Title:
Cutlery tray
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A cutlery tray having a peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface, fixed compartments defined by at least a portion of the peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface, divider position slots within the fixed compartment, and a removable divider configured to engage and be retained within the fixed compartment at a divider position slot, is disclosed. The removable divider separates utensils within the fixed compartment. A series of divider position slots within at the fixed compartment allow the removable divider to be retained at a plurality of positions. Further, an expandable compartment defined by a second peripheral wall and a second bottom surface which extends from beneath the first peripheral wall and first bottom surface may also be provided. The expandable compartment may include a permanent knife block and, optionally, a removable knife block which attaches to the permanent knife block.



Inventors:
Naden, Mark C. (New York, NY, US)
Goldsmith, Amy B. (New York, NY, US)
Baxter, Anthony J. (Hoboken, NJ, US)
Escobar, Juan C. (New York, NY, US)
Milman, Mark E. (Keyport, NJ, US)
Von Stockhausen, Alice (Meschede, DE)
Austern, Inbal Paulina (Jerusalem, IL)
Application Number:
11/524636
Publication Date:
03/27/2008
Filing Date:
09/21/2006
Assignee:
Helen of Troy Limited
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D1/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
PAGAN, JENINE MARIE
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Seyfarth Shaw LLP (233 S. Wacker Drive Suite 8000, Chicago, IL, 60606-6448, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A cutlery tray comprising: a. a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface; b. at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface; c. at least one divider position slot within at least one fixed compartment; and d. a removable divider configured to engage and be retained within a fixed compartment at a divider position slot, wherein the removable divider separates utensils within the fixed compartment.

2. The cutlery tray of claim 1, further comprising a series of divider position slots within at least one fixed compartment to allow the removable divider to be retained at a plurality of positions.

3. The cutlery tray of claim 1, wherein the removable divider comprises two ends at least one of which includes a tab for releasably locking the divider within at least one of the divider position slots.

4. The cutlery tray of claim 3, wherein the removable divider further comprises at least one sectioning wall between the two ends.

5. The cutlery tray of claim 3, wherein the removable divider comprises two sectioning walls.

6. The cutlery tray of claim 3, wherein the removable divider comprises at least two sectioning walls.

7. The cutlery tray of claim 2, wherein each fixed compartment comprises six paired divider position slots.

8. The cutlery tray of claim 7, wherein three of the paired divider position slots are arranged sequentially and located proximate a first end of the fixed compartment and the remaining three paired divider position slots are arranged sequentially and located proximate a second end of the fixed compartment opposite the first end.

9. The cutlery tray of claim 8, further comprising a removable divider engaged and retained within one of the three paired divider position slots at the first end and a removable divider engaged and retained within one of the three paired divider position slots at the second end.

10. The cutlery tray of claim 4, wherein the sectioning wall is off-set from center between the two ends to create unequal sub-sections within the fixed compartment.

11. The cutlery tray of claim 1, further comprising an expandable compartment defined by a second peripheral wall and a second bottom surface which extend from beneath the first peripheral wall and first bottom surface, respectively.

12. The cutlery tray of claim 11, wherein the expandable compartment comprises a permanent knife block.

13. The cutlery tray of claim 12, wherein the permanent knife block extends across less than the full width of the expandable compartment.

14. The cutlery tray of claim 12, further comprising a fixed compartment having an additional wall section parallel to the direction in which the expandable compartment extends, wherein the permanent knife block is aligned with the parallel additional wall section and is capable of being received into and extended from the parallel additional wall section in conjunction with movement of the expandable compartment.

15. The cutlery tray of claim 12, further comprising a removable knife block which attaches to the permanent knife block.

16. The cutlery tray of claim 15, wherein the removable knife block further attaches to the second peripheral wall.

17. The cutlery tray of claim 1, wherein there are at least two fixed compartments.

18. The cutlery tray of claim 17, wherein there are four fixed compartments.

19. The cutlery tray of claim 3, wherein the divider forms first and second utensil sections with the peripheral walls.

20. The cutlery tray of claim 19, wherein one utensil section is larger than the other utensil section.

21. A cutlery tray comprising: a. a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface; b. at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface; and c. a removable divider configured to adjustably engage and be retained within a fixed compartment wherein the divider is capable of separating at least two utensils within the fixed compartment.

