Title:
Stowable cooler
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Stowable Cooler with insulated walls, resealable mechanical devices, a stowing medium, and an access lid. A preferred embodiment includes the insulated walls having a soft or semi-rigid construction. The lower edges of the insulated walls are permanently secured to the stowing medium forming a flexible bond. The side edges of the insulated walls each feature at least one half of at least one resealable mechanical device. The lower edges of each resealable mechanical device are secured to the stowing medium. The stowable cooler has a stowing mode and a usage mode. The stowing mode is true when the sealable mechanical devices are unsealed, and the usage mode is true when the sealable mechanical devices are sealed. The stowing medium is of sufficient volume to house the insulated walls while in stowing mode in a plurality of overlapping flats.



Inventors:
Kitchens, Mark Charles (Athens, TX, US)
Wandres, Regis Marie-jean (Athens, TX, US)
Chiu, John (Taipei, TW)
Application Number:
11/181483
Publication Date:
01/18/2007
Filing Date:
07/14/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A45C11/20
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HICKS, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Mark, Kitchens (1107 BEL AIR, ATHENS, TX, 75751, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. Stowable Cooler comprising: Insulated walls; Resealable mechanical means; A stowing medium; and An access lid.

2. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 1 wherein said insulated walls have a soft or semi-rigid construction.

3. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 2 further comprising at least one layer of insulating material sandwiched between at least one layer of exterior exposed surface material and at least one layer of interior exposed surface material.

4. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 1 wherein said insulated walls each have a lower edge and where each lower edge is seated and permanently secured to said stowing medium; and where said each lower edge forms a flexible bond with said stowing medium.

5. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 1 wherein said insulated walls each have an upper edge, and where said insulated walls each have two side edges; and where each side edge features one half of at least one of said resealable mechanical means.

6. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 5 wherein said resealable mechanical means each consists of a pair of two halves; and where said pair of two halves form a common lower edge; and where said common lower edge is permanently secured to said stowing medium; and where said common lower edge forms a flexible bond with said stowing medium.

7. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 1 wherein said access lid comprises at least one layer of insulating material sandwiched between at least one layer of exterior exposed surface material and at least one layer of interior exposed surface material.

8. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 7 wherein said access lid interior exposed surface material form a non-permanent seal with said upper edges as claimed in claim 5.

9. Stowable Cooler comprising: Insulated walls; Resealable mechanical means; A stowing medium; and an access lid; and where said stowing medium is of sufficient volumetric capacity to house said insulated walls when said stowable cooler is in stowing mode; and where said stowing medium forms a structural base for said stowable cooler when said stowable cooler is in usage mode.

10. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 9 wherein said stowing mode is true when said resealable mechanical means are unsealed; and where said usage mode is true when said resealable mechanical means are sealed.

11. Stowable Cooler as claimed in claim 9 wherein said insulated walls form a plurality of overlapping flats within said stowing medium when said stowable cooler is in stowing mode.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the field of insulated coolers and more specifically to a stowable Cooler.

The present invention generally relates to the field of portable coolers that are commonly used by the public as beverage or food coolers. Such coolers are used to keep items hot or cold for an extended period of time by insulating them from the surrounding ambient environment.

On today's market there are mainly two types of portable coolers: hard-side coolers and soft-side coolers. Hard-side coolers are commonly made of hard plastic such as blow-molded or injection-molded plastic parts. Their construction is rigid, providing good durability. However, such coolers can be cumbersome, somewhat of a risk to young children due to their hard surfaces, their design characteristics limited because of the manufacturing restrictions of plastic parts, and their volume fixed. Soft side coolers are generally made of flexible materials such as nylon, PVC, or other textiles. Soft-side coolers offer greater design flexibility than their hard-side counterparts and are more user-friendly. Because of their flexible nature, soft-side coolers are not limited to a particular shape. U.S. Pat. No. 6,582,124 B2 to Melvin S. Mogil describes such soft-sided cooler where the inventor describes in particular an insulated container with an impermeable liner. Furthermore, this prior art describes a cooler of generally rectangular shape made of contiguous and inseparable walls. U.S. Pat. No. 6,513,661 B1 to Melvin S. Mogil provides another cooler design variant, again where the prior art is mostly made of contiguous and inseparable insulated walls.

