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Title:
BED SHEET ASSEMBLY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2021/113243
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Present embodiments relate to a bed sheet assembly (20). More particularly, but without limitation, present embodiments relate to bed sheet assemblies which connect to a mattress (12) or mattress cover (40) and which defines a fitted sheet (22) and a second sheet (24) connected to the fitted sheet.

Inventors:
PFISTER BRENT (US)
JOHNSON JILL (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2020/062715
Publication Date:
June 10, 2021
Filing Date:
December 01, 2020
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
TEMPUR WORLD LLC (US)
International Classes:
A47C27/00; A44B19/26; A47C31/02; A47C31/10
Foreign References:
US5732424A1998-03-31
US20150182032A12015-07-02
US20060053553A12006-03-16
US20170156508A12017-06-08
US20070271699A12007-11-29
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
COLE, James E. et al. (US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1. A bed sheet assembly (20) , comprising: a first lower fitted sheet (22), having four sides (16, 17, 18, 19), an upper surface (14) and a lower surface (15), wherein two of said four sides are longer sides and two of said four sides are shorter sides; said first lower fitted sheet having a plurality of zipper teeth (33), the plurality of zipper teeth having a teeth count to be capable of being connected to a second plurality of zipper teeth (34) extending about a mattress (12); said first lower fitted sheet being of a woven, low gram weight fabric; at least one second sheet (24), connected to the first lower fitted sheet; said at least one second sheet having four sides and a second upper surface and a second lower surface; said at least one second sheet connected along one of said four sides to a corresponding side of the first lower fitted sheet.

2. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 1, further comprising a mattress protector (50).

3. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 2, said mattress protector disposed under said first lower fitted sheet.

4. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 3 said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet and said second plurality of zipper teeth of said mattress extending about said mattress at a constant elevation.

5. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 3, said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet and said second plurality of zipper teeth of said mattress extending about said mattress at a varying elevation.

6. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 5, said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet disposed at a lower elevation along said long sides of said first lower fitted sheet. 7. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 6, said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet disposed at a higher elevation along said shorter sides of said first lower fitted sheet.

8. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 5, said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet disposed at a higher elevation along said long sides of said first lower fitted sheet.

9. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 8, said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet disposed at a lower elevation along said shorter sides of said first lower fitted sheet.

10. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 2, said mattress protector formed of lightweight polyurethane backed polyester.

11. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 1 wherein at least one seam (25) connects the first lower fitted sheet and the at least one second sheet.

12. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 11 wherein multiple seams join the first lower fitted sheet and the at least one second sheet, with at least one gap between said multiple seams.

13. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 11, wherein said at least one seam is at a foot end (19) of the bed sheet assembly.

14. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 1 wherein said plurality of zipper teeth of said first lower fitted sheet are divided into a plurality of segments.

15. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 14, said plurality of segments having a corresponding number of said plurality of zipper teeth and linear distance.

16. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 15, said mattress further comprising a corresponding plurality of segments, number of said second plurality of zipper teeth and linear distance. 17. The bed sheet assembly of Claim 1, said second plurality of teeth disposed on either the mattress or a mattress cover (40).

Description:
BED SHEET ASSEMBLY

CLAIM TO PRIORITY

[0001] This PCT patent application claims priority to and benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Serial Number 62/944,642, filed December 6, 2019 and titled “Bed Sheet Assembly”, all of which is incorporated by reference herein.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

[0002] Present embodiments relate to a bed sheet assembly. More particularly, but without limitation, present embodiments relate to bed sheet assemblies which connect to a mattress or mattress cover and which defines a fitted sheet and a second sheet connected to the fitted sheet. 2. Description of the Related Art

[0003] In many bedding sets, there is a tightly fitting or fitted sheet and there is at least one separate flat sheet. One frustration is that at times, one or more comers may come loose from the mattress. This is even more likely when the fitted sheet is used with an adjustable base.

[0004] Further, each time a bed is stripped or made, these sheets must be dealt with independently. This causes loss of time resource at residences, but it multiplies extensively at hotels and resorts.

