Title:
Modular container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular container stores and/or displays various objects, such as, for example, cut flowers. The container comprises a body portion having a convoluted outer wall with alternating lobes and recesses spaced around the perimeter. The lobes and recesses are configured so that two or more of the containers may be interconnected. Various container configurations and accessories may be provided to create a wide variety of useful and decorative container arrangements.



Inventors:
Fields, Daniel (El Dorado Hills, CA, US)
Fields, Kyle (El Dorado Hills, CA, US)
Iggulden, Jerry (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/711929
Publication Date:
08/28/2008
Filing Date:
02/27/2007
Assignee:
Jerry Iggulden
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D85/50
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALLEN, JEFFREY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BLAKELY SOKOLOFF TAYLOR & ZAFMAN LLP (1279 OAKMEAD PARKWAY, SUNNYVALE, CA, 94085-4040, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container comprising: a body portion having a top, a bottom and a convoluted outer wall with alternating lobes and recesses spaced around the perimeter, the recesses configured to receive and interlockingly engage a lobe of an adjacent container; a base portion disposed at the bottom of the body portion.

2. The container of claim 1 wherein the body portion comprises an extruded length of material.

3. The container of claim 1 wherein the base portion is formed of an elastomeric material.

4. The container of claim 1 wherein the bottom of the body portion defines a plane perpendicular to an axis of the body portion.

5. The container of claim 1 wherein the bottom of the body portion defines a plane at an acute angle to an axis of the body portion.

6. The container of claim 1 wherein the top of the body portion defines a plane at an acute angle to an axis of the body portion.

7. The container of claim 1 wherein the top of the body portion is chamfered.

8. The container of claim 1 wherein the base portion includes a means for draining liquid contents of the container.

9. The container of claim 1 further comprising a lighting module configured to fit within a lobe of the body portion.

10. The container of claim 9 wherein the lighting module comprises a power source, a light source and a switch electrically coupled between the power source and light source.

11. The container of claim 10 wherein the lighting module further comprises means for varying an intensity of the light source.

12. The container of claim 1 further comprising a sound module configured to fit within a lobe of the body portion.

13. The container of claim 1 further comprising a connector accessory comprising a bridge portion and a pair of lobe portions, each of the lobe portions disposed at opposing ends of the bridge portion, each of the lobe portions configured to fit within recesses of the container.

14. The container of claim 13 wherein the bridge portion comprises a picture frame.

15. The container of claim 1 further comprising a bracket accessory comprising a mounting portion for attachment to a surface and a lobe portion configured to fit within a recess of the container.

16. The container of claim 1 further comprising a bookend accessory comprising a generally thin, flat base portion and a lobe portion configured to fit within a recess of the container.

17. The container of claim 1 wherein the body portion is generally cylindrical.

18. The container of claim 1 wherein the body portion is generally rectangular.

19. The container of claim 1 wherein the body portion is generally wedge-shaped.

20. The container of claim 1 further comprising a lid portion releaseably engaging the top of the body portion.

21. The container of claim 1 wherein the base portion is a separate component from the body portion and is in sealing engagement with the bottom of the body portion.

22. A set of at least two containers, each of the containers comprising: a body portion having a convoluted outer wall with alternating lobes and recesses spaced around the perimeter, the recesses configured to receive and interlockingly engage a lobe of another container of the set; a base portion disposed at a bottom of the body portion.

23. The set of claim 22 wherein the containers are of at least two different lengths.

24. The set of claim 22 further comprising a lighting module configured to fit within a lobe of the body portion.

25. The set of claim 22 further comprising a sound module configured to fit within a lobe of the body portion.

26. The set of claim 21 further comprising a connector accessory comprising a bridge portion and a pair of lobe portions, each of the lobe portions disposed at opposing ends of the bridge portion, each of the lobe portions configured to fit within recesses of the containers.

27. The set of claim 26 wherein the bridge portion comprises a picture frame.

28. The set of claim 22 wherein the body portion of at least one of the containers is generally cylindrical.

29. The set of claim 22 wherein the body portion of at least one of the containers is generally rectangular.

30. The set of claim 22 wherein the body portion of at least one of the containers is generally wedge-shaped.

31. The set of claim 22 further comprising a support dimensioned to fit within a recess of a first container and support a lobe of a second adjacent container such that the second container is elevated above the first container.

