Title:
Inflatable ornament and method of manufacturing same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An inflatable ornament includes a hollow shell (110) formed of a flexible material (111) and having an opening (112) therein. An airway (120) formed of the flexible material is coupled to the opening and extends between the opening and a fan (130). The fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis (140) extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell. The fan is located to the side of the hollow shell and does not support the hollow shell or lie between the hollow shell and a surface on which the hollow shell sits.



Inventors:
Lau, Vincent (Hong Kong, CN)
Application Number:
10/903940
Publication Date:
02/02/2006
Filing Date:
07/30/2004
Assignee:
Take One Limited, L.L.C. (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
446/220
International Classes:
A63H3/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGUYEN, KIEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kenneth A. Nelson (Phoenix, AZ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An inflatable ornament comprising: a hollow shell formed of a flexible material and comprising an opening; an airway comprising: a first end coupled to the hollow shell at the opening; and a second end; and a fan coupled to the airway at the second end such that the fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell, wherein: the opening is the only opening in the hollow shell; the airway extends away from the hollow shell when the airway and the hollow shell are inflated by the fan; the hollow shell comprises a long dimension; and the axis is neither parallel nor substantially parallel to the long dimension of the hollow shell.

2. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 further comprising: a weight inside the hollow shell.

3. The inflatable ornament of claim 2 wherein: the weight comprises a sealed tube containing a quantity of sand; and the sealed tube is attached to the hollow shell.

4. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 further comprising: a support for the hollow shell located at a base of the hollow shell.

5. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 further comprising: a plurality of lights inside the hollow shell.

6. The inflatable ornament of claim 5 wherein: the plurality of lights are distributed along at least a portion of the long dimension of the hollow shell; and each one of the plurality of lights comprises: a bulb; a socket capable of receiving the bulb and of distributing electrical power to the bulb; and a cover enclosing the bulb and at least partially enclosing the socket.

7. The inflatable ornament of claim 6 further comprising: a fastener inside the hollow shell; and an electrical power cord extending between the fan and the fastener, wherein: each one of the plurality of lights is attached to the electrical power cord.

8. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 further comprising: a tether loop attached to the hollow shell.

9. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 wherein: the flexible material is a gas-permeable material.

10. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 wherein: the fan comprises an on/off switch.

11. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 further comprising: an electrical power cord attached to the fan and having a plug at an end thereof, wherein: the electrical power cord supplies electrical power to the fan such that the fan operates continuously while the plug is connected to a source of electrical power; and the plug comprises a fuse capable of interrupting electrical power to the fan.

12. The inflatable ornament of claim 11 further comprising: a fastener inside the hollow shell; and a second electrical power cord extending between the fan and the fastener and having a plurality of lights attached thereto, wherein: the fan does not comprise an on/off switch; and the second electrical power cord is electrically connected to the electrical power cord.

13. The inflatable ornament of claim 1 wherein: the hollow shell comprises a vent capable of being selectively opened and closed in order to, respectively, release or trap a gas inside the hollow shell.

14. An inflatable ornament capable of being supported on a surface, the inflatable ornament comprising: a hollow shell formed of a flexible material and comprising an opening, the hollow shell capable of retaining a gas therein; an airway formed of the flexible material and comprising: a first end coupled to the hollow shell at the opening; and a second end; and a fan coupled to the airway at the second end such that the fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell, wherein: the airway extends away from the hollow shell when the airway and the hollow shell are inflated by the fan such that the fan is not located between the surface and the hollow shell.

15. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 wherein: the hollow shell comprises a long dimension; and the axis is neither parallel nor substantially parallel to the long dimension of the hollow shell.

16. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 wherein: the hollow shell has a first volume; the airway has a second volume; and the first volume is greater than the second volume.

17. The inflatable ornament of claim 16 wherein: the first volume exceeds the second volume by at least a factor of twenty.

18. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 further comprising: a fastener inside the hollow shell; an electrical power cord extending between the fan and the fastener; and a plurality of lights attached to the electrical power cord.

19. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 wherein: the hollow shell comprises a vent capable of being selectively opened and closed in order to, respectively, release or trap the gas inside the hollow shell.

20. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 further comprising: a weight inside the hollow shell.

