Title:
Method and apparatus for stabilizing and supporting disposable drinking cups on a surface
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A drinking cup and a method for supporting tapered, disposable beverage cups on a variety of surfaces and means for making such cups more stable and less susceptible to accidental upset.



Inventors:
Lookholder, Theodore W. (Los Angeles, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/904179
Publication Date:
03/26/2009
Filing Date:
09/25/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/4.03, 220/669
International Classes:
B65D81/00; B65D6/34; B65D8/04
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BRADEN, SHAWN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
James E. Brunton (PO Box 1990, Fallbrook, CA, 92088, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. A cup having a longitudinal axis and comprising a bottom wall of a first diameter, a top portion defining an opening of a second diameter larger than said first diameter and a generally tapered sidewall interconnecting said top portion with said bottom wall, said wall having fracturing means for fracturing said side wall to divide said cup into upper and a lower sections.

2. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said top portion includes a rim.

3. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said side wall is generally frusto-conical in shape.

4. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said side wall is constructed from a frangible material.

5. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said fracturing means comprises a circumferentially extending score line formed in said side wall and disposed in a transverse plane normal to the longitudinal axis of the cup.

6. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said fracturing means comprises a circumferentially extending parting wire that is embedded in said side wall of the cup.

7. The cup as defined in claim 1 in which said fracturing means comprises a circumferentially extending ribbon that is embedded in said side wall of the cup.

8. The cup as defined in claim 7 in which said circumferentially extending ribbon includes a pull tab.

9. The cup as defined in claim 7 in which said circumferentially extending ribbon is disposed in a transverse plane normal to the longitudinal axis of the cup.

10. A method for supporting and stabilizing a first cup having a tapered wall on a surface by providing an enlarged, stable base for receiving, securely retaining and supporting the first cup through the use of a second cup having a longitudinal axis and comprising a bottom wall of a first diameter, a top portion defining an opening of a second diameter larger than said first diameter and a generally tapered, frangible sidewall interconnecting said top portion with said bottom wall, said method comprising the steps of: (a) scoring the side wall of the second cup along a line lying in a transverse plane normal to the longitudinal axis of the cup to form a parting line; (b) manually separating the cup at the parting line to form an upper section having an open mouth; (c) inverting said upper section to define a base; and (d) inserting the first tapered cup into the open mouth of said base, whereby the wall of the first tapered cup is frictionally supported by said base.

11. A method for supporting and stabilizing a first cup having a tapered wall on a surface by providing an enlarged, stable base for receiving, securely retaining and supporting the first cup through the use of a second cup having a longitudinal axis and comprising a bottom wall of a first diameter, a top portion defining an opening of a second diameter larger than said first diameter and a generally tapered, frangible sidewall interconnecting said top portion with said bottom wall, said frangible sidewall having a parting wire embedded therein, said method comprising the steps of: (a) manually removing the parting wire to separate the cup at the parting line to form an upper section having an upper end having an open mouth; (b) inverting said upper section to define a base; and (c) inserting the first tapered cup into the open mouth of said base, whereby the wall of the first tapered cup is frictionally supported by said base.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates generally to tapered disposable drinking cups of the type commonly used by fast-food establishments. More particularly, the invention concerns an improved method and apparatus for stabilizing and supporting such cups on a surface.

2. Discussion of the Prior Art

There presently exists both at home and in fast-food establishments a widespread use of disposable cups for beverages, soups and light foods. As a general rule these types of disposable cups are molded of closed-cell synthetic foam or formed from die-cut plastic or coated paper sheets. Production techniques and storage requirements result in the vast majority of these being frusto-conical in shape, that is, being of greater diameter at the top than at the bottom. In some instances, the difference is barely noticeable, in most, however, it is not only noticeable but significant as well.

