Tamper-evident closure with utensil
A package for heating and dispensing a food product includes a container body having a top opening and an outside thread, and a lid assembly. The lid assembly includes an outer shell having an inside thread and an integrally formed utensil, and an inner disk. The utensil is defined by a weakened segment or outline formed into an end wall of the outer shell and has a convex region. The disk has a protrusion that is shaped to be received into the convex region when the outer shell is placed on the container body and threaded tightly onto the body over the disk. A sufficient friction force exists between the disk and the body that prevents the disk from turning when the outer shell is unscrewed an initial amount. The protrusion forcibly leaving the convex region causes the weakened segment to rupture creating tamper evidence and a vent for heating.
 The invention relates to a package that includes a tamper-evident portion that indicates a prior tampering or opening of the package. The invention also relates to a package that includes a lid, a lid having a break-out utensil for use in consuming a comestible held within the package.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Food-containing packages including lids having integrated utensils are known, such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,116,450 and No. 3,955,742. In these patents, spoons or forks are formed into the container lids in a fashion to be separated from the lid for use in dispensing food product from the package.
 Tamper-indicating closures are known that comprise an inner disk and an outer shell wherein relative rotation between the outer shell and the inner disk causes tamper indication on the outside of the shell. Such a closure is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,884,788.
 The present inventor has recognized the desirability of providing a utensil that is integrated into a container or package lid. The present inventor has recognized the desirability of providing the lid with a tamper-evident feature. The present inventor has recognized the desirability of providing a container or package that provides a microwave venting function. The present inventor has recognized the desirability of providing a container or package that integrates all of the above functions to provide a cost effectively manufactured and effectively utilized container or package.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention provides a package that includes a container and a lid having an integrated utensil, such as a spoon or fork, wherein the package includes a tamper-evident feature that causes the utensil to at least partially separate from remaining portions of the lid when the lid is partially unscrewed from the container.
 The tamper-evident feature is preferably configured to partially separate the utensil to indicate a prior opening or tampering, and also to provide a vent for the container to facilitate microwave heating of the contents of the package. The vent is open when the lid is turned by a first rotational amount and the utensil is partially separated from the remaining lid portion.
 According to a preferred embodiment, a package lid includes three layers: a seal layer, a hard barrier layer, and an outer shell. The seal layer can be a seal ring applied onto, or compressed against, a top rim of the container. The hard barrier layer can be a disk which is placed over the seal ring. The seal ring can be fixed to an under side of the disk or to a top side of the rim of the container. The outer shell includes an end wall and a depending skirt. The skirt includes inside threads which are configured to engage outside threads provided on the container. The disk is sized and shaped to fit within the skirt.
 The disk includes a substantially flat body with a domed or raised protrusion extending toward the end wall of the overlying outer shell. The outer shell includes a utensil formed into the end wall. The utensil includes a convex head protruding in a direction away from the container. The convex head and the protrusion are sized and shaped such that the protrusion extends into an inside of the convex head when the outer shell and the disk are assembled together. The utensil is integrated into the end wall with a weakened perimeter such that the utensil can be separated from the remaining portions of the end wall.
 When the outer shell enclosing the disk and the seal layer is tightly screwed onto the container, and then unscrewed to access the contents of the container, the seal layer holds the disk relatively stationary to the container rim while the outer shell rotates with respect to the disk. The interference of the protrusion against the insides of the convex head during the relative rotation forces part of the convex head upward to separate at least partially from the remaining portions of the end wall. When turned about one quarter of a rotation, the utensil is separated sufficiently to create a vent passage necessary for microwave heating of the container contents.
 In order to ensure that the disk does not rotate with the outer shell, as the outer shell is unscrewed, a ratchet or frictional surface or surfaces can also be applied as necessary between the disk, seal and the container rim. The surface or surfaces can be configured such that the outer shell and the disk are rotated together during screwing of the outer shell on the container, but allowing the outer shell to rotate relative to the container disk during screwing-off of the outer shell.
 The invention provides an effective package that provides an integrated utensil, wherein the utensil is separated to provide tamper evidence and also to vent the container for microwave heating. By incorporating two functions or all three functions into the lid design, a simplified manufacturing and operation is achieved. A manufacturing cost advantage is achieved as is a simplified operating procedure to vent and heat the contents of the container by the consumer.
 Numerous other advantages and features of the present invention will be become readily apparent from the following detailed description of the invention and the embodiments thereof, from the claims and from the accompanying drawings.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container and lid assembly incorporating the lid of the present invention;
 FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective of the container and lid assembly of FIG. 1;
 FIG. 3 is a sectional view taken generally along line 3-3 of FIG. 1, with the container and lid assembly in a closed configuration; and
 FIG. 4 is a sectional view similar to FIG. 3 but with a package in a vented configuration.DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 While this invention is susceptible of embodiment in many different forms, there are shown in the drawings, and will be described herein in detail, specific embodiments thereof 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 invention to the specific embodiments illustrated.
 FIG. 1 illustrates a container and lid assembly 10 of the present invention. The assembly includes a container 14 closed by a lid assembly 16. The lid assembly 16 includes an outer shell 18 having a skirt 20 and an end wall 22. The end wall 22 includes a utensil formed therein, the illustrated utensil being a spoon 26. The spoon 26 includes a handle portion 28 and a head 32 being convex upwardly. The end wall 22 generally comprises a single constant thickness except that a perimeter 34 of the utensil 26 is weakened such as by being of a reduced thickness, or discontinuous with openings, or perforated, or the like to allow the spoon 26 to be easily separated from the remaining portions of the end wall 22.