21. The inflatable ornament of claim 20 wherein: the weight comprises a sealed tube containing a quantity of sand; and the sealed tube is sewn to the hollow shell.

22. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 further comprising: a support coupled to the hollow shell and located between the hollow shell and the surface.

23. The inflatable ornament of claim 14 wherein: the flexible material comprises a gas-permeable fabric.

24. An inflatable ornament capable of being supported on a surface, the inflatable ornament comprising: a hollow shell formed of a flexible, gas-permeable material capable of retaining a gas therein and comprising: a base capable of resting on the surface; a top suspended above the base when the inflatable ornament is inflated with the gas; and an opening; an airway formed of the flexible, gas-permeable material and comprising: a first end coupled to the hollow shell at the opening; and a second end; and a fan coupled to the airway at the second end such that the fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell; a sealed tube sewn to the base of the hollow shell and containing a quantity of sand capable of stabilizing the inflatable ornament on the surface; a first electrical power cord electrically coupled to the fan; and a lighting system inside the hollow shell comprising: a fastener coupled to the hollow shell; a second electrical power cord extending between the fan and the fastener; and a plurality of lights electrically coupled to the second electrical power cord, wherein: the airway extends away from the hollow shell such that the fan is not located between the surface and the base of the hollow shell when the airway and the hollow shell are inflated by the fan; the hollow shell comprises a long dimension and has a first volume; the airway has a second volume less than the first volume; and the axis is neither parallel nor substantially parallel to the long dimension of the hollow shell.

25. The inflatable ornament of claim 24 wherein: the plurality of lights are distributed along at least a portion of the long dimension of the hollow shell; and each one of the plurality of lights comprises: a bulb; a socket capable of receiving the bulb and of distributing electrical power to the bulb; and a cover enclosing the bulb and at least partially enclosing the socket.

26. The inflatable ornament of claim 25 wherein: the hollow shell comprises a vent capable of being selectively opened and closed in order to, respectively, release or trap the gas inside the hollow shell.

27. The inflatable ornament of claim 26 wherein: the first volume exceeds the second volume by at least a factor of twenty.

28. A method of manufacturing an inflatable ornament capable of being supported on a surface, the method comprising: providing a hollow shell formed of a flexible material and comprising an opening; providing an airway formed of the flexible material and comprising: a first end coupled to the hollow shell at the opening; and a second end; providing a fan capable of introducing a gas into the hollow shell to inflate the hollow shell; and coupling the fan to the second end of the airway such that: the fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell; the airway extends away from the hollow shell when the airway and the hollow shell are inflated by the fan; and the fan is not located between the surface and the hollow shell.

29. The method of claim 28 further comprising: providing a fastener inside the hollow shell; and providing an electrical power cord having a plurality of lights attached thereto and extending between the fan and the fastener.

30. The method of claim 29 wherein: each one of the plurality of lights comprises: a bulb; a socket capable of receiving the bulb and of distributing electrical power to the bulb; and a cover enclosing the bulb and at least partially enclosing the socket.

31. The method of claim 28 further comprising: providing the hollow shell with a vent capable of being selectively opened and closed in order to, respectively, release or trap the gas inside the hollow shell.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to inflatable objects, and relates more particularly to inflatable objects appropriate for holiday, seasonal, theme-related, and other decorative use.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Holiday and seasonal decorations, theme-related and event-related ornaments, and the like are widely used to create a festive spirit or other desired ambiance at parties or occasions such as Christmastime, Halloween, and other holidays and seasonal occurrences, as well as at other gatherings such as sporting events, political rallies, meetings, and the like. Such items are popularly used for their ability to amuse, delight, or impress an observer of the decoration or ornament, to reinforce a theme, to emphasize or impart a message, or simply to attract and capture the attention of an observer or passerby.