The logical market evolution for coolers is the ability to reduce their volume while not in use. Standard coolers occupy a lot storage space which can be a significant inconvenience particularly for people that live in the city where access to storage can be difficult, at best limited. U.S. Pat. No. 6,837,420 B2 to Frank E. Westerman describes a foldable hard-side cooler that can be folded flat while not in use. However, this prior art does not provide for well insulated construction which results in poor performance while in use. U.S. Pat. No. 6,736,309 B1 to Frank E. Westerman describes a variant of the same design, where again, the prior art does not offer good insulating properties from the surrounding ambient air. U.S. Pat. No. 6,068,402 to Brent Freese describes a soft-side cooler, insulated, that is also made to fold while not in use. The folded status of this prior art is achieved by flexing the soft-sided walls onto themselves. Folding thick layers of materials onto themselves can be tricky as the material will resist such flexing; this also limits the amount of insulation that can be incorporated in the design. Furthermore, excessive bending or long-term folding of the soft-side material will result in permanent deformation over time. This prior art also provides for a structural base while in use, which must be removed when the cooler is folded.

Other prior arts do not provide for such structural base at all.

It is an object of the present invention to comprise the advantages of the prior arts while addressing their short-comings. The purpose of this invention is to teach the following novel features over the prior art: the invention occupies less volume while not in use where transitioning between folded and unfolded state is easy and can be repeated numerous times without degradation even with a lot of insulating material; the structural base of the invention also has a useful purpose while the cooler is not in use.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The primary object of the invention is to provide a stowable cooler.

Another object of the invention is to provide a stowable cooler that is easy to fold, repeatedly, even with a lot of insulation.

Another object of the invention is to provide a stowable cooler that folds better, smaller.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a stowing medium that is also a structural base.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following descriptions, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein, by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of the present invention is disclosed.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is disclosed a Stowable Cooler comprising: insulated walls, resealable mechanical means, a stowing medium, and an access lid.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is disclosed a Stowable Cooler comprising: insulated walls, resealable mechanical means, a stowing medium, and an access lid, and where said stowing medium is of sufficient volumetric capacity to house said insulated walls when said stowable cooler is in stowing mode, and where said stowing medium forms a structural base for said stowable cooler when said stowable cooler is in usage mode.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments to the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. It is to be understood that in some instances various aspects of the invention may be shown exaggerated or enlarged to facilitate an understanding of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the invention.

FIG. 3 is an alternate cross sectional view of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a cross sectional view of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective partial see-through view of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Detailed descriptions of the preferred embodiment are provided herein. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed system, structure or manner.

Turning first to FIG. 1, there is shown a preferred conceptual embodiment of the present invention. The present invention is designated by the reference numeral 10. The present invention 10 is generally known in the consumer field as a portable insulated cooler commonly used to keep foods or beverages hot or cold for an extended period of time. Such type of devices use insulated walls and perhaps ice or icepacks to insulate the content from the exterior surrounding ambient conditions. As we briefly mentioned earlier in this disclosure, there are two main types of portable insulated coolers: hard-side coolers and soft-side coolers. The present invention 10 belongs to the field of soft-side coolers. The present invention comprises the characteristics of the known prior art in this field with novel features and characteristics which are described in detail in the following paragraphs.

Firstly, FIG. 1 only discloses the elements relevant to the disclosure of the present invention 10, FIG. 1 does not represent a complete commercial embodiment of the disclosed invention. In a preferred embodiment, stowing medium 20 is of generally rectangular shape and in accordance with a primary claim of the present invention 10 stowing medium 20 forms a structural base. More particularly, when in use, the present invention 10 rests onto stowing medium 20. Furthermore, stowing medium 20 is of sufficiently strong physical strength to support the entire structure. Most prior art inventions indeed lack this support structure, and because their construction is of soft-sided materials they usually do not sit up-right properly, especially when loaded with content and carried. Stowing medium 20 is of semi-rigid or rigid construction hence providing adequate structural support. In a preferred embodiment, stowing medium 20 is constructed of hard plastic material or ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) with a high hardness factor. Also shown in FIG. 1 and in accordance with a primary claim of the disclosed invention are the insulated walls 30, 40, 50, and 60 as well as resealable mechanical means 100, 110, 120, and 130. Finally, there is shown in FIG. 1 an access lid 70.