[0005] It would be desirable to provide a bed sheet assembly that can easily be stripped or applied to a bed in a single action.

[0006] The information included in this Background section of the specification, including any references cited herein and any description or discussion thereof, is included for technical reference purposes only and is not to be regarded subject matter by which the scope of the invention is to be bound.

SUMMARY

[0007] Present embodiments provide a sheet assembly which connects to a mattress or a mattress cover, either of which may have a fastener. The sheet assembly cover the upper portion of the mattress by connection to the fastener, and further provides a second attached sheet which may be connected along one edge, for example at a foot end so that the second sheet lays on top the fitted sheet on the mattress.

[0008] According to some embodiments, a bed sheet assembly may comprise a first lower fitted sheet, having four sides, an upper surface and a lower surface, wherein two of the four sides are longer sides and two of the four sides are shorter sides. The first lower fitted sheet may have a plurality of zipper teeth, wherein the plurality of zipper teeth having a teeth count to be capable of being connected to a second plurality of zipper teeth extending about a mattress. The first lower fitted sheet may be of a woven, low gram weight fabric. At least one second sheet may be connected to the first lower fitted sheet. The at least one second sheet may have four sides and a second upper surface and a second lower surface. The at least one second sheet may be connected along one of the four sides to a corresponding side of the first lower fitted sheet.

[0009] According to some embodiments, the following optional features and embodiments may be used with the bed sheet assembly alone, or in combination with other optional embodiments. The bed sheet assembly may further comprise a mattress protector. The mattress protector may be disposed under the first lower fitted sheet. The plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet and the second plurality of zipper teeth of the mattress may extend about the mattress at a constant elevation. Alternatively, the plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet and the second plurality of zipper teeth of the mattress may extending about the mattress at a varying elevation. The plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet may be disposed at a lower elevation along the long sides of the first lower fitted sheet.

The plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet maybe disposed at a higher elevation along the shorter sides of the first lower fitted sheet. The plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet disposed at a higher elevation along long sides of the first lower fitted sheet. The plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet disposed at a lower elevation along the shorter sides of the first lower fitted sheet.

The mattress protector formed of lightweight polyurethane backed polyester. The bed sheet assembly wherein at least one seam connects the first lower fitted sheet and the at least one second sheet. The bed sheet assembly wherein multiple seams joins the first lower fitted sheet and the at least one second sheet, with at least one gap between the multiple seams. The bed sheet assembly wherein the at least one seam is at a foot end of the bed sheet assembly. The bed sheet assembly wherein the plurality of zipper teeth of the first lower fitted sheet are divided into a plurality of segments. The plurality of segments may have a corresponding number of the plurality of zipper teeth and linear distance. The mattress may further comprise a corresponding plurality of segments, number of the second plurality of zipper teeth and linear distance. The second plurality of zipper teeth may be disposed on either the mattress or a mattress cover.

[0010] This Summary is provided to introduce a selection of concepts in a simplified form that are further described below in the Detailed Description. This Summary is not intended to identify key features or essential features of the claimed subject matter, nor is it intended to be used to limit the scope of the claimed subject matter. All of the above outlined features are to be understood as exemplary only and many more features and objectives of the various embodiments may be gleaned from the disclosure herein. Therefore, no limiting interpretation of this summary is to be understood without further reading of the entire specification, claims and drawings, included herewith. A more extensive presentation of features, details, utilities, and advantages of the present invention is provided in the following written description of various embodiments of the invention, illustrated in the accompanying drawings, and defined in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0011] In order that the embodiments may be better understood, embodiments of a bed sheet assembly will now be described by way of examples. These embodiments are not to limit the scope of the claims as other embodiments of an orthopedic brace will become apparent to one having ordinary skill in the art upon reading the instant description. Non-limiting examples of the present embodiments are shown in figures wherein:

[0012] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bed sheet assembly positioned on a mattress;

[0013] FIG. 2 is an exploded view of a bed sheet assembly;

[0014] FIG. 3 is an alternate embodiment including both the bed sheet assembly and a mattress cover; and, [0015] FIG. 4 is a schematic view of a layout of a plurality of zipper segments defining the perimeter path about the mattress and zip-in sheet assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0016] It is to be understood that the bed sheet assembly is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The described embodiments are capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having” and variations thereof herein is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items. Unless limited otherwise, the terms “connected,” “coupled,” and “mounted,” and variations thereof herein are used broadly and encompass direct and indirect connections, couplings, and mountings. In addition, the terms “connected” and “coupled” and variations thereof are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections or couplings.

