Spill proof container for non-liquid materials

A spill proof container specially configured to hold non-liquid materials includes a container body forming a receptacle having an access aperture at the top thereof, one or more handles for holding the container and a lid removably attached to the container to substantially close the aperture. The preferred lid has a flexible, resilient closure member with a plurality of slits extending radially from the center of the closure member to allow a person to insert their hand, or a portion thereof, into the receptacle to selectively retrieve one or more of the items contained therein. In the preferred embodiment, the closure member comprises a plurality of resilient closure segments that form a cuff or cuff-like structure that substantially encloses the user's wrist or hand to contain the materials disposed inside the receptacle. The closure member slits can be formed in a star or asterisk pattern.

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Description

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

A. Field of the Invention

The field of the present invention relates generally to spill proof containers and, more specifically, to spill proof containers that are configured for non-liquid materials. Even more specifically, the present invention relates to spill proof containers that are configured to allow the user to reach through the lid into the container and selectively remove non-liquid items therefrom while providing a closure that substantially prevents spillage of the items.

B. Background

As is well known, there are many types of containers and closure devices for containers for storing materials inside the container. The most common type of container are those that have a glass or plastic container body with an access opening or aperture forming a container compartment or receptacle that is configured to have the access aperture closed or sealed with a screw-on or snap-on lid. Another common type of container are of the bag type that have a sealable closure mechanism at the open end or side, such as the well known zip-lock and sliding lock mechanisms, that are configured to securely close the bag-type container and retain various items therein. Such containers are commonly utilized to store a variety of materials, including solid and liquid materials. One common problem with the aforementioned containers is that the user must remove the lid or otherwise disengage the closure mechanism and expose the access opening or aperture in order to have access to the materials contained therein. Unfortunately, once the lid is removed or the closure mechanism disengaged, the contents of the container can fall or be spilled out of the receptacle. This is a well known problem with containers used by many people, particularly the very young, very old and those with certain disabilities. For instance, most parents have experienced the frustration of providing their child with a container of food or other materials (i.e., game pieces) and then having the child spill the contents of the container on the ground or car seat when he or she is attempting to retrieve materials from the container.

The problem of containing and allowing non-spilling access to solid versus liquid materials is quite different. To contain liquid materials, one must control the flow of the liquid out of the container and/or control the positioning (i.e., upright position) of the container. Examples of such containers are baby bottles, sport/fruit drink bottles and specially configured child cups. Solid materials have the advantage of not being fluid, yet can be more difficult to prevent spillage due to the fact that the materials can roll, tumble or otherwise fall out of a container, particularly when it is dropped or turned upside down while the access aperture is open. Opening the access aperture, which to some extent must be done in order to have access to the materials inside, necessarily creates the potential for the materials inside the receptacle to spill out. Some jars and other containers have lids that are very good at preventing materials from falling out of the container (when they are on), but are not necessarily easy to take on and off, particularly for people with small hands, weak hands or those that have arthritis or other joint problems. As a result, often the container lid or other sealing mechanism is often left off the container so the user will not have to deal with the difficulty of removing it to access the materials stored inside the container.

As a result of the known problems associated with securely containing non-liquid materials inside a container while at the same time allowing easy access to those materials, a number of devices have been developed that, to one degree or another, address this problem. For instance, U.S. Pat. No. 4,328,904 to Iverson discloses a spill proof container having a closure with a cylindrical flange its periphery with at least two resilient, flexible closure flaps mounted to the cylindrical flange. The closure flaps are formed of a flexible and pliable material, such as sheets of synthetic or natural rubber. The two closure flaps cooperate to contain non-liquid items in the container and allow a person to place their hand therein to remove one or more of the items from the container. U.S. Pat. No. 4,884,717 to Bussard, et al. discloses a non-spilling snack container comprising a receptacle having a cover made of flexible material with a plurality of crossing slits forming a circle of tongues in a generally spiral shape. U.S. Pat. No. 4,454,944 to Shillington, et al. discloses a sharps receptacle having a closure made of a plurality of pie-shaped flaps formed from a generally flat, flexible disk so that objects such as syringes and the like may be placed inside the receptacle. Receptacles for storing live bait are disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,143,263 to Farmer, U.S. Pat. No. 3,315,402 to Scott, et al. and U.S. Pat. No. 4,095,365 to Ray. These receptacles have a flexible cover for allowing the fisherman to place a hand through the cover to retrieve bait that is configured to substantially prevent the live bait from escaping. U.S. Pat. No. 3,899,100 to Rigaud discloses a tube container having an end cap with an inverted dome-shaped top wall that is divided into a plurality of resilient segments by slits which intersect at the bottom. The general goal of the aforementioned containers and closing mechanisms is to reduce the likelihood of spilling the non-liquid materials while allowing access to the materials.