Inflatable decorations and ornaments in a variety of shapes and sizes, and capable of affecting an observer in any of the foregoing ways, have existed for some time. More recently, fan-inflated decorations making use of a continuously-blowing fan have been produced. Such fan-inflated decorations eliminate the need for time-consuming and sometimes uncomfortable manual inflation, thereby making possible decorations of larger size and greater ease of use. Existing fan-inflated decorations, however, suffer from a high degree of instability. Accordingly, there exists a need for a fan-inflated decoration that offers the benefits expected of such an item and that is also stable and secure during use.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood from a reading of the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying figures in the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a partially cut-away front elevational view of an inflatable ornament according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of one of a plurality of lights inside the inflatable ornament according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the light shown in FIG. 2 according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of a fan that forms part of an inflatable ornament according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating a method of manufacturing an inflatable ornament capable of being supported on a surface, according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a portion of an inflatable ornament according to another embodiment of the invention; and

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a support for an inflatable ornament according to an embodiment of the invention.

For simplicity and clarity of illustration, the drawing figures illustrate the general manner of construction, and descriptions and details of well-known features and techniques may be omitted to avoid unnecessarily obscuring the invention. Additionally, elements in the drawing figures are not necessarily drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help improve understanding of embodiments of the present invention. The same reference numerals in different figures denote the same elements.

The terms “first,” “second,” “third,” “fourth,” and the like in the description and in the claims, if any, are used for distinguishing between similar elements and not necessarily for describing a particular sequential or chronological order. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances such that the embodiments of the invention described herein are, for example, capable of operation in sequences other than those illustrated or otherwise described herein. Furthermore, the terms “comprise,” “include,” “have,” and any variations thereof, are intended to cover a non-exclusive inclusion, such that a process, method, article, or apparatus that comprises a list of elements is not necessarily limited to those elements, but may include other elements not expressly listed or inherent to such process, method, article, or apparatus.

The terms “left,” “right,” “front,” “back,” “top,” “bottom,” “over,” “under,” and the like in the description and in the claims, if any, are used for descriptive purposes and not necessarily for describing permanent relative positions. It is to be understood that the terms so used are interchangeable under appropriate circumstances such that the embodiments of the invention described herein are, for example, capable of operation in other orientations than those illustrated or otherwise described herein. The term “coupled,” as used herein, is defined as directly or indirectly connected in an electrical, mechanical, or other manner.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In one embodiment of the invention, an inflatable ornament comprises a hollow shell formed of a flexible material and having an opening therein to admit the entrance of air or another gas. An airway formed of the flexible material is coupled to the opening and extends between the opening and a fan. The fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell. When in operation, the fan introduces air into the airway and from there into the hollow shell. In one embodiment, the flexible material is a gas-permeable material, such as a gas-permeable fabric or the like. Once the air inside the hollow shell reaches a certain pressure, the gas permeable material allows air to escape at a rate roughly equal to the rate at which the air is introduced by the fan, thereby allowing the inflatable ornament to retain its shape while the fan is in operation. The fan is located to the side of the hollow shell and does not support the hollow shell or lie between the hollow shell and a surface on which the hollow shell sits.

FIG. 1 is a partially cut-away front elevational view of an inflatable ornament 100 capable of being supported on a surface 190 according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 1, inflatable ornament 100 comprises a hollow shell 110, an airway 120, and a fan 130. Hollow shell 110, which is capable of retaining a gas therein, as further described below, is formed of a flexible material 111 and comprises an opening 112. As an example, flexible material 111 can be nylon, plastic, rubber, fabric, or the like. In one embodiment, flexible material 111 comprises a gas-permeable material, such as nylon, that allows gas to escape under conditions described below. Surface 190 can be the ground, a platform, or any other surface capable of supporting inflatable ornament 100.

Airway 120 is formed of flexible material 111 and comprises an end 121 coupled to hollow shell 110 at opening 112 and an end 122 coupled to fan 130. As an example, end 122 can comprise tie ends 123 that may be used to couple airway 120 to fan 130. Tie ends 123 may also be untied if airway 120 should ever need to be detached from fan 130.

In one embodiment, airway 120 and hollow shell 110 are formed from a single piece of flexible material 111 such that opening 112 marks a seamless transition between hollow shell 110 and opening 112. In another embodiment, airway 120 is sewn or otherwise attached to hollow shell 110 at opening 112. Hollow shell 110 has a first volume, and airway 120 has a second volume. In the illustrated embodiment, the first volume, of hollow shell 110, exceeds the second volume, of airway 120, by at least a factor of twenty.