[0017] Reference throughout this specification to “one embodiment”, “some embodiments” or “an embodiment” means that a particular feature, structure or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases “in one embodiment", “in some embodiments” or “in an embodiment” in various places throughout this specification are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment, but may. Furthermore, the particular features, structures or characteristics may be combined in any suitable manner, as would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art from this disclosure, in one or more embodiments.

[0018] Referring now to the various Figures 1-4, a bed sheet assembly is provided which comprises a fitted sheet that attaches to a mattress in place of, or in addition to, a typical bed cover. The fitted sheet has an attached flat sheet. The fitted sheet is formed with a matching zipper for a mattress such that any bed sheet assembly with the appropriate attachment may be connected to any mattress with the matching half zipper. It should be clear to one skilled in the art that the instant embodiments do not relate to mattresses or cushions which do not utilize a fastener arrangement for covering the mattress.

[0019] Referring now to FIG. 1, a perspective view of a bed assembly 10 is shown. The bed assembly 10 includes a mattress 12 and a bed sheet assembly 20. The mattress 12 may comprise a foam mattress comprising one or more layers of foam, a coil spring mattress having a plurality of coil springs, or a combination of coil spring and foam defining the mattress cushion.

[0020] The mattress 12 may include a top or upper surface 14, a bottom or lower surface 15, a pair of long sides 16, 17 and a pair of short sides 18, 19. The sides 16, 17, 18, 19 extend between the upper surface 14 and the bottom surface 15. The long sides 16, 17 may be also referred to as lateral sides while the short sides 18, 19 may be a head end and a feed end.

[0021] The mattress 12 may also comprise a fastener 30 extending about the sides 16, 17, 18, 19 or may be have a cover with a fastener 30. The fastener 30 may comprise various types of closure devices including, but not limited to, zipper 31, hook and loop, snaps, clips, or like embodiments. In the instant embodiment the fastener 30 may be embodied as a zipper 31 which extends along each of the four sides 16-19. With the fastener 30 extending about the entire mattress 12, a fitted sheet 22 stays connected to the mattress 12, even in the case an adjustable base is utilized. The fastener 30 may extend about the mattress 12 at a constant elevation relative to a reference surface or the fastener 30 may extend about the mattress 12 at various elevations. In the instant embodiment depicted, the elevation along the long sides 16, 17 is at a first, lower elevation while along the short sides 18, 19 the fastener 30 extends at a second, higher elevation. This arrangement of high and low elevations may also be reversed with respect to the long and short sides. [0022] The fastener 30 may comprise a zipper 31 which is defined by teeth 33 of the fitted sheet 22 and teeth 34 of the mattress 12 and at least one slider 37. While the term “teeth" is used throughout this description, the teeth are also synonymously known as, or interchangeably referred to as, “coils” by those skilled in the art. In the instant embodiment, the slider is depicted as a first slider 37a and a second slider 37b. Each set of teeth or coils 33, 34 on the fitted sheet 22 and the mattress 12 has a specific number of teeth within a tolerance, according to some embodiments. With the specific teeth design of the illustrative zipper 31, the fastener 30 may be formed to receive a mattress, a mattress cover, or the bed sheet assembly 20. In some embodiments, a mattress cover 40 (FIG. 3) may additionally be connected to the fastener 30 and the mattress cover 40 may include an additional fastener such that the bed sheet assembly 20 may be connected to the mattress cover 40. Thus, with the fastener 30 of matched characteristics, a mattress cover, or a bed sheet assembly 20, a protector 50 (described further herein) or a combination of any of these may be utilized.

