the terminuses and pinch onto base shape 12. In any event, the two toy pieces may be disconnected by applying force in the direction of slot mouth 32, to allow the pairs of connector beads 38 to elastically pass each other and thus unslot the pieces. An overview of slot-to-slot mating is depicted in the perspective view of FIG. 6, using two illustrative toy pieces 10.
 It is noted that slot-to-slot connection has been described with two toy pieces in orthogonal orientation with respect to each other. However, flexibility and slot dimensions are such that slot-to-slot connection may be accomplished at almost any angle. Additionally, toy pieces 10 may snap together in other fashions, such as by snapping slot 30 of one toy piece 10 onto a peripheral edge 26 of a second toy piece 10. In this example, the connector beads 38 of a toy piece 10 may elastically pass the peripheral lip 28 of a second toy piece 10, clamping onto a planar portion of hook extension 22 of the second toy piece 10.
 Various shapes and structures may be constructed by snapping together multiple toy pieces 10 of identical or different side counts. Toy pieces 10 having different base shapes 12 may nonetheless have side edges 14 and hook extensions 22 having substantially the same dimensions. This may allow toy pieces 10 of different base shapes 12 to be snapped together in countless combinations. For example, three dimensional solids may be constructed, including Archimedean solids, Johnson solids, and Platonic solids.
 A plurality of toy pieces 10 may also be woven together to form a continuous surface, an example of which is depicted in FIG. 7. Using this method, various articles may be constructed, such as clothing or hats. In yet another example, FIG. 8 shows a cube-shaped structure constructed using several four-sided toy pieces 10. In some examples, a separate strip (not shown) having a shape such as a rectangle may be provided having a plurality of slots and connector beads similar to slots 30 and connector beads 38 but arranged at regular intervals around the periphery of the strip. This strip may be configured to allow storage or arrangement of various toy pieces 10.
 Toy pieces 10 may be manufactured by any suitable method using any suitable tough, semi-rigid material. Preferably, toy pieces 10 may be injection molded using a blend of polypropylene and thermoplastic rubber. This combination yields a desirable level of rigidity, durability, cost effectiveness, and rubbery hand feel, while preventing undesirable fogging of the material when bent. Toy pieces 10 may be opaque and/or colored, or may be configured to glow in the dark.
 The disclosure set forth herein encompasses multiple distinct inventions with independent utility. While each of these inventions has been disclosed in its preferred form, the specific embodiments thereof as disclosed and illustrated herein are not to be considered in a limiting sense as numerous variations are possible. Each example defines an embodiment disclosed in the foregoing disclosure, but any one example does not necessarily encompass all features or combinations that may be eventually claimed. Where the description recites "a" or "a first" element or the equivalent thereof, such description includes one or more such elements, neither requiring nor excluding two or more such elements. Further, ordinal indicators, such as first, second or third, for identified elements are used to distinguish between the elements, and do not indicate a required or limited number of such elements, and do not indicate a particular position or order of such elements unless otherwise specifically stated.
 The following reference numerals have been used in this disclosure:
 10 Toy Piece
 12 Base Shape
 14 Side Edge
 16 Central Hole
 18 Textural Features
 20 Thickness (of Base Shape)
 22 Hook Extension
 24 Holes (in Hook Extension)
 26 Peripheral Edge (of Hook Extension)
 28 Peripheral Lip (of Hook Extension)
 30 Slot
 32 Mouth (of Slot)
 34 Terminus (of Slot)
 36 Width (of Slot)
 38 Connector Beads
 The following claims particularly point out certain combinations and subcombinations regarded as novel and nonobvious. Inventions embodied in other combinations and subcombinations of features, functions, elements, and/or properties may be claimed in applications claiming priority from this or a related application. Such claims, whether directed to a different invention or to the same invention, and whether broader, narrower, equal, or different in scope to the original claims, also are regarded as included within the subject matter of the inventions of the present disclosure.
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