Title:
Letter opening container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The invention features a container that includes an opening for inserting and removing a letter, a first opening for opening and examining the letter, and a window for visually checking the letter against a contrasting color of an interior surface of the container. The container which may have a closed configuration is used for opening and detecting harmful, suspicious foreign substances such as white powdery particles included in letters of postal mail systems.



Inventors:
Chiu, John (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
09/999677
Publication Date:
05/01/2003
Filing Date:
10/31/2001
Assignee:
CHIU JOHN
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D5/42; (IPC1-7): B65D85/48
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HANSEN, JAMES ORVILLE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FISH & RICHARDSON P.C. (BO) (P.O. BOX 1022, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55440-1022, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A container comprising: an opening for inserting and removing a letter; a first opening for opening and examining the letter; a window for visually checking the letter against a contrasting color of an interior surface of the container.

2. The container of claim 1 wherein the container includes a plurality of panels, at least one of which includes the window and is configured to open the container for placing a parcel within the container.

3. The container of claim 1 wherein the contrasting color is black.

4. The container of claim 1 further comprising a second opening, wherein the first and second opening provide a passage in the container for inserting a user's hands through the first and second opening.

5. The container of claim 1 wherein the container is assembled from a plurality of collapsible parts.

6. The container of claim 1 wherein the container has a closed boxed configuration.

7. The container of claim 6 wherein the container includes a plurality of panels, at least one of which includes the window and is configured to open the container for placing a parcel within the container.

8. The container of claim 6 wherein the contrasting color is black.

9. The container of claim 6 further comprising a second opening, wherein the first and second opening provide a passage in the container for inserting a user's hands through the first and second opening.

10. The container of claim 6 wherein the container is assembled from a plurality of collapsible parts.

11. The container of claim 6 wherein the container is configured to be disposed as a sealed container.

12. The container of claim 6 wherein the interior surface of the container includes a static coating for trapping particles.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0001] This invention relates to containers for handling items such as letters and parcels.

BACKGROUND

[0002] Typically, the postal system is used for harmlessly sending and receiving correspondence and packages such as letters and parcels. However, with the advent of bio-terrorism and increasing use of the postal system for delivering and infecting the general population, extreme care and caution must be exercised in handling seemingly harmless items. Due to the massive volume of letters and parcels to be examined, the use of high tech devices for detecting foreign or suspicious substances is often prohibitively costly and impractical. Therefore, a feasible and practical system for detecting suspicious substances is needed.

SUMMARY

[0003] In general, in one aspect, the invention provides a container that includes an opening for inserting and removing a letter, a first opening for opening and examining the letter, and a window for visually checking the letter against a contrasting color of an interior surface of the container.

[0004] Additional features may be included. The container includes a plurality of panels, at least one of which includes the window and is configured to open the container for placing a parcel within the container.

[0005] As yet another feature, the contrasting color is black, and the container includes a second opening which together with the first opening provide a passage in the container for inserting a user's hands through the first and second opening.

[0006] As another feature of the invention, the container has a closed boxed configuration. The container is configured to be disposed as a sealed container, and the interior surface of the container includes a static coating for trapping particles.

[0007] Embodiments may have one or more of the following advantages.

[0008] Bio-terrorist agents can be microorganisms, toxins, biological molecules, enzymes, gases, mutagens, and chemical regents. One of the most effective ways to protect against infections by bio-terrorist agents through mail is to be able to detect the harmful particles and substances before substantial and sufficient exposure is made. In other words, examination in a closed container provides the protection required before any harmful substance can contaminate the surrounding area and environment.

[0009] The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0010] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container.

[0011] FIG. 2 is a side view of the container of FIG. 1.

[0012] FIG. 3 is a front view of the container of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0013] Referring to FIG. 1, an exemplary container 10 for handling letters and parcels is shown. The container 10 has the dimensions of approximately 25 cm×25 cm×45 cm for home use and 50 cm×75 cm×75 cm for office use. The container 10 allows a letter handler to open and examine a letter for the presence of foreign or suspicious substances by detecting such substances against a surface of contrasting color, such as black. The handler can visually spot a suspicious substance if it is present by placing the letter within the container 10, opening the letter inside the container 10, and visually monitoring the contents to see if any suspicious, powdery substances are visible against the dark, black interior surface of the container.

[0014] In particular, the container 10 includes a top panel 12 and a bottom panel 14. The container 10 also includes four vertical panels 16a-16d, an opening 17, a vertical interior surface 18, a bottom interior surface 20 and a top interior surface 22. The top panel 12 has a window 24, which allows the handler to view the internal contents of the container 10 when the top panel 12 is in a closed configuration (FIG. 3). The window 24 is a transparent plastic film.

