Title:
Flexible package and handle and method of using same
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a package for holding articles including a bag having a front panel and a back panel joined together at a first side seam and a second side seam; perforations located on a portion of the front panel and back panel proximate to the first side seam, the perforations defining three sides of a spout section; and a handle secured to the spout section. The design and location of the multi-functional handle provides for ease in lifting and transporting the package. The handle has the further advantage of acting as an opening aid in conjunction with the perforations or tear lines, located a suitable distance from the handle.



Inventors:
Stagray, Erin D. (Neenah, WI, US)
Knops, Marianne J. (Appleton, WI, US)
Application Number:
09/789648
Publication Date:
08/22/2002
Filing Date:
02/21/2001
Assignee:
Kimberly-Clark Worldwide, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
383/30, 383/28
International Classes:
B65D75/56; B65D75/58; (IPC1-7): B65D73/00; B65D33/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
LUONG, SHIAN TINH NHAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCHWEGMAN, LUNDBERG, WOESSNER & KLUTH, P.A. (P.O. BOX 2938, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55402, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A package for holding articles comprising: a bag having a front panel and a back panel joined together at a first side seam and a second side seam; perforations located on a portion of the front panel and back panel proximate to the first side seam, the perforations defining three sides of a spout section; and a handle secured to the spout section.

2. The package of claim 1 wherein the handle is secured to the first side seam.

3. The package of claim 1 wherein the handle and bag are made from polymeric plastic film.

4. The package of claim 3 wherein the film is selected from the group consisting of low density polyethylene, low density polyethylene/linear low density polyethylene, low density polyethylene/medium density polyethylene, low density polyethylene/high density polyethylene, a polyethylene/polypropylene combination, and any combination thereof.

5. The package of claim 2 wherein the handle is secured to the first side seam at an angle of between about 45 degrees and 135 degrees.

6. The package of claim 5 wherein the handle is between about 14 and 30 cm in length and about one (1) cm and five (5) cm in width and adapted for use as a hand grip.

7. The package of claim 1 wherein the handle is a continuous loop.

8. The package of claim 1 wherein the handle is a loop having first and second handle ends.

9. The package of claim 8 wherein each handle end comprises about two (2) to ten (10) percent of the total handle area.

10. The package of claim 1 wherein placement of the articles in the bag creates a side section in the front panel and in the back panel, further wherein the perforations are not located on either side section.

11. A bag, comprising: a front panel and a back panel integral in one piece with a gusset, the front panel and back panel joined together at a first side seam and a second side seam; perforations located on a portion of the front panel and back panel proximate to the first side seam, the perforations defining three sides of a spout section; and a handle secured to the spout section, the handle adapted for use as a bag opener.

12. The package of claim 11 wherein the perforations comprise two sets of vertical perforations substantially parallel to the side seam, the vertical perforations extending about halfway down from the top edges of the front panel and back panel and a set of horizontal perforations across the width of the gusset, the horizontal perforations contiguous with the two sets of vertical perforations.

13. The package of claim 12 wherein the handle is attached to the first side seam in the gusset.

14. The package of claim 11 further comprising articles contained within the bag.

15. The package of claim 14 wherein the articles are compressed.

16. The package of claim 14 wherein the articles are selected from the group consisting of infant diapers, feminine care products and adult incontinence garments.

17. A multi-function handle comprising: a strap located on a spout section of a bag, the spout section defined on three sides by perforations in the bag, wherein the strap can be used to lift, transport and open the bag.

18. The handle of claim 17 wherein the spout section includes a side seam, further wherein the strap has ends secured to the side seam.

19. The multi-function handle of claim 17 wherein the strap is used to open the bag in conjunction with the perforations by pulling on the handle to separate the perforations.

20. A method of using a handle comprising: grasping a handle secured to a spout section of a bag, the bag containing articles and further having perforations; and pulling the handle away from the bag wherein the perforations are separated and the bag is opened to expose the articles.

21. The method of claim 20 further comprising lifting and carrying the bag with the handle.

22. The method of claim 20 wherein the handle is secured to a side seam located in the spout section.

23. A kit, comprising: a bag having a spout section; a handle secured to the spout section; a plurality of articles for containment in the bag; and instructions on the bag for opening the bag and for using the articles.