 FIG. 2 illustrates in detail the container and lid assembly 10. The lid assembly 16 further comprises a disk 40 and a seal ring 42. The disk 40 and seal ring 42 have substantially the same outer diameter and both are sized to fit within the skirt 20 of the outer shell 18. The container 14 includes a top rim 46 which has an outer diameter substantially equal to the outer diameter of the disk 40 and the seal ring 42.
 The container 14 includes discontinuous threads 48 on a outside wall thereof. The skirt 20 of the lid outside shell 18 includes insides threads 52 (shown in FIGS. 3 and 4) that are configured to engage the outside threads 48. When the outer shell 18 is screwed down tightly to the container 14, the end wall 22 presses the disk 40 onto the ring 42 onto the rim 46 of the container.
 The disk 40 includes a raised protrusion 56 which is sized and shaped to fit within the head 32 of the end wall 22.
 FIG. 3 illustrates the lid and container assembly 10 in assembled and tightly closed configuration. The threads 52 of the outer shell 18 are screwed tightly to the threads 48 of the container 14. The end wall 22 squeezes the disk 40 onto the seal ring 42 onto the rim 46 of the container 14. The protrusion 56 fits within the head 32 of the end wall 22.
 FIG. 4 illustrates the configuration shown in FIG. 3 but with the lid unscrewed by a preselected amount. By the relative rotation of the outer shell 18 with respect to the disk 40, the protrusion 56 proceeding to forcibly leave the confines of the head 32, forces the head 32 upwardly and breaks at least a portion of the weakened perimeter 34 as shown. The weakened perimeter 34 is broken forming an opening 63. This breakage gives a clear indication of a tamper-evident condition and also can be used to vent the contents of the container 14 during microwave heating. In this regard, a vent hole 64 can be provided through the disk 40 to allow venting of gas during heating. It may also be that even without a vent hole 64, the outer shell would be sufficiently loosened to allow venting around the seal 42 and disk 40 through the opening 63.
 Although the preferred embodiment illustrates a protrusion 56 which is somewhat similar in shape to the domed head 32, such is not required. Other shapes which would accomplish the cam action to split the weakened perimeter 34 to form the opening 63 are possible.
 Although a spoon is shown as the utensil, other utensils are possible, such as forks, combination spoon/forks, knives, and the like.
 From the foregoing, it will be observed that numerous variations and modifications may be effected without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is to be understood that no limitation with respect to the specific apparatus illustrated herein is intended or should be inferred. It is, of course, intended to cover by the appended claims all such modifications as fall within the scope of the claims.
1. A package for an edible product, comprising:
- a container for containing an edible product, said container having a top opening, and a side wall having a first thread;
- a first element arranged across said top opening and having a protrusion;
- a second element arranged across said opening, said second element having a second thread, said second element engageable to said side wall by screwing said second thread onto said first thread, said second element having a utensil formed into a wall of said second element, said utensil defined by a perimeter of weakness in said wall, said utensil having a dished portion which receives said protrusion when said second element is engaged to said container side wall.
2. The package according to claim 1, wherein said utensil comprises a spoon.
3. The package according to claim 1, wherein said first element comprises a disk.
4. The package according to claim 3, further comprising an all-around seal arranged between said disk and said side wall.
5. The package according to claim 4, wherein said seal and said disk provides the sealed integrity of said container.
6. The package according to claim 1, wherein said first and second threads are discontinuous.
7. The package according to claim 1, wherein said container includes a top rim, said top rim having a friction enhancing surface treatment.
8. The package according to claim 1, wherein said first element comprises a disk, and said container includes a top rim, at least one of said disk and said top rim having a friction enhancing surface treatment to prevent rotation of said disk as said second element is unscrewed.
9. The package according to claim 1, wherein said second element comprises an outer shell having a skirt extending from said wall, said skirt having an open end and an end substantially closed by said wall.
10. The package according to claim 1, wherein said utensil comprises a spoon;
- wherein said first element comprises a disk;
- an annular seal arranged between said disk and said side wall;
- said annular seal and said disk provides the sealed integrity of said container; and
- wherein said second element comprises an outer shell having a skirt extending from said wall, said skirt having an open end and an end substantially closed by said wall.
11. A method of venting a package for heating, comprising the steps of:
- providing a container body having a top opening and a first thread;
- providing an outer shell having a second thread and a convex region, said convex region adjacent to a weakened segment;
- providing a disk having a protrusion shaped to be received into said convex region when said disk is placed on said container body and said outer shell is threaded tightly onto said body over said disk, wherein a sufficient friction force exists between said disk and said body that prevents said disk from turning when said outer shell is unscrewed an initial amount, and said protrusion forcibly leaving said convex region causes said weakened segment to rupture.
12. The method according to claim 11, comprising the further step of:
- providing that said convex region comprises a spoon head and further regions of said outer shell comprise a spoon handle.
Filed: Nov 18, 2002
Publication Date: May 20, 2004
Inventor: Richard Laveault (Crawfordsville, IN)
Application Number: 10298627