Title:
Container with a ratcheting lid
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to containers for food or other material having a bowl and a ratcheting lid. The ratcheting lid will reduce the headspace in the container thereby increasing the storage life for the food product or other material in the container and maintaining the freshness of the material. The lid includes a peripheral edge having a diameter corresponding generally to the inside diameter of the bowl to provide an improved locking seal.



Inventors:
Turvey, Robert R. (Sanford, MI, US)
Czech, Brian A. (Allen Park, MI, US)
Application Number:
12/923187
Publication Date:
03/08/2012
Filing Date:
09/08/2010
Assignee:
S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. (Racine, WI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D45/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
ALLEN, JEFFREY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
S.C. JOHNSON & SON, INC. (1525 HOWE STREET RACINE WI 53403-2236)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A container for adjusting the headspace therein comprising a bowl having an inside wall having a plurality of alternating grooves and ridges, thereby providing a track for a ratcheting lid, a ratcheting lid comprising a base, a handle and a locking mechanism, said base having a peripheral edge constructed and arranged for mating with one or more of said ridges to provide a closure seal, said locking mechanism further comprising a plurality of panels movable in the vertical and horizontal directions and constructed and arranged for engaging a groove in said bowl to lock said lid in said bowl, and wherein when said lid is inserted into said bowl said panels move freely past said plurality of alternating grooves and ridges and when the lid reaches the desired location for locking said lid, said lid is pulled up and said panels lock in said groove.

2. The container of claim 1 wherein said bowl and said lid are round.

3. The container of claim 1 wherein said plurality of alternating grooves and ridges are evenly spaced over a portion of said inside wall.

4. The container of claim 1 wherein said locking mechanism further includes a plurality of finger members extending generally vertically from said panels.

5. The container of claim 4 where said handle extends vertically from said base and includes notches therein constructed and arranged to each correspondingly engage one of said finger members.

6. The container of claim 5 wherein said handle includes a plurality of gripping ribs and said finger members include a plurality of gripping ribs corresponding to said gripping ribs of said handle.

7. The container of claim 1 wherein said base further includes a plurality of support hinges connected to said base and each of said support hinges is further connected to an underside of one of said plurality of panels, said support hinges further including a living hinge adapted to allow vertical movement of said panels.

8. The container of claim 1 wherein said bowl and said lid are made of a plastic selected from the group consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene, nylon and combinations thereof.

9. A container for adjusting the headspace therein comprising a bowl having an inside wall having a plurality of alternating grooves and ridges, thereby providing a track for a ratcheting lid, a ratcheting lid comprising a base, a handle and a locking mechanism, said base having a peripheral edge constructed and arranged for mating with one or more of said ridges to provide a closure seal, said locking mechanism comprising a plurality of panels movable in a horizontal plane and constructed and arranged for engaging a groove in said bowl to lock said lid in said bowl, and wherein when said lid is inserted into said bowl said panels move freely past said plurality of alternating grooves and ridges and when the lid reaches the desired location for locking said lid, said panels are moved in a horizontal plane by said locking mechanism to lock said panels in said groove.

10. The container of claim 9 wherein said bowl and said lid are round.

11. The container of claim 9 wherein said plurality of alternating grooves and ridges are evenly spaced over a portion of said inside wall.

12. The container of claim 9 wherein said locking mechanism includes a plurality of finger members extending generally vertically from said panels and said finger members have a convex portion.

13. The container of claim 12 where said handle extends vertically from said base and includes a plurality of concave portions therein constructed and arranged to engage said convex portion of said finger members.

14. The container of claim 9 wherein said plurality of panels include a pin extending from an underside of each of said panels and said base includes a plurality of slots adapted for receiving and retaining said pin, wherein said pin mates with said slots and provides for movement of said panels in a horizontal plane.

15. The container of claim 9 wherein said plurality of panels include an elastomeric flexible pin extending from an underside of each of said panels and connected to said base, wherein said pin has sufficient elasticity to allow movement of said plurality of panels.

16. The container of claim 9 wherein said bowl and said lid are made of a plastic selected from the group consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene, nylon and combinations thereof.

