Title:
Illuminated cupholder
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An illuminated cupholder is disclosed which permits improved viewing of a cupholder when ambient lighting is limited. The disclosed invention may be embodied in many forms, including the use of a glow-in-the-dark disc placed at the bottom of a cupholder, a replacement cupholder sleeve comprising a glow-in-the-dark material, and/or a replacement cupholder detent assembly comprising glow-in-the-dark material, preferably of plastic composition. The present invention anticipates the use of these teachings in cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, and furniture (including but not limited to chairs and the like).



Inventors:
Fugate, Sharon Kay (Nocona, TX, US)
Application Number:
11/243865
Publication Date:
05/11/2006
Filing Date:
10/04/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47K1/08
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
RAMIREZ, RAMON O
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kevin Mark Klughart (Denton, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An illuminated cupholder system comprising: (a) a circular disc comprising glow-in-the-dark material on a first side and an adhesive backing on a second side; wherein said circular disc conforms to the diameter of a cupholder receptacle.

2. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said disc is approximately 2.5 inches in diameter.

3. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said glow-in-the-dark material comprises LUNAplast.

4. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said glow-in-the-dark material comprises a zinc sulfide photoluminescent material.

5. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said cupholder system resides in an automobile.

6. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said cupholder system resides in a truck.

7. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said cupholder system resides in a boat.

8. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said cupholder system resides in a recreational vehicle.

9. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 1 wherein said cupholder system resides in a chair.

10. An illuminated cupholder system comprising: (a) a cupholder sleeve comprising glow-in-the-dark material; wherein said cupholder sleeve further comprises an outer cylindrical edge and an inner cylindrical edge, said outer cylindrical edge conforming to a cupholder and said inner cylindrical edge conforming to a beverage container.

11. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder sleeve inner cylindrical edge has a diameter of approximately 2.5 inches.

12. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said glow-in-the-dark material comprises LUNAplast.

13. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said glow-in-the-dark material comprises a zinc sulfide photoluminescent material.

14. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder system resides in an automobile.

15. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder system resides in a truck.

16. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder system resides in a boat.

17. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder system resides in a recreational vehicle.

18. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 10 wherein said cupholder system resides in a chair.

19. An illuminated cupholder system comprising: (a) a cupholder detent comprising glow-in-the-dark material; wherein said cupholder detent has an inner cylindrical edge conforming to a beverage container.

20. The illuminated cupholder system of claim 19 wherein said glow-in-the-dark material comprises LUNAplast.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Provisional Patent Applications

Applicant claims benefit pursuant to 35 U.S.C. § 119 and hereby incorporates by reference Provisional Patent Application for “LUMINESCENT GLO-HOLE FOR CUPHOLDERS”, Ser. No. 60/625,803, filed Nov. 8, 2004, and mailed via first class mail to the USPTO with on Nov. 2, 2004.

Document Disclosures

Applicant claims benefit of and incorporates by reference Document Disclosure Number 548027 filed under her previous name Sharon Kay Cogbill dated Feb. 20, 2004 and received by the USPTO on Mar. 1, 2004.

PARTIAL WAIVER OF COPYRIGHT

All of the material in this patent application is subject to copyright protection under the copyright laws of the United States and of other countries. As of the first effective filing date of the present application, this material is protected as unpublished material.

However, permission to copy this material is hereby granted to the extent that the copyright owner has no objection to the facsimile reproduction by anyone of the patent documentation or patent disclosure, as it appears in the United States Patent and Trademark Office patent file or records, but otherwise reserves all copyright rights whatsoever.

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

REFERENCE TO A MICROFICHE APPENDIX

Not Applicable

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is related directly to situations in which a cupholder or beverage container holder is positioned in an area of low ambient light. In these circumstances it may be difficult to view the cupholder with sufficient clarity to properly position the beverage container for proper placement in the cupholder. This often results in spilled beverage cups and other mishaps which are undesirable, but prevalent in the prior art.

PRIOR ART AND BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Overview (0100)

The prior art with respect to the present invention is generally illustrated in U.S. Design Pat. No. 295,710 for LIGHTED BEVERAGE COOLER and reproduced in FIG. 1 (0100), wherein a beverage cup holder is constructed to provide illumination to permit viewing the cupholder in low ambient light conditions.

Problems Associated with the Prior Art

A variety of issues are associated with the use of traditional prior art cupholder systems in low ambient lighting conditions. The primary problem associated with these systems is spillage of beverage cup contents because the beverage cup cannot be properly mated with the cupholder in low ambient light conditions. The prior art has traditionally addressed this problem by providing auxiliary ambient lighting to illuminate the cupholder during the docking process. This approach consumes energy and does not address situations where external illumination is not available or impractical.

OBJECTIVES OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, the objectives of the present invention are (among others) to circumvent the deficiencies in the prior art and affect the following objectives:

    • (1) To provide a cupholder illumination system that permits docking of a beverage cup to a cupholder in low ambient lighting conditions.
    • (2) To provide a cupholder illumination system that does not require external power for operation.
    • (3) To provide a cupholder illumination system that is suitable for automobiles, trucks, recreational vehicles, and boats.
    • (4) To provide a cupholder illumination system suitable for integration into chairs and articles of furniture.

