BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to the field of covers for child safety seats, and more specifically to child seat covers that are releasably attached to a child safety seat attached to a shopping cart in order to provide a sanitary and cushioned seating surface for a child seated within such child safety seat.
2. Preliminary Discussion
Transporting infants and small children on a shopping trip to a grocery store or similar retail enterprise often involves the use of a shopping cart that is constructed with a folding or collapsible child seat situated proximate to the push handle of said cart. These child seats are designed essentially to support an infant or small child in an upright position within the shopping cart with few if any features designed to provide for the comfort or hygiene of the infant or small child. A typical shopping cart is generally manufactured of materials that satisfy the requirements of relatively low acquisition and manufacturing cost, durability, and high strength, such as metal rods, molded plastic components, and the like. The particular characteristics of such materials that allow them to meet these requirements, such as rigidity, do not provide a particularly comfortable seating surface in the case of the child seat. This situation is especially acute in the case of shopping carts manufactured of metal rods spaced at predetermined intervals, in which case the limbs, posterior, or back of the infant or small child seated therein press against one or several of such individual rods. The child reacts by squirming within the seat in an attempt to reduce bodily contact with the seat or by attempting to leave the seat altogether. This occurrence can be especially troublesome to a parent or guardian who is attempting to accomplish a sizable shopping chore.
One means of providing a more comfortable seating device for a child within a shopping cart is the provision by the retailer of a child safety seat that can be attached, adjusted or otherwise used in conjunction with a conventional shopping cart. Normally, such seats are manufactured of plastic and molded or constructed of a shape similar to a child safety seat for vehicles in which an infant or small child can be positioned in a generally recumbent position. As such child safety seats are used repeatedly by a wide variety of people and customers, it is inevitable that eventually the child seats become soiled or contaminated by microbes, infectious agents, or spilled food stuffs that may make contact with the skin or clothing of an infant or small child later placed in the seating device and engender a reaction by or, infection of the infant or small child.
What is needed then to overcome the aforementioned disadvantages of such child safety seats is the provision of a child seat cover that a shopper can releasably attach to said child safety seats. Such a cover might desirably be constructed of an upper padded or cushioned section plus a lower section that is impervious to liquids. The cover would preferably be further constructed with a central area that substantially makes contact with or supports the body of an infant or small child and flap sections that can be folded around various components of the child seat to at least partially secure said cover to the child safety seat and shopping cart.
3. Discussion of Related Art
Numerous designs for seat covers for child safety seats and shopping cart seats have been provided in the prior art. Although these designs may be suitable for the specific individual purposes to which they are addressed, they would not be suitable for the purposes of the present version of the invention. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 5,678,888, issued to Sowell et al. on Oct. 21,1997 discloses a shopping cart child seat cover comprised of a seat section, back section, front section, and two side sections. The cover is attached to an integral shopping cart and child seat by a series of snap fasteners that are affixed to the various sections of the cover and enable the edges of the cover to be snapped over the structural components of the integral seat and shopping cart. As disclosed, the cover is relatively cumbersome to attach to and detach from the child seat section of a shopping cart. Additionally, an infant or small child seated therein may feel confined as the front section is formed with two leg apertures that are designed to receive the legs of the infant or small child. Additional seat covers for shopping cart seats in which the seat is essentially an integral portion of the shopping cart and constructed essentially as an extra shelf with surrounding retainment members incorporated in the cart itself are also shown in the following relatively recent references.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,238,293 issued to D. S. Gibson on Aug. 24, 1993 discloses an irregularly shaped seat cover with various hook-and-loop type fastening means along the edges plus securing straps, all of which make such cover relatively difficult to use as well as not readily washable.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,897,165 issued Apr. 27,1999 to S. Kucharczyk discloses a relatively simple hammock-type child seat attachable to a shopping cart seat and attachable by hook-and-loop fasteners by folding and snapping over the end sections of the integral shopping cart seat. The arrangement provides a seating surface for a child but does not effectively protect the child from contaminants upon the seat left by prior users.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,129,418 issued Oct. 10, 2000 to J. Bergh et al. discloses a cover incorporating a cushion for a shopping cart seat. The arrangement is relatively bulky and difficult to transport to a store location for individual use.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,036,264 issued Mar. 14, 2000 to T. N. Lucree discloses a sanitary liner for a shopping cart infant seat which more or less completely isolates a child from contact with a shopping cart seat, but is not overly adaptable to various seating arrangements.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,129,417 issued Oct. 10, 2000 to M. Cohen-Fyffe discloses a shopping cart child seat essentially providing pocket sections at the end to fit over the sides of the seat structure and retain the seat in position with additional flaps on the sides to cover the sides of the cart. The rear pocket fits over the handle of the cart and thus protects the person using the cart for shopping such as a child's mother as well as the child from contamination left on the cart and seat structure by previous users.