Description:

FIELD OF INVENTION

The present invention relates to containers for storing food or other material. More particularly, the invention is directed to a container having a bowl and a lid wherein the lid ratchets to a selected position in the bowl to reduce headspace in the container and provides a tight locking seal with the bowl side wall.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Containers for food or other material are well known in the art. Generally such containers include a bowl for receiving and holding the food and a lid for closing and sealing the bowl to maintain freshness. Certain containers for food may be opened and reused to store the food. Other containers for food, once opened, are disposed of and if any food is not utilized by the consumer, the food must be placed in a separate storage container.

Storage containers are also well known in the art. These containers generally fall under several categories, including (1) single-use or disposable containers made of plastic or paper; (2) semi-durable containers which are disposable after a few uses; and (3) durable containers manufactured for multiple uses. The present invention is directed to semi-durable containers and durable containers for multiple uses.

When storing food in a container, the food is inserted into the bowl of the container and the lid covers the bowl by a number of different sealing and closure mechanisms. A problem with existing containers is that depending on the volume of food product stored, there may be substantial headspace between the food and the lid. In this headspace, there is air which may cause the food being stored to lose freshness and reduce the storage life for the food product. Additional shortcomings with the known storage containers are that the seal is not tight allowing air to enter the container which may affect the freshness of the food and also reduce the time that the food may be stored in the container.

Accordingly, there is a need in the market for a semi-durable or durable storage container which has reduced headspace in the container thereby eliminating the amount of air in the container and having a tight locking seal to preclude entry of air into the container and to provide a secure container.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The present invention is directed to containers for food or other material having a bowl and a ratcheting lid. The container may be used as an original point-of-purchase container for the storage of food product or other material after the container is opened or as a separate storage container purchased empty for storing food or other material. The container includes a ratcheting lid which will reduce the headspace in the container thereby reducing the air in the container and increasing the storage life for the food product or other material in the container and maintaining the freshness of the material. Additionally, the lid and bowl of the container provide an improved locking seal which precludes air, liquid or the like from entering the container and provides for a secure closure, thereby maintaining the freshness of the food product or other material stored in the container and increasing the storage life for the food product or other material.

The container of the present invention comprises a bowl for receiving and holding the food or other material to be stored in the container. In a preferred embodiment, the bowl has rounded side walls and a base which may be flat or rounded and is made of a durable plastic material to allow for multiple uses, although other shapes and materials may be used with the invention. The bowl includes a side wall having an interior portion which may include grooves and ridges upon which the lid may ratchet to reduce the headspace in the container. In a preferred embodiment, the bowl includes a plurality of alternating grooves and ridges generally spaced evenly apart upon which the lid may ratchet to adjust the amount of headspace between the material in the container and the underside of the lid.

The container of the invention includes a novel lid designed to ratchet along the interior of the bowl of the container to adjust the headspace in the container and to provide a tight locking seal of the lid to the bowl. In a preferred embodiment, the lid is annular in shape and made of a durable plastic to allow multiple uses of the container. Other shapes and materials may also be used for the lid. In one preferred embodiment, the lid comprises a base, a handle and a locking mechanism. The base has a diameter generally corresponding to that of the bowl such that the peripheral edge of the base will provide a seal in conjunction with the ridges of the bowl. The handle extends vertically and is perpendicular to the base and also functions in conjunction with the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism of the lid comprises a flipper having panels and finger members. The finger members are generally perpendicular to the panels and adjacent to the handle. The panels move vertically and horizontally. When the lid is placed in the bowl the flippers move vertically allowing them to move freely into and past the grooves as the lid is pushed down into the container. When the lid reaches the desired position in the bowl, the lid is pulled upward and the flippers lock into place in a groove of the bowl, thereby preventing the lid from moving upward or downward. The peripheral edge of the lid provides a tight seal against the ridges of the bowl to prevent entry of air or leakage of food or other material if the container tips on its side or upside down. To remove the lid, the flippers include finger members which may be pinched inward to engage the handle which causes the panels to pivot around a point and move vertically and horizontally inward toward the center of the lid, thereby disengaging the flippers from the groove of the side wall of the bowl and allowing clearance of the bowl side wall. By holding the finger members of the flippers pinched together and in contact with the handle, the lid may be pulled up and out of the bowl of the container.

