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Title:
Variable-length, multi-sectioned container
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A variable-length, multi-sectioned container, wherein a larger composite container may be shortened by the removal of a section or lengthened by the addition of a section is provided. The present invention provides solutions to the messy dispensing and wasted space normally associated with larger containers used when buying in bulk quantities, or otherwise. The closures of the removable section(s) are selected to be complementary with the closures of both the lid and the container, respectively.


Inventors:
Rosenberg, Mark L. (Hopkins, SC, US)
Application Number:
09/812122
Publication Date:
09/19/2002
Filing Date:
03/19/2001
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D21/08; (IPC1-7): B65D6/28; B65D8/18
View Patent Images:
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Attorney, Agent or Firm:
NEXSEN PRUET JACOBS & POLLARD LLC,MICHAEL A MANN (PO DRWR 2426, COLUMBIA, SC, 29202-2426, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A container comprising: a lid having a first closure; a hollow middle section having a first edge and a second edge, wherein said first edge carries a second closure that mates with said first closure of said lid and wherein said second edge carries a first closure corresponding to said first closure of said lid; and a hollow bottom section having a floor and a second closure corresponding to said second closure of said middle section and mating with said first closures of said lid and said middle section, wherein said middle section and said bottom section form a juncture when said second closure of said bottom section is mated with said first closure of said middle section.

2. The container as recited in claim 1, said container further comprising sealing means covering said juncture.

3. The container as recited in claim 2, wherein said sealing means is perforated.

4. The container as recited in claim 3, wherein said sealing means is perforated at said juncture.

5. The container as recited in claim 2, said sealing means further comprises a band of inelastic material.

6. The container as recited in claim 1, wherein said first closures of said lid and said middle section are interior threads and said second closures of said middle section and said bottom section are exterior threads.

7. The container as recited in claim 1, wherein said first closures of said lid and said middle section and said second closures of said middle section and said bottom section are selected from the group consisting of snap-tight fit, pressure fitting, child-proof seal, and slide fasteners.

8. The container as recited in claim 1, wherein said container is formed from a material selected from the group consisting of glass, metal, plastic, polymer foam, woven textile, and wood.

9. The container as recited in claim 1, wherein said container is cylindrical.

10. An extender for a container having a hollow bottom section with a second closure, said extender comprising: a hollow body having a first edge and a second edge, wherein said first edge carries a first closure that mates with said second closure of said bottom section, and wherein said first edge carries a second closure corresponding to said second closure of said bottom section, wherein said extender and said bottom section of said container form a juncture when said second closure of said bottom section is mated with said first closure of said extender.

11. The extender as recited in claim 10, wherein said container further comprises a lid with first closure, wherein said lid and said extender form a juncture when said second closure of said extender is mated with said first closure of said lid.

12. The extender as recited in claim 10, said extender further comprising: sealing means covering said juncture.

13. The extender as recited in claim 12, said sealing means further comprises a band of inelastic material.

14. The extender as recited in claim 13, wherein said sealing means is perforated at said juncture.

15. The extender as recited in claim 11, wherein said first closures of said lid and said extender are interior threads and said second closures of said extender and said bottom section are exterior threads.

16. The extender as recited in claim 11, wherein said first closures of said lid and said extender and said second closures of said extender and said bottom section are selected from the group consisting of snap-tight fit, pressure fitting, child-proof seal, and slide fasteners.

17. The extender as recited in claim 10, wherein said extender is formed from a material selected from the group consisting of glass, metal, plastic, woven textile, and wood.

18. The extender as recited in claim 10, wherein said extender is dimensioned to have a diameter approximately equal to the diameter of said container.

19. The extender as recited in claim 10, wherein said extender is cylindrical.

20. A process for reducing the height of a container having a lid with a first closure; a hollow middle section with a first edge and a second edge, wherein said first edge carries a second closure that mates with said first closure of said lid and wherein said second edge carries a first closure corresponding to said first closure of said lid; and a hollow bottom section with a floor and a second closure corresponding to said second closure of said middle section and mating with said first closures of said lid and said middle section, wherein said middle section and said bottom section form a juncture when said second closure of said bottom section is mated with said first closure of said middle section; said process comprising the steps of: removing said lid; releasing said sealing means; disjoining said middle section from said bottom section; and replacing said lid by mating said first closure of said lid with said second closure of said bottom section.

Description:

1. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention relates to containers. In particular, the present invention relates to variable-length, multi-sectioned containers, wherein a larger composite container may be shortened by the removal of a section or lengthened by the addition of a section.

2. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] Almost every commercial good is delivered to the customer in disposable packaging. The type of packaging that is selected for a particular good depends upon several factors: for example, availability; attractiveness to the consumer; size, shape, and durability of the goods; ease of manufacture; and cost. A manufacturer can reduce the cost of packaging per item of goods, and pass this reduced cost on to the consumer through lower price of the goods, by increasing the amount of goods contained within the individual container. Simply put, increased amount of goods within each container generally results in lower cost per amount of good.