Although the prior art discloses a number of containers and receptacles that are generally configured to retain non-liquid materials inside while allowing the user easy access to the materials, there are certain characteristics of the known containers that limit their complete acceptance, usefulness and/or cost effectiveness. For instance, the known prior art containers having lids allowing access to the interior of the container generally require multiple resilient flap members and are not configured to be easily held, particularly by those with small, weak or diseased hands. What is needed, therefore, is an improved container that has a one-piece lid for closing the access aperture to contain non-liquid materials inside the container so as to prevent spillage of the materials and which allows the user easy access to those materials through the closed aperture. The preferred container will be configured with a lid that is removably attached to the container to seal the access aperture to contain non-liquid materials therein and be configured to allow the user to place his or her hand through the lid to selectively retrieve one or more of the materials from inside the container without spilling the contents thereof. The preferred container will have one or more handles thereon to make it easier for those with small hands (such as children), weak hands or diseased hands to hold onto the container. The preferred container should be adaptable to being made out a variety of different types of materials and in different configurations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The spill proof container for non-liquid materials of the present invention solves the problems and provides the benefits identified above. That is to say, the present invention discloses spill proof container configured to prevent non-liquid materials from spilling from the container when it is tipped over or otherwise overturned and configured to allow the user easy access to the materials contained within the receptacle portion of the container. The spill proof container of the present invention has a lid with a flexible closure member that is configured to seal the access aperture and allow the user to place all or a portion of his or her hand through the lid into the storage receptacle. In a preferred embodiment, the flexible closure member is configured to form a cuff or cuff-like structure around the user's wrist to prevent the contents of the container from spilling out while retrieving one or more of the materials from therein. The spill proof container of the present invention is configured with one or more handles so the container can be easily held and the lid manipulated, particularly by persons with small, weak or diseased hands, and to have a lid portion that is removably attached to allow addition materials to be placed within the receptacle portion of the container.

In one aspect of the present invention, the spill proof container for non-liquid materials of the present invention includes a container body having a receptacle formed from a bottom portion, one or more sides and a top portion of the container body. The receptacle has an access aperture at the top portion of the container body. A pair of handles are attached to the sides of the container body to allow easy grasping and operation of the container by persons having small, weak or injured/diseased hands. A lid is threadably attached to the top portion of the container body so that it may be removed to place materials inside the receptacle. The lid has a flexible, resilient closure member with a plurality of slits extending generally radially from the center of the closure member toward the outer edge of the closure member in a generally star or asterisk pattern. The slits form a plurality of resilient closure components that are configured to allow entry of a person's hand into the receptacle past the closure components to reach the non-liquid materials contained in the receptacle. In one configuration, the resilient closure components form an inverted cuff or cuff-like structure around the user's wrist to prevent the materials from spilling out. The lid can have a generally downwardly projecting peripheral flange configured to engage the top portion of the container body. The container may be primarily made out of plastic or other materials that are selected to be adaptable for cleaning by a dishwasher.

Accordingly, the primary objective of the present invention is to provide a spill proof container for non-liquid materials that provides the advantages discussed above and that overcomes the disadvantages and limitations associated with presently available spill proof containers.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide a spill proof container for non-liquid materials that has a removable lid comprising a single piece flexible closure member that is configured to contain non-liquid materials inside the container's receptacle yet allow access through the closed access aperture to selectively remove materials from the receptacle.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide a spill proof container for non-liquid materials that has a lid comprising one or more flexible closure members that form an inverted cuff or cuff-like structure around the user's wrist to prevent spillage fo the materials therein when he or she inserts a hand into the container to retrieve one or more of the materials stored therein.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide a spill proof container for non-liquid materials that comprises one or more handles to improve the ability of persons with small, weak or injured/diseased hands to more easily hold the container and manipulate the lid.