While these objectives should not be understood to limit the teachings of the present invention, in general these objectives are achieved in part or in whole by the disclosed invention that is discussed in the following sections. One skilled in the art will no doubt be able to select aspects of the present invention as disclosed to affect any combination of the objectives described above.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention as generally illustrated in FIG. 2 (0200), wherein a beverage cup (0211) is contained within a generic beverage cupholder structure (0212). The present invention may be constructed in a variety of embodiments, but an exemplary implementation as illustrated in FIG. 2 (0200) uses a photoluminescent (glow-in-the-dark) disc (0201) that is placed under the beverage cup (0211) and inset into the cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) and placed in the beverage cupholder detent (0203).

One skilled in the art will recognize that the cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) is optional in some configurations. Additionally, the system as taught may in some circumstances dispense with the photoluminescent disc (0201), instead fabricating the cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) out of photoluminescent material, or alternatively, dispensing with both the photoluminescent disc (0201) and the cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) and fabricating the beverage cupholder detent (0203) out of photoluminescent material.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the advantages provided by the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description together with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates a conventional prior art illuminated beverage cooler reproduced from U.S. Design Pat. No. 295,710 for LIGHTED BEVERAGE COOLER;

FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective assembly view of preferred exemplary embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective assembly view of a typical application system context for the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PRESENTLY PREFERRED EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detailed preferred embodiment of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to the embodiment illustrated.

The numerous innovative teachings of the present application will be described with particular reference to the presently preferred embodiment, wherein these innovative teachings are advantageously applied to the particular problems of an ILLUMINATED CUPHOLDER. However, it should be understood that this embodiment is only one example of the many advantageous uses of the innovative teachings herein. In general, statements made in the specification of the present application do not necessarily limit any of the various claimed inventions. Moreover, some statements may apply to some inventive features but not to others.

Glow-in-the-Dark Material

The present invention makes use of a glow-in-the-dark (photoluminescent) material to provide zero power luminescent lighting for the beverage cupholder system. Many preferred embodiments of the present invention make use of a specific high performance photoluminescent (HPPL) product such as LUNAplast available from Luna Technologies International, Inc. (19226 70th Avenue South, Kent Wash. 98032, tel 888-955-8883, www.lunaplast.com). The HPPL product available from Luna Technologies may be fabricated in a variety of ways, with the preferred material used in the construction of the present invention being rigid PVC or flexible vinyl rolls of photoluminescent material. This material is generally constructed using Sr Al material and is excited with pale yellow-green light with an excitation spectrum of 200-450 nm with peak excitation at 360 nm and emits a yellowish-green light with peak emission at 520 nm. This material is particularly useful in this application because the excitation time is less than 15 minutes with an emitted luminescence of 150-300 mcd/m2 for 30 minutes or more after excitation.

LUNAplast is typically manufactured as rigid PVC sheeting or flexible vinyl rolls. The rolls and sheets are comprised of a two to three part laminate, consisting of the following layers:

    • One base layer of highly reflective white material of PVC or vinyl;
    • One mid-layer of photoluminescent PVC or vinyl impregnated with strontium aluminate pigment; and
    • One tip layer of clear PVC or vinyl with UV and fire-resistant properties.

Alternatives to the LUNAplast material include conventional zinc sulfide (ZnS: Cu) photoluminescent materials that perform similarly to that of LUNAplast but have lower emitted luminescence (10-20 mcd/m2 for 1 minute).

While a variety of photoluminescent materials may be used in constructing the present invention, many preferred embodiments utilize LUNAplast as the primary material. However, for the purposes of construction, any form of glow-in-the-dark material may be utilized in the construction of the present invention with no loss of system functionality. The present invention specifically anticipates the use of improved forms of LUNAplast materials in the construction of the cupholder illumination system, as the LUNAplast line of glow-in-the-dark materials is constantly being upgraded and improved.

Exemplary System Embodiments (0200)

As generally illustrated in FIG. 2 (0200), the present invention may generally be implemented in one of three configurations:

    • In a first embodiment, the system utilizes a glow-in-the-dark disc (0201) to provide illumination to the beverage cupholder structure (0212). In this configuration the cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) may or may not be present.
    • In a second embodiment, the system utilizes a glow-in-the-dark cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) to provide illumination to the beverage cupholder structure (0212). In this configuration the photoluminescent disc (0201) may or may not be present.
    • In a third embodiment, the system utilizes a glow-in-the-dark injection insert in the beverage cupholder structure (0212) to form the cupholder detent (0203) which actually supports the beverage cup (0211). In this configuration the photoluminescent disc (0201) and cupholder retaining sleeve (0202) may or may not be present.

The present invention may incorporate a variety of glow-in-the-dark disc sizes. However, one preferred embodiment utilizes disc sizes with diameters of approximately 2.5 inches.