32. The set of claim 22 further comprising a plug dimensioned to fit within a recess of a first container and bear against a lobe of a second adjacent container, thereby resisting longitudinal separation of the first and second containers.

33. The set of claim 22 wherein the base portion of at least one of the containers is a separate component from the body portion and is in sealing engagement with the bottom of the body portion.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates generally to the field of containers and, more particularly, to modular interlocking containers.

2. Background

Containers of all shapes and sizes are used in homes and offices to display and/or store various items. For one example, cut flowers are commonly displayed for both their visual beauty and pleasing aroma. Flowers are typically displayed in vases or other containers that are primarily utilitarian. Furthermore, the size of the vase places a constraint on the size of the floral display. Vases and other special purpose containers are also used to hold items such as desk accessories, bathroom accessories, etc. Even such special purpose containers usually have a fixed capacity. A need, therefore, exists for a modular container that can be arranged in groupings of various capacities and that has a unique decorative appearance.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a modular container for various objects, such as, for example, cut flowers. In one embodiment, the container comprises a generally cylindrical body portion having a convoluted outer wall with alternating lobes and recesses spaced around the perimeter. The lobes and recesses are configured so that two or more of the containers may be interconnected. In other embodiments, the container may have a rectangular or wedge shaped body portion. Various container configurations and accessories may be provided to create a wide variety of useful and decorative container arrangements.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a top plan view showing a number of interconnected containers.

FIG. 3 is a bottom plan view of the container shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 shows a container in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 5A, 5B show a container in accordance with still another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 shows a container in accordance with yet another embodiment of the present invention.

FIGS. 7A, 7B show a lighting accessory for use with the containers of the present invention.

FIG. 8 shows an audio accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 9 shows a connector accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 10 shows another connector accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 11 shows a wall bracket accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 12 shows a bookend accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 13 shows an accessory for connecting containers of the present invention so that one appears to “float” above another.

FIG. 14 shows a lid accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 15 shows a candleholder accessory for use with containers of the present invention.

FIG. 16 shows an accessory for locking together adjacent containers of the present invention.

FIG. 17 is a perspective view of one embodiment of containers having generally rectangular body portions.

FIG. 18 is a perspective view of another embodiment of containers having generally rectangular body portions.

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of containers having generally rectangular body portions combined with a container having generally cylindrical body portion.

FIG. 20 is a perspective view of an embodiment of containers having generally wedge-shaped body portions.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following description, for purposes of explanation and not limitation, specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. However, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced in other embodiments that depart from these specific details. In other instances, detailed descriptions of well-known methods and devices are omitted so as to not obscure the description of the present invention with unnecessary detail.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a container 10 according to one embodiment of the present invention. Container 10 has a generally cylindrical body portion 12. The convoluted outer wall of the body portion has alternating lobes 14 and recesses 16 spaced around the perimeter. The body portion is hollow and open at the top. The bottom of the body portion is sealed with a base portion 18. The base portion may be formed as an integral part of container 10 or may be a separate component attached to the body portion 12.

In one embodiment, the body portion 12 may be fabricated as an extrusion of aluminum or other suitable material. The outer wall may be plated, anodized or painted in a variety of colors and finishes. The body portion may also be fabricated of glass or plastic to create transparent or translucent containers.

FIG. 2 shows how a plurality of containers 10 may be interconnected for larger displays. Recesses 16 are configured to receive a lobe 14 of an adjacent container. The lobes and recesses are dimensioned with sufficient clearance for adjacent containers to be easily slid together longitudinally. However, the lobes are captured within the recesses so that the containers will not separate laterally. In the illustrated embodiment, the lobes and recesses have a generally circular cross-section; however, other interlocking geometries could be employed, if desired.

FIG. 3 is a bottom plan view of container 10 showing base portion 18. This provides a base for supporting the container and also seals the bottom of the container so that it may be filled with water to maintain the freshness of cut flowers. As mentioned above, base portion 18 may be formed as an integral part of container 10 or may be a separate component in sealing engagement with the bottom of the body portion 12. In the latter case, base portion 18 may be made of an elastomeric material to fit within the bottom opening of the body portion. A suitable adhesive may be used to further ensure a watertight seal.

