Title:
Drinking straw kits and methods
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Drinking straw kits and methods are disclosed that allow consumers to construct a variety of changeable toys, sculpture, icons, novelties, and designs that can be manipulated in a variety of ways while still maintaining the functionality of the drinking straw to transport liquid via suction. The drinking straws in kits may include one or more corrugated sections that may be elongated into an extended state from a shorter compressed state. The corrugated sections also allow manipulation of the drinking straws into curvilinear shapes that may be substantially retained after manipulation.



Inventors:
Witkowski, Daniel D. (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Application Number:
10/962978
Publication Date:
04/13/2006
Filing Date:
10/12/2004
Assignee:
MagicCom (Minneapolis, MN, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/443, 206/457, 206/553
International Classes:
B65D71/00
View Patent Images:
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20060169619Lubricating pack specifically designed for paper shreddersAugust, 2006Wang T. C.
20020074337Printed inserts for thermoformed plastic disposable food containersJune, 2002Melton
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Primary Examiner:
GRANO, ERNESTO ARTURIO
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MUETING, RAASCH & GEBHARDT, P.A. (P.O. BOX 581336, MINNEAPOLIS, MN, 55458-1336, US)
Claims:
1. A drinking straw kit comprising: a package; a plurality of drinking straws in the package, wherein each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws comprises: one or more corrugated sections extending along at least a portion of a length of the drinking straw, wherein each of the one or more corrugated sections comprises a compressed state and an extended state in which the length of the drinking straw is increased as compared to the compressed state, wherein the one or more corrugated sections can be formed in and retain a curvilinear shape, and wherein at least 30% of the length of the straw is occupied by the one or more corrugated sections; a connector located at a first end of the drinking straw, wherein two drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws can be connected to each other using at least the connector on one of the two drinking straws to form an elongated composite drinking straw.

2. A kit according to claim 1, wherein, for one or more drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws, the one or more corrugated sections comprise a single corrugated section that extends along substantially the entire length of the one or more drinking straws.

3. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the one or more corrugated sections comprise two or more corrugated sections, and further wherein a non-corrugated section is located between two corrugated sections of the drinking straw.

4. A kit according to claim 1, wherein the connector is integrally formed in the end of the drinking straw.

5. A kit according to claim 1, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises one or more openings large enough to receive one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws through the one or more openings.

6. A kit according to claim 1, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises a tab comprising one or more openings large enough to receive one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws through the one or more openings.

7. A kit according to claim 1, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises one or more clips capable of retaining one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws in the one or more clips.

8. A kit according to claim 1, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises attachment means for attaching one or more of the drinking straws to the novelty components.

9. A kit according to claim 1, further comprising a manifold connector in the package, wherein the manifold connector comprises three or more ports, wherein each port of the three or more is adapted to receive one end of one of the drinking straws, wherein three or more drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws can be placed in fluid communication with each other through the manifold connector.

10. A kit according to claim 9, wherein the manifold connector comprises four or more ports.

11. A kit according to claim 1, wherein each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws comprises an inner cross-sectional area in the one or more corrugated sections of 100 square millimeters or less.

12. A drinking straw kit comprising: a package; a plurality of drinking straws in the package, wherein each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws comprises one or more corrugated sections extending along at least a portion of a length of the drinking straw, wherein each of the one or more corrugated sections comprises a compressed state and an extended state in which the length of the drinking straw is increased as compared to the compressed state, wherein the one or more corrugated sections can be formed in and retain a curvilinear shape, and wherein at least 30% of the length of the straw is occupied by the one or more corrugated sections; and a plurality of connectors in the package, wherein the plurality of connectors are independent articles separate from the plurality of drinking straws, and wherein each connector of the plurality of connectors comprises two openings, wherein each opening is adapted to receive and retain an end of one of the drinking straws.

13. A kit according to claim 12, wherein, for one or more drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws, the one or more corrugated sections comprise a single corrugated section that extends along substantially the entire length of the one or more drinking straws.

14. A kit according to claim 12, wherein the one or more corrugated sections comprise two or more corrugated sections, and further wherein a non-corrugated section is located between two corrugated sections of the drinking straw.

15. A kit according to claim 12, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises one or more openings large enough to receive one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws through the one or more openings.

16. A kit according to claim 12, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises a tab comprising one or more openings large enough to receive one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws through the one or more openings.