[0023] The bed sheet assembly 20 may comprise a fitted sheet 22 having a fastener 32, which cooperates with fastener 30. The fitted sheet 22 may extend over the upper peripheral edge of the upper surface 14 of mattress 12 such that the fastener 32 may connect to the mattress 12 or to a mattress cover 40 having cooperating fastener.

[0024] In some embodiments the fitted sheet 22 may have a peripheral edge 23 which may be at constant elevation about the mattress 12, or in some embodiments the peripheral edge 23 may vary in elevation. The selection of the peripheral edge 23 type may be in concert with the design of the mattress 12 or the mattress cover 40 and therefore placement of the corresponding fastener 30 thereon. As previously described, the fastener 30 may vary in elevation and in such embodiment, the peripheral edge 23 of the fitted sheet 22 may likewise vary to follow such fastener 30.

[0025] The fitted sheet 22 may replace the prior art mattress cover and further differs from a mattress cover. Whereas prior art mattress covers may be formed of knit, high gram weight mattress ticking, the instant fitted sheet 22 may be form of woven cotton/polyester blend of low gram weight fabric. In some embodiments, the sheets 22 may be woven, for example plain weave, basket weave, satin weave, sateen weave, or twill weave. In some embodiments, the sheet 22 may also be a knit sheet, for nonlimiting example, jersey stitch or rib stitch. Further, various fiber types may be utilized, including but not limited to, all natural, all synthetic, semi-synthetic such as viscose rayon, combinations or others. This list is non-exhaustive. The low gram weight fabric may be from about 20 gsm to about 400 gsm.

[0026] Along one side of the mattress 12, and along one side or edge of the fitted sheet 22, a flat sheet 24 is connected to the fitted sheet 22. In the instant embodiment, the flat sheet 24 is connected to the fitted sheet 22 by a seam 25. The seam 25 may be one or more seams which may be continuous or intermittent along corresponding edges of the sheets 22, 24. The intermittent seams 25 along an edge or side may also allow improved venting and air flow near the foot end 19 of the bed sheet assembly

20.

[0027] According to some embodiments, the flat sheet 24 may be connected solely along one edge of the fitted sheet 22 so that the remaining three edges of the flat sheet 24 are free relative to the fitted sheet 22. Further, the head end of the flat sheet 24 being loose allows for ease of entry and egress from the bed before and after sleep periods. During application of the fitted sheet 22, the flat sheet 24 is also applied, therefore to eliminate a step typical of bed making wherein the flat sheet applied above the fitted sheet must be applied separately. With the depicted embodiment, the head end of the flat sheet 24 is free to move and therefore need only be straightened during the bed-making process.

[0028] The flat sheet 24 may be of a rectangular shape so that side edges and head/toe edges are at common elevation about the mattress 12. However, in some embodiments, the elevation of the edges of the flat sheet 24 may vary, for example if it is desired to follow a varying elevation edge of the fitted sheet 22 and mattress 12 along the zipper 31. [0029] The flat sheet 24 may be also be a lightweight woven, for example cotton, polyester, or a combination, for non-limiting example. However, various materials may be utilized to form the flat sheet 24 and the instant description should not be considered limiting. The flat sheet 24 may be the same or may differ from the fitted sheet 22. In some embodiments, but without limitation, the flat sheet 24 may be woven, for example plain weave, basket weave, satin weave, sateen weave, or twill weave. In some embodiments, the sheet 24 may also be a knit sheet, for non-limiting example, jersey stitch or rib stitch. Further, various fiber types may be utilized, including but not limited to, all natural, all synthetic, or semi-synthetic such as viscose rayon. The low gram weight fabric may be from about 20 gsm to about 400 gsm.

[0030] Referring now to FIG. 2, an exploded view of the bed assembly 10 is provided. The mattress 12 is shown at the bottom of the figure.