Base portion 18 may include a plurality of raised feet 20 to provide more stable support of the container on uneven surfaces. A drain 22 may be incorporated into the base portion so that liquid contents of the container may be conveniently drained without having to invert the container. The drain 22 may be a simple stopper inserted into an aperture in the base portion. To better protect against leakage, the drain may comprise a valve fitting, such as a quarter-turn valve. For ease of manual operation, the valve may be configured with a knurled circumference or may have a groove so that it may be operated with a coin or other suitable implement.

FIG. 4 shows a container 30 according to another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the top and bottom of body portion 32 are cut at an angle so that the container sits on a slant for a different decorative effect. Base portion 38 is configured with an extension 39 to prevent the container from tipping over. Additional containers may be connected to container 30 in the manner described above. The base portions of such additional containers would not require a supporting extension.

FIGS. 5A, 5B show a container 40 according to still another embodiment of the present invention. In this embodiment, the top of body portion 42 is cut at an angle as in the previously described embodiment; however, the bottom is cut perpendicular to the body portion. A plurality of containers may be arranged with stepped heights as shown in FIG. 5A or with a continuously sloping top surface as shown in FIG. 5B.

FIG. 6 shows a container 45 according to yet another embodiment of the present invention. This embodiment is similar to the one just described; however, the top of body portion 47 is chamfered, i.e., the tops of all of the lobes 49 slope downwardly from the central opening.

The containers of the present invention may be used to store and/or display a wide variety of objects. The particular example of cut flowers has already been mentioned, but this has been used merely to describe one of the many uses of the invention. Among the many other uses for the containers, they may be employed as candleholders. The containers may also be used with utilitarian items, such as pens, pencils and other desk accessories and supplies. As another example, the containers may be used to hold toothbrushes and other bathroom accessories and supplies. Larger versions of the container may be used to store and display larger items, such as umbrellas.

The containers of the present invention may be marketed as empty containers or may be packaged with items specially designed to be stored and/or displayed therein. For example, a container may be marketed with desk accessories specially configured to fit within the interiors of the lobes of the container. Such a “desk set” could be further packaged with containers and related accessories for use as bookends, paperweights, etc.

Various accessories may be utilized with the containers of the present invention to expand their utility and decorative versatility. Some examples of such accessories are described below.

FIGS. 7A, 7B illustrate an accessory lighting module 50 for use with the containers described above. The body 58 of the module is configured to fit within one of the lobes of a container. One or more batteries (not shown) are housed within body 58. A plurality of stalks 52, each tipped with a light source 54, such as a light-emitting diode (LED), extend from the module. The stalks may be bent into any desired configuration to direct light wherever desired, such as at portions of a floral display placed in the container. A switch 56 is provided to turn light sources 54 on and off and, optionally, to adjust the intensity of the light sources. Instead of a mechanical switch, a magnetically actuated Hall-effect switch may be used.

Various lighting effects may be implemented in the accessory lighting module. For example, multi-color LEDs may be used to provide light of any desired hue. The plurality of stalks 52 may be replaced with a single translucent rod, which may be illuminated from below to provide a “pillar” of light.

FIG. 8 illustrates an accessory sound module 60 for use with the containers described above. The sound module is configured to fit within a lobe of a container and comprises a battery housing 62 and a speaker 64. The sound module also includes a digital memory and sound processor circuitry (not shown) within the battery housing for generating a soundtrack appropriate for items displayed in or around the container. In the case of a floral display, the soundtrack may comprise, for example, recorded sounds of chirping birds, flowing water, etc.

FIG. 9 illustrates an accessory that can be used to connect a pair of containers of the above-described embodiments at a greater distance than by interlocking the lobes and recesses of the containers. Connector 70 comprises a bridge portion 72 connecting a pair of lobes 74 that are configured to fit within the recesses of the containers. Connector 70 may have the same finish as the containers or may have a contrasting finish. In the latter case, at least the bridge portion 72 may be formed of or decorated to resemble wood, stone, leather or glass to provide a pleasing contrast with containers having a metallic or painted finish.