17. A kit according to claim 12, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises one or more clips capable of retaining one or more of the drinking straws, wherein the novelty component can be attached to one or more of the drinking straws by inserting the one or more drinking straws in the one or more clips.

18. A kit according to claim 12, further comprising one or more novelty components in the package, wherein each novelty component of the one or more novelty components comprises attachment means for attaching one or more of the drinking straws to the novelty components.

19. A kit according to claim 12, further comprising a manifold connector in the package, wherein the manifold connector comprises three or more ports, wherein each port of the three or more is adapted to receive one end of one of the drinking straws, wherein three or more drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws can be placed in fluid communication with each other through the manifold connector.

20. A kit according to claim 19, wherein the manifold connector comprises four or more ports.

21. A kit according to claim 12, wherein each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws comprises an inner cross-sectional area in the one or more corrugated sections of 100 square millimeters or less.

Description:

Drinking straws have long facilitated the transfer of liquid from a container to a persons mouth since the ancient Egyptians used hollow reeds to extract juices from fruits and vessels. Today, billions of straws each day facilitate the transfer of liquids in a convenient and inexpensive manner.

Some people use straws to drink because they can regulate the flow of liquid. Others use straws for sanitary purposes. Still others use straws because they do no like the taste of cardboard from milk cartons or paper cups or the taste of aluminum from cans. Still others use straws to facilitate drinking because of medical conditions do not allow them to utilize the motor skills necessary to hold a cup or glass. While a simple utensil, straws are a part of our everyday life and can be found anywhere from fast food eating establishments, to school lunch programs, to evening cocktails at a bar.

Most straws simply exist to provide the most basic function, i.e., to easily transfer liquid to one's mouth. There is little entertainment or play value in most straws as they are the most basic of commodities.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides drinking straw kits and methods that may preferably allow consumers to construct a variety of changeable toys, sculpture, icons, novelties, and designs that can be manipulated in a variety of ways while still maintaining the functionality of the drinking straw to transport liquid via suction.

The drinking straws in kits according to the present invention preferably include one or more corrugated sections that may be elongated into an extended state from a shorter compressed state. The corrugated sections also preferably allow manipulation of the drinking straws into curvilinear shapes that may be substantially retained after manipulation. The one or more corrugated sections in each drinking straw may preferably occupy 30% or more (or even 50% or more) of the length of the drinking straw when the corrugated sections are in the compressed state. In some embodiments, the entire length of the drinking straw may be corrugated (except, perhaps, for connectors that may be found at one or both ends of the straws).

In various aspects, the present invention may preferably provide entertainment by allowing a user to construct animals, robots, creatures, vehicles, geometric design, toys, magical playthings and countless other shapes and free form icons to stimulate play and creative expression.

In other aspects, the drinking straw kits of the present invention may include connectors that are integral to the drinking straws themselves and/or that are provided as separate articles that must be assembled with the drinking straws. It may be preferred that the connectors provide a fluid passage such that after connection, two (or more) drinking straws are placed in fluid communication with each other through the connectors.

In still other aspects of the present invention, novelty components may be provided in connection with the drinking straw kits to enhance the entertainment value of the kits. The novelty components may preferably include some structure or material to facilitate attachment of the novelty component to a drinking straw. For example, the novelty components may include adhesives, openings, tabs, clips, wrappings, etc. that may be used to attach the novelty components and the drinking straws together. Other novelty components may include fold lines such that the novelty component can be draped over or placed on a container to provide, e.g. thematic dressing, from which liquid is to be withdrawn through the straw. The straws used in connection with such kits may or may not include corrugated sections.

In one aspect, the present invention provides a drinking straw kit that includes a plurality of drinking straws in a package. Each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws includes one or more corrugated sections extending along at least a portion of a length of the drinking straw, wherein each of the one or more corrugated sections has a compressed state and an extended state in which the length of the drinking straw is increased as compared to the compressed state. The one or more corrugated sections can be formed in and retain a curvilinear shape, and wherein at least 30% of the length of the straw is occupied by the one or more corrugated sections. Each drinking straw also includes a connector located at a first end of the drinking straw, wherein two drinking straws of the plurality of drinking straws can be connected to each other using at least the connector on one of the two drinking straws to form an elongated composite drinking straw.