It is also an important objective of the present invention to provide a spill proof container for non-liquid materials that can be made out of a variety of different materials, particularly those suitable for machine washing, and in a variety of different configurations.

The above and other objectives of the present invention will be explained in greater detail by reference to the attached figures and the description of the preferred embodiment which follows. As set forth herein, the present invention resides in the novel features of form, construction, mode of operation and combination of processes presently described and understood by the claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings which illustrate the best modes presently contemplated for carrying out the present invention:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one configuration of the spill proof container of the present invention showing the use of multiple handles and storage of materials inside the container's receptacle;

FIG. 2 is a side view of the spill proof container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an exploded side view of the spill proof container of FIG. 1 showing the lid separated from the container body;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the spill proof container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the spill proof container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 is a bottom view of the lid used with the spill proof container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a spill proof container having a single handle with the lid removed showing the access aperture, threadable connection and receptacle components;

FIG. 8 is top view of a lid for use with the spill proof container of the present invention showing an alternative slit/segment pattern;

FIG. 9 is top view of a lid for use with the spill proof container of the present invention showing another alternative slit/segment pattern; and

FIG. 10 is a side view of a spill proof container with a user's hand inserted therein showing the formation of an inverted cuff or cuff-like structure around the user's wrist.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

With reference to the figures where like elements have been given like numerical designations to facilitate the reader's understanding of the present invention, and particularly with reference to the embodiments of the spill proof container for non-liquid materials of the present invention illustrated in the figures, various preferred embodiments of the present invention are set forth below. The enclosed description and drawings are merely illustrative of preferred embodiments and represent several different ways of configuring the present invention. Although specific components, materials, configurations and uses of the present invention are illustrated and set forth in this disclosure, it should be understood that a number of variations to the components and to the configuration of those components described herein and in the accompanying figures can be made without changing the scope and function of the invention set forth herein.

The spill proof container of the present invention, identified generally as 10 in the figures, can be configured in a number of different ways within the scope of the present invention. In the configuration shown in FIGS. 1 through 6, spill proof container 10 generally comprises a container body 12 having one or more handles 14, such as the two shown in FIG. 1, and a lid 16 adaptable for being removably attached to container body 12. Container body 12 comprises a bottom portion 18, one or more sides 20, a top portion 22 and an access aperture 24 (shown in FIG. 7) that forms a receptacle 26 for containing a plurality of non-liquid materials 28. As set forth in more detail below, lid 16 is configured to removably attach to container body 12 and contain materials 28 inside receptacle 26 in case container 10 is knocked over or otherwise overturned and yet allow the user of container 10 to selectively retrieve one or more of the materials from receptacle 26. Non-liquid materials 28 include various small food items, such as cereal, nuts, candy and the like, bolts, screws, marbles, game pieces, toy components, pills, and many other generally small items that a person would want to store in container 10 to prevent spillage of materials 28 and yet have easy access to the materials 28 as desired or necessary. As commonly know, many types of different materials 28 are suitable for containment in container 10.

As shown in the figures, one or more handles 14 are attached to sides 20 of container body 12. In one embodiment, shown in FIGS. 1-6, container body 12 is generally cylindrical, having side 20 with two opposite disposed handles 14 thereon. Handles 14 are used with container 10 to allow persons with small hands, such as children, weak hands or diseased/injured hands to effectively and comfortably hold onto container 10, particularly when attaching or removing lid 16 therefrom. As known to those skilled in the art, spill proof containers that allow a person's hand to access the stored materials through the lid portion of the container must be of sufficient size to allow at least a portion of the user's hand (i.e., at least two or more fingers) to be inserted into the container. This requirement causes the container to have a diameter or cross-section that is sized larger than the typical cup or glass used for drinking. The resulting size is often very difficult for persons having small, weak or diseased/injured hands to securely hold onto the container, particularly while they are attaching or removing the lid or attempting to retrieve items from inside the container. The use of handles 14 with the spill proof container 10 of the present invention solves this problem by allowing the user to either grasp at least one of the handles 14 or place all or a portion of their hand inside and against the handle 14 while utilizing container 10. Depending on the size of container 10, handles 14 should be shaped and configured to allow the intended user to beneficially grasp the container 10.