22. The cutlery tray of claim 21, wherein the divider is capable of separating at least two utensils arranged in opposing directions.

23. The cutlery tray of claim 21, further comprising a plurality of paired divider position slots within at least one fixed compartment.

24. The cutlery tray of claim 21, wherein the removable divider comprises two ends at least one of which includes a tab for releasably locking the divider within a fixed compartment.

25. The cutlery tray of claim 24, wherein the removable divider further comprises at least one sectioning wall between the two ends.

26. The cutlery tray of claim 21, further comprising divider position slots for securing the dividers within the fixed compartments.

27. The cutlery tray of claim 21, further comprising three pairs of divider position slots arranged sequentially and located proximate a first end of the fixed compartment and three pairs of divider position slots arranged sequentially and located proximate a second end of the fixed compartment opposite the first end.

28. The cutlery tray of claim 21, further comprising an expandable compartment defined by a second peripheral wall and a second bottom surface which extend from beneath the first peripheral wall and first bottom surface, wherein the expandable compartment comprises a permanent knife block.

29. The cutlery tray of claim 28, wherein the permanent knife block extends across less than the full width of the expandable compartment.

30. The cutlery tray of claim 28, further comprising a fixed compartment having an additional wall section parallel to the direction in which the expandable compartment extends, wherein the permanent knife block is aligned with the parallel additional wall section and is capable of being received into and extended from the parallel additional wall section in conjunction with movement of the expandable compartment.

31. The cutlery tray of claim 28, further comprising a removable knife block which attaches to the permanent knife block.

32. The cutlery tray of claim 21, wherein the divider forms first and second utensil sections with the peripheral walls.

33. A cutlery tray comprising: a. a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface; b. at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface; and c. at least one divider positioned within a fixed compartment, wherein the divider separates utensils within the fixed compartment.

34. The cutlery tray of claim 33, wherein the divider is transverse relative to the fixed compartment and comprises at least one sectioning wall to separate utensils within the compartment.

35. The cutlery tray of claim 34, wherein the divider comprises two sectioning walls.

36. The cutlery tray of claim 34, wherein the divider comprises at least two sectioning walls.

37. The cutlery tray of claim 34, wherein each fixed compartment comprises two dividers.

38. The cutlery tray of claim 37, wherein one of each of the dividers is positioned proximate a first end of the fixed compartment and proximate a second end of the fixed compartment opposite the first end.

39. The cutlery tray of claim 38, wherein the sectioning wall of each divider is off-set from a center of the fixed compartment to create unequal sub-sections within the fixed compartment.

40. The cutlery tray of claim 38, wherein the dividers are configured to permit utensils to be arranged in two opposite directions within the fixed compartment.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present device relates to cutlery trays for storing kitchen utensils, such as, e.g., flatware. Particularly, the present device relates to a cutlery tray which maximizes space utilization for storing multiple kitchen utensils.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The standard kitchen cutlery typically consists of a variety of different sized and shaped eating and cooking utensils. A cutlery tray comprised of several individual compartments, some fixed and some expandable, is often used to give some semblance of order to the array of flatware, often stored in stacks. However, over time the need or desire to occasionally change flatware styles may arise without any thought to also changing the cutlery tray. Utensils of the same type, for example, spoons, can vary widely as to size and style between different manufacturers, which can create storage issues for even the most organized homeowner. It may not be until one begins to store new flatware that the once ideal cutlery tray is found to be too short, too shallow, too narrow, or otherwise inadequate.

In fact, it may not be a complete change of flatware that uncovers this inadequacy. It may be the result of a cutlery expansion to include more pieces. Where a set of four settings was once sufficient, six or eight settings may be required at some point. Additionally, the current set may require expansion to include flatware settings beyond the standard knife, spoon and fork. For example, a set of forks may include salad forks and dinner forks, while the spoon collection might include soup spoons, teaspoons, ice-tea spoons, dessert spoons, tablespoons, and the like. Even knives can be arranged into an assortment of butter knives, steak knives, paring knives, etc.

Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention solve the problems of prior art devices by providing a cutlery tray which maximizes space utilization, permits adjustment of flatware compartments to accommodate different sizes and styles, expands for additional storage, and accommodates other kitchen utensils, when necessary.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

There is disclosed herein an improved cutlery tray which avoids the disadvantages of prior devices while affording additional structural and operating advantages.

In one embodiment of the invention, a cutlery tray comprises a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface, at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface, at least one divider position slot within at least one fixed compartment, and a removable divider configured to engage and be retained within a fixed compartment at a divider position slot, wherein the removable divider separates utensils within the fixed compartment.

In an embodiment of the invention it is an aspect to provide a series of divider position slots within at least one fixed compartment to allow the removable divider to be retained at a plurality of positions.

It is a further aspect of an embodiment to provide an expandable compartment defined by a second peripheral wall and a second bottom surface which extend from beneath the first peripheral wall and first bottom surface, respectively. The expandable compartment preferably comprises a permanent knife block and, optionally, a removable knife block which attaches to the permanent knife block.

In another embodiment of the present invention, a cutlery tray comprises a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface, at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface, and a removable divider configured to adjustably engage and be retained within a fixed compartment wherein the divider is capable of separating at least two utensils within the fixed compartment.

In still another embodiment, a cutlery tray comprises a first peripheral wall adjoined to a bottom surface, at least one fixed compartment defined by at least a portion of the first peripheral wall, an additional wall section and the bottom surface, and at least one divider positioned within a fixed compartment, wherein the divider separates utensils within the fixed compartment.

These and other aspects of the invention may be understood more readily from the following description and the appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For the purpose of facilitating an understanding of the subject matter sought to be protected, there are illustrated in the accompanying drawings embodiments thereof, from an inspection of which, when considered in connection with the following description, the subject matter sought to be protected, its construction and operation, and many of its advantages should be readily understood and appreciated.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of the present cutlery tray with four fixed compartments and one expandable compartment in an open position;

FIG. 2 is a top view of an embodiment similar to FIG. 1 showing six dividers positioned within three of the fixed compartments;

FIG. 3 is a bottom view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 with the expandable compartment in a closed position;

FIG. 5 is a bottom view of the embodiment shown in FIG. 4;

FIGS. 6A and 6B are perspective views of two different embodiments of a removable flatware divider for use with embodiments of the present cutlery tray;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a removable knife divider for use with an embodiment of the present cutlery tray;

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an embodiment of the current cutlery tray showing four fixed compartments, three having dividers and double stacks of flatware, and one expandable compartment in an open position with a fixed and removable knife block;

FIG. 9 is identical to the drawing of FIG. 8 without either the stored flatware in the fixed compartments and the knife blocks in the expandable compartment; and

FIG. 10 is identical to the drawing of FIG. 9 showing a fixed knife block in the expandable compartment and the placement of a removable knife block.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

While this invention is susceptible of embodiments in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail a preferred embodiment of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the principles of the invention and is not intended to limit the broad aspect of the invention to embodiments illustrated.

Referring to FIGS. 1-10, there is illustrated a cutlery tray, generally designated by the numeral 10. The cutlery tray 10 has a plurality of fixed compartments 12, and may include an expandable compartment 14 which is attached to and expands from the underside of the fixed compartments 12, as illustrated in FIGS. 1-3.

The fixed compartments 12, of which there are four (4) shown, can be of any desired dimension, shape and size to accommodate flatware. It is particular to the embodiment shown in FIG. 1 that the compartments 12 be of sufficient length and width to accommodate two stacks of flatware stored side-by-side in opposing directions. Further, while shown as three parallel fixed compartments 12 a-c and one perpendicular fixed compartment 12d in FIGS. 1 and 2, alternate arrangements are certainly possible and should be considered to fall within the scope of the present invention.