24. The kit of claim 23 wherein the handle is secured to a side seam located in the spout section.

25. The kit of claim 23 wherein the articles are selected from the group consisting of infant diapers, feminine care products and adult incontinence garments.

26. The kit of claim 25 wherein the articles are compressed.

Description:

FIELD

[0001] This invention relates generally to flexible packages, and in particular, the present invention relates to flexible packages and handles.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Compressible articles, such as incontinence garments, diapers, and so forth, are in widespread use worldwide. These items are typically sold in multiple quantities and are contained in bags composed of flexible polymer materials. There is a growing trend to purchase such articles in larger and larger quantities, leading to single packages containing an increasing number of articles. Although the resulting packages are relatively light, they can be quite large. As a result, these packages are often bulky and difficult to grip and carry, particularly for the elderly.

[0003] Some attempts to overcome these problems include compressing the articles, which does reduce volume, although many packages are still bulky and difficult for consumers to manage. Other solutions include providing carrying handles for the packages. Such handles are typically designed to run the entire length of a top or side panel of a package. However, these types of handles can present a strangulation hazard, particularly to young children. Furthermore, the size of the extended handle increases manufacturing costs and is an inefficient use of raw materials.

[0004] Another problem with this type of packaging is that it is often quite difficult to open. This occurs whether or not the articles inside are compressed. As a result, perforations are often added to the packaging as an opening aid. However, for consumers with arthritis or poor manual dexterity, perforations can be difficult to break open. In many instances, a tool, such as a knife or scissors, is required to separate the perforations. Excessively large handles can also partially hide or even hinder access to the perforations, thus exacerbating the problem.

[0005] For the reasons stated above, and for other reasons stated below which will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon reading and understanding the present specification, there is a need in the art for packaging that is easier to pick up, transport and open.

SUMMARY

[0006] The present invention provides a package for holding articles comprising a bag having a front panel and a back panel joined together at a first side seam and a second side seam; perforations located on a portion of the front panel and back panel proximate to the first side seam, the perforations defining three sides of a spout section; and a handle secured to the spout section. The present invention also comprises a strap located on a spout section of a bag, the spout section defined on three sides by perforations in the bag, wherein the strap can be used to lift, transport and open the bag.

[0007] The handle can be located anywhere within the spout section and is preferably secured to the side seam. Although it is important that an adequate seal be maintained between the handle and bag during use, the precise configuration or arrangement of the handle and/or handle ends in relation to the bag is not limited. No part of the handle, however, is in direct contact with any of the perforations. In one embodiment, the handle is located in a gusset area integral with the front and back panels of the bag. The handle and bag are made from any type of flexible material, such as a polymeric plastic film.

[0008] The present invention also includes a method of using a handle comprising grasping a handle secured to a spout section of a bag, the bag containing articles and further having perforations; and pulling the handle away from the bag wherein the perforations are separated and the bag is opened to expose the articles.

[0009] The present invention further includes a kit containing any embodiment of the present invention together with a plurality of articles and instructions for opening the bag and using the articles.

[0010] The design and location of the multi-functional handle provides for ease in lifting and transporting the package. The handle has the further advantage of acting as an opening aid in conjunction with the perforations or tear lines, located a suitable distance from the handle. By arranging the handle and perforations in this manner, a consumer now need only gently tug on a conveniently located full-sized hand grip in order to cause the perforations to tear apart. The novel design of the perforation and handle combination provides an advantage over conventional methods of opening bags by eliminating the need to find and poke through the perforations using a finger or tool, such as a knife or scissors. The full-sized hand grip is also an advantage over small tabs that can be hard to locate and hang on to while opening the package.