In another embodiment of the invention, the container comprises a bowl having grooves and ridges as described above and a ratcheting lid. In this embodiment, the ratcheting lid includes a base, a handle and a locking mechanism. The handle extends vertically and is perpendicular to the base and also functions in conjunction with the locking mechanism. The locking mechanism of the lid comprises wings having a plurality of panels with finger members generally perpendicular to the panels and adjacent the handle. The wings are moved by the fingers pivoting on a vertical axis to move the panels in a horizontal plane in relation to the base. When the panels are moved outside the peripheral edge of the base, the panels lock into a groove of the bowl of the container. The peripheral edge of the lid seats on the ridges of the bowl to provide a tight seal. To remove the lid, the finger members are moved inward to engage the handle thereby moving the panels out of the groove, to generally overlie the base, and to clear the side wall of the bowl. The lid can then be lifted out of the bowl by gripping the fingers and handle which are in contact with each other.

The different embodiments of the invention will be apparent from the following description of the preferred embodiments of the invention and from the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following detailed description of specific non-limiting embodiments of the present invention can be best understood when read in conjunction with the following drawings, where like structures are indicated with like reference numbers.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one embodiment of a lid of the invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the lid of FIG. 1 showing the pinching of the flippers for removing the lid from the container.

FIG. 2A is an enlarged partial cross-sectional view illustrating the support hinge.

FIGS. 3A through 3C are partial cross-sectional views of alternative embodiments of the base and peripheral edge of the base of the lid.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the lid of the invention.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of another embodiment of the handle for the lid of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a partial cross-sectional view of the container of the invention utilizing the lid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 7 is a partial cross-sectional view of another embodiment of the container of the invention utilizing the lid of FIG. 1.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of a lid of the invention.

FIG. 9 is a top view of another embodiment of the lid of FIG. 8.

FIG. 9A is an enlarged partial cross-sectional view taken along line 9A-9A of FIG. 9.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

The present invention provides for a container having a bowl and a ratcheting lid. The container provides for ratcheting the lid to control the headspace in the container. The lid and bowl provide for a tight locking seal to prevent entry of air or other material into the container and to prevent the leakage of material from the container. A primary purpose of the container is for the storage of food. The container maintains the freshness of the food and extends the time the food may be stored in the container. The description of the invention will refer to the storage of food in the container. However, it is understood that other materials may be stored in the container without departing from the scope of the invention.

In the presently preferred embodiments of the invention, the side wall of the container is generally round in shape. The bottom wall or base portion of the container can be flat or rounded in shape. The invention will be described herein with respect to a rounded or cylindrical walled container. However, it is understood that other shaped containers may be used with the invention. Similarly, a preferred material for the container is a durable plastic such as polypropylene, polyethylene, and combinations thereof. However, other plastics may be used provided the plastic allows for multiple uses of the container. Such plastics include polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene and nylon.

Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the container 10 of the invention comprises a bowl 12 and lid 14. The container of the invention includes different embodiments of the ratcheting lid as shown, for example, in FIGS. 1, 4, 8 and 9 and as discussed hereafter. Generally, the bowl of the container is substantially the same for these different embodiments of the ratcheting lids.

Again referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the bowl 12 includes a side wall 20, a bottom wall 22 and an open top portion 24. The interior 26 of the side wall 20 includes a plurality of grooves 28 formed in the side wall. The side wall further includes a plurality of ridges 30. In a preferred embodiment, the grooves and ridges are spaced evenly to provide a track for ratcheting the lid 14. The plurality of ridges and grooves will provide for different levels of closure of the lid, thereby controlling the amount of headspace between the material stored in the bowl and the underside of the lid. It is understood that the grooves and ridges may include different spacing without departing from scope of the invention. Additionally, the number of grooves and ridges may vary depending upon the size of the container and the different levels of headspace desired. Also, the invention may use a plurality of ridges extending from the side wall which inherently provides for a plurality of grooves therebetween, that is, it is not necessary to have the grooves formed in the side wall.