[0015] The top panel 12 also includes a closing border 26 around a peripheral edge 25 of the top panel 12 for securely joining the top panel 12 to a lower section 26 of the container 10.

[0016] The side interior surface 18 and the bottom interior surface 20 are coated with a polypropylene synthetic paper of a contrasting color such as black. The synthetic black paper is not permeable to water, microorganisms, small particles or substances, toxins, biological molecules, enzymes, or chemical reagents. The synthetic black paper also provides static interaction with powder and dusty like, light substances so that such particles cannot be dispersed.

[0017] One of the vertical sections 16a-16d, i.e., the vertical section 16b includes an opening 30 used for inserting the letter through the opening 30 into the container 10. The vertical panels 16a and 16b each includes side passages 32a and 32b, respectively, each of which includes side openings 34a and 34b in turn.

[0018] Referring to FIG. 2, details of the side passage 32a on the vertical panel 16a are shown. The side passage 32a includes a perforated contour 36 around the side passage 32a for adjustably controlling the size of the opening 34a. The perforated contour 36 allows for easy insertion of hands for handling the letter by pushing the flap 38 and folding the flap 38 against the side interior surface 16 of the container 10. The flat 38 allows these interior surfaces of the container 10 to be uncontaminated and free of any dust particles before the container 10 is being used for detection purposes by the user to eliminate the possibility of a false detection. In FIG. 2, the container 10 is in an open configuration 40 with the top panel 12 displaying the opening 17 which is used for placing large letters or parcels within the container 10.

[0019] Referring to FIG. 3, the container 10 is in a closed box configuration 50 with the top panel 12 tightly joined to the lower section 26 (FIG. 1).

[0020] The use of the container 10 is now described in greater detail below in conjunction with FIG. 1 to FIG. 3.

[0021] The container 10 is provided to a handler or user with usage instructions either pre-printed on the outside of the container 10 or in a separate sheet of paper. The container 10 is portable thus it may arrive either in an assembled, semi-assembled, or unassembled state (not shown). In a semi-assembled state, the container 10 is made of collapsible parts and the various panels forming the container 10 must be folded in order analogous to following instructions for folding a typical storage box. The user is also provided with latex gloves, a cutting device, and sealing tape for use with the operation of the container 10.

[0022] Once the container 10 is assembled and ready for use, the handler dons a pair of gloves and places the letter or parcels inside the container 10 at the opening 17. The user must be careful not to handle the letter directly without protective inhalation gear or otherwise when the letter is not contained within the container 10. If the letter is sufficiently small, the letter may be slipped through the opening 30 and the container may be kept in the closed configuration 50 as shown in FIG. 3.

[0023] The user then inserts his hands through the side passages 32a and 32b, opens the letter with a cutting device already placed within the container 10. The user can now examine and closely monitor if the letter has any suspicious contents or if particles such as powder, fine granules, and the like which fall from the letter onto the bottom interior surface 20 as it is being opened. If suspicious particles are light colored powder such as white or beige, the contrasting black color of the bottom interior surface 20 facilitates the detection of such particles, even if very little amount is present. The user can visually detect and examine the letter through the window 24.

[0024] If the user does not detect any suspicious particles, but upon reading a written message in the letter determines that the contents of the letter is of interest to law enforcement, the user carefully places the letter in a plastic bag for further examination of fingerprints and the like.

[0025] If the user detects the presence of suspicious particles, the box can be immediately sealed with protective tape and delivered to law enforcement. If no suspicious particles or substances are found, the container 10 may be reused as necessary, but preferably for a limited time such as a two-week period. As a safety precaution, the container 10 is discarded together with any and all tools used inside the container 10, only after carefully sealing and taping the top plate 12 so that it is tightly sealed for disposal as a hazardous substance.

[0026] The container 10 is made of durable paper material such as cardboard-based material. In other embodiments, the container 10 may be made of acrylic based materials. Acrylic materials may have a longer usable life as it is possible to periodically clean them with anti-bacterial solutions, disinfectants, bleaches, and the like.

[0027] In other embodiments, bulging sacs are provided in the side passages 32a and 32b so the side interior surface 18 and the bottom interior surface 20 of the container 10 are completely sealed off when the container 10 is in the closed configuration 50. The bulging sacs may be used either alone or in combination with the user's gloves for added protection. The bulging sacs may be configured to be gloves as well.

[0028] Accordingly, other embodiments are within the scope of the following claims.