Lid 16 is configured to removably attach to the top portion 22 of container body 12 to close access aperture 24 and contain materials 28 inside of receptacle 26, as shown in FIG. 1. As known to those skilled in the art, lid 16 and top portion 22 are configured to cooperatively engage each other so as to close access aperture 24. In one configuration, lid 16 has a generally downwardly projecting peripheral flange 30 that envelopes and engages top portion 22 of container body 12. Various attachment mechanisms are well known and adaptable for use with container 10 of the present invention. For instance, flange 30 of lid 16 can be threaded to threadably engage a plurality of threads 32 cut into top portion 22 of container body 12, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 7. As also known to those skilled in the art, container body 12 and lid 16 can be configured such that lid 16 engages top portion 22 by a snapping, clamping or similar types of action. Preferably, the mechanism for attaching lid 16 to container body 12 should be selected such that the intended user of container 16 will not have undue difficulty removing or attaching lid 16 to container body 12 yet will result in lid 16 being securely attached to prevent materials 28 from falling out of receptacle 26. In the preferred embodiment, shown in the figures, lid 16 is substantially planar. In an alternative embodiment, lid 16 can be generally configured in a dome or dome-like shape, with the dome portion either arching upward from container body 12 or arching downward into receptacle 26.

Lid 16 is also configured to allow the user of container 10 to insert at least a portion of his or her hand through lid 16 and into receptacle 26 so as to selectively retrieve one or more of the materials 28 stored therein. To accomplish the desired access for the preferred embodiment of the present invention, lid 165 has a single piece flexible closure member 34 that extends substantially across the top of lid 16 to flange 30, as shown in the figures. Cut into flexible closure member 34 are a plurality of slits 36 that are configured to allow a person's hand, or a portion thereof, to be inserted through flexible closure member 34 into receptacle 26. To facilitate insertion of a hand through lid 16 and maintain the closed condition after the hand is removed, flexible closure member 34 should be made out of a generally flexible, resilient material, such as natural or synthetic rubber or other similar materials. The material chosen for flexible closure member 34 must be flexible enough to receive the user's hand and sufficiently resilient to quickly close after the hand is removed. The material chosen for flexible closure member 34 must also be sufficiently soft and flexible so that it will not scrape, cut or trap the person's hand when they insert it into receptacle 26, yet strong enough to prevent the impact of materials 28 from inside receptacle 26, such as resulting from a spill, causing flexible closure member 34 to open and spill materials 28 out of container 10.

The plurality of slits 36 cut into flexible closure member 34 should be configured into a pattern that beneficially allows a person's hand to be inserted through closure member 34 into receptacle 26 and then close when the hand is removed therefrom. As shown in the FIGS. 1, 6, 8 and 9, one pattern that works well for lid 16 is a star-shaped or asterisk pattern that has a plurality of slits extending radially from substantially the center 38 of closure member 34 towards the peripheral outer edge 40 of closure member 34 forming a plurality of resilient closure segments 42. As shown, it is preferred that slits 36 do not extend all the way to the outer edge 40 of closure member 34. In this type of pattern, the resulting closure segments 42 will be generally triangular shaped. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, twelve radially extending slits 36 are utilized to form twelve closure segments 42. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 8, four radially extending slits 36 form four closure segments 42. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 9, six radially extending slits 36 form six closure segments 42. Various other patterns of slits 36 and closure segments 42 are also possible for lid 16. With some materials and slit patterns, it may be beneficial to have a small open area at center 38, such that the inwardly extending ends of closure segments 42 do not touch, of closure member 34.