[0003] Having an increased container size can present several problems for the customer—the container could be so large as to hold a quantity of goods that is impractical for the average consumer. Also, for some goods, an overly large container can present product dispensing problems. A common example of this difficulty is in the packaging of semi-solids such as paste, jellies and jams, cosmetics and skin-care products, and peanut butter. For these products, retrieval of the goods from the container is easy at first; however, removing the last quantities of product from a large container can prove frustrating. Consumers find that a spoon or other tool is often too short to reach the product at the bottom of a tall container. Further, while removing the last portion of goods from the container, the residual amounts of the product that coat the inside surface of the container will inevitably be smeared on the consumer's hand.

[0004] This problem can be solved by the consumer by discarding the container before completely consuming the residual amounts of product in the container. Unfortunately, this wastage prevents the cost savings that was originally intended when increasing the package size. The problem can also be solved by the manufacturer by either decreasing the package size or by increasing the ratio of opening diameter to package volume. Again, the goal of cost savings is defeated in the former strategy, and additional packaging costs are created by the latter strategy.

[0005] Another problem is created by the use of larger containers: customers must waste valuable storage space for these larger containers that, when the product is mostly consumed, contain mostly empty space. In these cases, the costs saved by buying in bulk quantities is offset by increased cost of storage.

[0006] The economic trade-offs between buying in bulk and the difficulties of using larger containers is especially important in industrial and commercial kitchens where food is purchased in bulk for economy whenever possible but, because of the large size of the containers, workers encounter difficulty in getting all of the contents scraped out of containers. It is not uncommon to for workers to cut the tops off containers so as to have better access to their contents. Using all of the container's contents is important in kitchens where profit margins are slim. When the product in the container is used rapidly and completely, this practice makes good sense but if not all the contents of the container are used shortly after the top of the container is cut off, then resealing the container becomes a problem.

[0007] Thus, there exists considerable need for a container that can be used to package and store a quantity of product, without the foregoing limitations.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] According to its major aspects and briefly described, the present invention is a variable-length, multi-sectioned container, wherein a larger composite container may be shortened by the removal of a section or lengthened by the addition of a section. The primary object of the present invention is to provide a solution to the problems of messy dispensing and wasted space associated with the use of a large container.

[0009] The solution provided by the present invention lies in the selection of the closures used in the container. By closures, it is meant to indicate the portions of the individual components of the container that permit complementary components to become attached. Here, the closures are selected to make the lid and the upper edge of the bottom section complementary, and therefore, reversibly attachable. Mere complementarity of a lid and a hollow bottom section is a common feature of most containers; however, the present invention also comprises a hollow middle section with closures on the lower edge that are identical to those found on the lid, and closures on the upper edge that are identical to those found on the bottom section.

[0010] As a result of this identity and complementarity, the middle section can be removed and the lid can be mated to the bottom section. In a container holding peanut butter, for example, when the product has been consumed to a level below the juncture of the middle section and the bottom section, the middle section can be removed and discarded. The lid is retained, and, since it has complementary closures to the remaining bottom section, used to cover the unused peanut butter. The resulting smaller container will enable the consumer to remove peanut butter without mess and to prevent the wasted space that would have been associated with the formerly too big container. Likewise, additional middle sections can be added to the container to provide a larger storage capacity, if desired, without sacrificing any of the foregoing advantages of the solution provided by the present invention.

[0011] An important advantage of the present invention is found in its application in larger containers such as those typically purchased by institutional and commercial kitchens. Many of these kitchens operate with thin profit margins and must make good use of the products they buy. They buy in bulk to reduce cost. Buying in bulk means has implications on storage capacity and in the need to use as much of the contents of a large container. The present invention mitigates both the storage concerns and the difficulties of using larger containers.

[0012] Other features and their advantages will be apparent to those skilled in the manufacture and use of containers from inspection of the drawings or careful reading of the Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0013] In the drawings,

[0014] FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the fully assembled form of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of the disassembled form of a preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0016] FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional, exploded view of a preferred embodiment of the present invention taken along line A-A of FIG. 1.

[0017] FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional, exploded view of an alternate preferred embodiment of the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the partially assembled form of the alternate preferred embodiment of FIG. 4.

[0019] FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of the fully assembled form of another alternate embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0020] The invention is a variable-length, multi-sectioned container, wherein a larger composite container may be shortened by the removal of one or more middle sections or lengthened by the addition of one or more middle sections.

[0021] While in its most preferred embodiment a screw-type closure is used, several other types of closure can be incorporated into the present invention. For example, the common snap-tight fit can be used to provide an inexpensive container in any application where a liquid-tight, precision closure is not required. A pressure fitting, where the interior portion of the closure fits snugly within the exterior portion of the closure, is another option for a less expensive container. Also, a standard child-proof seal can be incorporated in the present invention to provide a container that cannot be easily disassembled by a child. Finally, in many applications, such as in small insulated lunch boxes and drink caddies made of woven textile products, the closure of choice can be a slide fastener. However, this list is not exclusive, and many other common closures used in the manufacture of containers may also be used in the present invention.