In recent years, retail establishments have begun using child seats in shopping carts modeled after the now widely used child car seat. Such seats are usually formed of some plastic material and secured to the shopping cart by metal crosspieces. Since these child seats are also used and indeed have more exposed surface for possible contamination, there has been a need for covering these seats to prevent contamination of such seats by earlier users as well as to cushion the child from the bare supporting surfaces of such seats.
An early and fairly complicated seat cover adapted for covering car seats is known from U.S. Pat. No. 4,883,701 issued to J. J. Rankin et al. on Nov. 28, 1989, but this seat cover would not be easily and comfortably securable to a child shopping cart seat of the known type. The Rankin et al. seat cover is designed to be inexpensive and replaceable when soiled and provides various orifices to accommodate child retainment strapping and the like. The seat cover is made from a material that will tend to retain its shape but is still sufficiently flexible to accommodate itself to the underlying child car seat. Slots are provided in the sides rather than slits to accommodate car seat strapping so the seat cover is more easily accommodated to such strapping or can be slipped into the slots without having to thread the strapping through slits in the cover.
Other more recently issued patents showing seat covers for child safety seats specifically designed for use with the more modern safety seats for shopping carts are the following:
U.S. Pat. No. 5,988,744 issued Nov. 23, 1999 to L. Franchak comprises essentially a flat but foldable fabric covered resilient element provided with an integral-retaining strap.
U.S. Pat. No. 6,164,721 issued Dec. 26, 2000 to M. M. Latshaw et al. discloses a shopping cart child seat having a somewhat similar arrangement to the Franchak seat cover or cushion, but having a special configuration.
As such, it may be appreciated that there is a continuing need for a new and improved seat cover for a child safety seat for shopping carts that can be attached to and detached from a safety seat with minimum exertion and that furthermore provides a pleasing, comfortable seating surface for an infant or small child. In these respects, the present version of the invention substantially departs from the conventional concepts and designs of the prior art, and in so doing, provides an apparatus that substantially fulfills this need. Additionally, the prior patents and commercial techniques do not suggest the present inventive combination of component elements arranged and configured as disclosed herein. The present invention achieves its intended purposes, objects, and advantages through new, useful and unobvious combinations of method steps and component elements, with the use of a minimum number of functioning parts, at a reasonable cost to manufacture, and by employing only readily available materials.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The preferred embodiment of the present invention comprises a cover for child safety seats attached to shopping carts. More specifically, the invention is concerned with child seat covers that are releasably attached to the child safety seat of a shopping cart in order to provide a sanitary and cushioned seating surface for a child seated within a shopping cart. According to a typical embodiment, the invention presents a seat cover comprised of a rectangular padded section and a rectangular liner section of liquid impervious material that is configured with the perimeter dimensions of the padded section. The padded section is constructed of outside layers that house cushioning material situated between said outside layers and maintained therein by stitching of a quilted or diagonal pattern. The padded section consists of a central rectangular section and rear, front, and side flap sections. The central section is formed with apertures that can, if necessary, receive a restraining strap or belt attached to a child safety seat, and the rear and side flap sections are fitted with external pockets designed for receipt of personal items of the infant, small child, or parent or guardian. Fastening straps are attached to opposing side edges of the front and rear flap sections and are releasably secured to cooperating patches attached to opposing side edges of the side flap sections. The liner section is attached to the underside of the padded section so that said liner section makes contact with the child seat of a shopping cart and prevents any liquid or contamination upon the child seat from making contact with the padded section and eventually or ultimately the infant or small child. Restraining strap covers are releasably attached to the restraining straps of the child safety seat in order to prevent the transmission of germs and the possibility of chafing or abrasions caused by the restraining strap's making contact with a child. The invention, therefore, resides not in any one of these features per se, but rather in the particular combination of all of them herein disclosed. It is distinguished from the prior art in this particular combination of all of its structures for the functions specified.
OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION
It is an object of the present invention, therefore, to provide a low-cost, easy-to-manufacture, and easy-to-market seat cover for a shopping cart child safety seat.
A further object of the invention is to provide an easy-to-use and versatile seat cover for a shopping cart child safety seat.
A still further object of the invention is to provide a cover for a modern child seat in a shopping cart.
A still further object of the invention is to provide a seat cover for a shopping cart child safety seat that can be attached to and detached from the child safety seat with minimal expenditure of time and exertion.
A still further object of the invention is to provide a seat cover having pockets or storage pouches on the outside of the seat cover away from a child placed in the seat.
A still further object of the invention is to provide a seat cover for a shopping cart child safety seat that is comprised of a padded section and a liner section impervious to liquid in order to prevent the transfer of liquids and contaminants to the padded section of the seat cover during storage, transport, and use.
A still further object of the invention is to provide a seat cover with matching strap covers for encapsulating and padding the safety straps of a child shopping cart seat cover.
A still further object of the invention is the provision of a relatively inexpensive disposable child seat cover.
Still other objects and advantages of the invention will become clear upon review of the following detailed description in conjunction with the appended drawings.
Referring again to FIG. 1, the padded section 12 is comprised of a central area or section 16, rear flap 18, front flap 20, and side flaps 22 a and 22 b. The central area 16 functions primarily as the seat and back (in conjunction with the rear flap 18) of the cover 10. Two rectangular apertures 24 and 26 are formed within the central area 16 of the padded section 12 and are designed to receive or accommodate any safety belts, straps and the like that may be attached to a child safety seat and used in conjunction therewith. A pocket 28 is attached to the rear flap 18, and pockets 30 a and 30 b are attached to the side flaps 22 a and 22 b, respectively. Narrow, elongate straps 32 are attached to the side edges of the rear flap 18 and front flap 20. Cooperating patches 34 are affixed to the side edges of the side flaps 22 a and 22 b. A variety of fastening methods are intended to secure the flap sections 18, 20, 22 a and 22 b to each other and over and around portions of a child seat and shopping cart, such as hook-and-loop fasteners (VELCRO®), snaps, buttons, and the like. The liner section 14, which is constructed with dimensions and a perimeter identical to that of the padded section 12 as referenced earlier, is also comprised of a cooperating central area 36, rear flap 38, front flap 40, side flaps 42 a and 42 b, and apertures 44 and 46. The cover 10 is also provided with two rectangular restraining strap covers 48 that are constructed of material identical or similar to that of the padded section 12. While the strap covers 48 could be formed of material of both rectangular sections 12 and 14, since the straps are largely protected from the child seat itself by the intervening material of the cover fitted about the seat, the use of the lower sheet 14 is not so important. However, in order to protect the child from any liquid contamination of the straps it is desirable that the strap covers be not only padded but also protected from moist contaminants by moisture-proof material. Each cover 48 is fitted on a first side with a rectangular fastener patch 50 and on a second side with a rectangular fastener patch 52 (shown in phantom lines) at opposing edges thereof, said fastener patches 50 and 52 being comprised of VELCRO® or similar material. With this construction, the covers 48 can be folded in a tubular configuration around the portion of a child seat restraining strap that may make contact with a child in order to prevent the transmission of germs and the occurrence of abrasion, chafing, or rubbing against the child situated therein.