Referring to FIGS. 1-2, a preferred embodiment of the ratcheting lid 14 is disclosed. In this embodiment, the lid is annular in shape and comprised of a durable plastic material such as polypropylene, polyethylene, polyethylene terephthalate, polystyrene or nylon. However, it is understood that the lid may include different shapes and different materials without departing from the scope of the invention.

The lid 14 comprises a base 40, a handle 42 and a locking mechanism 44. The base 40 includes a top portion 50, a bottom 52, support hinges 54 and a peripheral edge 56. The base is generally of a uniform thickness throughout, although the thickness may vary without departing from the scope of the invention. The peripheral edge 56 provides a tight seal for the container when locked and seated against two or more of ridges 30 in bowl 12 as discussed in greater detail hereafter. The peripheral edge 56 includes a generally vertical wall portion 58 and a rounded wall portion 60 adjoining the top of base 40. As discussed hereafter, the peripheral edge 56 may include different geometries.

The support hinges 54 are attached to the base by any suitable means such as an adhesive or other fastening means. Alternatively, they can be molded as part of the base. As seen for example in FIGS. 2 and 2A, the support hinges 54 are rectangular in shape and include a living hinge 62 which provides a pivot point for movement of the locking mechanism 44. The support hinge is preferably made of a resilient elastomeric material such as thermoplastic elastomers, thermoplastic olefins, thermoplastic vulcanizates and thermoplastic urethanes. The hinges 54 are also connected to panels 72 of the locking mechanism discussed hereafter and allow the panels 72 to pivot vertically and horizontally along axis 62a.

Handle 42 extends upwardly from base 40 and is designed to be gripped by the user, including in conjunction with the locking mechanism 44 to insert the lid 14 into bowl 12 and to take the lid out of the bowl as discussed hereafter. Handle 42 includes notches 64 for receiving fingers 74 of locking mechanism 44 as discussed below. Handle 42 may include ribs 66 to aid in gripping the handle.

Locking mechanism 44 comprises flippers 70. The flippers include panels 72 and fingers 74. Fingers 74 are generally perpendicular to the panels. Fingers 74 include ribs 76 corresponding to ribs 66 of handle 42. The panels have an end portions 78 shaped to correspond to the curvature of the inside side wall 26 of bowl 12. Panels 72 further include legs 80 to seat generally near the peripheral edge of the base 40 and provide support for panels 72.

Referring again to FIGS. 1 and 2, FIG. 1 illustrates the lid in a closed and locked position if it was in bowl 12 as shown in FIG. 6 in solid lines. FIG. 2 illustrates the lid being pinched at fingers 74 by the user's hand to unlock the lid and remove the lid from the container, as generally shown by the phantom lines in FIG. 6. Fingers 74 fit into notches 64 and allow the user to unlock and remove the lid from bowl 12. The operation of the container will be discussed in greater detail hereafter.

Referring to FIG. 4, FIG. 4 illustrates another embodiment of the lid of the invention. The lid of FIG. 4 is substantially the same as the lid shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 with the exception of the configuration of the handle and the fingers of the flippers. Accordingly, the like reference numbers in FIG. 4 correspond to the lid of FIGS. 1 and 2. In FIG. 4, handle 142 is annular in shape having an opening 144 and beveled neck 146. Fingers 164 are curved and mate with peripheral edge 148 of handle 142. When fingers 164 are pinched similar to as shown in FIG. 2, they will engage peripheral edge 148 for disengaging flippers 70 from the bowl.

FIG. 5 is an alternative embodiment of the handle 142 of FIG. 4. FIG. 5 illustrates handle 142a which is similar to handle 142 except that it does not include beveled neck 146.

