Surfboards and Umbrellas: Solar Power Patents for Summer

By Steve Brachmann
July 10, 2013

Fig. 1 from US Patent No. 4,415,133.

The hotter months have arrived, which means that it’s the time of the year that we feel solar energy the most. In fact, the heat and longer days make it perfect to enjoy some of the better things that Mother Nature has to offer.

Inventors have been filing for patents regarding solar powered items for at least several decades. Patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office during the early ‘80s show how inventors have used solar energy to power lighting systems (US Patent No. 4,384,317) and even for the propulsion of aircraft through the sky (US Patent No. 4,415,133). In the 1990s, more interesting applications for solar energy use in outdoor entertainment can be seen, such as this patent protecting a solar-powered hot dog cooker (US Patent No. 5,054,467).

Today at IPWatchdog, as we continue our Summer 2013 series, we take a look at some of the patents and applications regarding the application of solar energy to improve outdoor summer activities. A few patent applications give us an insight to some of the intriguing uses of solar energy we might see someday in our own backyards. One application describes an umbrella table capable of storing electricity and sending it to electrical outlets on the table. Another application is for a grill canopy with solar-powered lighting displaying downward from the fabric top. A third application would protect a solar powered outdoor lamp with a more stable base for non-permeable ground settings.

The USPTO has also recently issued patents to some individuals and small groups who have devised new ways of utilizing solar power through summer activities or ornaments. One patent protects a surfboard that collects and stores electricity safely for later use. Another patent protects a system of storing electricity from solar energy to light decorative wind chimes at night.


Solar Powered Umbrella Table
U.S. Patent Application No. 20110265694

Umbrella tables are commonly used for outdoor entertainment, whether for eating dinner or just lounging around underneath the shade of a large umbrella. When a group gathers around a table there are many electrical appliances, like a radio or a fan, that may be desirable to have around. However, plug wires for appliances may be cumbersome and outdoor electrical outlets may be difficult to access or even find.

This patent application, filed by joint inventors Matthew Portis of Alexandria, VA, and Obadiah Hampton of Maricopa, AZ, would protect an umbrella table that can collect solar energy. This energy is converted into DC electrical energy, which can be sent to a number of electrical outlets installed directly on the table. The table also includes a moisture detector that can detect an unsafe level of moisture and turn off the electricity in response.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give the inventors the right to protect:

“A table and umbrella apparatus comprising: an umbrella having at least one solar energy collection device that converts solar energy to an electrical DC voltage; a pole that supports the umbrella, wherein the pole is connected to a table; a base station connected to a bottom portion of the table comprising at least one battery that stores the electrical DC voltage and at least one inverter that converts the DC voltage to AC voltage; and at least one power outlet terminal adapted to receive the AC voltage, wherein an electrical device may be plugged into the at least one power outlet terminal.”

Solar Surf Board
U.S. Patent No. 8262425

Surfboards are popular recreational items in coastal areas. These pieces of equipment encounter a lot of radiant energy during use, as there’s very little shade on the ocean except in the form of clouds. However, the ubiquitous presence of water all around the surfboard limits the electrical applications for these items.

This patent, issued by the USPTO to solo inventor Anthony William Jones of Garden Grove, CA, protects the process of creating a surfboard that is capable of converting solar energy safely into electricity. This design introduces solar panels between the foam core of the board and the fiberglass laminate. Users can access stored electricity through an access port plug which is protected by an O-ring for a waterproof seal.

As Claim 1 explains, Mr. Jones is seeking to protect:

“A watertight solar surfboard (10) including an internal battery (6) for capturing solar radiation and converting it into electrical power for use in charging battery operated external electrical devices, said surfboard being comprised of a fiberglass shell (2), with a fore extremity (1), an aft extremity (9), an inner foam core (3), a fin (8) disposed near said aft extremity, a solar panel (4) that is disposed on a bottom surface of said shell, wires (5) that connect said solar panel to said battery to transfer electrical energy from said solar panel to said battery and an O-ring seal screw (7) to seal out water from an access electrical port plug for connecting external electrical devices to said battery.”

Canopy with Solar-Powered Lighting
U.S. Patent Application No. 20120103377

A grill canopy is an accessory for barbecue grills that protects a person who is at the grill from rain, excessive sun or other weather. Typically, this is designed as a cloth awning separate from the grill that is held above the grill by a stand. Lighting extending down onto the grill from the canopy top would be helpful for viewing food while cooking, but this is hindered by the difficulties of finding and easily using electricity outdoors.