In accordance with a claim of the present invention 10, insulated walls 30, 40, 50, and 60 have a soft or semi-rigid construction. Now turning to FIG. 2, there is shown a cross-sectional view of the aforementioned insulated wall 30 and stowing medium 20. Pursuant of a claim of the present invention 10, insulated wall 30 comprises at least one layer of insulating material 36 sandwiched between at least one layer of exterior exposed surface material 32 and at least one layer of interior exposed surface material 34. In the field of soft-sided coolers, exterior exposed surface material 32 and interior exposed surface material 34 are generally made of flexible materials such as nylon, poly vinyl carbonate (PVC), EVA or other flexible materials common in the industry. Preferably, in a preferred embodiment, exterior exposed surface material 32 is made of mildew-resistant material and interior exposed surface material 34 is made of impermeable material. Insulating material 36 is generally made of EVA, polyurethane foam (PU), bubble sheet wrap, vacuum chamber or a combination of such materials and constructions. In accordance with the present invention 10, it is important for the insulated wall 30 to retain an overall soft or semi-rigid construction. In carrying out the present invention 10 FIG. 2 also shows insulated wall 30 seated within the inside volume of stowing medium 20, details of this aspect of the present invention 10 will be set forth further in this disclosure. Insulated walls 40, 50, 60 and access lid 70, not represented in FIG. 2, are of the same construction as insulated wall 30.

As shown in FIG. 3, and in accordance with a claim of the present invention 10, an insulated wall comprises at least one layer of each construction material. In this example view, insulated wall 40 comprises three layers of insulating materials 46, 47, and 48, sandwiched between exterior exposed surface material 42 and interior exposed surface material 44. Insulated wall 40 is also seated within the inside volume of stowing medium 20 and so are all insulated walls of the present invention 10.

Looking at FIG. 2 and FIG. 3 respectively, and pursuant of a claim of the present invention 10, insulated walls 30 and 40 are of such construction to form an upper edge respectively 33 and 43. Insulated walls 50 and 60 also feature upper edges.

Now turning to FIG. 4, there is shown another important aspect and claim of the present invention 10. Insulated wall 30 has a lower edge 37 and where lower edge 37 is seated and permanently secured to stowing medium 20. In continuation of the feature represented in FIG. 4, FIG. 5 and FIG. 6 represent an important claim of the stowable cooler invention where lower edge 37 forms a flexible bond with stowing medium 20. The nature of such flexible bond is not particularly relevant to the disclosure of the present invention 10. By way of example, in a preferred embodiment, such flexible bond is achieved by use of stiching, gluing, thermal bonding or other flexible manufacturing methods to secure lower edge 37 to stowing medium 20.

Now turning to FIG. 7, there is shown other important aspects of the stowable cooler 10. In accordance with a claim of the present invention 10, each insulated wall has an upper edge, and two side edges. In FIG. 7, insulated wall 30 has upper edge 33, and shown side edge 39. The opposite side edge of edge 39 is not shown in this view, however, it is diametrically opposite to side edge 39. Also shown are upper edge 43 and side edge 49 of insulated wall 40. Pursuant of an important claim of the present invention 10 each side edge of insulated walls features one half of resealable mechanical means. In the present invention 10 preferred embodiment, stowable cooler 10 comprises resealable mechanical means assemblies 100, 110, 120, and 130. In this preferred embodiment, resealable mechanical means consist of zippers. Resealable mechanical mean 110, comprises zipper pull 112 to actuate this resealable mechanical mean, and halves 114 and 116. In accordance with an important aspect of the present invention 10, insulated walls 30, 40, 50, and 60 each have side edges and where each side edge features at least one half of a resealable mechanical mean. This aspect is represented in FIG. 7 where side edge 39 of insulated wall 30 features half 116 of resealable mechanical mean 110 and where side edge 49 of insulated wall 40 features half 114 of resealable mechanical mean 110. An identical arrangement is true for resealable mechanical means 100, 120, and 130. Additionally, and in accordance with an important claim of the present invention 10, each resealable mechanical mean consists of a pair of two halves, where the pair of two halves form a common lower edge that is permanently secured to the stowing medium 20 and form a flexible bond with stowing medium 20. This aspect is illustrated in FIG. 7 where the pair of halves 114 and 116 of resealable mechanical mean 110 form a permanent flexible bond with stowing medium 20 at the common lower edge general location 118. In a preferred commercial embodiment, such permanent flexible bond is achieved via stitching, gluing or other common manufacturing practice. The same methodology and construction is true for resealable mechanical means 100, 120, and 130.