In another aspect, the present invention provides a drinking straw kit that includes a plurality of drinking straws in a package. Each drinking straw of the plurality of drinking straws includes one or more corrugated sections extending along at least a portion of a length of the drinking straw, wherein each of the one or more corrugated sections has a compressed state and an extended state in which the length of the drinking straw is increased as compared to the compressed state. The one or more corrugated sections can be formed in and retain a curvilinear shape and at least 30% of the length of the straw is occupied by the one or more corrugated sections. The kit also includes a plurality of connectors in the package, wherein the plurality of connectors are independent articles separate from the plurality of drinking straws, and wherein each connector of the plurality of connectors includes at least two openings, wherein each opening is adapted to receive and retain an end of one of the drinking straws.

These and other features and advantages of the present invention may be described below in connection with various exemplary embodiments of the present invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTIONS OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of one exemplary straw that is corrugated along its entire length, wherein the corrugated straw is in the compressed state.

FIG. 1B is a perspective view of the straw of FIG. 1A in the fully expanded state.

FIG. 1C is a perspective view of the straw of FIG. 1A after manipulation into a retained curvilinear shape.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of another exemplary straw including multiple corrugated sections separated by non-corrugated sections, wherein the corrugated sections are in the compressed state.

FIG. 2B is a perspective view of the straw of FIG. 2A in which the corrugated sections are in the expanded configuration and the straw is straight.

FIG. 2C is a perspective view of the straw of FIG. 2A in which the corrugated sections have been manipulated into curvilinear shapes.

FIG. 3 depicts two exemplary straws according to the present invention, wherein each straw includes connectors at both ends of each straw.

FIG. 4 depicts another exemplary straw including complementary helical connector structures at the ends.

FIGS. 5A & 5B depict one drinking straw kit that includes a manifold connector and a novelty component attached to the drinking straws.

FIGS. 6A-6H depict some exemplary connectors for use in connection with drinking straws in accordance with the present invention.

FIGS. 7A-7F depict some alternative structures for attaching novelty components to drinking straws.

FIG. 8 depicts a drinking straw and novelty component including matching patterns in accordance with the present invention.

FIG. 9A depicts one exemplary embodiment of a drinking straw with a pattern formed thereon, with a corrugated section in the compressed state.

FIG. 9B is an enlarged view of the corrugated section of the drinking straw of FIG. 9A where the corrugated section is in the compressed state.

FIG. 9C depicts the drinking straw of FIG. 9A after elongation of the corrugated section.

FIG. 9D is an enlarged view of the corrugated section of the drinking straw of FIG. 9C where the corrugated section is in the extended state.

FIGS. 10-14 depict various exemplary embodiments of drinking straw kits with multiple novelty components attached thereto.

FIGS. 15A & 15B depict another drinking straw kit in which a toy can be provided in a compressed state (FIG. 15A) and an extended state (FIG. 15B).

FIG. 16 depicts a patterned non-corrugated drinking straw and novelty component attached thereto.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

In the following detailed description of some exemplary embodiments of the invention, reference is made to the accompanying figures which form a part hereof, and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.

The set of FIGS. 1A-1C depict one drinking straw according to the present invention. The drinking straw 10 includes a corrugated section 20 that extends along substantially the entire length of the straw 10. It will be understood, with reference to the different exemplary embodiments of the invention described herein, that although the corrugated section 20 is substantially coextensive with the straw 10 in the embodiment of FIGS. 1A-1C, the corrugated section 20 is not required to be coextensive with the length of the straw 10 (unless explicitly so recited in the claims).

In FIG. 1A, the corrugated section 20 of the straw 10 is in the compressed state such that the length of the straw 10 is at a minimum. In FIG. 1B, substantially the entire corrugated section 20 of the straw 10 has been elongated into an extended state such that the straw 10 is at its maximum length. Although substantially the entire corrugated section 20 of the straw 10 has been elongated in FIG. 1B, it should be understood that in some instances, only one or more selected portions of the corrugated section 20 may be elongated to the extended state as desired. In other words, one or more portions of the corrugated section 20 can be selectively elongated by a user. The elongation of the corrugated section 20 may preferably be achieved by simply placing the straw 10 (or selected portion(s) thereof) under tension.

FIG. 1C depicts straw 10 after manipulation of the corrugated section 20 by a user into a selected curvilinear shape. Because of its construction, the corrugated section 20 of the straw 10 preferably retains its curvilinear shape without external support. The curvilinear shapes may include, e.g., spirals, loops, turns, U-shaped bends, etc.