[0022] The container can be manufactured from a variety of materials. In its most common embodiments, the present invention can be made of glass; metals, such as steel or aluminum; plastics, such as polypropylene, polyethylene, or polyethylene-terephthalate; polymer foam, such as polyurethane; woven textiles, such as nylon or polyester; or wood. However, this list is not exclusive, and many other common materials used in the manufacture of containers may also be used in the present invention. Likewise, the container and container sections can be formed in a variety of shapes. Although the hollow, body sections of the container can be square, rectangular, conical, spherical, or any other shape that is desired for functionality or aesthetics, the container is preferably cylindrical.

[0023] Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a multi-sectioned storage container in accordance with a most preferred embodiment of the present invention. Container 10 is designed to store a variety of materials and products, but as aforementioned, most particularly semi-solids. Product can be held within the hollow interior. Container 10 includes a lid 12 and at least one middle section 14. The lower edge of lid 12 and the upper edge of middle section 14 are reversibly joined by any of a number of common container closures, but, most preferably, by a screw-type closure. Container 10 also includes a bottom section 20 that has a floor and an upper edge that is capable of reversibly joining or mating to the closure carried by the lower edge of middle section 14 to form a juncture. Preferably, lid 12 and lower edge of middle section 14 carry interior threads, and the upper edge of the middle section 14 and bottom section 20 carry exterior threads. In all embodiments, the closures of the present invention are selected such that while the closure of lid 12 and the closure of the upper edge of middle section 14 are complementary and can be firmly and releasably engaged to join the respective sections, the closure of lid 12 is both corresponding—that is, functionally identical—to the closure of the lower edge of middle section 14 and complementary—that is, functionally engagable—to the closure of the upper edge of bottom section 20. Likewise, while the closure of the lower edge of middle section 14 and the closure of the upper edge of bottom section 20 are complementary and can be firmly and releasably engaged to join the respective sections, the closure of lower edge of middle section 14 are both identical to the closure of lid 12 and complementary to the closure of the upper edge of middle section 14. As a result of this identity and complementarity, the middle section 14 can be removed and lid 12 can be mated to bottom section 20. However, in its fully assembled form, the disassembly of middle section 14 from bottom section 20 is inhibited by sealing means 22. Sealing means 22 is, in the most preferred embodiment, an inelastic band covering the juncture of the sections and can be released by peeling the band off of container 10. Suitable materials for sealing means 22 are polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, or any other commodity plastic; further, the inelastic band is preferably transparent. Sealing means 22 can also be easily released by operation of perforations 24, aligned with the juncture. In the most preferred embodiment, perforations 24 consist of longitudinally intermittent voids that can be broken under sufficient pressure or torque to sever the band into two separate pieces, thereby releasing sealing means 22 and allowing middle section 14 and bottom section 20 to be separated. However, perforations 24 may also consist of a line of alternating thin and thick areas in the material of sealing means 22 and may be broken along the line of weaker, thin areas.

[0024] Referring now to FIG. 2, the results of the identity and complementarity of the closures of the present invention are shown. Container 10 can comprise a smaller structure by disassembly, as described above. Removal of lid 12, release of sealing means 22, and removal of middle section 14 by disjoining the closure of middle section 14 from the closure of bottom section 20, followed by replacing lid 12 by attachment to the upper edge of bottom section 20, results in smaller container 10. Also shown are the closure of the upper edge of middle section 14, exterior threads 18, and of the lower edge of middle section 14, interior threads 16.

[0025] The identity and complementarity of the closure of container 10 can be more fully understood and appreciated by a cross-sectional view of the fully disassembled form of a preferred embodiment of the present invention, as depicted in FIG. 3. As further depicted in FIG. 4, another middle section 14 and sealing means 22 can be added to container 10 to provide a larger storage capacity without sacrificing any of the foregoing advantages of the present invention. Referring now to FIG. 5, the individual components of container 10 can be mated, resulting in the partially assembled form of a preferred embodiment of the present invention. The larger storage capacity container 10 can be disassembled as described previously as the contents are consumed.

[0026] An alternate embodiment of the present invention is middle section 14 of the sectioned container 10 used as an extender for a standard jar 26. Referring now to FIG. 6, this invention allows a pre-existing jar or bottle that has a complementary closure to be easily and quickly extended or expanded in order to hold a greater volume without the need to transfer its contents to a different container. In a preferred alternate embodiment, the body of the extender carries exterior threads 18 on its upper edge and interior threads 16 on its lower edge. Also, the extender is preferably dimensioned to have approximately the same diameter as standard jar 26, and the closures of the extender are dimensioned and adapted to be complementary to standard jar 26 closures.

[0027] The dimensions of container 10 are not critical but it will be readily apparent that the present invention operates especially well with larger containers, particularly industrial size containers such as those that are at least one gallon in volume.

[0028] It will be apparent to those skilled in the art of manufacturing or using jars that many modifications and substitutions can be made to the foregoing preferred embodiments without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, defined by the appended claims.

List Of Reference Numbers

[0029] container, generally . . . 10

[0030] lid . . . 12

[0031] middle section . . . 14

[0032] interior threads . . . 16

[0033] exterior threads . . . 18

[0034] bottom section . . . 20

[0035] sealing band . . . 22

[0036] perforations . . . 24

[0037] standard jar . . . 26