As shown in FIG. 2, each of the fixed compartments 12 preferably includes two divider areas 20. The divider areas 20 each have three pair of divider position slots 22 which allow attachment of a divider 16 (see FIGS. 6A and 6B). By attaching a divider 16 at one of the three divider position slots 22 for each of the two divider areas 20, each of the fixed compartments 12 can be customized to accommodate specific flatware. For example, in one fixed compartment 12a a divider 16 may be attached at the two innermost divider position slots 22 to accommodate short flatware (e.g., teaspoons), while in another fixed compartment 12b a divider 16 may be attached at the two outermost divider position slots 22 to accommodate long flatware (e.g., ice-tea spoons). If desired, any additional fixed compartments 12 can be likewise customized for short, medium, or long flatware. Further, as flatware size is not the only consideration for customizing the fixed compartments 12, additional dividers 16 (i.e., three or more total dividers 16 for each compartment 12) may be used to accommodate relatively irregular flatware (e.g., short soup spoons with large heads).

The expandable compartment 14 is preferably slidably attached to the underside of the tray including the fixed compartments 16. This slidable attachment can be achieved in any of the ways known to those skilled in the art. The expandable compartment 14 may be extended to any point within the range of from completely open, as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3, to completely closed, as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5.

As previously stated, the divider areas 20 are preferably comprised of three pair of divider position slots 22. That is, each divider 16 is retained at two attachment points, with one on each of the two opposing inside surface walls of the fixed compartment. The two opposing divider position slots 22 (i.e., attachment points) are aligned to allow transverse placement of a divider 16 within each fixed compartment 12. In the present embodiment, the divider position slots 22 are comprised of vertical slots 24 extending from the bottom wall of the compartment to the upper edge of the inside surface wall. The upper edge of the wall also features a first finger notch 25, the purpose of which is explained in more detail below.

The embodiment of FIG. 1 is shown to have four fixed compartments 12, only three of the fixed compartments 12a-c having divider areas 20. The fourth fixed compartment 12d might typically be used for storing miscellaneous kitchen items, such as can and bottle openers, stirring spoons, spatulas, and the like. However, any and all fixed compartments 12 may be made with divider areas 20. Further, as the dividers 16 of this embodiment are removable, any one of the three compartments 12a-c which include divider areas 20 may be used without dividers 16, if desired.

Referring now to FIG. 6A, one particular embodiment of the divider 16 can be more readily understood. The divider 16 is comprised of a base 30 and three upright portions 32a-c. The outer upright portions 32a, b are designed to flex inward slightly and include a locking rib 34 along a centerline of the outer surface 35. The locking rib 34 corresponds—in a male/female connection manner—to the vertical slot 26 of the divider position slots 22 in the divider areas 20. The interaction of the locking rib 34 with the vertical slot 26 locks the divider 16 into the divider position slot 22. The inner upright portion 32c operates as a sectioning wall to separate, for example, two stacks of flatware. This sectioning wall 32c may be centered to provide sub-compartments of equal width or off-center to accommodate, for example, stacks stored in opposite directions, as shown in FIG. 8.

At the upper end of each outer upright portions 32a and b is positioned a second finger notch 37. This second finger notch 37 aligns with the first finger notch 25 of the compartment wall to form a significant opening 40, the purpose of which is described in more detail below.

As a divider 16 is inserted into a divider position slot 22, the locking rib 34 of each outer upright portion 32a, b engages the vertical slot 26. The upright portions 32a and b flex inward until each “clicks” into locked position. To remove the divider 16, the opening 40 formed on each side of the divider 16 allows a user to insert a finger and flex the upright portion 32a, b inward to thereby unlatch the locking rib 34 from the vertical slot 26 and lift the divider 16 from the compartment.

FIG. 6B illustrates an alternate embodiment of the divider 116. In this embodiment there are only two upright portions 132a and b extending from the base 130. The two upright portions 132a and b cause a small gap and large gap in the fixed compartment 12 when used. The small gap and large gap are useful to accommodate flatware, such as forks and spoons, where the head is significantly wider than the handle or the neck is significantly narrower than the handle. By alternately reversing the orientation of the divider 116 in the divider positions slots 22 of each fixed compartment 12, better use of the space may be made to alternately orient the stored flatware. A tab 134 is shown on the open end of the base 130 for locking the divider 116 into a divider area 20. This particular tab 134 is designed to frictionally fit within divider position slots 22 as shown in FIG. 9. While only the open end of the base 130 is shown to have a tab 134, both ends could be provided with this locking feature to better secure divider 116.