This patent application, filed by James T. Sheridan of Newton, PA, seeks to protect a design for a grill canopy that includes a solar panel resting above the fabric top of the canopy. The solar panel collects radiant energy which is used to power lighting found underneath the canopy. The light source utilizes light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give Mr. Sheridan the right to protect:

“A canopy comprising: a shade having a fabric top; a solar light assembly mounted in the fabric top, the solar light assembly including at least one solar cell facing upwardly from a top side of the fabric, top, at least one light source facing downwardly from a bottom side of the fabric top, and a power storage device for storing electrical power generated by the solar cell and for providing electrical power to the light source; legs for supporting the shade; and a control unit for controlling activation and deactivation of the light source.”

Solar Wind Chime
U.S. Patent No. 8421252

Wind chimes are a decorative implement many people have in their backyards or other outdoor areas around their residence. Aside from making an aesthetically pleasing sound when encountered by a breeze, these pieces are usually designed to capture the eyes as well. However, when hung in shaded areas or at night, these decorative pieces are difficult to see.

This patent, issued to inventors Gregory Kuelbs of Westlake, TX, and Gustav Kuelbs of Grapevine, TX, protects a system of implementing solar energy for the lighting of wind chimes. The body of the wind chime in this device contains a battery that is charged with solar power that is drawn from solar cells near the top of the chimes. Ideally, the body is constructed of weatherproof plastic, but wood, metal and many other materials will suffice as well.

As Claim 1 explains, the inventors have earned the right to protect:

“A solar wind chime, comprising: a body; a chime suspended from the body; a decorative globe suspended from the body; a solar energy system carried by the body, the solar energy system comprising: a rechargeable electrical power source; and a solar energy collection system for recharging the rechargeable electrical power source; a lighting element disposed within the decorative globe and conductively coupled to the rechargeable electrical power source for illuminating the decorative globe; a plurality of ribs arranged about the decorative globe to prevent striking contact between the decorative globe and the chime.”

Outdoor Solar Floor Lamp
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130163236

Outdoor lamps have been widely used in order to create lighting for night entertainment in the outdoors. Solar power lamps have been created in the past, but methods of securing those lamps in an upright position are not conducive to a majority of ground settings. These lamps are usually supported by an upright pole with a spike at the end that can be lodged into the ground. This spike method, however, doesn’t work well for other solid ground materials, such as concrete.

This patent application for an outdoor solar lamp with better methods of stabilization was filed by solo inventor Diane Michelle Steele of Gathersburg, MD. This design for an outdoor solar lamp includes a floor base that is weighted and includes multiple support legs. These legs are adjustable and can be raised or lowered for better stability on slanting or uneven surfaces.

Claim 1 of this patent application seeks to protect:

“A solar lamp having a weighted and adjustable base, comprising: a lamp base having an underside surface; a plurality of leveling elements removably attached to said base underside surface; said leveling elements comprising at least one folding foot element and at least one pointed ridge element; said at least one folding foot element having a body structure comprising a flat upper surface and a flat lower surface, along with a threaded member pivotably connected to said body structure and capable of rotating between a stowed state and deployed state within a channel along said foot element upper surface; said at least one pointed ridge element having a pointed body and a threaded member extending therefrom; said pointed ridge and folding foot element threaded members threadably connecting to said base underside surface for offsetting and orienting said base with respect to a support surface; a plurality of storage clips along said base underside surface for supporting said leveling elements between uses.”

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun,,, Motley Fool and Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 16 Comments comments.

  1. PatentBuddy July 10, 2013 8:14 am

    Again, where can we buy these patented products?

    Why these articles keep being posted without stating where we can get these products is stupid. Please write complete articles.

  2. Gene Quinn July 10, 2013 10:23 am


    You arrogantly say: “Please write complete articles.”

    My response: Please get a clue!

    You apparently want to read an article different than the one that we have written. Your personal preference doesn’t mean that the article is stupid or incomplete, which should be self evident. The goal is to profile interested patent applications and patents, not to sell or promote products.


  3. PatentBuddy July 10, 2013 11:51 am

    @Gene: I just wanted to know where to buy some of these products – that is not necessarily promoting products. A mere website link would have been sufficient. Give credit where credit is due – we should encourage inventors. I really liked some of these things and would have likely purchased them if I knew where to get them. Some of these things look like they should be in a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.

  4. Gene Quinn July 10, 2013 10:21 pm


    The fact that we do not provide links to where products can be purchased does NOT make the article stupid. The author does not deserve the condescending commentary suggesting that the article is incomplete or somehow defective.