[0011] Unlike conventional handles that extend across the length of a package, the handle of the present invention does not pose a choking hazard to young children. Use of less material in the handle also provides substantial cost savings for the manufacturer.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0012] FIG. 1 is a simplified perspective view of a package comprising a bag and a multi-function handle in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0013] FIG. 2 is a simplified cross-section of a bag in an unexpanded state in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0014] FIG. 3 is a partial cut-away side view of the package in FIG. 1 in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 4 is a simplified perspective view of the package in FIG. 1 being carried with the multi-function handle in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0016] FIG. 5 is a simplified perspective view of the package in FIG. 1 being opened with the multi-function handle in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0017] FIGS. 6-8 are partial cut-away side views of alternative packages having multifunction handles secured in the gusset area in alternative embodiments of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 9 is a simplified perspective view of an alternative package having a multifunction handle secured outside the gusset area in one embodiment of the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 10 is a partial cut-away side view of an alternative bag having a multifunction handle secured into an extended side seam in one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0020] In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings which form a part hereof, and in which is shown by way of illustration specific preferred embodiments in which the inventions may be practiced. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those skilled in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that mechanical, procedural, and other changes may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present inventions. The following detailed description is, therefore, not to be taken in a limiting sense, and the scope of the present invention is defined only by the appended claims, along with the full scope of equivalents to which such claims are entitled.

[0021] As used herein, the terminology such as vertical, horizontal, top, bottom, front, back, end and sides are referenced according to the views presented. It should be understood, however, that the terms are used only for purposes of description, and are not intended to be used as limitations. Accordingly, orientation of an object may change without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0022] A flexible package having a multi-function handle is described herein. As shown in FIG. 1, the flexible package 100 is comprised of a bag 102 and a handle 104, the bag 102 is expandable to hold articles 105. The bag 102 also includes a front panel 106 and a back panel 108 which are juxtaposed and joined together along their side edges by welds or side seams 110. When the bag 102 is filled with articles 105, side sections 103 and 107 are created in the front and back panels, 106 and 108, respectively. Each side section 103 and 107 is about one-half the width of the articles 105. At one end (hereafter referred to as the “top end”) of the bag 102, there is a top gusset 114 that is integral in one piece with panels 106 and 108. The bag 102 further contains perforations 116a, 116b and 116c near the top end that define three sides of a spout section 118, shown in FIG. 1. The fourth side is a crease line 119, marked for clarity on FIG. 1, although this crease line 119 is not present until the spout section 118 is opened (See FIG. 5). The perforations 116a, 116b and 116c, in conjunction with the handle 104, are used to open the bag 102, as described below. The bag 102 is also expandable near the end opposite the top end, i.e., near the bottom end, through use of bottom side gussets (not shown) located on panels 106 and 108.

[0023] Other conventional construction features of the bag 102 are understood by those skilled in the art and will not be discussed in detail herein. Essentially any type of flexible bag known in the art can be used. However, the handle 104 in the present invention is designed to not only aid in picking up and transporting the package 100, the unique perforation and handle combination of the present invention also aids in opening the package 100.

[0024] The bag 102 is made from any one of a wide variety of film materials that are known in the art to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate the desired number of articles 105. This includes, but is not limited to, polymeric plastic, foils, and the like, or a combination thereof. Additionally, the material should have sufficient strength to hold and contain the articles 105 without breaking and without excessive bulging or stretching of the film material. Such materials include polyethylene, polypropylene, and the like. In one embodiment, the material is a low density polyethylene (LDPE) film. In another embodiment, the material is a LDPE/LLDPE (linear low density polyethylene) film laminate. In yet another embodiment, the material is a LDPE/MDPE (medium density polyethylene) film laminate, a LDPE/HDPE (high density polyethylene) film laminate or the like. In another embodiment a polyethylene/polypropylene combination is used. In a specific embodiment, the material is a polyethylene film or film laminate having a thickness of about between about one (1) and four (4) mils (about 0.025 to 0.1 mm).

[0025] The dimensions of the bag 102 vary, depending on the type and number of articles 105 being packaged. Generally, the bag 102 has a rectangular structure, although the invention is not so limited. In one embodiment, the bag 102 is about 24 cm in height (i.e., length), 30 cm in width, and when filled with articles 105, about 12 cm in depth.

[0026] The perforations 116a, 116b and 116c are created according to methods known in the art. In one embodiment, perforations 116a and 116c are substantially parallel with the side seam 110 and extend about half-way down from the top of panels 106 and 108, respectively, as shown in FIG. 1. In other embodiments, the perforations 116a and 116c can extend anywhere from about one-fourth to about three-fourths of the length of panels 106 and 108, respectively. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, perforations 116b extend across the entire width of the gusset 114 and are contiguous with perforations 116a and 116c. In other embodiments, there are also perforations 116d (shown in FIG. 5) along the length of the gusset 114, intersecting perforation 116b, although this is not necessary for purposes of the present invention.

