Title:
Tabletop napkin dispenser with display window for promotional material
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins includes a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead pane. The dispenser also has an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and is further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins. At least one of the sidewalls or back panel is provided with a display window made of a substantially optically clear material suitable for displaying removably mounted promotional material.



Inventors:
Cittadino, Antonio M. (Appleton, WI, US)
Burns, Brent J. (Sterling Heights, MI, US)
Maroney, David R. (Cedar, MN, US)
Kirchberg, Joseph P. (Pine City, MN, US)
Goeking, Harold J. (Oshkosh, WI, US)
Application Number:
11/449308
Publication Date:
12/07/2006
Filing Date:
06/08/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65H1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KUMAR, RAKESH
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Georgia-Pacific LLC (133 Peachtree Street NE GA030-23, ATLANTA, GA, 30303, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins comprising a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein at least one of the sidewalls or back panel is provided with a display window made of a substantially optically clear material suitable for displaying removably mounted promotional material.

2. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 1, wherein the display window is made from a thermoplastic resin composition.

3. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 1, wherein the thermoplastic resin composition consists essentially of a thermoplastic resin selected from the group consisting of: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins; and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins.

4. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 3, wherein the thermoplastic resin is poly(methylmethacrylate).

5. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 3, wherein the thermoplastic resin is a bisphenol A containing polycarbonate.

6. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 3, wherein the thermoplastic resin is a polystyrene.

7. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 3, wherein the thermoplastic resin is a styrene-methyl methacrylate copolymer.

8. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 1, wherein the display window is mounted on a sidewall of the dispenser.

9. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 1, wherein a display window is mounted on each sidewall of the dispenser.

10. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 1, wherein the sidewalls of the dispenser are injection-molded from a substantially optically clear material, thereby providing a pair of display windows.

11. A tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins comprising a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein at least one of the sidewalls or back panel is provided with a unitary display holder having at least one U-shaped edge formed from a substantially optically clear material.

12. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 11, wherein the unitary display holder is made from a thermoplastic resin composition.

13. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 11, wherein the thermoplastic resin composition consists essentially of a thermoplastic resin selected from the group consisting of: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins; and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins.

14. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 11, wherein a unitary display holder with at least one U-shaped edge is mounted on each sidewall of the dispenser.

15. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 11, wherein the unitary display holder is thermoformed from a generally planar, substantially optically clear polymeric sheet.

16. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 11, wherein the unitary display holder has two U-shaped edges.

17. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 16, wherein the unitary display holder has upper and lower U-shaped edges.

18. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 17, wherein terminal portions of the U-shaped edges each extend vertically a distance which is less than 30% of the height of the display holder.

19. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 16, wherein the display holder has two U-shaped lateral edges.

20. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 19, wherein the terminal portions of the U-shaped edges each extend horizontally a distance which is less than 30% of the width of the display holder.

21. A tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins comprising a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein the housing includes a unitary, injection-molded structure made from a substantially optically clear polymeric material comprising at least four walls selected from the front panel, the back panel, the top wall, the bottom wall and the two sidewalls, and wherein further at least two of the four walls of the unitary injection-molded structure are suitable for removably mounting promotional material for display.

22. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 21, wherein the unitary injection-molded structure comprises the two sidewalls of the dispenser.

23. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 21, wherein the injection-molded unitary structure is made from a thermoplastic resin composition.

24. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 23, wherein the thermoplastic resin composition consists essentially of a thermoplastic resin selected from the group consisting of: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins; and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins.

25. The tabletop napkin dispenser according to claim 24, wherein the thermoplastic resin is a styrene-containing resin, a methyl methacrylate containing resin, or a bisphenol containing resin.