Exemplary System Context (0300)

The present invention anticipates a wide variety of system contexts in which the present invention may reside or be installed. A typical system context might be that of the cupholder system typically found in automobile consoles and the like as generally illustrated in FIG. 3 (0300). Modern automobiles generally provide for a variety of cupholders including those mounted in the console between the driver-side and passenger-side chairs, those mounted on the dashboard, and other cupholders which may be found in the passenger compartment of many sport utility vehicles (SUVs). In addition to automobiles, the present invention specifically anticipates that the disclosed invention may be applied to trucks, boats, and recreational vehicles.

As illustrated in FIG. 3 (0300), several preferred embodiments of the present invention may be viewed in a typical system context. The beverage cup (0311) generally fits into a console (0312) which has cupholders formed with generally cylindrical structures. In one preferred embodiment, the glow-in-the-dark disc (0301) may be placed within the cupholder structure to provide cupholder illumination. In a second preferred embodiment, a glow-in-the-dark cupholder retaining sleeve (0302) may be placed within the cupholder structure to provide cupholder illumination. In a third preferred embodiment, the console (0312) may be selectively fabricated (0303) with glow-in-the-dark material such that the inner cylindrical edge of the cupholder and/or the circular bottom of the cupholder (collectively referred to as the cupholder detent) illuminate the beverage cupholder location.

Photoluminescent Disc Embodiment (0301)

With respect to the glow-in-the-dark disc embodiment (0301), the present invention anticipates that the generally circular disc may be flexible or rigid, and may incorporate an adhesive backing for application to the bottom of a generally cylindrical cupholder.

Photoluminescent Retaining Sleeve Embodiment (0302)

With respect to the glow-in-the-dark cupholder retaining sleeve embodiment (0302), the present invention anticipates that these retaining sleeves may be retrofit to many existing cupholders (including but not limited to automobiles and trucks) by replacing existing cupholder retaining sleeves with photoluminescent substitutes.

In these contexts, the cupholder retaining sleeve is comprised of glow-in-the-dark (photoluminescent) material and further comprises an outer cylindrical edge and an inner cylindrical edge, with the outer cylindrical edge conforming to a cupholder and the inner cylindrical edge conforming to a beverage container.

Photoluminescent Cupholder Detent Embodiment (0303)

With respect to the glow-in-the-dark cupholder detent embodiment (0303), the present invention anticipates many existing cupholder structures (0312) may be refabricated using existing plastic injection molding tooling to incorporate selective patterning of glow-in-the-dark material in the area of the cupholder detent (0303). This patterning technique may be useful in eliminating the need for additional elements to support cupholder illumination. Additionally, this technique provides support for aftermarket products specifically designed to address the issue of cupholder illumination for a variety of high volume consumer automobiles, boats, and the like.

In these contexts, the cupholder detent (0303) comprises a glow-in-the-dark (photoluminescent) material and the cupholder detent has an inner cylindrical edge conforming to a beverage container.

Other Anticipated System Contexts

In addition to the above anticipated system contexts, the present invention specifically anticipates that the illuminated cupholder system described herein may be applied to furniture, and specifically chairs with embedded cupholders. Modern furniture, including household and recreational furniture, often incorporate cupholders in the armrests of the furniture. These armrest cupholders may be easily augmented with one or more of the disclosed illuminated cupholder systems described herein to great advantage. These system contexts are of great interest in that furniture incorporating cupholders are widely used in environments where lighting is limited, such as when watching movies indoors or sitting outdoors in recreational furniture while fishing or relaxing during and after twilight hours.

System Variations

The present invention anticipates a wide variety of variations in the basic theme of construction. The examples presented previously do not represent the entire scope of possible usages. They are meant to cite a few of the almost limitless possibilities.

Energy Conservation

The present invention permits a significant conservation in energy associated with illuminating cupholders and the like.

The present invention permits illumination of cupholders without the need for any power source other than ambient illumination. The present invention makes use of glow-in-the-dark material such as LUNAplast or the like to accumulate ambient light and phosphoresce after ambient light is removed. This technique eliminates the need for auxiliary lighting powered by batteries, electrical outlets, and the like and is essentially a zero-power solution to the problem of illuminating a cupholder safely.

CONCLUSION

An illuminated cupholder is disclosed which permits improved viewing of a cupholder when ambient lighting is limited. The disclosed invention may be embodied in many forms, including the use of a glow-in-the-dark disc placed at the bottom of a cupholder, a replacement cupholder sleeve comprising a glow-in-the-dark material, and/or a replacement cupholder detent assembly comprising glow-in-the-dark material, preferably of plastic composition. The present invention anticipates the use of these teachings in cars, trucks, boats, recreational vehicles, and furniture (including but not limited to chairs and the like).

Although a preferred embodiment of the present invention has been illustrated in the accompanying drawings and described in the foregoing Detailed Description, it will be understood that the invention is not limited to the embodiments disclosed, but is capable of numerous rearrangements, modifications, and substitutions without departing from the spirit of the invention as set forth and defined by the following claims.