CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
- TECHNICAL FIELD
This application incorporates by reference, and claims priority to and the benefit of, German Patent Application Serial No. 102005058927.8, which was filed on Dec. 9, 2005, the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention relates to a system for individualizing a shoe, in particular children's shoes.
Shoes today are mass-produced, such that identical models are produced in high numbers for reducing manufacturing costs. Although there are a great variety of models on the market, selecting a shoe with respect to its outer appearance is generally limited to given shoe models.
At the same time, there is a trend for individualization in many areas of society. The wearer of a shoe wants to identify with his shoe and to make it different from other shoes. For example, major shoe manufacturers now offer the possibility to configure a shoe over the Internet within certain limits to provide the name of the owner on the shoe. This does not, however, provide a real individual shoe design. Furthermore, the configuration requires knowledge that many customers are lacking, in particular children.
In order to overcome these disadvantages, several approaches are known in the prior art. For example, assignee of the present application distributed shoes for children in the mid-80's that had white uppers together with a set of pens for individually designing the shoe; however, the result achieved was not always aesthetically pleasing.
Other approaches for individualizing the outer design of a shoe are known from U.S. Pat. No. 5,673,501 (the '501 patent) and U.S. Pat. No. 5,136,726 (the '726 patent), the entire disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein. The '501 patent discloses, for example, a shoe wherein a number of attachment means are integrated on to a shaft. The attachment means operate similar to a snap-on device and allow a wearer to attach, depending on the preferences of the wearer, different decorating elements, such as a ribbon or the like. These elements, however, can only be arranged at the locations of the few predetermined attachment means.
The '726 patent discloses a shoe where almost the entire outer surface is a fabric forming a hook and loop type fastener together with another fabric on the backside of a decorative element. Therefore, one or more decorative elements can be almost arbitrarily distributed on the surface of the shoe; however, the limitation of the fabric, which forms one side of the hook and loop type fastener, not only strongly impairs the usability of the shoe, but also its outer appearance. Furthermore, there is the risk that the upper material becomes permanently dirty when using a shoe according to the '726 patent, because the required open structure of the upper material is very easily soiled.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
There is, therefore, a need for a system for individualizing a shoe, which provides a large amount of design freedom for the exterior of the shoe, but also is easy to use and does not impair the practical usability of the shoe.
A system in accordance with the invention allows the easy realization of an unlimited number of different overall designs of a shoe by rubbing one or more second design elements at different locations onto the surface region of the shoe. As a result, no shoe is identical to another, which leads to the highest degree of individualization.
In one aspect, the invention relates to a system for individualizing a shoe. The system includes a shoe defining a surface region having at least one first design element and at least one second design element. The second design element has a contact surface. At least one of the contact surface and/or the surface region is configured such that the second design clement is arbitrarily positionable onto the surface region of the shoe by rubbing.
In various embodiments, the system includes a plurality of second design elements. Each of the second design elements can have smaller dimensions than the surface region of the shoe. As a result, there is a high degree of flexibility where and in which combinations the plurality of second design elements are arranged on the surface region of the shoe with the first design element. The surface region can be arranged on an instep, the tongue, the heel and/or a side of an upper of the shoe. In one embodiment, the first design element and the at least one second design element are thematically related to each other, which results in a particularly advantageous overall aesthetic impression being easily obtained. At least one of the surface region of the shoe and the contact surface of the at least one second design element can be configured such that the at least one second design element is removable from the surface region without damaging the first design element. This can be accomplished by the first and second design elements having different levels of abrasion resistance based, for example, on different materials, attachment means, and/or surface preparations. In one embodiment, the first design element on the surface region has a greater abrasion resistance than the rubbed-on second design element. For example, the first design element can have an abrasion resistance such that it survives an abrasion test with a 280 grit sandpaper at a force of about 9.8 N for about 200 cycles, substantially without damage, and the second design element can be removable from the surface region in an abrasion test with a linen at a force of about 9.8 N for about 20 to about 30 cycles. The combination of these material properties makes it possible to repeatedly arrange and remove second design elements on the surface without damaging the first design element.