Description:

CLAIM FOR PRIORITY

This non-provisional application is a continuation-in-part of United States Non-Provisional patent application Ser. No. 11/253,476 filed Oct. 19, 2005 entitled “Tabletop Napkin Dispenser”, which application claims the benefit of the filing date of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/621,915 of the same title, filed Oct. 25, 2004. The priorities of the foregoing applications are hereby claimed and their disclosures, in their entirety, are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to dispensers for inter-folded napkins. There is disclosed in a preferred embodiment a napkin dispenser having a depth which is shorter than the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the folded napkins.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Inter-folded napkin dispensers are well known in the art. There is shown, for example, a gravity feed dispenser and method of dispensing inter-folded napkins in the United States Patent Application Publication No. US 2003/0062375 of Christensen et al. which shows a high capacity gravity feed dispenser. Such dispensers are particularly useful where a large number of napkins need to be made available at a single location. Likewise, there is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 6,585,129 to Moody et al. a napkin dispenser for inter-folded napkins, a plurality of which dispensers may be placed on tabletops giving consumers multiple access points in a given eating establishment. Napkin dispensers for commercial use have been designed to limit the number of inter-folded napkins dispensed in order to eliminate waste which occurs when more napkins than necessary are withdrawn from the dispenser. The '129 patent, for example, teaches to add a baffle to the dispensing aperture in order to limit digital access to the napkin stack.

Spring-loaded dispenser which are often used in restaurants are somewhat prone to being over-filled such that they do not operate properly and are relatively expensive. These dispensers also may cause unwanted curl to be imparted to the napkins. See United States Patent Application Publication No. US 2003/0019880 of Timmers et al. Further features and general background may be found in the following patents. U.S. Pat. No. 5,076,466 to Petterson et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 4,838,454 to Salzmann et al.; U.S. Pat. No. 4,679,703 to De Luca; U.S. Pat. No. 2,852,158 to Jones et al., as well as U.S. Pat. No. 2,426,136 to Agamaite, Jr.

Despite advances in the art, there exists a need for relatively inexpensive dispensers designed to reliably supply inter-folded napkins in a commercial setting. It has been found in accordance with the present invention that an injection-molded dispenser, with a suitably dimensioned internal cavity, and without moving parts, alleviates drawbacks of existing dispensers.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

There is provided in one aspect of the invention a tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins including a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein at least one of the sidewalls or back panel is provided with a display window made of a substantially optically clear material suitable for displaying removably mounted promotional material. The display window is suitably made from a thermoplastic resin composition, such as one which consists essentially of a thermoplastic resin selected from the group consisting of: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins; and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins. Suitable specific resins include: poly(methylmethacrylate); bisphenol A containing polycarbonate; polystyrene; and styrene-methyl methacrylate copolymer.

There may be one display window mounted on a sidewall of the dispenser or a display window is mounted on each sidewall of the dispenser. In some cases, the sidewalls of the dispenser are injection-molded from a substantially optically clear material, thereby providing a pair of display windows.

In another aspect of the invention, there is provided a tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins including a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein at least one of the sidewalls or back panel is provided with a unitary display holder having at least one U-shaped edge formed from a substantially optically clear material. The unitary display holder is made from a thermoplastic resin composition in most embodiments. Here again, the thermoplastic resin composition may consist essentially of a thermoplastic resin selected from the group consisting of: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins; and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins. In some embodiments, the unitary display holder is mounted on each sidewall of the dispenser. One method of construction is wherein the unitary, display holders are thermoformed from a generally planar, substantially optically clear polymeric sheet. The unitary display holder may be made in an overall U-shape or with U-shaped edges at opposed sides of the display window. When U-shaped edges are used, the terminal ends of the “U” preferably extend vertically or laterally less than 30% of the height or width of the holder.

In still yet another aspect of the invention, there is provided a tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins including a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins, wherein the housing includes a unitary, injection-molded structure made from a substantially optically clear polymeric material comprising at least four walls selected from the front panel, the back panel, the top wall, the bottom wall and the two sidewalls, and wherein further at least two of the four walls of the unitary injection-molded structure are suitable for removably mounting promotional material for display. One construction is wherein the unitary injection-molded structure comprises the two sidewalls of the dispenser. The injection-molded unitary structure is made from a thermoplastic resin composition as noted above, that is, such as one having a styrene-containing resin, a methyl methacrylate containing resin, or a bisphenol containing resin.