Fan 130 is coupled to airway 120 in such a way that fan 130 and hollow shell 110 are in fluid communication with each other along an axis 140 extending through airway 120 between fan 130 and hollow shell 110. Fan 130 introduces air into airway 120 and from there into hollow shell 110, thus inflating hollow shell 110 and giving it its intended shape. The shape can take any form appropriate for a holiday, seasonal, decorative, theme-related, political, or other display. As an example, hollow shell 110 can take the form of a ghost, a snowman, an athlete or other sports-related figure, a political personality, a marketing icon, or any of a vast array of other shapes.

It was mentioned above that in one embodiment flexible material 111 comprises a gas-permeable material. In that embodiment, flexible material 111 allows air to escape once a certain pressure is achieved within hollow shell 110. At that pressure, which pressure can be such that hollow shell 110 is taut but not strained, air will escape through flexible material 111 at a rate substantially equal to the rate at which fan 130 introduces air into hollow shell 110. The gas-permeable embodiment therefore allows fan 130 to be run continuously for long periods even several hours-at a time. The continuously running fan will maintain the shape of hollow shell 110, and the gas-permeable material will allow excess air that would otherwise distort the shape, or rupture the material, to escape at a steady rate that also allows the shape of hollow shell 110 to be maintained. The air-displacement rate of fan 130 is such that inflatable ornament 100 may be inflated by fan 130 in a relatively short amount of time. In an embodiment where hollow shell 110 is approximately three meters tall and approximately half a meter wide, for example, fan 130 is capable of inflating inflatable ornament 100 in approximately sixty seconds.

It will be understood that in an embodiment where flexible material 111 is a gas-permeable material, flexible material 111 comprises a plurality of what will be referred to herein as microscopic openings through which air escapes. Although the microscopic openings may not truly be invisible to the unaided eye, they are small enough to at least be difficult to see without optical assistance. Apart from such microscopic openings, opening 112 is, in one embodiment, the only opening in hollow shell 110. In another embodiment, inflatable ornament 100 comprises an additional opening in the form of a vent 180 capable of being closed during operation of fan 130, so as to trap air inside hollow shell 110, and capable of being opened during deflation of inflatable ornament 100, so as allow the air to more quickly escape from inside hollow shell 110 than would be possible using only the microscopic openings. In either embodiment, however, opening 112 is the only opening in hollow shell 110, apart from the microscopic openings, that remains open during normal operation of inflatable ornament 100. As an example, vent 180 may be provided with a zipper 181 so as to allow the selective opening and closing of vent 180.

As mentioned above, a function of vent 180 is to quickly release air, when desired, from inside hollow shell 110, and vent 180 may be located in hollow shell 110 at whatever position is most conducive, or at least reasonably conducive, to the performance of that function. Such position may vary from one inflatable ornament to another as the shape of hollow shell 110 varies. In the illustrated embodiment, vent 180 is located on a sidewall of hollow shell 110 and as close to base 101 as possible.

Fan 130 comprises an electrical power cord 131 having a plug 132 attached to an end thereof. Electrical power cord 131 supplies electrical power to fan 130 such that, in one embodiment, fan 130 operates continuously while plug 132 is connected to a source of electrical power. In another embodiment, fan 130 comprises an on/off switch 133 capable of turning off fan 130 even while fan 130 is connected to the source of electrical power. In one embodiment, plug 132 comprises a fuse (not shown) capable of interrupting electrical power to fan 130 upon the occurrence, for example, of some over-voltage or other unsafe condition. Such plugs containing fuses are known in the art, and thus will not be further described herein. Fan 130 still further comprises a motor 134 and extended legs 135 that provide an airspace, important for proper operation of fan 130, between motor 134 and surface 190.

As further illustrated in FIG. 1, airway 120 extends away from hollow shell 110 when airway 120 and hollow shell 110 are inflated by fan 130. Accordingly, fan 130 is not located between surface 190 and hollow shell 110, but is instead located to a side of hollow shell 110. Locating fan 130 to a side of hollow shell 110, rather than in between hollow shell 110 and surface 190, greatly increases the stability of inflatable ornament 100. In at least one embodiment, hollow shell 110 comprises a long dimension parallel to an arrow 115, and axis 140 is neither parallel nor substantially parallel to the long dimension.