In a preferred embodiment for container 10 of the present invention, shown in FIG. 10, flexible closure member 34 has a plurality of closure segments 42 that are configured to form an inverted cuff or cuff-like structure, shown as 44, around the user's wrist 46 when his or her hand 48 is inserted inside container body 12. In this configuration, closure segments 42 should be made sufficiently flexible and strong to form the inverted cuff structure 44 so as to substantially enclose the user's wrist 46 and prevent materials 28 from spilling out of container 10 while the user is retrieving one or more of materials 28 from inside container body 12. Closure segments 42 should be of sufficient length towards the center 38 of closure member 34 that they will be able to form the inverted cuff or cuff-like structure 44 around the user's wrist 46. This will likely necessitate the center directed ends 50 of closure segments 42 to extend past the center 38 of closure member 34 such that they overlap each other to provide sufficient material to cuff the user's wrist 46 and substantially close the opening into container body 12 formed by insertion of the user's hand 48. As known to those skilled in the art, depending on how far the user inserts his or her hand 48 into container body 12, cuff structure 44 will close around the wrist 46 or a portion of the user's hand 48 (i.e., the upper hand area between the user's fingers 52 and wrist 46).

Various materials and configurations can be utilized for container 10 of the present invention. In one embodiment, container body 12 and the portion of lid 16 around closure member 34 are made out of a clear plastic material that allows the user to see the materials 28 inside receptacle 26. The use of plastic for container body 12, handles 14 and portions of lid 16 has certain known benefits, including being generally non-breakable and inexpensive to manufacture. The preferred materials for container 10 are those that are generally strong, lightweight and adaptable for cleaning in standard dishwashers. If desired, container body 12, handles 14 and flange 30 can be made out of aluminum, stainless steel or other metals. The materials chosen should also be selected to be appropriate for the connection of lid 16 to container body 12. As also known to those skilled in the art, container 10 can be of a variety of different configurations, including generally cup-like, as shown, square, oval, octagon or other desired shapes. One size for container 10 is to have a container body 12 approximately four inches in diameter and four inches deep. The actual size of container 10, however, may be somewhat driven by the size of the person's hand who is likely to utilize container 10. Naturally, if container 10 is for adults versus children a larger size container body 12 may be necessary to accommodate the insertion of the person's hand, or a portion thereof, into receptacle 26.

In use, non-liquid materials 28 are first placed inside receptacle 26 for storage in and later retrieval from container 10. Generally, lid 16 will be removed so that materials 28 can be easily placed inside receptacle 26, although it may be possible to place materials 28 in receptacle 26 through closure member 34, and then lid 16 will be re-attached to contain materials 28. With lid 16 on top portion 22, the user can place all or at least a portion of his or her hand through closure member 34 by pushing against slits 36 to cause closure segments 42 to generally fold into receptacle 26. In the preferred embodiment, closure segments 42 form an inverted cuff or cuff-like structure 44 enclosing the user's wrist 46 or hand 48 (depending on how far hand 48 is inserted) to prevent spillage of materials 28 while in the act of retrieving one or more materials 28 from within container body 12. With his or her fingers, the user selectively retrieves one or more of the materials 28 from receptacle 26 and pulls their hand and the selected materials 28 back out of closure member 34, causing closure segments 42 to follow. Once the user's hand is completely withdrawn, closure segments 42 will move back into place, with their inwardly disposed ends generally at center 38 of closure member 34 to close receptacle 26 and prevent materials 28 from spilling out of container 10. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 10, which shows cuff structure 44, the portion of closure segments 42 that form cuff structure 44 will be overlapping each other and/or hanging at least partially downward into container body 12 in a manner that closes receptacle 26 and prevents materials 28 from spilling out of container 10.

While there are shown and described herein certain specific alternative forms of the invention, it will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art that the invention is not so limited, but is susceptible to various modifications and rearrangements in design and materials without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. In particular, it should be noted that the present invention is subject to modification with regard to the dimensional relationships set forth herein and modifications in assembly, materials, size, shape and use.

