Title:
COMBINATION FOOD OR BEVERAGE TRAY AND CATCHING MITT
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt for stadium concessions is provided. When present in an unfolded position, the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray which is suitable for supporting various food and beverage items. When present in a folded position, the combination is in the form of a catching mitt which is suitable for catching a projectile object such as a baseball or the like. In the inventive method, a user grips the combination via a gripping arrangement, and folds the combination along a fold line to convert it from a tray into a catching mitt. The combination may then be used to catch a ball by retaining it between opposing panels of the structure. The inventive combinations are lightweight and economical, and may additionally be imprinted with team logos or messages to serve as marketing materials or souvenirs.



Inventors:
Roberts, Steven M. (BEDMINSTER, NJ, US)
Application Number:
12/253393
Publication Date:
04/22/2010
Filing Date:
10/17/2008
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
2/19, 206/558, 206/564
International Classes:
B65D79/00; A41D13/08; B65D1/34; B65D1/36
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
DESAI, KAUSHIKKUMAR A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROBERTS & ROBERTS, LLP;ATTORNEYS AT LAW (P.O. BOX 484, PRINCETON, NJ, 08542-0484, US)
Claims:
1. A combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt, comprising: (a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side; (b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; and (c) a gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of each of the first and second opposing panels, wherein each gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand and securing the human hand to a panel, and wherein each gripping arrangement comprises a pocket, a sleeve, tubes, a band, a loop, or a cut-out shape; wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other.

2. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 wherein, when the combination is in the form of a catching mitt, the at least one depression is capable of at least partially retaining an object between the first and second opposing panels.

3. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 which further comprises a raised lip along at least a portion of an outside perimeter of the side walls of at least one of the first and second panels.

4. (canceled)

5. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 which comprises at least one depression formed in both the first and second panels.

6. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 which comprises at least one material of plastic, molded pulp, paperboard, fiberboard, paperboard coated with plastic, corrugated cardboard, or a foam-like material.

7. (canceled)

8. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 which comprises a single continuous sheet of material.

9. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 wherein the fold line comprises a hinge.

10. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 which is marked with a message, image, symbol, logo, or color.

11. The combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of claim 1 wherein a side wall of the first panel is adjacent to a side wall of the second panel, and wherein the adjacent side walls of the first panel and the second panel are separated from each other by the fold line.

12. A nested stack comprising a plurality of the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitts of claim 1.

13. A combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt, comprising: (a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line comprising a hinge, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side; (b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; wherein a side wall of the first panel is adjacent to a side wall of the second panel, and wherein the adjacent side walls of the first panel and the second panel are separated from each other by the fold line; (c) a raised lip along at least a portion of an outside perimeter of the side walls of at least one of the first and second panels; and (d) a gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of each of the first and second opposing panels, wherein each gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand and securing the human hand to a panel, and wherein each gripping arrangement comprises a pocket, a sleeve, tubes, a band, a loop, or a cut-out shape; wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other.

14. A method comprising the steps of: I) providing a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt comprising: (a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side; (b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; and (c) a gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of each of the first and second opposing panels, wherein each gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand and securing the human hand to a panel, and wherein each gripping arrangement comprises a pocket, a sleeve, tubes, a band, a loop, or a cut-out shape; wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other; II) gripping each gripping arrangement with at least part of a human hand to thereby secure the human hand to each panel; and III) folding the combination along the fold line, such that the combination is converted into the form of a catching mitt.

15. The method of claim 14 comprising the further step (IV) of catching and retaining an object between the first and second opposing panels.

16. The method of claim 14 wherein the combination comprises at least one material of plastic, molded pulp, paperboard, fiberboard, paperboard coated with plastic, corrugated cardboard, or a foam-like material.

17. (canceled)

18. (canceled)

19. The method of claim 14 wherein the combination comprises at least one depression formed in both the first and second panels.

20. The method of claim 14 wherein the fold line of the combination comprises a hinge.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt. The combination may be used as a food and/or beverage tray, and may be converted or transformed into a catching mitt, such as a baseball catching mitt for use in a ballpark.

2. Description of the Related Art

It is common for baseball fans to attempt to catch foul or errant balls that are hit or thrown into spectator areas, often using their bare hands or their own personal leather baseball mitt to do so. Bringing a traditional leather baseball mitt to a game is cumbersome and presents the risk of property loss or theft. In addition, catching a baseball with a bare hand can easily lead to injury, or loss of the ball. The present invention offers a solution to these problems by providing a structure which may be used as a food and/or beverage tray, and which is suitable for transformation into and use as a catching mitt.

