Title:
Portable beverage cooler retention device for vehicles with tailgates
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A portable beverage cooler retention device for use in vehicles equipped with a fold-down tailgate is comprised of a pair of triangular uprights pivotally attached to the inside wall of a tailgate by a pair of transverse mounting plates; the uprights including locking means for maintaining their perpendicular orientation relative to the planar surface of the tailgate during use and further including container support means for the pendulous support of a cooler there between. When properly seated in the cooler mounting means, the subject portable beverage cooler retention apparatus provides a means for 1) automatically moving the cooler from the cargo area (when the tailgate is closed) to an easily accessible position above the tailgate (when the tailgate is lowered to its open position); and 2) restricting movement of the cooler within the cargo area during transport.



Inventors:
Dollar Jr., Robert Lee (Dunnellon, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/325119
Publication Date:
07/05/2007
Filing Date:
01/04/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B61D45/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GORDON, STEPHEN T
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Douglas Wm. Massinger, Esq. (Ocala, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed as being new, useful and desired to be protected by Letters Patent of the United States is as follows:

1. A device for the pendulous support of a portable beverage cooler on the inside wall of a fold-down tailgate of a vehicle, the device comprising: 1) a pair of uprights perpendicularly attached to the inside wall of a tailgate, and 2) container support means for the pendulous support of the cooler between said uprights, whereby the container is supported in an upright position whether the tailgate is open or closed.

2. A device for the pendulous support of a portable beverage cooler on the inside wall of a fold-down tailgate of a vehicle, the device comprising: 1) a pair of uprights pivotally attached to the inside wall of a tailgate, 2) locking means for maintaining said uprights perpendicular to the planar surface of the tailgate, and 3) container support means for the pendulous support of the cooler between said uprights, whereby the container is supported in an upright position whether the tailgate is open or closed.

3. A device for the pendulous support of a portable beverage cooler on the inside wall of a fold-down tailgate of a vehicle, the device comprising: 1) a first upright perpendicularly attached to the inside wall of a tailgate, 2) a second upright perpendicularly attached to the inside wall of the tailgate at a distance from said first upright sufficient to accommodate a beverage cooler there between, and 3) container support means for the pendulous support of the cooler between said first upright and said second upright, whereby the container is supported in an upright position whether the tailgate is open or closed.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The subject invention relates generally to an accessory device for vehicles having fold-down tailgates and to a portable beverage cooler retention device therefore, in particular.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Portable beverage coolers such as the heavy-duty 5-gallon type produced by Igloo® Products, Inc., are popular among owners of utility vehicles and pick-up. trucks having a cargo area suitable for their storage and transport. The traditional construction of a utility vehicle's cargo space or “bed” includes an area defined by a floor panel, three upright sidewalls, and a pivoting substantially rectangular tailgate. The tailgate may be hingedly attached to either a sidewall, in which case it pivots along a vertical axis, or may be of the fold-down type whereby its opposite ends are hingedly attached to the floor panel of the bed along a horizontal axis. In a fold-down tailgate arrangement, the inside surface of the tailgate faces the cargo space when the tailgate is in a closed upright position and extends substantially horizontally to the rear of the bed when the tailgate is in an open position. The subject invention is an accessory device for utility vehicles having tailgates attached by this latter method.

Heretofore, the storage and transportation of portable beverage coolers within the cargo area of pick-up trucks and the like has not been without complications. One problem is that the manipulation of these containers within the cargo area can be difficult, particularly when the container is filled with liquid because its overall weight can exceed 40 pounds. For instance, the filled container must be moved using considerable force from the tailgate of the vehicle into the cargo area for storage and transport, and then moved once again back onto the tailgate during use (it is typically desirable to orient the spout of the container over the edge of the tailgate to accommodate the filling of cups). Movement of a heavy cooler into and out of a cargo area is particularly challenging in fold-down type tailgated vehicles because the lowered tailgate impedes access to the bed, and access to the cooler from either side of the vehicle is impeded by the side walls of the bed.

One invention which has posited a solution of the above problem is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,588,720 issued to Revette in July of 2003. Revette teaches a holder for a portable water cooler designed to be mounted onto the inside of the side of a bed of a pickup truck. The water cooler holder has a cylindrical container-like member which holds the water cooler therein which member is mounted onto a frame which pivots from a first downward position to a second upward position so that the water cooler can be accessed from the outside of the bed of the pickup. A significant shortcoming of the Revette device is that considerable force is required to lift the holder from its lowered stowage position to its raised operative position above the wall to which it is mounted. Given the weight of a filled cooler, such an undertaking would likely require the user to step into the cargo area itself to have sufficient leverage to lift the container. A Herculean effort would no doubt be required to lift the container to its upright operative position while standing outside the vehicle bed.

Another problem associated with the storage and transport of portable beverage coolers within vehicle cargo areas is the propensity of the container to shift when exposed to the forces of a moving vehicle. Such movement can be moderate, resulting in the mere nuisance of having the container shift towards the front of the vehicle and therefore out of reach, or more severe, resulting in the overturning of the container and spillage of its contents.