Claims

1. A spill proof container for containing one or more non-liquid materials, comprising:

a container body having a bottom portion, one or more sides and a top portion, said bottom portion, said one or more sides and said top portion forming a receptacle having an access aperture at said top portion of said container body;
one or more handles attached to said one or more sides of said container body; and
a lid removably attached to said top portion of said container body, said lid having a closure member with a one or more slits therein, said closure member generally flexible and resilient, said one or more slits forming two or more closure components, said closure member configured to allow entry into said receptacle past said two or more closure components to reach the non-liquid materials contained therein.

2. The container according to claim 1, wherein said container body has two handles, said two handles attached to opposite sides of said container body.

3. The container according to claim 1, wherein said closure member is a made from a single piece of generally flexible and resilient material.

4. The container according to claim 1, wherein said closure member has a plurality of slits, said plurality of slits extending generally radially from a center of said closure member toward an outer edge of said closure member.

5. The container according to claim 4, wherein said slits are formed in a generally star or asterisk pattern.

6. The container according to claim 4, wherein said closure member is a made from a single piece of generally flexible and resilient material.

7. The container according to claim 4, wherein said slits do not extend to said outer edge of said closure member.

8. The container according to claim 1, wherein said closure member forms an inverted cuff structure substantially enclosing the user's wrist or hand when the user's hand is at least partially inserted in said receptacle.

9. The container according to claim 1, wherein said lid is threadably attached to said top portion of said container body.

10. The container according to claim 1, wherein said lid has a generally downwardly projecting peripheral flange configured to engage said top portion of said container body.

11. The container according to claim 10, wherein said flange is configured to threadably engage a plurality of threads at said top portion of said container body.

12. A spill proof container for containing one or more non-liquid materials, comprising:

a container body having a bottom portion, one or more sides and a top portion, said bottom portion, said one or more sides and said top portion forming a receptacle having an access aperture at said top portion of said container body;
a pair of handles attached to said one or more sides of said container body; and
a lid removably attached to said top portion of said container body, said lid having a closure member with a plurality of slits extending generally radially from a center of said closure member toward an outer edge of said closure member, said closure member made from a single piece of generally flexible and resilient material, said one or more slits forming two or more closure components, said closure member configured to allow entry into said receptacle past said two or more closure components to reach the non-liquid materials contained therein.

13. The container according to claim 12, wherein said slits are formed in a generally star or asterisk pattern.

14. The container according to claim 12, wherein said lid is threadably attached to said top portion of said container body.

15. The container according to claim 12, wherein said closure member forms an inverted cuff structure substantially enclosing the user's wrist or hand when the user's hand is at least partially inserted in said receptacle.

16. The container according to claim 12, wherein said lid has a generally downwardly projecting peripheral flange configured to engage said top portion of said container body.

17. The container according to claim 16, wherein said flange is configured to threadably engage a plurality of threads at said top portion of said container body.

18. A spill proof container for containing one or more non-liquid materials, comprising:

a container body having a bottom portion, one or more sides and a top portion, said bottom portion, said one or more sides and said top portion forming a receptacle having an access aperture at said top portion of said container body;
a pair of handles attached to said one or more sides of said container body; and
a lid threadably attached to said top portion of said container body, said lid having a closure member with a plurality of slits extending generally radially from a center of said closure member toward an outer edge of said closure member in a generally star or asterisk pattern, said closure member made from a single piece of generally flexible and resilient material, said plurality of slits forming a plurality of closure components, said closure member configured to allow entry into said receptacle past said plurality of closure components to reach the non-liquid materials contained therein.

19. The container according to claim 16, wherein said lid has a generally downwardly projecting peripheral flange configured to engage said top portion of said container body.

20. The container according to claim 16, wherein said closure member forms an inverted cuff structure substantially enclosing the user's wrist or hand when the user's hand is at least partially inserted in said receptacle.

Patent History

Publication number: 20050252923
Type: Application
Filed: May 13, 2004
Publication Date: Nov 17, 2005
Inventor: Mary Woolf (Fresno, CA)
Application Number: 10/845,793

Classifications

Current U.S. Class: 220/731.000; 220/736.000; 426/115.000