The typical disposable Styrofoam cup is inherently unstable because it's frusto-conical shape. The shape of the cup makes it difficult to balance on uneven or inclined surfaces and greatly increases the likelihood of its being upset, even on a smooth, level surface, by an accidental touch or lateral motion. With cool or cold contents, the effect of an upset is normally only a matter of annoyance. A hot beverage, or soup on the other hand, poses a threat of dangerous consequences, including serious personal injury and property damage.

Numerous approaches have been suggested in the ongoing effort to devise a solution to the problem. By way of example, a variety of permanent or disposable slip-on sleeves, skirts, coasters, and holders of various types have been designed to provide an enlarged, sometimes weighted, inherently stable base or holder for the cup. The relatively high manufacturing cost of these devices, the need to clean and store or dispose of them after each use, and the difficulty of stocking them generally make them an unattractive solution. Another approach to the problem has been to provide the cup itself with structural support means, such as buttressing folds or flutes, extendible bases, adjustable outriggers, or similar elements. These devices by their nature are expensive to produce and require specialized storage and dispensing facilities. Additionally, in most instances they have not proved to be sufficiently reliable for widespread use, such as in the fast-food environment.

Still another approach has been to provide separate, independent grasping or clamping means for retaining and supporting the cup. These range from magnetic coasters and mounting pads positioned to attract an iron mass imbedded in the bottom of the cup to apparatus with articulated arms designed to clamp around the cup.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

With the foregoing in mind, it is an object of the present invention to provide a method for supporting tapered, disposable beverage cups on a variety of surfaces and means for making such cups more stable and less susceptible to accidental upset.

Another object of the invention is to provide a novel method and apparatus for the forgoing purpose that overcomes the deficiencies inherent in the prior art methods, designs, constructions, and devices.

Another object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus for affording a stable, reusable base for tapered cups without the use of additional components.

Still another object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus for affording a stable supporting base for tapered cups that does not require the use of a special tool or special equipment or a prepared mounting surface or mechanism.

A more specific object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus of the aforementioned character that uses one of such cups to support other such cups.

Yet another object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus as described in the preceding paragraphs for adapting such cups to serve as bases for supporting other cups of like construction.

A further object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus that effectively mates the cup and base to form a secure, readily transportable, hand-held unit.

A still further object of the invention is to provide a method and apparatus as described that can be readily adapted for use with conventional tapered disposable cups of various materials and constructions without substantially increasing the cost of producing, storing, transporting, dispensing and disposing of the improved cups.

The foregoing, as well as other objects and advantages will become apparent from the description of the invention that follows.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a generally perspective view of one form of the tapered drinking cup of the invention and of the character used in carrying out one form of the method of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a generally perspective, exploded view illustrating the step of the method of the invention by which the drinking cup shown in FIG. 1 is divided into two sections.

FIG. 3 is a generally perspective view illustrating a second cup supported and stabilized in a base derived from the step of the method of the invention illustrated in FIG. 2 of the drawings.

FIG. 4 is a side-elevational view of the base and cup shown in FIG. 3, partly broken away to illustrate the construction and relationship of the cooperating components.

FIG. 5 is a generally perspective, diagrammatic view of an alternate form of disposable cup that can be used in accordance with one form of the method of the invention.

FIG. 6 is a generally perspective, diagrammatic view of still another alternate form of disposable cup that can be used in accordance with another form of the method of the invention.