Several U.S. Patents have been issued for carriers intended to restrict the movement of articles within a vehicle's cargo area. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 3,765,635, entitled BRACKET FOR GAS CONTAINERS AND SIMILAR TANKS, discloses a support plate which may be bolted or screwed to a truck wall and a collar bolted to the support plate. The collar is made of two semicircular pieces, hinged together at one end. An upper flange of a tank may be placed within the collar and the pieces may be clamped together opposite the hinged ends, securing the tank. One shortcoming of this device is that it interferes with the use of the truck bed when not in use. The only way to recover the space occupied by the bracket is to unbolt it from the bed wall and remove it entirely.

Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 4,860, entitled MOUNTING RACK, teaches a water jug carrier for truck beds. The device is comprised of an attachment plate with a bracket that is bolted to a wall of the bed and several removable components attached to the bracket for retaining the jug in place. Here again, the components occupy a significant amount of space within the cargo area and the only way to recover the space is to leave the removable parts of the rack behind.

Based on the above, it is clear that it would be of benefit to have a portable beverage cooler retention device which is collapsible into a compact, space saving configuration when not in use. While not directed to an apparatus for holding coolers, U.S. Pat. No. 5,799,849 discloses a safety carrier for stabilizing a pressure-fluid bottle in an upright position in a vehicle's cargo area. The bottle retention ring of this device may be selectively changed by a user, without disconnecting from its mounting frame, between an operative configuration and a stowage configuration. In the operative configuration, the ring is generally horizontal and projects out over the pickup box's floor to receive the bottle. In the stowage configuration, the ring is rotated to a generally vertical position and the arm is pivoted to swing the ring flush against the wall of the bed. Unfortunately, such an assembly would not work when mounted to a fold-down tailgate.

It is clear that a significant need exists for a cooler retention device that is 1) usable in vehicle's having a fold-down tailgate, 2) capable of securing the cooler in place during storage and transit, 3) obviates the need to manually drag the cooler from the cargo area onto the tailgate and vice versa for use and storage of the cooler, respectively, and 4) is selectively changeable from an operative configuration when retaining a cooler to a stowage configuration when not in use. None of the references described above, alone or in combination, teach a device having all of the above benefits and capabilities.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The subject invention more specifically relates to a portable beverage cooler retention device for use in vehicles equipped with a fold-down tailgate and is comprised generally of a pair of triangular uprights pivotally attached to the inside wall of a tailgate by a pair of transverse mounting plates; the uprights including locking means for maintaining their perpendicular orientation relative to the planar surface of the tailgate during use and further including container support means for the pendulous support of a cooler there between when the device is in its operative configuration. When the locking means are disengaged, each upright may be folded in substantially parallel relationship with the planar surface of the tailgate, one upright on top of the other, such that the entire apparatus forms a compact, stowage configuration when not in use. Thusly configured, the subject device occupies only minimal space in the vehicle's cargo area.

When properly seated in the cooler mounting means, the subject portable beverage cooler retention apparatus provides a means for 1) automatically moving the cooler from the cargo area (when the tailgate is closed) to an easily accessible position above the tailgate (when the tailgate is lowered to its open position); and 2) restricting movement of the cooler within the cargo area during transport.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto. In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further, the purpose of the foregoing abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

It is, therefore, a primary object of the subject invention to provide a portable beverage cooler retention device for use in vehicles equipped with a fold-down tailgate.

It is also a primary object of the subject beverage cooler retention device is to provide a means for automatically moving the attached cooler from the cargo area to an easily accessible position above the tailgate when the tailgate is lowered to its open position.

Another primary object of the subject portable beverage cooler retention device for use in vehicles equipped with a fold-down tailgate is to provide a means for restricting movement of the cooler within the cargo area during transport.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a portable beverage cooler retention device which is relatively light weight and capable of being folded into a compact unit relatively flush with the inside wall of the tailgate when the device is not in use.

It is also an object of the subject invention to provide a portable beverage cooler retention device for pickups that may be easily and quickly mounted to the interior of a vehicle's tailgate.

Yet another object of the present invention is to provide a portable beverage cooler retention device which is relatively inexpensive to manufacture and thereby affordable to the average consumer of such products.

These together with other objects of the invention, along with the various features of novelty which characterize the invention, are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming a part of this disclosure. For a better understanding of the invention, its advantages and the specific objects attained by its uses, reference should be had to the accompanying drawings and descriptive matter in which there is illustrated a preferred embodiment of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood and objects other than those set forth above will become apparent when consideration is given to the following detailed description thereof. Such description makes reference to the annexed drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the subject portable beverage cooler retention device shown in its operative configuration and mounted on a vehicle's tailgate;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the invention of FIG. 1 shown collapsed into its stowage configuration during non-use;

FIG. 3 is a side perspective view of the subject invention with a portable beverage cooler mounted thereon and situate over the planar surface of a tailgate, the invention being in its operative position; and

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the subject invention with a portable beverage cooler mounted thereon and situate within the cargo area of the vehicle during storage and/or transport of the cooler (i.e., with the tailgate in its closed position).