Inflatable ornament 100 further comprises a base 101 capable of resting on surface 190, a top 102 that is suspended above base 101 when inflatable ornament 100 is inflated with a gas, and a weight 150 inside hollow shell 110 at base 101. In the illustrated embodiment, weight 150 comprises a sealed tube containing a quantity of sand, water, or other relatively dense material suitable for the purpose of adding weight to, and therefore stabilizing, inflatable ornament 100. The sealed tube is sewn or otherwise attached to hollow shell 110, and can be, for example, a flexible tube made of vinyl or other suitable material. In another embodiment, weight 150 can comprise a tube or other container that may be opened and closed by a user of inflatable ornament 100, rather than a tube that is permanently sealed. A selectively openable and closable tube allows the user to fill the tube with an appropriate material, or to adjust the amount of such material in the tube. Weight 150 serves to stabilize inflatable ornament 100 and is thus useful in windy locations or other environments where inflatable ornament 100 is likely to be intentionally or unintentionally bumped, pushed, or buffeted.

Inflatable ornament 100 further comprises at least one tether loop 170 attached to an exterior of hollow shell 110 for use with a tether line and a stake (neither of which are shown) to further stabilize inflatable ornament 100. As an example, a tether line may be coupled to tether loop 170 and affixed to a stake which is then attached to surface 190. In at least one embodiment, inflatable ornament 100 comprises two or more tether loops 170 located, for example, approximately midway between base 101 and top 102, and further comprises a plurality of tie down rings 175 located near base 101. As an example, each of tie down rings 175 may accept a stake (not shown) that may then be driven into, or otherwise attached to, surface 190 in order to still further stabilize inflatable ornament 100.

Referring still to FIG. 1, inflatable ornament 100 further comprises a lighting system 160 inside hollow shell 110. Lighting system 160 comprises a fastener 161 coupled to hollow shell 110, an electrical power cord 162 extending between fan 130 and fastener 161, and a plurality of lights 163 electrically coupled to electrical power cord 162. Electrical power cord 162 is, in at least one embodiment, electrically coupled to electrical power cord 131. Plurality of lights 163 will be shown in more detail in FIG. 2, below.

As an example, fastener 161 can be a strip of flexible material 111 that is sewn or otherwise attached to hollow shell 110. Electrical power cord 162 can be wrapped around or tied to fastener 161, or fastener 161 can be wrapped around or tied to electrical power cord 162. Electrical power cord 162 may then be allowed to swing freely as it hangs from fastener 161, thus creating a dancing light effect as inflatable ornament 100 sways back and forth in the breeze, or because of being jostled by an observer. In one embodiment, plurality of lights 163 are distributed along at least a portion of the long dimension of hollow shell 110. Fastener 161 may be coupled to hollow shell 110 at a point roughly three quarters of the way between base 101 and top 102, as illustrated in FIG. 1, or it may be coupled to hollow shell 110 near top 102 or at some other point. Multiple fasteners may be used, if desired, to allow lights to be fixed at a plurality of points within hollow shell 110.

In a non-illustrated embodiment, lighting system 160 does not include electrical power cord 162, and plurality of lights 163 draw electric power from a battery or other source. In that non-illustrated embodiment, plurality of lights 163 are attached individually to hollow shell 110 using, for example, fasteners that can be similar to fastener 161. In the same or another non-illustrated embodiment, inflatable ornament 100 may be illuminated in some other fashion. As an example, such illumination may be accomplished by a light or lights located outside hollow shell 110 that shine on inflatable ornament 100 from one or more exterior positions. As another example, a single light may be located inside hollow shell 110 at base 101 and illuminate inflatable ornament 100 by shining up from that location. Other lighting schemes will be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a light 210, which is one of plurality of lights 163 (FIG. 1), according to an embodiment of the invention. Light 210 is representative of each one of plurality of lights 163. As illustrated in FIG. 2, light 210 comprises a bulb 211, a socket 212 capable of receiving bulb 211 and of distributing electrical power to bulb 211, and a cover 213 enclosing bulb 211 and at least partially enclosing socket 212. For clarity of illustration, only a portion of cover 213 is shown in FIG. 2. Cover 213 encloses bulb 211 and prevents it from coming into direct contact with flexible material 111, thus minimizing the chance that heat generated by bulb 211 will melt or burn flexible material 111. Cover 213 can be made of plastic or another transparent or translucent material so as to admit the passage of light from bulb 211.