Still further aspects of the invention will become apparent from the discussion which follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The invention is described in detail below with reference to the drawings, wherein like numerals designate similar parts and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing a napkin dispenser with a pair of display holders of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an exploded view of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partial view in perspective of the inventive dispenser of FIG. 1, wherein the front panel is in an open position;

FIG. 4 is a side view showing a side panel of the dispenser of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a view in section along line 5-5 of FIG. 1 showing the geometry of a top panel of the inventive dispenser as well as the geometry of an assembly post;

FIG. 6 is a schematic view showing a stack of single-fold inter-folded napkins from the side of a stack;

FIG. 7 is a top view in perspective of a stack of inter-folded napkins such as the single-fold napkins shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a schematic diagram illustrating the geometry of a stack of two-fold inter-folded napkins;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of a first alternate design of the display holder;

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a second alternate design of the display holder; and

FIG. 11 is a view in elevation and perspective of a tabletop napkin dispenser made from a substantially optically clear thermoplastic composition having a promotion card taped to the inside of a sidewall of the dispenser.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The invention is described in detail below with reference to the Figures for purposes of illustration only. Modifications within the spirit and scope of the present invention, set forth in the appended claims, will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art.

Terminology used herein is given its ordinary meaning; for example, “ABS” resin, “ABS” composition and like terminology refers to acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene copolymers and compositions containing such copolymers.

A resin composition “consists essentially of” a particular thermoplastic resin when the composition is over about 75% by weight of that resin. Such terminology does not exclude impact modifiers, mold release agents, lubricants and so forth which do not change the basic and novel characteristics of the product and are routinely added to extrudable plastic compositions.

“Polyacrylic” resins are those polymeric resins prepared from acrylic acid derivatives and related compounds such as methyl methacrylate. Poly(methyl methacrylate) is a suitable optically clear resin for use in connection with the invention. A polyacrylic resin contains at least about 90% acrylate content.

Polycarbonate resins especially useful in practice of the invention are aromatic polycarbonates produced by reacting di-(monohydroxyaryl)alkanes (bisphenols) or dihydroxybenzenes and substituted dihydroxybenzenes with derivatives of carbonic acid such as carbonic acid diesters, phosgene, bis-chlorocarbonic acid esters of di-(monohydroxyaryl)-alkanes and the bis-chlorocarbonic acid esters of the dihydroxy-benzenes and the substituted dihydroxy-benzenes. Examples of suitable bisphenols are: 4,4′-dihydroxy-diphenyl, 2,2-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane (bisphenol A; 2,4-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-2-methylbutane; 1,1-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-cyclohexane; α,α-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-p-diisopropyl-benzene; 2,2-bis-(3-methyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane; 2,2-bis-(3-chloro-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane; bis-(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-methane; 2,2-bis-(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane; bis(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-sulphone; 2,4-bis-(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-methylbutane; 1,1-bis-(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-cyclohexane; α,α-bis-(3,5-dimethyl-4-hydroxyphenyl)-p-diisopropyl-benzene; 2-2-bis-(3,5-dichloro-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane; 2,2-bis-(3,5-dichloro-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane and 2,2-bis-(3,5-dibromo-4-hydroxyphenyl)-propane (tetrabromo bisphenol A).

Polystyrene resins when referred to as such means those resins which contain at least about 90 mole % styrene.

Styrene-acrylic copolymer resins have at least about 90 mole % combined styrene and acrylate content, i.e. 45% each.

“Substantially optically clear material” is substantially transparent to visible light at the thicknesses employed in connection with the present invention; i.e. typically at ⅛″ or less thickness. Examples include commercially available clear grades of poly(methyl methacrylate), polycarbonate and so forth.