[0027] In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c comprise two sets of substantially vertical perforations (116a and 116c) that are substantially parallel to the side seam 110 and extend about halfway down from the top edges of the front panel 106 and back panel 108, and a set of substantially horizontal perforations (116b) that extend across the width of the gusset 114 and are contiguous with the two sets of substantially vertical perforations 116a and 116c.

[0028] Distance 117 in FIG. 1 defines the distance from the outermost edge of each side section 103 and 107 to the perforations 116a and 116c, respectively, and can be any suitable size. However, if any or all of the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c are located too close to the side seam 110, the bag 102 may tear prematurely. If the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c are located too far away from the side seam 110, it may be more difficult to obtain proper leverage with the handle 104 when opening the package 100. In one embodiment, distance 117 is about five (5) to 33 percent of the total width of the panels (106 or 108). Depending on the size of the bag 102, distance 117 can be anywhere from about one (1) to about 13 cm. In the specific embodiment described above in which the bag 102 is about 24×30×12 cm, distance 117 is about four (4) cm (with perforation 116b approximately the same distance from the uppermost edge of the combined side sections 103 and 107). Although not shown in FIG. 1, the comers of the package 100 are slightly curved, such as the comer defining the transition from the side section 103 to the front section 106. Therefore, in the particular embodiment described above, perforations 116a and 116c are actually about eight (8) cm from the side seam 110 (rather than about ten (10) cm).

[0029] In most embodiments, the perforations 116a and 116c are not located on the side sections 103 and 107, respectively, as this may create a spout section opening that is too small for removing articles 105. However, in certain embodiments it may be desirable to locate one or more perforations along the side sections 103 and 107 in order to increase confinement of the articles 105 after opening.

[0030] In alternative embodiments, one or more of the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c are curved in any suitable manner. In another alternative embodiment, one or more of the perforations 116a and 116c are substantially diagonal to the side seam 110 at any suitable angle. In another alternative embodiment, one or more of the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c form a V-shape or U-shape. In yet another alternative embodiment, there are also perforations across both side sections 103 and 107, i.e., below the handle 104, contiguous with the other perforations 116a, 116b and 116c, so that the entire spout section 118 is removable. Such perforations can be substantially perpendicular to the side seam 110, or they can be curved, U-shaped, V-shaped, and so forth. In other embodiments, any combination of perforation shapes and patterns can be used.

[0031] The handle 104 is essentially a hand strap or hand grip. Although it is important that an adequate seal be maintained between the handle 104 and the side seam 110 during use, the precise configuration or arrangement of the handle 104 and/or handle ends 104a and 104b in relation to the side seam 110 is not limited. However, as can be seen in FIG. 1, and as is true with all embodiments of the present invention, no part of the handle 104 is in direct contact with any of the perforations 116. Such a configuration prevents the bag 102 from opening prematurely, such as while being transported.

[0032] In the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the handle 104 has handle ends 104a and 104b located proximate to each other along the side seam 110 on the spout section 118. In this particular embodiment, the handle 104 is configured in a nearly closed-loop shape with handle ends 104a and 104b secured within the top gusset 114. A few examples of other possible configurations are described below. For example, the handle 104 can be configured in a substantially closed-loop shape, a U-shape, as well as in a continuous loop in which there are no handle ends 104a and 104b. The handle ends 104a and 104b can also be secured in areas of the bag 102 other than the top gusset 114 as described below.

[0033] The handle 104 can also be made from the same material as the bag 102. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is made from a flexible material having greater tensile strength, equal tensile strength, or in some instances, lesser tensile strength than the bag 102. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is a polymeric plastic film having a thickness of between about one (1) and four (4) mil (about 0.025 to 0.1 mm). The handle 104 can be one single length of material or can be comprised of two or more lengths of material sealed or welded together. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is comprised of two substantially equal lengths sealed together. As noted above, in another embodiment, the handle 104 is a continuous loop of material.