Furthermore, the corrugated sections in straws according to the present invention are preferably reversible, i.e., the corrugated sections may be reversibly transformed from the compressed state to the extended state and back again. Although some minimal amounts of permanent deformation within the corrugated sections may be experienced as a result of manipulation, the elongation may preferably be largely reversible.

Manipulation of the straw 10 into the curvilinear shape depicted in FIG. 1C may or may not be accompanied by elongation of the corrugated section 20 (or portions thereof). In the straw 10 depicted in FIG. 1C, the portion 22 of the corrugated section proximate end 12 of the straw 10 is elongated, while portions of the corrugated section in the interior of the straw 10 are not elongated. It may be preferred that the corrugated sections be in the compressed state during manipulation into a curve, such that the portions 24 of the corrugations on the outside of the curve can be elongated during manipulation while the portions 26 of the corrugations on the inside of the curve remain substantially in the compressed state.

Straws such as those depicted in FIGS. 1A-1C and in other embodiments of the invention as described herein can be manufactured using a variety of techniques and materials. Examples of some potentially suitable methods of manufacturing corrugated sections in tubes or drinking straws may be found in, e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 2,094,268 (Friedman); 3,438,578 (Peterson et al.); and 3,908,704 (Clement et al.). It may, however, be preferred that the drinking straws of the present invention be manufactured in processes that involve deformation of an existing smooth-walled tubular member. Manufacturing the drinking straws from smooth-walled tubular stock may provide the opportunity to extrude the tubular stock, to print indicia on the tubular stock, etc. before the corrugation process. Furthermore, although the drinking straws are depicted with annular corrugation structures, the corrugated sections may alternatively be provided with helical corrugations (as described in, e.g., U.S. Pat. No. 3,908,704 (Clement et al.)).

FIGS. 2A-2C depict another exemplary embodiment of a drinking straw 110 according to the present invention. The drinking straw 110 is depicted in FIG. 2A with multiple corrugated sections 120 separated along the length of the straw 110 by non-corrugated sections 116. As with the drinking straw 10 of FIG. 1A, the corrugated sections 120 of drinking straw 110 preferably have a compressed state as depicted in FIG. 2A in which the length of each of the corrugated sections 120 is at a minimum. As depicted in FIG. 2B, the corrugated sections 120 are elongated to the extended state in which the length of the corrugated sections 120 is at a maximum. In FIG. 2C, the corrugated sections 120 of the straw 110 have been manipulated such that they have taken and retained a curvilinear shape.

Another feature of the drinking straws of the present invention may be discussed in connection with the drinking straws depicted in FIGS. 1A-1C and 2A-2C. That feature is the length of the corrugated section(s) with respect to the overall length of a drinking straw in a kit according to the present invention. It may be preferred that the corrugated section or sections in at least one drinking straw in a kit according to the present invention occupy at least 30% or more (or even 50% or more) of the overall length of the drinking straw when the corrugated sections are in the compressed state. In some embodiments, the entire length of the drinking straw may be corrugated (except, perhaps, for connectors that may be found at one or both ends of the straws).

Because the drinking straws used in connection with the present invention are designed to assist a user in the consumption of liquids, it may be preferred to limit the cross-sectional area of the drinking straws to allow the user to develop sufficient suction to move a liquid through the straw against the forces of gravity, fluid drag, etc. For example, it may be preferred that the internal cross-sectional area of the drinking straws be 100 square millimeters (mm2) or less, more preferably 80 mm2. These cross-sectional dimensions may preferably be measured along the corrugated sections in both the compressed state and the extended state.

As discussed herein, one potentially advantageous feature of the kits of the present invention is that the drinking straws can be connected to each other and/or to other structures. These different connections are preferably provided to, e.g., enhance the entertainment value of the drinking straw kits. In various embodiments, the connections between drinking straws can be integral with one of the drinking straws and/or they may be provided as separate articles that are attached to the drinking straws when a connection is to be made. Various exemplary embodiments of such different connectors may be described below.

Because the drinking straws are preferably used to facilitate the consumption of liquids, it may be preferred that any connectors used to connect the drinking straws provide a seal tight enough such that sufficient suction can be developed to draw liquids through the connected drinking straws. In some instances, connections that are sealed to the degree necessary to support the drawing of liquids through the straws by suction may be referred to as “airtight” although it will be understood that some air leakage may occur as long as it does not frustrate the user's ability to drink using the straws.