Referring to FIGS. 1 through 5 there is shown a dispenser 10 which includes a housing 12 with a front panel 14, a rear panel 16, and two side panels 18 and 20. There is further provided a top panel 22 as well as a bottom panel 24. Housing 12 is attached to a pedestal 26.

Front panel 14 has a dispensing slot 28. Slot 28 has a height 30 as well as a width 32.

Front panel 14 is also provided with four mounting posts at 34, 36, 38, and 40, as well as outer edges 42, 44, which are generally orthogonal to the front of panel 14. There is also provided a sub-housing 46.

Sub-housing 46 is a unitary structure, preferably injection-molded, which includes side panels 18 and 20 as well as rear panel 16, a top wall 56 and bottom 24. Side panels 18 and 20 have elongated holes such as hole 48 and L-shaped slots such as slot 50 for receiving the mounting posts 34-40 of front panel 14. There is further provided a recess 52 in each of the side panels for receiving edges 42 and 44 of front panel 14.

A top wall 56 has a plurality of holes 58, 60, 62, and 64 for purposes of assembling the inventive dispenser. The rear panel has a second dispensing slot, 66 which is in space facing relationship with front slot 28.

On bottom panel 24 there is provided another plurality of holes 68, 70, 72 and 74 as well as support ribs 76, 78, and 80.

In order to assemble the inventive dispenser, the various portions thereof are injection-molded, preferably from a substantially amorphous molding resin such as acrylonitrile—butadiene—styrene resin (ABS) resin, polycarbonate or the like. The parts contain assembly features such as holes 58, 60, 62, 64, 68, 70, 72, 74, and so on as well as barbed assembly posts such as posts 82, 84, 86, and 88 on pedestal 26 as well as posts 90, 92, 94, and 96 on top panel 22. The shape of the various barbed assembly posts is perhaps best appreciated from FIG. 5. That is to say, pedestal 26 is secured to sub-housing 46 by way of posts 82, 84, 86 and 88 which are inserted into poles 58, 60, 62, and 64. Likewise, the top panel is secured to unitary structure 46 by way of mounting posts 90, 92, 94 and 96 inserted into holes 62, 64, 58 and 60. The front panel is hingedly secured to the housing by way of posts 34 and 36 inserted into mounting holes 48 and 49. Likewise, posts 36, 34 and 40 are engaged with slots 50 and 51.

Note that front panel 14 is also mounted for up and down motion with respect to sub-assembly 46. That is to say the lower posts 34 and 36 are mounted in elongated slots 48 and 49 so that the front panel may be opened in order to provide a stack of napkins to the interior of the dispenser. That is, the dispenser is opened as shown in FIG. 3 and loaded with napkins. The front panel is then rotated upwards in the direction shown by arrow 98 (FIG. 3) in order to close the dispenser. The entire panel is then slid upwardly in the direction indicated by arrow 100 so that the front panel is locked in place. In its fully closed position, (FIG. 1), the front panel is lockably engaged by the L-shaped slots wherein the upper posts of the front panel i.e., post 34 and 40 are engaged in the upper part 53 of the L-shaped mounting slots of the side panels when the front panel is slid upwardly in the direction of arrow 100. Note that the edges 42 and 44 rest in sidewall recesses such as recess 52 so that the edges are generally flush with the side panels of the dispenser. It is also noted that edges 44 and 42 are sized to frictionally engage recess 52 so that the panel stays in place when slid upwardly. In order to provide visual symmetry there is optionally provided a groove 52′ configured to provide an appearance similar to fully assembled dispenser towards the front panel.

When loaded with napkins, the dispenser is thus capable of dispensing napkins through slot 28 of front panel 14 as well as slot 66 of rear panel 16. The slots have height such as height 30 which is substantially equal to a width, W, of a single-fold napkin.