    You should know that not every patent is commercialized, and not every interesting patent has a corresponding product on the market. You should also know that it is virtually impossible in many cases to find products that are covered by a patent even when they do exist. So why do you demand that we either provide links or apparently don’t write such articles?

    Get a grip.


  5. PatentBuddy July 11, 2013 5:52 am

    @Gene at (4): Most, if not all, new products on the market are indeed patented. Where is the evidence for your assertion above that “it is virtually impossible in many cases to find products that are covered by a patent even when they do exist.”

    Patent litigation is increasing. If there are fewer patented products on the market, how can patent litigation be increasing? Why litigate for a product not covered by a patent? – this does not make any sense. There has been an explosion of patented products on the market in recent years, as indicated by the increase in patent litigation. The patent system works.

    “Patent litigation in the US has increased over 230% in the past two decades.”

    Why develop new products without patent coverage? Your above statement needs to be supported by evidence – which I do not think is true, in fact it is very unlikely to be even remotely accurate. Without patents, you get no funding for developing the new product which is critical to its success in bringing it to market.

  6. John Spiers July 11, 2013 12:23 pm


    Not sure who you are or what you do, but this and the rest is wildly inaccurate:

    “Most, if not all, new products on the market are indeed patented. ”

    Almost no new product is patented (more new things are copyrighted, and maybe you are adding that in). go into any specialty store (where new things show up) and look for the patents. Almost nothing. Also, count the patents and the new products. Almost nothing new is patented.

    I think what Gene was trying to gently share with you is, since 1789, almost none of the some 7 million patented items was ever commercialized, like maybe 80,000 ideas. Of those 80,000, maybe 50,000 were profitable. If there is any correlation at all, patent equals failure. Ask any patent attorney. Stephan Kinsella and William Patry and Lessig, etc. Read Boldrin and Levine on this.

    Patent litigation has exploded because congress changed the law, and now there is more chaos when before there was just pointlessness. Now there are also the patent trolls, and the anti-patent trolls.

    Almost no new products are developed or ever covered by patent. it is simply not necessarily to success, and in fact a likely hindrance. You say …

    “Without patents, you get no funding for developing the new product which is critical to its success in bringing it to market.”

    That game is extremely narrow and almost never works. The VC market adds up to almost nothing as far as funding business start up. If you think the entire world revolves around the patent and the VC, then I can see how you will get exercised if someone tries to talk some sense to you.

    You demand others provide proof, I’ve cited patent attorneys who will school you, just google them. it is all there. if you believe the model is facebook and Segway, then tell us how that model of patent and VC has worked out for you.

    If there is any correlation at all in business, it is IPR = failure.

    John Spiers

  7. Gene Quinn July 11, 2013 6:25 pm

    Patent Buddy-

    I made the mistake thinking that you were knowledgeable about the industry. Obviously you are a neophyte that doesn’t have any real understanding of the industry.

    It is laughable to say that “most, if not all, new products on the market are indeed patented.” What is your proof for that outrageously inaccurate statement? You have no proof and your guessing and irrational complaining about this and other articles is growing tired.

    More is expected of comments on IPWatchdog. Please keep you commentary factually accurate, and please refrain from condescending commentary (i.e., “this article is stupid because it doesn’t contain the information I think it should.”)


  8. Anon July 11, 2013 6:51 pm

    The lesson from John Spiers is from the Patents are Evil school of thought.

    The names of the references he uses haev been discredited – and are out to push an agenda.

  9. PatentBuddy July 11, 2013 7:17 pm

    @Gene at (7): OK, then why bother getting patents if they are not useful and do what they are intended to do? Entrepreneurs and inventors spend immense resources, amounts of time and money acquiring patents – is this all for nothing then? Do please educate me. This is not what I learned in school. Above you state that it is virtually impossible in many cases to find products that are covered by a patent even when they do exist. I find this assertion incredible. I didn’t know this was the actual case. Then what is up with the increase in patent litigation? Are you saying that patents don’t work in the real world like they are supposed to do? Is it possible that you have joined the Kinsella and Lessig school of thought on IP law? Are patents pointless and a waste of time for entrepreneurs?

  10. Gene Quinn July 11, 2013 9:00 pm


    Do you know how many patent lawsuits are filed in a given year? Under 5,000.

    Do you know how many utility patents are issued each year in the US? Over 500,000.

    Why not prove your assertion that every product that makes it to market has a patent associated with it.