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Reference is now made to FIG. 1 in which there is illustrated in cutaway view the cargo area of a conventional pickup truck, of the fold-down tailgate type, to which the portable beverage cooler retention device may be mounted. It should be immediately understood that the subject invention may be employed on other vehicle types having a fold-down tailgate such as utility vehicles and station wagons, for instance.

Before the objects and advantages of the subject invention can be appreciated, it is helpful to understand the general construction of the vehicle tailgate assembly and its inherent problems. To this end, the vehicle's cargo area 10 is an open space defined by a bed or floor panel 12 situate in substantially horizontal orientation and having perpendicularly attached thereto two upright side walls 14 which are oriented in parallel relationship to one another along a vertical plane. An essentially rectangular tailgate 16 is connected at both ends to the interior panels 18 of sidewalls 14 by conventional hinges 20 or other suitable coupling means. Attachment of tailgate 16 in this manner permits pivotal rotation about horizontal axis 22, as indicated by directional arrow 24, between open and closed positions. When closed (FIG. 4), tailgate 16 occupies a substantially vertical plane and lies perpendicular to floor panel 12. When open, tailgate 16 is situate in a substantially horizontal orientation substantially coplanar with floor panel 12 and essentially forming a rearward extension thereof. Tailgate restraining means 26 connected between each interior panel 18 and the sides 28 of tailgate 16, limit opening of the tailgate to the horizontal plane. Restraining means 26 are typically of the flexible cable type or are comprised of articulated linkage.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, the subject invention more specifically relates to a portable beverage cooler retention device for use in vehicles equipped with a fold-down tailgate and is comprised generally of a pair of uprights 30 pivotally attached to the inside wall 32 of a tailgate 16 by a pair of transverse mounting plates 34 which are fastened using a plurality of screws. Each upright 30 preferably, but not essentially, is triangular in shape as defined by vertices A,B and C and sides a,b and c. Although uprights 30 are illustrated in the form of isosceles triangles, angle ABC may also be a right angle. As will be seen from the description below, the greater angle ABC is, the further spout 36 (FIGS. 3 and 4) of beverage cooler 38 (FIGS. 3 and 4) will extend past the edge of tailgate 16 when in the lowered position. The extension of spout 36 beyond the edge of tailgate 16 facilitates the emptying of the cooler's contents into cups and the like.

As stated, each upright 30 is capable of pivotal rotation about its side a and is secured in a position perpendicular to the planar surface of tailgate 16 using locking means 40 which in the instant example are comprised of conventional spring loaded locking pins. Thusly oriented, the subject portable beverage cooler retention device is in its “operative configuration” or “operative position”, ready to receive cooler 38 (see FIGS. 3 and 4).

Each upright 30 further includes a reinforcement brace 42 extending from vertex A along a length of sides b and c which adds structural integrity to angle CAB. Cooler mounting means are also provided for the removable mounting of cooler 38 to the subject cooler retention apparatus. In one embodiment, cooler mounting means may be comprised of a docking pin and receiver assembly as shown. The assembly includes a tubular receiver 44 pivotally mounted to each brace 42 in close proximity to vertex A of upright 30. Each receiver 44, therefore, is capable of rotation about its point of attachment 46 along the planar surface of brace 42. Each receiver 44 is adapted to receive therein a corresponding cooler docking pin 48 which is fixedly attached to cooler 38 using conventional mounting hardware. It should be further noted that when uprights 30 are oriented in their operative configuration, an axis of rotation, parallel with the longitudinal axis of tailgate 16, is defined by each point of attachment 46 about which a cooler 38 may swing (FIGS. 3 and 4). As may be appreciated, other means of pivotally mounting cooler 38 to the subject device may also be employed without departing from the spirit of the invention as claimed.

Referring now to FIG. 2, when locking means 40 are disengaged, each upright 30 may be rotated downward along their respective arc path 50, and folded one on top of the other, in substantially parallel relationship with the planar surface 32 of tailgate 16. Thusly positioned, the subject portable beverage cooler retention device forms a compact, “stowage configuration” which occupies a minimal amount of cargo space when the device is not in use.

Reference now being made to FIGS. 3 and 4, the subject portable beverage cooler retention device may be observed in its operative configuration with a cooler 38 mounted thereon. Note that spout 36 of cooler 38 extends beyond the leading edge of tailgate 16 when in its horizontal, lowered position (FIG. 3). This position facilitates the filling of cups or other containers which may be positioned immediately below the spout, unimpeded by tailgate 16. As may be readily appreciated, tailgate 16 may be selectively moved between open (FIG. 3) and closed (FIG. 4) positions causing the relocation of cooler 38 from its easily accessible position above the tailgate to its stored position inside the cargo area, respectively. Note that the lifting of tailgate 16 will cause cooler 38 to pivot 90 degrees about its aforementioned axis of rotation between each vertex A of uprights 30.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to the particular embodiments herein set forth, it is understood that the present disclosure has been made only by way of example and that numerous changes in details of construction may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should not be limited by the foregoing specifications, but rather only by the scope of the claims appended hereto.