A pair of drinking straws 210 are depicted in FIG. 3 with each straw 210 including a first end 212 and a second end 214. In the depicted straws 210, a female connector is located at first end 212 and a complementary male connector is located at the second end 214 of the straw 210. The straws 210 also each include a corrugated section 220 that extends for substantially the entire length of the straw 210 between the female connector at the first end 212 and the male connector at the second end 214.

The male connector at end 214 may preferably include a raised annular rib 234 that preferably mates with an annular channel 232 provided in the female connector at end 212 to retain the fittings in a connected arrangement. In addition, it may be preferred that the outer diameter of the of the male connectors be slightly smaller than the inner diameter of the female connectors to facilitate insertion of the male connectors into the female connectors.

As discussed herein, because the drinking straws of the present invention are to be used to move liquids, it may be preferred that the connections between straws 210 are preferably airtight to a degree sufficient that suction generated by a user trying to drink through the straw can be provided between two connected straws. The connection structures depicted in FIG. 3 provide only one example of integral connection structures that may be used in connection with the present invention.

Another potential example of a drinking straw 310 according to the present invention is depicted in FIG. 4 includes ends 312 and 314. A female connector 332 is located at end 312 and a male connector 334 is located at end 314. The female connector 332 and the male connector 334 preferably include complementary structures that allow the male connector 334 to be inserted into a female connector 332 on another straw. The depicted male connector 334 includes helical threading 335 that fits in helical grooves 333 in the female connector 332. It may be that the connection between male and female connectors as depicted in FIG. 4 may be made by rotating the connectors relative to each other.

Another exemplary embodiment of the present invention is depicted in FIGS. 5A & 5B. The kit as depicted there includes a set of straws 410 that may preferably be attached to a manifold connector 440 that includes multiple ports 442. One end of each of the straws 410 can be attached to each of the ports 442 as depicted. The other ends of the different straws 410 can be placed in the same or different containers 400 to allow a user to consume liquid(s) in the container(s). The manifold connector 440 also preferably includes a port 444 that can be used as a mouthpiece by a user as depicted in FIGS. 5A & 5B. Alternatively, one or more drinking straws could be connected to the port 444 if so desired.

FIGS. 6A-6H depict some alternative connectors that may be used in the drinking straw kits according to the present invention. FIG. 6A is a perspective view of a generally U-shaped connector 540a including ports 542a and 544a and a fluid passageway extending therebetween.

FIG. 6B depicts a U-shaped connector 540b attached to two straws 510b, where the ports of the connector 540b are male connectors inserted into the ends of the straws 510b. FIG. 6C depicts one alternative configuration in which a connector 540c includes female ports 542c and 544c adapted to receive the ends of straws 510c.

FIG. 6D depicts a connector 540d that includes three ports 542d, 543d and 544d. The ports are connected within the connector by bores 545d, 546d and 547d that lead to each of the ports 542d, 543d and 544d and also meet within the connector 540d such that all of the ports are in fluid communication. A drinking straw 510d is connected to port 542d.

Connectors according to the present invention may have any number of ports, further examples of which are depicted in FIG. 6E where connector 540e includes six different ports and in FIG. 6F where connector 540f includes four ports (one of which includes a drinking straw 510f connected thereto). Although the different ports may be in fluid communication with each other within the connectors, it should be understood that all of the ports in a multi-port connector of the present invention are not required to be in fluid communication with all of the other ports in the connector.

FIGS. 6G & 6H depict another connector 540g that includes four ports in fluid communication with each other through bores formed in the connector 540g. The ports in connector 540g may be female connectors adapted to receive the end of a drinking straw 510g as seen in FIG. 6G.

Connectors such as those depicted in FIGS. 5A, 5B, and 6A-6H may be constructed of any suitable material or materials. In some instances, the connectors, if not integral with the drinking straws, may preferably be constructed of water-soluble materials such as foodstuffs, etc. so as to not present a choking hazard. In other instances, the connectors may preferably be large enough so that they do not present a choking hazard. In still other embodiments, the connectors may take the form of, e.g., adhesive tape or other wrap-type connector materials that may be provided in the package with the drinking straws

Another optional feature depicted in FIGS. 5A & 5B is the novelty component 450 that may be attached to the drinking straws 410. The novelty component 450 may be provided to obscure a portion of the drinking straws 410 during use and/or to provide additional entertainment value for the drinking straw construction kit. The depicted novelty component 450 is in the form of a spider, although the novelty component 450 may take on many different appearances, such as, e.g., animals, robots, plants, people, puppets, sporting objects (e.g., balls, bats, hockey/lacrosse sticks, etc.), vehicles, household appliances, games of skill and/or chance, dinosaurs, monsters, etc.