Still looking at FIG. 7, there is shown access lid 70. In carrying out the present invention 10, access lid 70 comprises a least one layer of insulating material sandwiched between at least one layer of exterior exposed surface material and at least one layer of interior exposed surface material. Access lid 70 interior exposed surface material 73 forms a non-permanent seal with insulated walls upper edges 33, 43, 53, and 63. Access lid 70 can rotate along the longitudinal plane of upper edge 63 and come in contact to form a non-permanent seal with upper edges 33, 43, 53, and 63. In a commercial embodiment, this feature allows the user to close stowable cooler 10 to properly insulate the content, and allows the user to open stowable cooler 10 to place or remove content.

To further clarify this disclosure, resealable mechanical means 100, 110, 120, and 140 have two possible states: sealed and unsealed. Sealed mode is true when each pair of halves of each resealable mechanical means are joined together, unsealed is true when each pair of halves of each releasable mechanical means are separated, to the exception of their common lower edge forming a permanent flexible bond with the stowing medium.

In accordance with a principal claim of the present invention 10, FIG. 8, FIG. 9, and FIG. 10 represent a series of steps fulfilling the claim where stowing medium 20 is both a storage element and a structural support element depending on the present invention usage mode. FIG. 8, FIG. 9, and FIG. 10 demonstrate the transition between usage mode and stowing mode.

Turning first to FIG. 8, there is shown resealable mechanical means 110 and 120 in their respective unsealed position, which is achieved by lowering zipper pulls 112 and 122. This action causes side edge 49 to separate from side edge 39 and side edge 59 to separate from side edge 39b allowing insulated wall 30 to flex downward and inward following motion 200 into stowing medium 20 along its previously mentioned flexible bond 37 (as shown in FIG. 4).

Now turning to FIG. 9, identical unsealing actions are taken with resealable mechanical means 100 and 130, separating insulated walls 40 and 50 from insulated wall 60. Insulated wall 40 flexes downward and inward along motion 210 and insulated wall 50 flexes downward and inward along motion 220. Lastly, access lid 70 is folded over insulated wall 60 following motion 230 then insulated wall 60 flexes downward and inward following motion 240.

Finally, turning to FIG. 10 and in accordance with an important claim of the present invention 10 there is shown insulated walls 30, 40, 50, and 60 forming a plurality of overlapping flats within stowing medium 20. In this preferred embodiment access lid 70 is folded over insulated wall 60. In accordance with an important claim of the present invention 10, stowing medium 20 is of sufficient volumetric capacity to house the insulated walls when the stowable cooler is in stowing mode. For simplified viewing, resealable mechanical means are not represented in FIG. 10.

To conclude and summarize, those with skill in this art will recognize a novel soft-side portable cooler equipped with a mean to stow and structurally support the present invention. Prior arts in this field do not provide a single mean that can both serve these two aforementioned functions. Furthermore, some prior art in this field do present some form of foldable, or collapsible cooler. However, this novel invention provides foldable action by actuation of resealable mechanical means which allows the cooler to folds flat in an easier, more natural manner, and in a smaller volume than the prior art.

The present invention is not limited to the physical configurations, materials, methods, set forth in this disclosure. For example, stowing medium can be of various shapes, so long such stowing medium does serve as a structural base for the cooler while in usage mode, and that its volume is sufficient to house the entire cooler while in stowing mode. The resealable mechanical means are not limited to zipper-type fasteners, so long such fasteners consist of at least two halves and that each halves is secured to one edge of one of the insulated walls. The cooler is not limited to four insulated walls; so long each insulated wall features at least one half of a resealable mechanical mean.

While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular form set forth, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.