In use, as shown in FIG. 9, divider 116 creates unequal sub-compartments within the fixed compartments 12. By flipping the two dividers 116 relative to one another at each of the divider area 20 allows flatware having a wide end and narrow end (e.g., spoons and forks) to be oriented in double stacks in opposite directions (see, e.g., FIG. 8).

As a further modification (not shown) to the current embodiments, it is possible that the various dividers can be permanently affixed within one or more of the fixed compartments 12. This can be achieved by molding the tray with integral dividers (not shown) or providing means, such as screws, glue, non-releasable tabs, or the like, to secure the dividers at one of the divider positioning slots 22. This latter method allows the consumer to still customize the cutlery tray for a given flatware size and design. Those skilled in the art would understand how to achieve such modifications based solely on the disclosure of this application.

Referring now to FIGS. 8 and 10, a second embodiment of a cutlery tray 110 is shown. Except as discussed below, the cutlery tray 110 is substantially identical in form and function to the cutlery tray 10 described above.

As illustrated in FIG. 8, the expandable compartment 14 may include a removable knife block 50. One embodiment of a removable knife block 50 is shown in FIG. 7. The knife block 50 is comprised of a plurality of upright portions 232 separated by a space. The number of knives which may be held by the knife block is dictated by the number of spaces. A long tapered tab or protuberance 234 is shown on an end of the knife block 50 for locking the component into the extendable compartment 14. This particular tab 238 is designed to frictionally fit within a corresponding slot (not shown) in one of either a compartment wall or a permanent or fixed knife block 60 to provide a knife block which extends the width of the expanded compartment, as shown in FIG. 8. While only one end of the knife block 50 is shown to have a tab 234, both ends could be provided with this locking feature (i.e., either the male or female component) to better secure the component. Possible modifications to the removable knife block 50, such as, for example, changes in length, height, upright portion design, tab/attachment design and the like, are numerous and considered to fall within the general scope of the claims directed to a removable flatware divider. When not being used, the open space created by the absence of the removable knife block 50 may be utilized for storage of other kitchen utensils.

In this embodiment, an expandable compartment 14 includes both a fixed knife block 60 and a removable knife block 50. In this manner, the large expanded compartment 14 is suitable for holding larger cutting knives. The fixed knife block 60 may be permanently attached within the expandable compartment 14 by any known means, including epoxy, glue, molded connectors, metal fasteners, or the like. The removable knife block 50 may be attached in much the same manner as a divider 16 is attached with the fixed compartments 12 as discussed above. The removable knife block 50 may be removed for some uses, as shown in FIG. 10 leaving an open space for storage of general utensils.

As shown in FIG. 8, the fixed knife block 60 and removable knife block 50 (when attached) are positioned to align with the transverse wall 55 of the fixed compartments 12. As the cutlery tray 110 is preferably made by any of a number of suitable molding processes, the underside of the fixed compartments 12 can be made to allow for storage of the knife block 60 (without knives, of course). The storage is accomplished by merely moving the expandable compartment 14 toward a closed position (see FIG. 4).

Referring now to FIG. 7, one embodiment of the fixed and removable knife blocks 60 and 50, respectively, can be more readily understood. Essentially, with the exception of the specific features noted below, the two blocks are substantially similar in design, though one may be made longer than the other, if desired. The removable block 50 is preferably made of a sufficiently rigid material to maintain its form over an extended period of use. It should also be sufficiently pliable to allow for removable attachment and prevent damaging any stored utensils. Block 60 may be similarly constructed. The blocks 50, 60 consists of a series of fingerlike members 54 separated by slots 56, each of a sufficient width to accommodate a knife blade. On an outer surface of the outermost member 54a on each end of the block 50, 60 a tapered protuberance 234 is integrally positioned. The protuberance 234 corresponds to a similarly shaped indentation (not shown) on an interior surface of any compartment wall. The two elements fit together to hold the removable block 50 in place. In order to accommodate the removable knife block 50, the outer surface (not shown) of the adjoining end of the fixed knife block 60 would also necessarily include an indention.

The matter set forth in the foregoing description and accompanying drawings is offered by way of illustration only and not as a limitation. While particular embodiments have been shown and described, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the broader aspects of applicants' contribution. The actual scope of the protection sought is intended to be defined in the following claims when viewed in their proper perspective based on the prior art.