    Patents are valuable, but there are patents on numerous products that for one reason or another are never commercialized. There are also numerous products for which no patent is ever filed. If you were taught otherwise in law school you should demand your money back.

    It is insulting to suggest that I have joined Kinsella. If you want to continue to be an ignorant jackass you can do it elsewhere. Last warning.


  11. Anon July 12, 2013 10:44 am

    There are two lines of thought that I think are being purposefully conflated.

    1) the actual number of patent lawsuits is a very small number – especially considering the large number of patents in force.
    2) patents are only important if they result in a lawsuit (totally ignoring many of the financial aspects such as licesning revenue).

    Like ANY business decision, deciding whether to patent or not needs an analysis of risks and rewards, costs and benefits.

    Extremist views like BOTH PatentBuddy and John Spiers are BOTH misleading and unhelpful. My impression is that BOTH are merely ‘trolls’ looking to spike any meaningful conversation.

  12. John Spiers July 12, 2013 1:20 pm

    O dear me, name calling. My views come from studying Kinsella, Lessig, Patry, Bodrin, Levine etc. I would term myself radical, not extremist. Patry would be best brought into this discussion, since it appears the friction gets to unmet expectation of the benefits of patents.

    (If those people are discredited, cite those sources who discredit.)

    Patry in Moral Panics and Copyright Wars notes that the constitution on patents provides for a benefit to society primarily, not for an individual specifically. The question is what is the minimum benefit to a patentholder necessary to encourage the innovations that benefit all of society. The law is not looking to make anyone rich, it is trying to benefit society most. That understanding will clear up a lot of the unmet expectations. That is radical (root) but not extreme. That the schools malinform their students is nothing new.

    Anon is libelous calling my views misleading and unhelpful. Terming me a troll as well. With 40 years in business, and 25 teaching as an adjunct lecturer at schools such as UCBerkeley, I actually must stand and deliver on what I argue. Law firms contract me to come in and lecture their lawyers. I face feedback from people who take my ideas into the field. What I argue is not only grounded in fact, it is proven in the field.

    If anon wants to name-call, he ought to do so under his real name.

    I do indeed have an agenda, and that is to rid the constitution of any mention of patents, trademarks, copyrights, or what is generally mistermed (not recognized in law) “intellectual property rights.” Nothing hidden about my agenda. Yes, I do come from the patents are evil school, because patents are evil.

  13. Anon July 12, 2013 4:58 pm


    Whenever I see the “under the real name” schtick, I immediately know that I am dealing with an amatuer that does not understand the value and role of pseudonyms in debates. Our founding fathers recognized the legitimacy and trust me, you do not have their cache to attempt to dismiss the use of the tool.

    Sorry, but your ‘pedigree’ is less than stellar and your postion has beeen debunked more often than I care to think about. It is extremist (it may well be radical as well, but it is extremist).

    Libelous? No. Not at all. There is no libel in truth.

    And if you think that patents are evil, perhaps you have a single solitary example of a modern advanced society that has sen the light and chucked all IP protection laws. (Borrowing this line of thought from my namesake) – but it fits. You are advocating a pipedream divorced from reality. The patents are evil debate was lost back in the days of the founding fathers. You are simply in the wrong country. Good luck to you finding the country that you should be in.

  14. John Spiers July 12, 2013 6:17 pm

    Ah yes, my error lies in not perceiving your founding father grade intellect which must be shielded, like the founding fathers did, by “anonymous.” For example, the Declaration of Independence, which was a death warrant to the signers. O wait. Fifty six men signed their names to that, including the author Jefferson. Note who did not sign it, Hamilton, who did write the Federalist (with others) under a pseudonym, for fear that his counter-revolutionary urgings would be revealed. Not that there was any real danger, only that his hypocrisy would subject him to ridicule. His knavery caught up with him when he got better than he deserved at Weehawken.

    If my position is so risible, why does your fear rise to the level of inviting me to leave?

    The best part of this is you ignorant of the irony of how writing under anonymous undercuts the central argument of copyrights. I won’t engage you any longer, the eagle does not hunt the fly.

  15. Anon July 12, 2013 7:08 pm


    Continue to parade your ignorance of the use of pseudonyms. You are making great points – just not the ones that you think that you are making.

    Further – you flatter yourself in thinking I act from fear. Well, you more than flatter yourself. I act in disgust from what is evidently banal and (as mentioned) debunked views.

    The eagle? You? Not in your best dreams.

  16. Obadiah Hampton August 18, 2013 7:31 am

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