The inventive dispenser is suitably sized such that the depth, D, of the dispenser (i.e., the distance between the front and back walls of the dispenser when closed) is equal or shorter in length than the lead panels (L′) of inter-folded napkins to be dispensed thereby as will be appreciated from the discussion which follows. Likewise, the distance between the sidewalls, 31, is preferably equal to the lead panel folded length, L′, and the interior height 33 is equal to the width of the napkins when a stack is secured in the “portrait” orientation shown in FIG. 1. An added support feature for a napkin stack so that individual napkins do not “fall over” in the interior of the dispenser is provided in the form of a plurality of retaining surfaces transverse to dispensing direction 125. These surfaces are provided by way of posts 82-86 which project upwardly a distance 89 from bottom 24. Distance 89 may be anywhere from about 1/16″ to about ¼″, typically about ⅛″ or so.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, there is shown a stack 110 of single-fold inter-folded napkins which includes, for example, a plurality of napkins such as napkins 112, 114, 116, 118 and 120. Each napkin has a lead panel 122 as well as a tail panel 124. The lead panel is made available through dispensing aperture 28, for example, as is shown in FIG. 1 wherein stack 110 is oriented in the dispenser as shown. When the lead panel is drawn through the dispenser, its tail panel, panel 124, drags the next adjacent lead panel, lead panel 126 of napkin 114 through the aperture. In this way, the napkins are continuously made available for consumption.

In accordance with the present invention, the stack of napkins has a lead panel folded length, L′, which is longer than the depth, D, of the inventive dispenser. Thus when the napkins are oriented such that a stack is aligned along slot 28, that is to say, the width, W, of the stack is along the height 30 of the dispensing slot 28 each napkin may be drawn there through and bring the tail of the next napkin into proximity with the dispensing aperture. Because the lead panel folded length, L′, is longer than or equal to the depth, D, of the dispenser, the napkins of the stack are never beyond the reach of a consumer. Thus, unlike the prior art which requires more sophisticated geometry, springs and so forth, the present invention simply uses the relative sizes of the dispenser and napkins to make the napkins available. Note that the dispenser accommodates a stack which may be of a height H up to where H is about equal to the depth, D, of the dispenser. In preferred embodiments, the distance between the top and bottom walls will correspond to the width, W, of the stack, allowing for tolerances of both napkin size and the alignment of stacking. Typically, between about ¼″ and ⅜″ of “headroom” will be observable.

Referring to FIG. 8 there is shown still yet another geometry of a stack 150 of two-fold inter-folded napkins. Two-fold inter-folded napkins have three panels instead of two panels as is the case with single-fold napkins discussed above. Stack 150 includes a plurality of napkins such as napkins 152, 154, 156, 158 and 160 which are inter-folded in the manner shown in FIG. 8. Here again, the lead panel folded length, L′, of the stack is selected so that it is greater in length or equal to the depth, D, of inventive napkin dispenser 10 such that the napkins are always accessible.

The dispenser of FIGS. 1-5 is advantageously provided with a pair of display holders 162, 164 affixed to sidewall panels 18, 20 by adhesive or any other suitable means. Each of the display holders is a unitary, generally U-shaped structure having a generally planar display window panel 166, a U-transition 168 and a generally planar back mounting panel 170. Holders 162, 164 are conveniently fabricated from a thermoplastic resin composition such as a poly(methyl methacrylate) containing composition noted above. Compositions based on polystyrene, styrene-acrylic copolymers, or polycarbonates are likewise suitable.

One convenient way of forming holders 162, 164 is by thermoforming a generally planar sheet of thermoplastic material around a heated wire or rod as in known in the art. Back panel 170 is then secured to the sidewalls as is shown in FIG. 1 by adhesive or other suitable means. One particularly convenient method of attachment is to use a plurality of double sided tape strips 172 which are of the same color as the wall of the dispenser upon which the holder is mounted. The sidewall upon which the holder is mounted optionally includes a logo 165. The tape should be placed on the holder so that logo 165 is visible when there is no card placed in the holder.

It is seen that back panel 170 is thus adapted to removably support a removable card 174 which is viewed through window panel 166. Card 174 may be used to promote specials at a restaurant, for example, without the need for additional display units on the table.