Novelty components used in connection with the drinking straw kits of the present invention may be manufactured of any suitable material or materials. For example, the novelty components may be manufactured from sheet-like materials such as paper, paperboard, polymer sheets/films, etc. that may be printed, embossed, etc. as desired. If the novelty components are provided to mimic the appearance of animals or plants (real or fanciful), the novelty components may take the form of trunks, heads, appendages (e.g., legs, arms, tentacles, tails, etc.), leaves, stems, flowers, petals, etc.

Attachment of the drinking straws 410 to the novelty component 450 may be by any suitable technique. Some potentially suitable techniques and/or attachment means for attaching the novelty components to drinking straws may include, but are not limited to, adhesives, openings in the novelty component, clips, hook and loop closures, adhesive tape, tabs with openings formed therein through which a straw is inserted, etc. Some examples of potentially suitable fasteners are depicted in FIGS. 7A-7F.

FIG. 7A depicts a tab 460 that may be attached to a novelty component 450a. The tab 460 includes a base 462 attached to the novelty component 450a and a upstanding portion 464 with an opening 466 formed therein through which a drinking straw 410a may be inserted. FIG. 7B depicts a clip 470 with arms 472 that preferably resiliently engage a drinking straw inserted between the arms 472. The clip may include a base 450b suited for attachment to a novelty component (or, alternatively, the base 450b itself may be the novelty component).

FIG. 7C depicts another novelty component 450c in the form of a body (in the depicted embodiment a skirt or a cone) that includes a channel 452c through which a drinking straw 410c can be inserted. FIG. 7D depicts another embodiment of a novelty component 450d that also includes a channel 452d through which a drinking straw 410d can be inserted. The novelty component 450d includes protruding features 454d (in the form of hands in the depicted embodiment) provided to enhance the novelty aspect of the component 450d.

Because of the channels included therein, both novelty components 450c and 450d may potentially also serve as connectors to connect two drinking straws in accordance with the principles of the present invention. In such an embodiment, the drinking straws would be inserted from opposite ends of the channels 452c and 452d.

FIGS. 7E & 7F also depict another novelty component 450e that includes tabs 460e with openings 466 formed therein. The openings 466e may preferably be capable of accepting a drinking straw 410e as depicted in FIG. 7F to retain the novelty component 450e in attachment with the straw 410e. It may be preferred that novelty component 450e be manufactured from sheet-like materials such as paper, paperboard, polymer sheets/films, etc.

Another optional feature that may be included in connection with the present invention is the addition of patterns on the drinking straws. One exemplary of such an embodiment is depicted in FIG. 8 in which drinking straw 610 includes a pattern printed or otherwise formed on its exterior surface (or in the body of the straw such that it is visible on the exterior surface). The straw 610 also includes a novelty component 650 that may preferably be similar to the novelty components described above in connection with FIGS. 5A & 5B.

The patterns may take a variety of forms, e.g., they may be based on animal markings (as depicted in FIG. 8), they may be in the form of indicia designed to convey information (e.g., alphanumeric characters, symbols, etc.), they may be based on plant markings, they may be fanciful, sports-related, characters, vehicles, etc.

It may be preferred that the pattern be provided before any corrugated sections are formed in the straw 610, i.e., while it is still a smooth-walled tubular member. In some instances, the pattern may become more pronounce with the corrugated sections after the corrugated sections are converted from the compressed state to the extended state. For example, the pattern may be obscured within the bends or folds in the corrugated sections when in the compressed state.

FIGS. 9A-9D depict another embodiment of a drinking straw 710 including a corrugated section 720. The corrugated section 720 includes a pattern visible thereon that may be in a compressed state when the corrugated section 720 is compressed as depicted in FIGS. 9A & 9B. In addition, the non-corrugated portion 716 of the straw 710 may also include a complementary pattern visible thereon as seen in FIGS. 9A & 9C. Elongation of the corrugated section 720 to the extends state as depicted in FIGS. 9C & 9D may preferably cause a change in the appearance of the pattern in the corrugated section 720. In this manner, patterns within the corrugated sections of drinking straws according to the present invention may provide additional entertainment value.