Furthermore, the system can include a removing means to remove the at least one second design element from the surface region of the shoe. The system can also include a rub-on tool for rubbing the at least one second design element onto the surface region. The rub-on tool can include a handle region and a rubbing region, wherein the rubbing tool increases in width from the handle region to the rubbing region. Additionally, the rubbing tool can include an attachment opening that allows the tool to be mounted like a key-fob.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other objects, along with advantages and features of the present invention herein disclosed, will become apparent through reference to the following description, the accompanying drawings, and the claims. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the features of the various embodiments described herein are not mutually exclusive and can exist in various combinations and permutations.
In the drawings, like reference characters generally refer to the same parts throughout the different views. Also, the drawings are not necessarily to scale, emphasis instead generally being placed upon illustrating the principles of the invention. In the following description, various embodiments of the present invention are described with reference to the following drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a schematic view of a system for individualizing a shoe in accordance with one embodiment of the invention;
FIG. 2 is a pictorial representation of an individualized shoe in accordance with one embodiment of the invention; and
FIG. 3 is a schematic perspective view of a rubbing element in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.
In the following, embodiments of the system are further described with reference to an example of an individual design of children's footwear; however, it is to be understood that a system in accordance with the invention can also be used to individualize the design of other types of shoes independent from their field of use and size.
FIG. 1 presents a general view of a shoe 10 and a set of rub-on design elements 20. The shoe 10 has an upper 5 having an instep region 11, a tongue 7, a heel region 8, and side regions 12, as is known in the art; however, other types of uppers are contemplated and within the scope of the invention. A plurality of first design elements 15 are permanently arranged on the instep region 11 and the side regions 12 by, for example, imprinting the material of the upper 5 (leather, patent leather, polymers, or the like) before, during, or after the manufacture of the shoe 10. Imprinting can be done, for example, via screen-printing, sublimation printing, or transfer printing. Other manufacturing techniques are also contemplated and within the scope of the invention. For example, the first design elements 15 can also be generated by coining, punching, gluing, or other techniques, which do not only generate a two-dimensional design of the surface, but impart a three dimensional design to the corresponding region of the shoe, similar to a relief. The shaping of the relief can predetermine positions where second design elements 21 can be arranged.
As shown in FIG. 1, a few stars and a moon are arranged in different locations on the upper 5 of the shoe 10 as examples of first design elements 15. Additionally, parts of or the overall design region of the upper of the shoe, i.e., the instep 11 and the side regions 12 of the present embodiment, may be provided with one or more background colors, patterns, or the like, e.g., a black color corresponding to the stars and the moon, to suit or enhance a particular design theme. Other colors and patterns are contemplated and within the scope of the invention. Alternatively, or additionally to the instep 11 and the side regions 12, other zones of the shoe, for example the tongue or edges of a mid-sole and/or the outer sole (i.e., bottom sole), can be furnished with primary fashion appearance elements or a background color.
The second design elements can be provided as a set 20 of rub-on pictures on a foil or a similar carrier, as known in the art. As indicated by the dashed arrow in FIG. 1, individual design elements 21 may be transferred by rubbing onto a desired location of the shoe 10, such as the instep 11 and/or the side regions 12. Based on the selection of the rub-on design elements to be transferred and their arrangement, there is an unlimited number of design options, so that each shoe designed with a system in accordance the invention can have an individual appearance, because the rub-on design elements are each significantly smaller than the available surface on shoe 10, for example the instep 11 or the side 12. Additionally, there are no special requirements of the artistic or technical skills of the designer. For example, even a child may immediately arrange the rub-on design elements of the set 20 in the desired positions on the instep 11 or the side surface 12 of the shoe 10.