[0031] Disposed above the mattress 12 is the bed sheet assembly 20. The bed sheet assembly 20 is also shown in this view with an optional protector 50 disposed beneath the fitted sheet 22. The protector 50 may be integrated with the fitted sheet 22 or may be fastened to the sheet 22. The optional protector 50 may be formed of various materials including, but not limited to, lightweight polyurethane backed polyester.

The protector 50 may be sewn, adhered, applied, or otherwise affixed to a lower surface 15 of the fitted sheet 22. The protector 50 may also serve as a material to prevent spills, stains, or other such undesirable damage to the mattress 12. In some embodiments, the protector 50 may also be incorporated by fasteners, for example by fastening to the mattress 12. Alternatively, the protector 50 may be fastened to the fitted sheet 22 above or, the protector 50 may be fixed to the fitted sheet 22, for example sewn together or welded, wherein the fastening of the protector 50 also connects the fitted sheet 22.

[0032] Above the protector 50 is the fitted sheet 22 and the connected flat sheet 24. The fitted sheet 22 may include the peripheral edge 23 defined by four sides of the fitted sheet 22. In some embodiments, two of the four sides are long sides and two of the sides are short sides. Disposed between the fitted sheet 22 and the mattress 12 is the fastener 30, for non-limiting example a zipper. The fastener 30 may be formed of separate halves either of which may be referred to as a fastener or fastener halves, each connected to one of the mattress 12 or the fitted sheet 22, and at least one slider 37. In some embodiments, and for ease of description, the fastener halves may also be referred to as zipper tape or zipper teeth. The zipper tape 33, 34 is understood to include the zipper teeth, or coils and each zipper tape 33, 34 is fastened to one of the fitted sheet 22 and the mattress 12, or a mattress cover (bottom portion or a top portion) so that the adjacent teeth or coils may be joined by the at least one slider 37. In some embodiments, the slider 37 may be two sliders which, in some embodiments are also two directional sliders. The fasteners 30, 32 may be disposed along edges of the fitted sheet 22 or may be offset from the edges. With brief reference to FIG. 3, in some embodiments, the zipper teeth 33, 34 may be connected to the fitted sheet 22 and a mattress cover 40, if such mattress cover 40 is positioned on the mattress 12 beneath the fitted sheet alternatively.

[0033] According to some embodiments, where the fastener 30 is a zipper 31, the teeth 33 of the half zipper of the fitted sheet 22 may be sized and have a count corresponding to the corresponding half zipper on the mattress 12. This exact, or approximately, matching number of teeth may be referred to as a “matched teeth” arrangement. Accordingly, the bed sheet assembly 20 may be formed so as to be interchangeable with any mattress, or mattress cover, of the corresponding size. Thus the matched teeth number is dependent on the size of the mattress. Larger mattress sizes have more teeth due to a larger perimeter, while smaller mattress sizes have few teeth, due to the shorter perimeter dimension. Additionally, if the elevation of the fastener changes, this may change the length of the fastener.

[0034] The second or flat sheet 24 is connected to the fitted sheet 22. The flat sheet 24 may be connected along an edge of the fitted sheet 22 or may be connected along a side, for example spaced between the upper and lower edges of a short side. The instant embodiment provides that seam 25 is disposed along a lower edge (feet end) of the fitted sheet 22 but may alternatively be disposed at the upper edge of the fitted sheet 22, adjacent to the top surface 14, or alteratively may be connected at some place between the upper and lower edges.

[0035] Referring now to FIG. 3, an alternate embodiment is provided. The embodiment provides that a mattress cover 40 may be utilized and provides a lower zipper 42 which connects to a mating zipper of the mattress 12. The mattress cover 40 may also comprise an upper mating zipper 44 which connects to the zipper 31 of the fitted sheet 22. Thus, the embodiment provides the additional use of the mattress cover 40, rather than replacement of such. The embodiment further depicts an embodiment wherein the zipper 31 of the fitted sheet 22 is at a constant elevation, rather than varying as with the previous embodiment. The optional protective layer 50 is also shown and may be disposed beneath the fitted sheet 22.