Panels 166, 170 and transition 168 may be configured such that panel 166 is urged toward panel 170 in order to grip card 174 when it is placed therebetween. Card 174 may thus be made of relatively lightweight 20 lb per 3000 square foot ream) paper or heavier card stock or a laminate if so desired. The promotional material may include text, images and so forth as is known and shown in the various Figures appended hereto.

There are shown in FIGS. 9 and 10 alternate constructions of the display holders; FIG. 9 having U-shaped edges at the top and bottom and FIG. 10 having U-shaped lateral edges. These holders are stronger, more durable and use less material than other designs.

Referring to FIG. 9, there is shown a first alternate construction of display holders 162, 164 in the form of a unitary display holder 162A defining a front display window 180, on upper U-shaped portion 182 and a lower U-shaped portion 184. The U-shaped portions of display holder 162A are likewise sized to retain a removable card such as card 174. Holder 162A is fabricated from 2 mm thick acrylic sheet and thermoformed into shape as noted in connection with holders 162, 164 and is affixed to sidewalls 18, 20 of dispenser 10 with double-sided tape as is seen at 186, 188, such that the U-shaped edges are at the top and bottom of window 180.

Holder 162A utilizes less thermoplastic sheet than holders 162, 164 and may be made from the same materials. Less material is used because the inner portions of the U-shaped ends extend a vertical distance 190 which is less than 50% of the height 192 of the holder. Preferably, each of the inner or terminal portions of the U-shaped ends extend a distance which is less than 30% of height 192.

Referring to FIG. 10, there is shown a second alternate construction of display holders such as holders 162, 164 in the form of a display holder 162B likewise formed from a sheet of optically clear material. Holder 162B has a display window 180, a first lateral U-shaped portion 182b and a second lateral U-shaped portion 184b which are sized to retain a promotional card such as card 174. Holder 162B is affixed to sidewalls 18, 20 of dispenser 10 with double-sided tape such that the U-shape edges are on the sides of display window 180. Inner portions 196, 198 extend inwardly distances 200, 202 which are less than 30% of the width 204 of the holder.

Referring to FIG. 11, there is shown yet another dispenser 210 which includes a housing 212 with a front panel 214, a rear panel 216 and two side panels 218 and 220. There is further provided a top panel 222 as well as a bottom panel 224. Housing 212 is attached to a pedestal 226. There is also provided a sub-housing 246 substantially identical to sub-housing 46 of FIG. 2.

Sub-housing 246 is a unitary structure, preferably injection-molded, which includes side panels 218 and 220 as well as rear panel 216, a top wall (not shown) and bottom 224. Side panels 218 and 220 have elongated holes and L-shaped slots for receiving mounting posts of front panel 214 as discussed in connection with the dispenser of FIGS. 1-5. Dispenser 210 is substantially identical to dispenser 10 of FIGS. 1-5 except that sub-housing 246 is fabricated of substantially optically clear material; typically from a thermoplastic resin composition consisting essentially of a resin selected from: polyacrylic resins; polycarbonate resins; polystyrene resins, and styrene-acrylic copolymer resins. Suitable resins thus include styrene-containing resin, a methyl methacrylate containing resin, or a bisphenol containing resin.

Front panel 214 may be injection molded from this material if so desired.

Because side panels 218 and 220 are transparent, a promotional card 230 may be removably taped or otherwise removably affixed to an interior wall such as the internal surface of panel 218 as shown for display. Thus, additional structure for holding the promotional card is not required; providing an even more highly cost effective advertising surface.

Still other features of the inventive dispenser are noted briefly below.