In one embodiment, the set of rub-on design elements 20 relates to the same topic or theme as the first design elements 15 that are permanently arranged on the upper material of the shoe 1. In FIG. 1, for example, the shoe 10 presents a scenery at night and the set 20 of rub-on design elements includes ghosts and the like. Other combinations are also contemplated and within the scope of the invention.
FIG. 2 presents an example of a fully individualized shoe having as a first design element 15 a meadow. In this embodiment, three corresponding second design elements 21 were rubbed-on, namely a balloon, a butterfly, and a beetle. As can be seen, the rubbed-on design elements 21 and the predetermined design elements 15 are substantially indistinguishable in the finished shoe. Accordingly, in spite of having been individually designed, the shoe 10 created with a system in accordance with the invention meets the highest quality requirements concerning the execution of a design.
A particularly good and long-lasting attachment of the rubbed-on design elements 21 can be achieved if the surface region, where the rubbed-on design elements are arranged, as well as the rub-on design elements themselves, have specific material properties. In one embodiment, the first design elements 15 are fixed on the upper with a greater degree of abrasion resistance than the abrasion resistance of the applied second design elements.
In one embodiment, the first design elements substantially survive an abrasion test according to DIN EN-ISO 11640 with a 280 grit sandpaper without visible damage. To this end, a stamp provided with the sandpaper is moved over the surface region with a force of about 9.8 N and the first design elements are subsequently examined for visible damage. The screen-print or the other method used for applying the first design elements 15 should be made such that this test is survived at about 200 to about 300 movement cycles, i.e., substantially no damage to the first design elements 15 can be seen.
The rubbed-on second design elements 21 should have material properties such that a clearly reduced abrasion resistance results. For example, the second design element 21 can be substantially removed from the surface region in an abrasion test according to DIN EN-ISO 11640 with a linen and again a stamp with a force of about 9.8 N after about 20 to about 30 cycles, preferably 25 cycles, so that other design elements 21 can be applied. The indicated values of the abrasion resistance of the first design elements 15 and the second design 21, enable the realization of many different aesthetic overall impressions of the shoe with a system in accordance with the invention; however, it is also possible to add a clear coat to the system to cover once rubbed-on design elements 21 to protect them permanently against damage.
In another embodiment it is also possible to configure the rubbed-on design elements 21 for even more easy removal by, for example, using different surface properties or compositions of the surface region of the shoe and/or the contact surface of the second design elements. Removing a rubbed-on design element can also be achieved by mechanical scratching or by using a suitable solvent, e.g., a common nail-polish remover. In this case, the shoe may be repeatedly re-designed over its lifetime in a particularly simple manner. In this case, it may be advantageous if the shoe regions provided with the first design elements 15 are additionally provided with a coating preventing unintentional damage when removing the rubbed-on images. This coating can be applied by different techniques, e.g., spraying on or laminating.
FIG. 3 depicts one embodiment of a tool 30 for applying or rubbing-on the second design elements. The tool 30 has a shape somewhat similar to a miniaturized dented spray can. A lower part 31 of the tool 30 provides the rubbing area for a controlled transfer of a rub-on design element 21 onto the desired location of the shoe 10 by putting the design element onto the shoe 10 and rubbing from above forth and back on the carrier foil. An upper part 32 of the rubbing tool 30 can serve as a handle region and can, due to its limited dimensions, easily be held by children.
In one embodiment, a mounting projection 33 is disposed on top of the handle region 32. The mounting projection 33 can include an opening 34 that allows for attaching the tool 30 to, for example, a key ring. The described tool 30 is not the only manner of applying the second design elements. Other rubbing tools, such as suitable wooden plates, can also be used. In fact, the tool 30 is not required at all and the rub-on design elements can be rubbed on using a fingernail or the like. The rub-on tool 30 can be made from a sufficiently soft plastic material to avoid damaging the first design elements 15 during rubbing.
Having described certain embodiments of the invention, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that other embodiments incorporating the concepts disclosed herein may be used without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. The described embodiments are to be considered in all respects as only illustrative and not restrictive.