[0034] The handle 104 can also be comprised of multiple thicknesses, i.e., two or more layers sealed together along one or both edges. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is folded to form two layers and is sealed along the edge opposite the fold. In other embodiments, the handle 104 is only partially multi-layered, such as at the handle ends 104a and/or 104b and/or at any other area that will experience significant stress during use. Such area or areas of stress depends on many factors known in the art, but in some instances may occur near the center area of the handle 104.

[0035] The handle 104 can also be of any suitable size and shape that allows the bag 102 to be easily picked-up, transported and opened. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is substantially rectangular having a length about five (5) to ten (10) times greater than its width, and is configured to create a hand-grip having an opening. The opening created by the looped handle 104 can be any suitable configuration that provides for hand suspension of the bag 102, but is preferably of a size and shape to provide for easy grasping, preferably with more than one finger. If the opening is too small, it becomes difficult to place a sufficient number of fingers through it, in order to be able to comfortably grasp the handle 104 and carry the package 100. If the opening is too large, the package 100 can become difficult and awkward to carry as it may swing excessively or even touch the ground, unless the arm is raised. In one embodiment, the opening is sufficiently large to allow three or four fingers of an average-sized adult to easily grasp the handle 104. In one embodiment, the handle 104, including handle ends 104a and 104b, is between about 14 and 40 cm in length and about one (1) cm and five (5) cm in width, with the portion of the handle 104 extending outside the bag 102 between about 12 cm and 25 cm in length.

[0036] As shown in FIG. 1, the gusset 114 is typically a triangular-shaped reinforcement having outer folds 114a and 114b. The size of the gusset 114 varies, depending on the size and number of articles 105 being packaged, as the gusset 114 is designed to expand or unfold sufficiently to accommodate the articles 105 within. In one embodiment, the gusset 114 is sealed only along the side seam 110, and not along its outer folds 114a and 114b. In another embodiment, such as for larger packages 100, the gusset 114 is also sealed to the bag 102 diagonally along the outer folds 114a and 114b. In alternative embodiments, the handle 104 can also be sealed to the sealed outer folds 114a and 114b, rather than or in addition to the side seam 110, which is referred to in the art as a “chevron” or reinforced seal.

[0037] FIG. 2 provides a simplified cross-section of an unfilled bag 102 with the gusset 114 in an unexpanded state and without a handle 104 (shown in FIG. 1) in place. The distance 202 from the bottom fold of the gusset 114 to the top fold of the gusset 114, which is essentially the top edge of the bag 102, is dependent on the size of the articles (not shown), as noted above. This distance 202 can range from about 2.5 cm (one (1) in) to 7.5 cm (three (3) in) or more. As FIGS. 1 and 2 show, the gusset fold lines 114a and 114b are pulled upwardly as the bag 102 is expanded, but still retain their substantially triangular shape.

[0038] FIG. 3 shows a simplified configuration of the gusset 114 in its unfolded, expanded condition with the handle 104 having handle ends 104a and 104b as described in FIG. 1. As noted above, the handle ends 104a and 104b are “tucked” or held between the top folds of the gusset, i.e., between gusset fold lines 114a and 114b. In this embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b are on opposite sides of the side seam 110 and are not aligned. As a result, both handle ends 104a and 104b are sealed in place in different locations along the side seam 110 to form a nearly closed-loop handle 104, although the invention is not so limited. The handle ends 104a and 104b can be any suitable distance apart, as long as the handle 104 is securely affixed to the bag and a suitably-sized hand grip is created with the handle 104. In one embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b are about zero (0) to two (2) cm apart. In other embodiments, the handle ends 104a and 104b are arranged similar to the configuration shown in FIG. 3, i.e., extending outwardly in opposite directions, but unlike FIG. 3, the handle ends 104a and 104b are partially or completely overlapping each other at the side seam 110.