[0036] Referring now to FIG. 4, a schematic view of the relationship of the zipper 31 including teeth 33, 34 and the perimeter of the mattress 12 is provided. FIG. 4 depicts a schematic construction of the zipper teeth or coils 33 of the fitted sheet 22 that integrates with the existing zipper teeth or coils 34 of the mattress 12, in order to describe the zipper length, teeth count and notching all of which are parameters that must be considered in ensure that zippers of fitted sheets will cooperate with zippers of the mattress 12. Specifically, the perimeter path is schematically represented broken up into a plurality of segments 35a-i. For ease of this description, the term teeth and teeth tape are used interchangeably however each teeth tape includes a plurality of individual teeth. The teeth 34 of the mattress 12 and the teeth 33 of the fitted sheet 22 are shown stretching across the mattress 12. The extending segments 35a-i are shown representing the perimeter length of the mattress 12, corresponding to the zipper 30 length. The instant zip in sheet assembly 20 is manufactured such that a first fitted sheet assembly may be replaced with a second fitted sheet assembly that is also connectable to the mattress 12, without any hindrance due to teeth problems, fitting, or other mechanical issues which might preclude operation together. The instant zip in sheet assembly 20 may be manufactured by one provider and the mattress by a different provider, but the products still cooperate and function together. Similarly, the products may be bought at different times and still cooperate together.

[0037] In order to provide this functionality, the view of FIG. 4 provides a schematic layout of the mattress 12. A perimeter path of the fastener length, represented by the zipper teeth 33 and teeth 34, or alternatively the path of travel of the sliders 37a, 37b. The perimeter path is broken up into a plurality of sections or segments 35. Each of the segments 35a - 35i has a specific teeth count for a given size of tooth. For nonlimiting example, the teeth 33, 34 may be 3, 5, or 8 size teeth, each having a specific teeth count for any segment 35a - 35i. Further, the teeth 33, 34 may have a tolerance per segment, which indicates the allowable differential for a given segment 35. For example, in some embodiments any single segment 35 may have +/- 1 tooth, and the overall tolerance for the fitted sheet 22 teeth 33 relative to the mattress 12 teeth 34, or vice-versa, may be +/- 2 teeth.

[0038] As shown in Table 1, four example mattress sizes are set forth, each with 8 segments 35a -35i (labeled 1-8 and End in the table). Each segment 35a - 35i, of the perimeter has an example number of teeth and each segment 35a - 35i is also shown with a tolerance for that segment. At the end of the table, a total number of teeth is provided as well as a total tolerance for the entire mattress 12. In this way, the number of teeth for the mattress 12 may be matched with the number of teeth of the sheet assembly 20 to provide the matched arrangement.

[0039] With reference now to Table 2 additionally, the segments 35a - 35i (labeled 1 -8, and End) may also be associated with a linear measurement. Table 2 provides example measurements for each segment 35a -35i, for each of various bed sizes. This linear measurement in combination with each individual segment and a specific number of teeth may be used to manufacture and calibrate a matched zipper arrangement. Thus a mattress zipper teeth 34 may be used with a zip in sheet zipper teeth 33 despite the products being manufactured at different times and/or from different manufacturers.

[0040] As can be understood from this teaching, the total perimeter dimension of any mattress 12 is dependent on the mattress size, twin, double, queen, king, etc. The segment 35 lengths may therefore vary with different sizes of mattress. Further, the number of zipper teeth 31, 33 may also vary with each segment 35x. However Applicant has calibrated the construction process in such a manner that the zip in sheet assembly 20 may be installed and functional across various sizes of beds and even with various manufacturers of the parts involved in the assembly 10.