The inventive combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt has several uses, and is particularly suited for public spectator events such as baseball games. Spectators would first use the combination in the form of a tray to support their food items, and then convert it into the form of a catching mitt for use in catching balls which are hit or thrown into spectator areas. The inventive combination may be formed from any suitable lightweight and inexpensive materials such as corrugated cardboard or molded pulp. A depression formed in the combination serves to support a food item and/or beverage. As an example, the depression may be shaped as a cup holder for beverages. When food or beverage items are removed from the combination, it can be folded for use as a catching mitt. That is, to catch a projectile baseball or the like, a user would convert the inventive combination from a tray into a catching mitt by folding the combination along a fold line, and catch a ball by retaining and/or securing the ball between two opposing panels of the structure.

Many different types of baseball mitts and baseball mitt combinations have been developed in the past. However, none of the previously known mitts or catching devices provide a solution to the above problems. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,996,721 provides a combination seat cushion and baseball mitt. However, their product does not solve the fundamental problem of having to transport a personal mitt from home, and risks the possibility of loss or theft. Further, U.S. Pat. No. 6,324,696 provides a souvenir foam baseball mitt in the shape of a hand, which a spectator can purchase at the sporting event. However, this foam mitt serves only to cushion the user's hand. Neither of these can serve as a food and/or beverage tray. U.S. Pat. No. 4,532,653 also relates to a novelty baseball glove formed from a paperboard material. However, they do not teach or suggest any use as a food or beverage tray, and fail to include a depression formed into their structure, which depression of the present invention serves to support a food or beverage item. Furthermore, U.S. Pat. No. 5,353,952 relates to a food plate having a hand strap, for carrying a plate of food. However, this structure's lack of a fold line renders it unable to serve as a catching mitt.

It has not been heretofore known to combine the functions of a food and/or beverage tray and a catching mitt. The inventive combination includes the function of a food and/or beverage tray since it is very common for fans to purchase food at concession areas of a ballpark, and to receive such food on cardboard or disposable trays. When in the form of a catching mitt, the inventive combination offers an inexpensive and potentially disposable alternative to bringing a personal leather mitt to the ballpark. The combination's material serves to at least partially absorb the impact of a ball so that it may be caught safely and securely.

The inventive combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt is further advantageous in that it is lightweight, economical, and can be recycled. The combinations of the invention may additionally be imprinted with team logos or messages to serve as marketing materials or souvenirs.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The invention provides a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt, comprising:

(a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side;

(b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; and

(c) at least one gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand;

wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and

wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other.

The invention further provides a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt, comprising:

(a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line comprising a hinge, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side;

(b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; wherein a side wall of the first panel is adjacent to a side wall of the second panel, and wherein the adjacent side walls of the first panel and the second panel are separated from each other by the fold line.

(c) a raised lip along at least a portion of an outside perimeter of the side walls of at least one of the first and second panels; and

(d) at least one gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand;

wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and

wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other.

The invention still further provides a method comprising the steps of:

I) providing a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt comprising:

    • (a) first and second opposing panels, said panels being hingedly joined to each other along a fold line, wherein each of the first and second opposing panels has a floor having a top side and a bottom side;
    • (b) side walls extending outwardly from and around the top side of the floor, and forming at least one depression in at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which at least one depression is shaped to support a food or beverage item therein; and
    • (c) at least one gripping arrangement at the bottom side of the floor of at least one of the first and second opposing panels, which gripping arrangement is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand;
    • wherein the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, and
    • wherein the combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded position wherein the floor of the first panel and the floor of the second panel are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other;

II) gripping the at least one gripping arrangement with at least part of a human hand; and

III) folding the combination along the fold line, such that the combination is converted into the form of a catching mitt.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a top perspective view of the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of the invention when unfolded.

FIG. 2 shows a bottom perspective view of the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of the invention when unfolded.

FIG. 3 shows a rear perspective view of the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of the invention when partially folded.

FIG. 4 shows a front perspective view of the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of the invention when folded around a baseball.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt is provided, and is hereinafter referred to as the “combination”. The inventive combination may be in the form of a food or beverage tray to support suitably sized food and/or beverage items. The combination may alternately be converted or transformed into the form of a catching mitt for catching, retaining, securing, gripping, or the like of any object, such as a baseball, which is suitably sized and shaped to fit therein. In certain embodiments, the inventive combination may be used at public spectator events such as baseball games, where spectators use the combination in the form of a tray to support their food and/or beverage items, and then convert the combination into the form of a catching mitt to catch baseballs which are hit or thrown into spectator areas.