In addition to, or in place of patterns such as those depicted, the drinking straws may also include novelty materials such as, e.g., phosphorescent materials, solarchromatic materials (e.g., light-activated color-change materials), thermochromatic materials (that, e.g., exhibit color changes based on temperature), etc.

FIG. 10 depicts still another exemplary embodiment of the invention in which a single continuous drinking straw 810 is used in connection with novelty components 850 and 870, with novelty component 870 in the form of the trunk of a character (e.g., animal, robot, person, etc.) while the second novelty component 870 is provided as the head of the character. In addition, the straw 810 may be provided with a pattern that matches or coordinates with the novelty components 850 and 870 if so desired. The straw 810 may be replaced by two or more drinking straws if so desired.

Still another exemplary embodiment of the present invention is depicted in FIG. 11 and includes a drinking straw 910 along with multiple novelty components 950, 952, 954, 956 and 958 attached thereto. It may be preferred that the novelty components be within a consistent theme, e.g., dinosaur features as depicted. The novelty component 952 may preferably include a fold line 953 formed therein such that the novelty component 952 can form a tent-like shape that can be placed over, e.g., a container 900 (such as a cup, can, mug, bottle, carton, etc.). It may be preferred that be manufactured from sheet-like materials such as paper, paperboard, polymer sheets/films, etc.

FIGS. 12A & 12B depict another embodiment of a drinking straw kit according to the present invention in which groups of novelty components 1050a, 1050b, and 1050c are attached to a single drinking straw 1010 (or a composite drinking straw made of two or more connected drinking straws). In the depicted embodiment, the novelty components may provide the appearance of monkeys although many different novelty components could be used.

FIG. 13 depicts another embodiment of a drinking straw construction kit according to the present invention in which a drinking straw 1110 includes novelty components 1150, 1152 and 1154 attached thereto. The novelty components in FIG. 13 present a pirate theme when assembled on the drinking straw 1110.

FIG. 14 depicts another exemplary embodiment of the present invention that includes an elephant-like novelty component 1250 and a single continuous drinking straw 1210 attached thereto. The novelty component 1250 includes openings 1252 through which the straw 1210 is inserted to retain the novelty component 1250 in place on the straw 1210. Also depicted in FIG. 14 is a second novelty component 1270 (in the form of a stand) provided in addition to the novelty component 1250 and attached to the straw 1210. The straw 1210 may be replaced by two or more drinking straws if so desired.

FIGS. 15A & 15B depict still another embodiment of the present invention in which novelty components 1350, 1352 and 1354 may be connected to each other by drinking straws 1310. The drinking straws 1310 may preferably include corrugated sections such that the toy may be provided in a compressed state as seen in FIG. 15A. Elongation of all of the drinking straws may result in elongation or enlargement of the toy as depicted in FIG. 15B. In addition, the straws 1310 may be formed into various curvilinear shapes.

FIG. 16 depicts a non-corrugated straw 1410 and a novelty component 1450 attached thereto. It should be noted that the non-corrugated straw 1410 includes a pattern visible on the exterior of the straw. It may be preferred that the pattern on the straw 1410 coordinate with the shape and/or patterns on the novelty component 1450 to potentially enhance the entertainment value of the drinking straw kit.

In addition to the various features depicted in connection with the figures that may potentially be provided in connection with the drinking straw kits of the present invention, many other features may also be provided in connection with the drinking straw kits. One example of such optional features may include, e.g., tinting the straws such that the user can decode or read a message (on the package of the kit or elsewhere) through the straw because of the wavelength filtering nature of the tint in the straws. In addition, the packaging of individual drinking straws or packaging of the drinking straw kits may include, e.g., temporary transfer tattoos, holograms, and/or stickers such as those described in, e.g., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,594,927 (Witkowski); 6,327,801 (Witkowski); and 5,676,401 (Witkowski et al.).

As used herein and in the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “and,” and “the” include plural referents unless explicitly limited to the singular form or the context clearly dictates otherwise.

All references and publications cited herein are expressly incorporated herein by reference in their entirety into this disclosure. Illustrative embodiments of this invention are discussed and reference has been made to possible variations within the scope of this invention. These and other variations and modifications in the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention, and it should be understood that this invention is not limited to the illustrative embodiments set forth herein. Accordingly, the invention is to be limited only by the claims provided below and equivalents thereof.