As an example, bulb 211 can be a seven watt bulb, and socket 212 can be a standard light bulb socket as known in the art. As illustrated in FIG. 2, electrical power cord 162 passes through socket 212 and supplies electrical power to socket 212 such that socket 212 can distribute electrical power to bulb 211 as described above.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of light 210 with cover 213 enclosing bulb 211 according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 3, cover 213 comprises a hinge 310 capable of allowing cover 213 to be opened along a separation line 312 so as to allow access to bulb 211 and socket 212. A screw 311 or other fastening device holds the two halves of cover 213 in place, but may be removed or loosened when access to the interior of cover 213 is desired. Cover 213 may further comprise one or more ventilation holes 314. Ventilation holes 314 release heat generated by bulb 211, reduce the weight of cover 213, and allow the passage of light from bulb 211.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of fan 130 according to an embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 4, fan 130 comprises a nozzle 410, a lip 420, leg holes 430, and housing 440. Nozzle 410 is configured to direct air in a direction substantially parallel to surface 190 (FIG. 1). It was mentioned above that locating fan 130 to a side of, rather than underneath, hollow shell 110 (FIG. 1) greatly enhances the stability of inflatable ornament 100 (FIG. 1). The illustrated orientation of nozzle 410 makes possible such location of fan 130. Another significant advantage of such location is that it enables fan 130 to be placed in a manner adapted to conditions in which inflatable ornament 100 is displayed. As an example, if inflatable ornament 100 is displayed outdoors in inclement weather, such as during a snowstorm, fan 130 may be placed on a box, platform, or other riser so as to raise it up out of the snow or other precipitation. In good weather, or when inflatable ornament 100 is displayed indoors, fan 130 may be placed next to hollow shell 110 on surface 190.

Lip 420 comprises an indentation 421 capable of receiving tie ends 123 (FIG. 1) when tie ends 123 are used to couple airway 120 (FIG. 1) to fan 130. As an example, tie ends 123 may be wrapped around lip 420 within indentation 421 so as to form a good seal between fan 130 and airway 120. Leg holes 430, located in legs 135, may be used as apertures through which a screw or other fastening device (not shown) may be inserted, as when it is desired to fasten fan 130 to a riser such as those mentioned above, or to surface 190 (FIG. 1).

It was mentioned above that electrical power cord 162 is, in at least one embodiment, electrically connected to electrical power cord 131. FIG. 4 illustrates that electrical power cord 162 exits housing 440, where such electrical connection is accomplished, and then enters nozzle 410 through a side of nozzle 410 before it exits nozzle 410 through lip 420. The illustrated configuration of electrical power cord 162 allows electrical power cord 162 to enter airway 120 (FIG. 1) and from there extend into hollow shell 110, as illustrated in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating a method 500 of manufacturing an inflatable ornament, such as inflatable ornament 100, shown in FIG. 1, capable of being supported on a surface, such as surface 190, also shown in FIG. 1, according to an embodiment of the invention.

A step 510 of method 500 is to provide a hollow shell formed of a flexible material and comprising an opening. As an example, the hollow shell can be similar to hollow shell 110, first shown in FIG. 1. As another example, the flexible material can be similar to flexible material 111, and the opening can be similar to opening 112, both of which were first shown in FIG. 1.

A step 520 of method 500 is to provide an airway formed of the flexible material and comprising a first end coupled to the hollow shell at the opening and further comprising a second end. As an example, the airway can be similar to airway 120, first shown in FIG. 1.

A step 530 of method 500 is to provide a fan capable of introducing a gas into the hollow shell to inflate the hollow shell. As an example, the fan can be similar to fan 130, first shown in FIG. 1.