The inventive combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt 1, shown in FIGS. 1-4, comprises first and second opposing panels, 3 and 5 respectively, which are hingedly joined to each other along a fold line 11. Each of the panels 3 and 5 has a floor 6 having a top side 7 and a bottom side 9. As described below, the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded or open position, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, wherein the floor 6 of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, such as along the fold line. When the combination 1 is folded along the fold line 11 such that it is in a folded position, it is in the form of a catching mitt wherein the floor 6 of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other. It is desired that the catching mitt is capable of at least partially retaining and/or securing an object between the first and second opposing panels as show in FIG.4.

Regarding the fold line 11, it may extend along the entire length of the panels, or the entire length of the combination. The fold line may divide the combination geometrically in half, or may divide it into irregular shapes. That is, the first and second panels 3 and 5 may or may not be symmetrical with each other, relative to the fold line 11. In certain embodiments, the fold line 11 may comprise any suitable dividing arrangement such as a perforated line, a groove, a crease, a hinge, a recessed channel, or the like. In a preferred embodiment, the fold line 11 comprises a hinge. The fold line material may or may not comprise the same material as the panels 3 and 5.

The combination 1 further comprises side walls 8 extending outwardly from and around the top side 7 of the floor 6, and forming at least one depression 15 in at least one of the first and second opposing panels 3 and 5. Preferably, at least one depression 15 is formed in both of the first and second panels, 3 and 5, respectively. The depression 15 may be of any suitable shape or size for supporting a food and/or beverage item therein. In certain embodiments, the depression 15 may be substantially cylindrical in shape, or otherwise suitably shaped to serve as a cup holder and support a drink therein. In certain embodiments, the depression 15 may be suitably shaped to support a food item. In certain embodiments, such as where the combination is in the form of a catching mitt, it is preferred the at least one depression is capable of at least partially retaining an object between the first and second opposing panels. Examples of such objects include baseballs or the like.

In certain embodiments, such as that shown in FIG. 1, a side wall 8 of the first panel 3 is adjacent to a side wall 8 of the second panel 5, wherein the adjacent side walls of the first panel 3 and the second panel 5 are separated from each other by the fold line 11. Such adjacent sidewalls may or may not comprise substantially the same material as the material of the first and second opposing panels 3 and 5. In certain embodiments, the adjacent sidewalls between the first panel 3 and the second panel 5 are substantially rigid. In certain embodiments, the adjacent sidewalls between the first panel 3 and the second panel 5 abut each other along the length of the sidewalls 8 when the combination 1 is in an unfolded position, so as to provide stability and support when the combination 1 is in the form of a tray.

The combination 1 may further comprise a raised lip 13 along at least a portion of an outside perimeter of the side walls 8 of at least one of the first and second panels 3 and 5. Such a raised lip 13 may add rigidity to the combination to effectively serve as a tray, and/or to effectively seal the perimeter of the side walls 8, such as to assist in retaining and/or securing an object within the combination 1 when used as a catching mitt.

The combination 1 further includes at least one gripping arrangement 17 at or through the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 of at least one of the first and second opposing panels 3 and 5, which gripping arrangement 17 is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand. A user engages the combination 1 by gripping the at least one gripping arrangement 17 with at least part of a human hand. In certain embodiments, the gripping arrangement 17 secures at least part of the human hand to the combination 1. In certain embodiments, at least one gripping arrangement 17 is present at the bottom side of both of the first and second panels 3 and 5.

The at least one gripping arrangement 17 may be suitable for both right-handed and left-handed users. Examples of suitable gripping arrangements nonexclusively include hand cavities, pockets, sleeves, finger grooves, tubes, bands, loops, bulges, cut-out shapes, slots, or holes, a raised topography at the bottom side of a panel, such as raised projections or bumps or the like, and combinations thereof. As an example, FIG. 1 shows a gripping arrangement 17 which comprises a cut-out slot. In certain embodiments, the gripping arrangement 17 may penetrate through to the top side 7 of the at least one panel, such as in those embodiments wherein the gripping arrangement comprises a cut-out shape or slot. In certain embodiments, the topography of the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 of the at least one depression 15 may be suitable such that this portion of the depression 15 itself may serve as the gripping arrangement 17. For example, in certain embodiments, the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 may comprise grooves or the like such that the depression 15 may serve as the gripping arrangement.

In certain embodiments, upon a user's gripping of the gripping arrangement 17, the top sides of the first and second panels 3 and 5 are folded toward each other along the fold line 11, such that the combination is in a folded or at least partially closed position. Such folding thereby converts or transforms the combination 1 from a food or beverage tray into a catching mitt. As stated above, in general the combination is in the form of a food or beverage tray when in an unfolded or open position, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, wherein the floor 6 of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other, such as along the fold line. The combination is in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded, or at least partially closed, position as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, wherein the floor 6 of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other, such as along the fold line.