FIG. 10 illustrates another connector accessory 80. In this case, the bridge portion 82 of the connector is configured as a picture frame for holding a photograph or small work of art.

FIG. 11 illustrates a wall bracket accessory 90. The bracket has a lobe portion 92 configured to fit within a recess of a container. A lip 94 on the bottom of the lobe supports the container on the bracket. The bracket may be attached to a wall or other vertical surface by conventional means.

FIG. 12 illustrates a bookend accessory 100, which comprises a thin flat plate 102 and a post 104. The post is configured to fit within a recess of a container. Plate 102 rests under the books adjacent to the bookend and, by the weight of the books thereon, holds the bookend in place.

FIG. 13 illustrates an accessory for connecting a pair of adjacent containers so that one appears to “float” above the other. A support 110, which may be simply a length of acrylic rod, is inserted into a recess of container 112. A lobe of a second container is then inserted into the same recess so that the bottom of the second container rests on top of support 110. The second container thus appears to “float” above container 112. This effect is enhanced by making support 110 from a transparent material.

FIG. 14 illustrates an accessory cover or lid 120 for a container 122. The lid may be made of an elastomeric material similar to or the same as that used to make the base portion of the container. Alternatively, the lid may be made of a rigid material, such as porcelain, wood, etc., for a more decorative effect. A tab portion 121 may be provided to assist in removing the lid from the container. It will be appreciated that similar lids may be provided for each of the alternative container shapes described below.

FIG. 15 illustrates a candleholder accessory 130, which is similar to the lid 120 described above, but which includes a holder 132 to receive a candle. Holder 132 may be sized appropriately for a taper, votive or pillar candle.

FIG. 16 illustrates an accessory 140 for locking together adjacent containers 142 and 144. In order for the containers to fit together with relative ease, it is necessary to have clearance between the corresponding lobes and recesses. Consequently, adjacent containers may become accidentally separated if they are lifted off of a table or other supporting surface. If a number of containers are connected in an arrangement, it may be desirable to lock them together. Accessory 140 is a plug made of an elastomeric material that is dimensioned to fit snugly within a recess of a container 142 and to also bear against a lobe of an adjacent container 144 so that the containers are locked together by the resiliency of the plug. Once a pair of connecting containers have been arranged as desired, plug 140 may be inserted to lock the containers together. For a more secure arrangement, plugs may be inserted from both the top and bottom. Furthermore, four such plugs may be used with a pair of containers (at the top and bottom on both sides of the coupled lobes and recesses) for an even more secure arrangement.

The various accessories described above may be utilized in various combinations. For example, a container may be used with both a bookend accessory and a lighting accessory so that the lighting accessory may be used to illuminate the books retained by the bookend. In a similar fashion, a pair of containers may be used with a picture frame connector accessory and a lighting accessory, whereby a photograph within the frame may be illuminated by the lighting accessory. Furthermore, a sound accessory could be used to provide sounds associated with the subject of the photograph.

For marketing purposes, containers of the present invention may be sold in sets comprising containers of the same or different lengths and the same or different finishes. Such sets may also include one or more accessory modules for lighting or sound effects as described above.

The above-described containers all have a generally cylindrical body portion; however, other embodiments of the invention may use different interconnecting shapes. FIG. 17 illustrates containers 150 that have generally rectangular body portions. The outside perimeters of containers 150 have vertically oriented interconnecting lobes and recesses similar to those of the cylindrical containers.

FIG. 18 illustrates containers 160 that also have generally rectangular body portion, but that have horizontally oriented interconnecting lobes and recesses.

FIG. 19 illustrates how containers of different shapes, here both cylindrical and rectangular, may be combined in an arrangement.

FIG. 20 illustrates containers 170 that have a generally wedge or pie-shaped body portion. As shown, each of the containers is configured as a one-eighth sector of a circle so that eight such containers may be interconnected to form a complete circle.

It will be recognized that the above-described invention may be embodied in other specific forms without departing from the spirit or essential characteristics of the disclosure. Thus, it is understood that the invention is not to be limited by the foregoing illustrative details, but rather is to be defined by the appended claims.





 
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