FIG. 7 is an enlarged, generally perspective, fragmentary view of a portion of still another disposable cup that can be used in accordance with still another form of the method of the invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Referring to the drawings and particularly of FIGS. 1 and 2, one form of the disposable drinking cup of the present invention is there illustrated and generally designated by the numeral 14. Drinking cup 14 is preferably constructed from a closed-cell STYROFOAM® foam, or like material and comprises a bottom wall 16 of a first diameter, a top opening 18 of the second diameter larger than said first diameter and a tapered, generally frusto-conical-shaped sidewall 20 that terminates at its upper extremity in a rim 22. Sidewall 20 is constructed from a frangible material and is scored to define a parting line 24 lying in a transverse plane normal to the longitudinal axis of cup 14. The depth, spacing, and character of the scoring line, which here comprises one form of the fracturing means of the invention for dividing the cup into upper and lower sections, is controlled during production, to preserve as much as possible of the overall strength and integrity of the wall for normal use of the cup as a container for hot or cold liquids. In like manner, the scoring is controlled during production so as to enable one to fracture, split, cut, rupture, or otherwise breach the wall 20 of the empty cup evenly along the parting line 24 by applying force manually against the wall 20 in the region of the parting line and manipulating the frangible material in the manner illustrated in FIG. 2 to cause a failure of the sidewall to occur. By extending the failure around the circumference of the tapered wall, cup 14 can be divided into two separate pieces, namely an upper section 26 and a lower section 28. As illustrated in FIG. 3, upper section 26 is uniquely suited to serve as the base for other cups and particularly for cups of the same size and configuration, such as cup 30.

As shown in FIG. 3, when the upper section 26 of the original cup is inverted and set on its rim 22 on a convenient mounting surface “S”, the newly formed upper end of section 26 defines an open mouth 32 that is uniquely sized to receive the lower portion 30a of the second cup 30. Preferably, in locating parting line 24, the line is spaced axially from the rim 22 a distance such that the tapered wall 34 of cup 30 contacts the inner edge of mouth 32, while the bottom 36 of cup 30 is spaced-apart from the surface “S”. This allows cup 30 to be forced downward into the mouth 32 of section 26 in a manner such that the tapered wall 34 of the 30 is urged into binding frictional engagement with the inner edge of mouth 32. Joined in this manner, the cup 30 and the base section 26, form a lightweight, compact, disposable unit that can be carried conveniently from place to place without concern for their separation.

As shown in FIGS. 5, 6, and 7, means other than scoring can be employed to facilitate the division of various types of tapered cups into upper and lower sections 40 and 42 to thereby provide a base comparable to section 26. In the embodiment of FIG. 5, the fracturing means of the invention for dividing the cup into upper and lower sections is provided in the form of a parting wire 44 that is embedded in the wall of the cup 45 with a pull-tab 46 attached to its end and exposed on the outside of the wall of the cup for ease of gripping.

In the embodiment of FIG. 6, the fracturing means is provided in the form of a parting ribbon 48 with an exposed tab 50 that is imbedded in the sidewall 52a of a cup 52.

While scoring and imbedded parting wires and parting ribbons are effective for use in cups of easily torn foam materials, other means may be needed for use with more durable materials. FIG. 7 illustrates one such means, here shown as a deep crease or superficial cut 54 formed in the outer surface of the cup wall 56a of a cup 56. Crease or superficial cut 54 allows the wall to be cut, torn, split, or weakened in the manner previously described in connection with cups made of foam material. Other fracturing means can, of course, be used with equal success and convenience.

One form of the method of the invention for supporting and stabilizing a tapered cup, such as a first cup 30 on a surface “S” involves the use of a second cup such as cup 14 to provide an enlarged, stable base for receiving, securely retaining and supporting the cup. The steps of one form of the method of the invention comprise first scoring, or similarly adapting the second cup for parting manually along a line lying in a transverse plane normal to the cup's longitudinal axis; manually separating the cup into upper and lower sections at the parting line; inverting the upper section to define a frusto-conical base having the rim of the original cup at its lower end and an open mouth at its upper end, and inserting a first cup, such as cup 30 into the open mouth of the inverted section, whereby the wall of the second cup is frictionally supported by the lip of the inverted section adjacent the parting line. If desired, the parting line may be located so that when the supported cup is engaged by the lip of the base section, the bottom of the supported cup is resting on the underlying surface.

Having now described the invention in detail in accordance with the requirements of the patent statutes, those skilled in this art will have no difficulty in making changes and modifications in the individual parts or their relative assembly in order to meet specific requirements or conditions. Such changes and modifications may be made without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention, as set forth in the following claims.