A step 540 of method 500 is to couple the fan to the second end of the airway such that: the fan and the hollow shell are in fluid communication with each other along an axis extending through the airway between the fan and the hollow shell; the airway extends away from the hollow shell when the airway and the hollow shell are inflated by the fan; and the fan is not located between the surface and the hollow shell.

A step 550 of method 500 is to provide a fastener inside the hollow shell. As an example, the fastener can be similar to fastener 161, first shown in FIG. 1.

A step 560 of method 500 is to provide an electrical power cord having a plurality of lights attached thereto and extending between the fan and the fastener. As an example, the electrical power cord can be similar to electrical power cord 162, first shown in FIG. 1, and the plurality of lights can each be similar to light 210, first shown in FIG. 2.

A step 570 of method 500 is to provide the hollow shell with a vent capable of being selectively opened and closed in order to, respectively, release or trap the gas inside the hollow shell. As an example, the vent can be similar to vent 180, first shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a portion of an inflatable ornament 600 according to another embodiment of the invention. As illustrated in FIG. 6, inflatable ornament 600 is capable of being supported on a surface 690, and comprises a hollow shell 610 and an airway 620. As an example, hollow shell 610 and airway 620 can be similar to, respectively, hollow shell 110 and airway 120, both of which were first shown in FIG. 1. Only a portion of airway 620 is illustrated in FIG. 6; a non-illustrated portion of airway 620 is connected to a fan similar to fan 130, first shown in FIG. 1, but, in the interest of simplicity, both the non-illustrated portion of airway 620 and the fan are omitted from FIG. 6.

Hollow shell 610 comprises a base 601 and a top 602. Surface 690 can be similar to surface 190, which was also first shown in FIG. 1. Inflatable ornament 600 further comprises a support 605 for hollow shell 610. Support 605 is located at base 601 of hollow shell 610. In the illustrated embodiment, support 605 comprises feet 606 that raise support 605 above surface 690. In another embodiment, support 605 may rest directly on surface 690. As illustrated in FIG. 6, support 605 is coupled to hollow shell 610 and located between hollow shell 610 and surface 690. As an example, support 605 may be constructed of plastic or a similar material.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of support 605 according to an embodiment of the invention. Referring now to FIG. 7, and still to FIG. 6, support 605 comprises a lip 710 and fastener holes 720. At lip 710, support 605 may be coupled to hollow shell 610. Such coupling may be accomplished via an adhesive such as glue, tape, or the like, or via some other fastening medium or device. Alternatively, support 605 may be tied to hollow shell 610, or may be coupled in any other manner known in the art. Fastener holes 720 are capable of admitting a screw, a nail, or some other non-illustrated fastener for the purpose of securing support 605 to surface 690. Support 605 may be hollow or solid, as desired for a particular application or use of inflatable ornament 600. As an example, a solid support adds more weight, and thus potentially greater stability in windy conditions, but may be more unwieldy and harder to handle or transport than a hollow support.

Although the invention has been described with reference to specific embodiments, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Various examples of such changes have been given in the foregoing description. Accordingly, the disclosure of embodiments of the invention is intended to be illustrative of the scope of the invention and is not intended to be limiting. It is intended that the scope of the invention shall be limited only to the extent required by the appended claims. For example, to one of ordinary skill in the art, it will be readily apparent that the inflatable ornament discussed herein may be implemented in a variety of embodiments, and that the foregoing discussion of certain of these embodiments does not necessarily represent a complete description of all possible embodiments. Rather, the detailed description of the drawings, and the drawings themselves, disclose at least one preferred embodiment of the invention, and may disclose alternative embodiments of the invention.

All elements claimed in any particular claim are essential to the invention claimed in that particular claim. Consequently, replacement of one or more claimed elements constitutes reconstruction and not repair. Additionally, benefits, other advantages, and solutions to problems have been described with regard to specific embodiments. The benefits, advantages, solutions to problems, and any element or elements that may cause any benefit, advantage, or solution to occur or become more pronounced, however, are not to be construed as critical, required, or essential features or elements of any or all of the claims.

Moreover, embodiments and limitations disclosed herein are not dedicated to the public under the doctrine of dedication if the embodiments and/or limitations: (1) are not expressly claimed in the claims; and (2) are or are potentially equivalents of express elements and/or limitations in the claims under the doctrine of equivalents.