Alternative Embodiments

In general, there is provided in a first aspect of the invention a tabletop dispenser for inter-folded napkins including a housing with a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall for dispensing a stack of inter-folded napkins each of which napkins has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins. Preferably, the back panel of the dispenser has a second elongate dispensing aperture corresponding in size and orientation to the elongate dispensing aperture of the front wall. In one preferred embodiment, the elongate dispensing apertures on the front and rear walls of the dispenser are vertically oriented and another preferred feature is wherein the dispenser consists essentially of the apertured housing and the distance between sidewalls of the housing corresponds to the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the folded napkins and the distance between the top and bottom wall of the housing corresponds to the width, W, of the napkins of the inter-folded napkin stack.

Typically, at least one of the top wall, bottom wall, sidewalls, front panel or back panels is hinged to the housing by way of hinge means such that it pivots between a closed position for dispensing napkins and an open position for reloading. Preferably there is further provided locking means adapted to require movement of the hinged wall or panel along a plane defined thereby in a closed and locked position prior to pivotal motion to its open position. This may be achieved, for example, wherein the hinge means includes two elongate slots and the locking means include two L-shaped slots. A preferred construction is wherein the sidewalls each include an elongate hinge slot and an L-shaped locking slot and the front panel includes two hinge posts for mounting in the elongate hinge slots and two locking posts for engaging with the locking slots, the posts and slots being configured such that the front panel is hinged to the housing when the hinge posts of the front panel are mounted in the elongate hinge slots and is thereby pivotable between a closed position for dispensing inter-folded napkins and an open position for reloading, the locking posts of the front panel and the L-shaped locking slots of the sidewalls are configured such that when the front wall is in a closed and locked position, the locking posts and L-shaped locking slots cooperate to prevent pivotal motion of the front panel and wherein the front panel is movable between a closed and locked position and an unlocked position by movement of the front panel in a plane defined thereby in its closed and locked position, the front panel being movable to the open position from the unlocked position.

Another preferred feature is wherein the front panel has a pair of opposed edge sections generally orthogonal to its front surface adapted to reside in a pair of corresponding recesses in the sidewalls of the dispenser when the dispenser is in a closed position, such that the edge sections are generally flush with the sidewalls of the dispenser. In such cases, the edge sections may be provided with hinge posts adapted to fit with corresponding slots in the sidewalls of the dispenser so as to mount the front panel for pivotal motion with respect to the sidewalls, and wherein the recesses in the sidewalls may have arcuate portions configured to accommodate pivotal motion of the front panel with respect to the sidewalls of the dispenser.

The bottom wall optionally has a plurality of retaining surfaces projecting upwardly therefrom, the retaining surfaces being transverse to a dispensing direction; the retaining surfaces are conveniently defined by a plurality of assembly posts projecting into the interior of the dispenser upwardly a distance of from about 1/16″ to about ¼″ from an interior surface of the bottom wall.

The housing includes a unitary, injection-molded structure in a preferred construction comprising at least four walls selected from the front panel, the back panel, the top wall, the bottom wall and the two sidewalls. The injection-molded structure may be formed from a polymeric composition comprising a resin selected from ABS resins and polycarbonate resins, mixtures thereof. Most preferably all of the parts are made of ABS resin injection molding composition.

Another aspect of the invention is an improved method for dispensing inter-folded napkins, each of which has a width, W, and a folded length, L′, of its lead panel, comprising:

    • disposing a stack of the inter-folded napkins in a dispenser comprising a front panel, a back panel, a pair of sidewalls, a top wall and a bottom wall,
      • the dispenser having an elongate dispensing aperture on its front panel and further characterized in that the distance between the front and back panels of the dispenser is equal to or less than about the folded length, L′, of the lead panels of the inter-folded napkins; and

withdrawing inter-folded napkins through the dispensing aperture; wherein the stack of inter-folded napkins is a stack of single-fold inter-folded napkins. A preferred size napkin is wherein the lead panels and tail panels each have a folded length, L′, of about 5 inches and a width, W, of about 6.5 inches.

While the invention has been described in connection with several examples, modifications to those examples within the spirit and scope of the invention will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art. In view of the foregoing discussion, relevant knowledge in the art and references discussed above, further description is deemed unnecessary.