The inventive combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt may be formed from a variety of materials, and be present at any suitable thickness, size, and shape, depending on intended purpose. Examples of suitable shapes for the combination 1 nonexclusively include oval, circular, rectangular, square, or irregular shapes. In certain embodiments it may be preferred that the combination 1 is suitably shaped such that multiple combination units are stackable or nestable with adjacent duplicate units for ease of shipping and storage. In certain embodiments, the invention includes a nested stack comprising a plurality of combinations 1 which are stacked together in a nested manner. In certain embodiments, the combination comprises a suitable shape or material to be impact-absorbing, such as to protect a user's hand when a projectile object is caught within the combination as it is used as a catching mitt. An example of an impact-absorbing shape may include corrugated materials, or those having internal ridges or waffle patterns or the like.

Suitable materials for the combination nonexclusively include plastic, molded pulp, paperboard, fiberboard, paperboard coated with plastic, corrugated cardboard, foam-like materials, such as styrofoam, and combinations thereof. In certain preferred embodiments, the combination comprises a recyclable and/or biodegradable material. In certain embodiments, it is desirable for the combination to comprise a flexible sheet material. The combination may or may not comprise a single continuous sheet of material. In certain embodiments where the combination comprises a single continuous sheet of material, the fold line 11, the gripping arrangement 17, the sidewalls 8, and the raised lip 13 if present, all comprise substantially the same material.

In certain embodiments, the combination 1 may be marked with a message, image, symbol, logo, or color. Thus, the combination 1 could be used as a marketing item or keepsake souvenir. Such marking may be done using any suitable method, such as printing, engraving, embossing, stamping, cutting, or being formed with grooves or recesses. Any suitable colorants may be used, such as inks, dyes, pigments, or the like.

The invention further provides a method which first includes the step of providing a combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt, as described in full detail above. For illustrative purposes, the combination food or beverage tray and catching mitt of the presently described method may be visually represented by the combination 1 shown in FIGS. 1-4. In certain embodiments of the present method, the combination 1 is first provided in the form of a food or beverage tray, in unfolded or open position as defined above, as shown in FIG. 1. That is, the combination 1 is provided in an unfolded or open position wherein the floor of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at substantially a 180° angle with respect to each other.

Next, the inventive method comprises the step of gripping the at least one gripping arrangement 17 of the combination 1, with at least part of a human hand. The gripping arrangement 17 is described in full detail above, and is present at or through the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 of at least one of the first and second opposing panels 3 and 5. The gripping arrangement 17 is suitable for receiving at least part of a human hand. As an example, as shown in FIG. 4, part of a user's hand, such as a user's thumb 21, is used to grip the gripping arrangement 17 at the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 of a first panel 3 of the combination. In this exemplary embodiment, at least one of the user's remaining fingers 23 grips an additional gripping arrangement at the bottom side 9 of the floor 6 of a second panel 5 of the combination 1.

The inventive method further comprises the step of folding the combination along the fold line, such that the combination is converted into form of a catching mitt. That is, the combination is thus in the form of a catching mitt when in a folded, or at least partially closed, position as shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, wherein the floor 6 of the first panel 3 and the floor 6 of the second panel 5 are positioned at an angle of less than 180° with respect to each other. This folding step may be conducted either before, after, or simultaneously with the step of gripping the gripping arrangement. In certain embodiments, it is desired that the folding step is conducted after the step of gripping the gripping arrangement. The above steps may be conducted as a method of converting a combination food or beverage tray into a catching mitt.

When the combination 1 is in the form of a catching mitt, the top sides of the panels 3 and 5 effectively serve as an inside surface of the catching mitt. When in the form of a catching mitt, it is preferred that the combination is capable of retaining and an object such as a baseball therein, between the top sides of the first and second opposing panels. For example, when a user grips the gripping arrangement 17 and folds the combination along the fold line, the top sides of the first and second panels 3 and 5 are moved toward each other along the fold line 11. As such, the at least one depression 15 of the combination 1 is utilized similarly to a “web” of a traditional catching mitt, such that an object such as a baseball may be caught in this depression or “web” as a user engages the gripping arrangement. Catching an object in the depression 15 serves to prevent the user's hand from being injured by the impact of the object. As stated above, the combination 1, when in the form of a catching mitt, may be used for the catching, retaining, securing, gripping, or the like of any object which is of a suitable shape and size to fit therein. Examples of such objects may include a variety of sports objects such as baseballs, golf balls, hockey pucks, and the like.

While the present invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments, it will be readily appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that various changes and modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. It is intended that the claims be interpreted to cover the disclosed embodiment, those alternatives which have been discussed above and all equivalents thereto.