[0039] In the embodiment shown in FIG. 3, each handle end 104a and 104b is secured at a substantially right angle to the side seam 110, although, again, the invention is not so limited. The handle 104 can be secured at any angle to the side seam 110, and can even be substantially parallel with the side seam 110, as long as the handle 104 is properly secured to the bag 102 and the accessible or exposed portion of the handle 104 is configured into a suitable hand-grip. In one embodiment, the handle 104 is secured to the side seam 110 at an angle of between about 20 and 160 degrees. In another embodiment, the angle is between about 45 and 135 degrees. In another embodiment, each handle end, 104a and 104b, is secured at a different angle to the side seam 110. Again, any suitable amount of the handle 104 can be secured into the side seam 110 as long as an adequate seal is obtained so that the handle 104 does not tear apart from the bag 102 during use. In one embodiment, each handle end 104a and 104b comprises about two (2)% to ten (10)% of the total area of the total handle 104, i.e., about four (4)% to 20% of the total area of the handle 104 extends beyond the side seam 110, thus forming the handle ends 104a and 104b. In one embodiment the handle 104 is about two (2) cm by 36 cm (total area of 72 cm2) and each handle end 104a and 104b comprises an area of about six (6) cm2.

[0040] FIG. 4 shows the package 100 being lifted or transported using the handle 104. As noted above, no part of the handle 104, including the handle ends 104a and 104b, are in contact with the perforations 116. Furthermore, since the weight of the articles 105 causes the package 100 to hang lower than the handle 104 as the package 100 is being picked up and/or transported, tearing at the perforations 116 prematurely is unlikely.

[0041] FIG. 5 shows the package 100 being opened using the handle 104 in conjunction with the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c to produce a convenient, yet restricted package opening. By tearing apart the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c in this manner, the fold line 119, noted above, is now created. Use of the handle 104 for accessing the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c simplifies the opening process, particularly for those with poor manual dexterity, such as the elderly. There is now no need to poke at the perforations, such as with a finger or knife, in order to separate them. By simply pulling on the handle 104 in a direction generally down and away from the perforations 116a, 116b and 116c as shown in FIG. 5, the compressive forces within the packaged articles are partially released to facilitate removal of the first articles 105 from the bag 102. Such articles 105 are generally stacked inside the bag 102 as shown in FIGS. 1 and 5. These articles 105 include disposable absorbent articles such as, infant diapers, feminine care products and adult incontinence garments, and so forth. By further providing the handle 104 in the form of an easily identifiable full-sized hand grip, a consumer can now easily open the package 100 of the present invention under most any conditions, including while traveling, in dimly lit or dark areas, and so forth, to access the articles 105 contained within. This is an advantage over prior art packages which provide only a small tab, which can be difficult to see, identify and hold on to, particularly for the elderly and/or those with poor vision and manual dexterity.

[0042] FIG. 6 shows an alternative embodiment in which a continuous loop is used as the handle 104, thus creating a substantially closed loop having a fold line 606. In this embodiment, the handle 104 is attached at an angle of about 45 degrees relative to the side seam 110, although any suitable angle can be used. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 6, the entire fold line 606 (i.e., 100%) is sealed into the side seam 110. In other embodiments, less than all of the fold line 606 is sealed into the side seam 110, such as about 75% or even 50% of the length of the fold line 606. In another embodiment, the handle 104 has handle ends 104a and 104b (shown in FIGS. 1 and 2) that are aligned in a similar manner as shown in FIG. 6, i.e., extending outwardly on the same side of the side seam 110, again forming a substantially closed loop. In yet another embodiment, such handle ends are only partially aligned along the side seam 110, although both ends are still located on the same side of the side seam 110.

[0043] FIG. 7 shows one embodiment in which the handle ends 104a and 104b are folded back during manufacturing so that they are essentially tucked between the gusset layer and outside bag layer. In this embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b are sealed together with the side seam 110 as before. In the embodiment shown in FIG. 7, about 75% of the length of the fold line 706 is sealed into the side seam 110, although, again, the invention is not so limited.

[0044] FIG. 8 shows another embodiment in which the handle ends 104a and 104b are partially aligned and sealed into the side seam 110 as before. However, in this embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b are also sealed at additional points, 802 and 804, respectively. In this embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b comprise a greater proportion of the handle 104 than in the previously described embodiments. Such an embodiment creates a reinforced seal, which may be desirable for larger or heavier packages 100. In a particular embodiment, the handle ends 104a and 104b comprise up to about 25% of the area of the handle 104. If more than this amount is used, it would likely not add to the strength of the handle 104, but would only unnecessarily waste material.