[0041] While several inventive embodiments have been described and illustrated herein, those of ordinary skill in the art will readily envision a variety of other means and/or structures for performing the function and/or obtaining the results and/or one or more of the advantages described herein, and each of such variations and/or modifications is deemed to be within the scope of the invent of embodiments described herein. More generally, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that all parameters, dimensions, materials, and configurations described herein are meant to be exemplary and that the actual parameters, dimensions, materials, and/or configurations will depend upon the specific application or applications for which the inventive teachings is/are used. Those skilled in the art will recognize, or be able to ascertain using no more than routine experimentation, many equivalents to the specific inventive embodiments described herein. It is, therefore, to be understood that the foregoing embodiments are presented by way of example only and that, within the scope of the appended claims and equivalents thereto, inventive embodiments may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described and claimed. Inventive embodiments of the present disclosure are directed to each individual feature, system, article, material, kit, and/or method described herein. In addition, any combination of two or more such features, systems, articles, materials, kits, and/or methods, if such features, systems, articles, materials, kits, and/or methods are not mutually inconsistent, is included within the inventive scope of the present disclosure.

[0042] All definitions, as defined and used herein, should be understood to control over dictionary definitions, definitions in documents incorporated by reference, and/or ordinary meanings of the defined terms. The indefinite articles “a” and “an,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, should be understood to mean “at least one." The phrase “and/or,” as used herein in the specification and in the claims, should be understood to mean “either or both” of the elements so conjoined, i.e., elements that are conjunctively present in some cases and disjunctively present in other cases.

[0043] Multiple elements listed with “and/or” should be construed in the same fashion, i.e., “one or more” of the elements so conjoined. Other elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified by the “and/or” clause, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified. Thus, as a non-limiting example, a reference to “A and/or B”, when used in conjunction with open-ended language such as “comprising” can refer, in one embodiment, to A only (optionally including elements other than B); in another embodiment, to B only (optionally including elements other than A); in yet another embodiment, to both A and B (optionally including other elements); etc.

[0044] As used herein in the specification and in the claims, “or” should be understood to have the same meaning as “and/or” as defined above. For example, when separating items in a list, “or” or “and/or” shall be interpreted as being inclusive, i.e., the inclusion of at least one, but also including more than one, of a number or list of elements, and, optionally, additional unlisted items. Only terms clearly indicated to the contrary, such as “only one of’ or “exactly one of,” or, when used in the claims, “consisting of,” will refer to the inclusion of exactly one element of a number or list of elements. In general, the term “or” as used herein shall only be interpreted as indicating exclusive alternatives (i.e. “one or the other but not both”) when preceded by terms of exclusivity, such as “either,” “one of,” “only one of,” or “exactly one of.” “Consisting essentially of," when used in the claims, shall have its ordinary meaning as used in the field of patent law.

[0045] As used herein in the specification and in the claims, the phrase “at least one,” in reference to a list of one or more elements, should be understood to mean at least one element selected from any one or more of the elements in the list of elements, but not necessarily including at least one of each and every element specifically listed within the list of elements and not excluding any combinations of elements in the list of elements. This definition also allows that elements may optionally be present other than the elements specifically identified within the list of elements to which the phrase “at least one” refers, whether related or unrelated to those elements specifically identified. Thus, as a non-limiting example, “at least one of A and B” (or, equivalently, “at least one of A or B,” or, equivalently “at least one of A and/or B") can refer, in one embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, A, with no B present (and optionally including elements other than B); in another embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, B, with no A present (and optionally including elements other than A); in yet another embodiment, to at least one, optionally including more than one, A, and at least one, optionally including more than one, B (and optionally including other elements); etc.

[0046] It should also be understood that, unless clearly indicated to the contrary, in any methods claimed herein that include more than one step or act, the order of the steps or acts of the method is not necessarily limited to the order in which the steps or acts of the method are recited.

[0047] In the claims, as well as in the specification above, all transitional phrases such as “comprising,” “including,” “ carrying,” “having,” “containing," “involving,” “holding,” “composed of," and the like are to be understood to be open-ended, i.e., to mean including but not limited to. Only the transitional phrases “consisting of’ and “consisting essentially of’ shall be closed or semi-closed transitional phrases, respectively, as set forth in the United States Patent Office Manual of Patent Examining Procedures.

[0048] The foregoing description of methods and embodiments has been presented for purposes of illustration. It is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise steps and/or forms disclosed, and obviously many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. It is intended that the scope of the invention and all equivalents be defined by the claims appended hereto.