[0045] FIG. 9 shows an alternative simplified prospective view of packaging in which the handle 104 is located outside the gusset 114, but still within the spout section 118. As above, the handle ends 104a and 104b are both secured into the side seam 110. In the embodiment shown, the handle 104 is formed in a nearly closed-loop configuration, although the invention is not so limited. In other embodiments, the handle 104 can be configured in any manner as described above.

[0046] FIG. 10 shows an alternative embodiment for securing handle ends 104a and 104b. In this embodiment, there is an extended side seam area 110a into which the handle ends 104a and 104b are secured. Such an embodiment provides additional strength to the attachment between the handle 104 and bag 102. In one embodiment, all the layers comprising the gusset 114 and handle ends are sealed together in the extended side seam area 110a. In another embodiment, a separating bar is used during manufacturing of the bag 102 such that fewer than all of the layers are sealed together.

[0047] The packaging 100 described herein can be produced by any suitable means known in the art. For example, the joining of the front and back panels, 106 and 108, respectively, can be accomplished by various conventional techniques, such as adhesive bonding, thermal bonding, ultrasonic bonding, welding, and so forth. In another embodiment, the panels 106 and 108 are connected with mechanical fastening systems, such as sewing, stapling, riveting, and so forth.

[0048] As noted above, the handle does not necessarily need to be made from the same type or strength of material as the bag. For example, in some embodiments, the handle may not need to have a tensile strength as high as the tensile strength of the bag. Use of a thinner material for the handle in these instances can help to keep seal temperatures lower and is also more economical. In other instances, it is important to consider the nature of the articles being packaged. For example, with compressed packaging, the handle, particularly at the point of attachment with the bag, needs to be able to withstand the existing compression forces, and may require a higher tensile strength than the bag.

[0049] In one embodiment, the bags are formed from a continuous roll of material having a pre-formed gusset and perforations. At the appropriate point during the process, a handle is slipped into the top folds of the gusset and sealed at the side seam. Sealing of the two panels at the side seam, such as with heat and compression, causes the bags then break apart. In one embodiment, the excess portion of the handle that extends beyond the side seam remains sealed into the side seam of the adjacent bag. This small piece of plastic is not seen by the consumer, as it remains tucked into the gusset area opposite the end having a handle. In another embodiment, the bags are made individually such that when the side seam is formed, the excess portion of the handle sticking out beyond the bag is removed as waste. Alternatively, the excess can be tucked between the gusset layer and outside film layer and sealed together with the side seam as described in FIG. 7.

[0050] In all instances, it is important that adequate welds or seals are produced at all locations, including between the handle and bag. A combination of time, temperature, pressure, seal area and/or handle and bag film materials may be used to accomplish an adequate seal as is known in the art. Seals are tested using standard industry methods, although seal strength requirements vary by individual specifications, depending on consumer, product and equipment needs. Strength tests are performed not only on the bag and handle seal, but also on both side seams (including gusset area seals), as well as the perforations by methods known in the art. In some instances, an “MTS Sintech 1” made by MTS Systems Corporation in Minneopolis, Minn. is used to test seal and perforation strength.

[0051] The novel package of the present invention provides a unique handle arrangement that serves multiple functions. During use, a consumer grabs the handle to lift the package. The consumer then uses the handle to carry the package. At the appropriate time, the consumer can use the handle to open the package by pulling down and away from the perforations.

[0052] The packaging of the present invention is considerably more economical and practical than currently-used methods. By using a hand-sized loop for the handle, the package is very easy to pick-up and carry. Such a loop further does not present a strangulation hazard to young children as do larger handles that extend across the package. The handle of the present invention also uses less material than conventional handles that extend along the length of the package, thus reducing manufacturing costs. Savings of about 30% or more on the raw material costs for a handle can now be achieved. Also, by locating the handle between the perforations as described, the handle has the further advantage of providing a means to open the package without the need to poke at the perforations with a finger or use some type of tool.

[0053] Although specific embodiments have been illustrated and described herein, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that any arrangement which is calculated to achieve the same purpose may be substituted for the specific embodiment shown. This application is intended to cover any adaptations or variations of the present invention. Therefore, it is manifestly intended that this invention be limited only by the claims and the equivalents thereof.