Now referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the operation of the container will be described in reference to the lid 14 of FIG. 1 (the ribs 66 and 76 are not shown for simplicity). Referring to FIG. 6, FIG. 6 illustrates the lid 14 (in solid lines) in bowl 12 in a locked position. The panels 72 of flippers 70 are locked in a groove 28. The peripheral edge 56 of the lid is sealingly engaged with two ridges 30. In order to lock the lid in the bowl in this relationship, the lid 14 is pushed down into the bowl 12. When pushing the lid in, the user may grip handle 42 alone or pinch fingers 74 to engage handle 42, thereby gripping both fingers 74 and handle 42. The flippers 70 move vertically (shown in phantom lines) which allows them to move freely past the grooves and ridges as the lid is pushed down into the container. When the user reaches the point in the container having the desired headspace, the lid is pulled up with the handle 42 and the panels 72 engage a groove 28 to lock the lid into place. This prevents removal of the lid and secures the lid to the bowl. With the peripheral edges 56 seated against a plurality of ridges 30, the lid is substantially air-tight and leak-proof.

Referring to the phantom lines of the flipper in FIG. 6, when the lid is to be removed, fingers 74 are pinched inward, such as shown in FIG. 2, and they engage the handle 42. This moves the panels 72 vertically and horizontally inward toward the handle and releases the panels from the groove 28. The lid may then be pulled out of the container.

Referring to FIG. 7, FIG. 7 also shows the lid 14 locked in bowl 12. In this embodiment, the bowl 12 has a different configuration having fewer grooves 28 and ridges 30 and has a rounded bottom portion. Insertion and removal of the lid is the same as previously discussed for FIG. 6 and shown in FIG. 2.

Referring to FIGS. 8 and 9, an alternative embodiment of the lid is disclosed. In this embodiment, the lid comprises a base 240, a handle 242 and a locking mechanism 244. The base 240 is generally the same as base 40 in FIGS. 1 and 4 and includes a top portion 250, a bottom 252 and a peripheral edge 256. The base is generally of a uniform thickness throughout, although the thickness may vary without departing from the scope of the invention. The peripheral edge 256 provides a tight seal for the container when locked and seated against two or more of ridges 30 in bowl 12 as previously discussed. The peripheral edge 256 includes a generally vertical wall portion 258. As discussed hereafter, the peripheral edge 256 may include different geometries.

Handle 242 extends upwardly from base 240. The handle includes concave portions 246 for receiving and mating with fingers 274 of the locking mechanism 244. Handle 242 functions in conjunction with the locking mechanism 244 as discussed hereafter to be gripped by the user to insert the lid 14 into bowl 12 and to take the lid out of the bowl.

Locking mechanism 244 comprises a plurality of wings 270. The wings include panels 272 and fingers 274. Fingers 274 are generally perpendicular to the panels and have convex portions 276 for mating with the concave portions 246 of the handle. The panels have an end portion 278 shaped to be inserted and received by grooves 28 of inside wall 26 of bowl 12. In one embodiment as shown in FIG. 8, the panels 272 are attached to the base 240 by flexible elastomeric pins 280 (shown in partial cut-away for one of panels 272). Pins 280 have sufficient elasticity allowing for twisting of the pins and the corresponding movement of panels 272. When pins 280 are in the relaxed state, panels 272 extend outside the peripheral wall 256 of base 240. In another embodiment as shown in FIGS. 9 and 9A, the panels 272 are attached to the base 240 by a pin 282 extending from the bottom of the panel 272 into a slot 284 in the top portion 250 of base 240 and held in place by a ring member 286 at the end of pin 282. Pins 282 will move in slots 284 to allow for movement of panels 272. These embodiments of FIGS. 8 and 9 allow for axial movement of the panels on the base to move the panels 272 in a horizontal plane to overlie the base when disengaged from the container and to move the panels into a groove 28 of bowl 12 in order to lock the lid into the container. Such movement is accomplished by moving fingers 274 with one's hand such that convex portions 276 engage concave portions 246. In operation, fingers 274 are moved into engagement with handle 242 and panels 272 pivot and overlie base 240 and the lid inserted into bowl 12 to provide the desired headspace. Fingers 274 are then moved away from handle 242 and are disengaged therefrom. This causes the panels to move outward in a horizontal plane and engage a groove 28 and lock lid 14 into bowl 12. Like the lid of FIGS. 1 and 4, peripheral edge 256 engages ridges 30 for a tight seal.

Each of the lids disclosed in FIGS. 1, 4, 8 and 9 may include different geometries at the peripheral edge 56 and 256 thereof which is seated against ridges 30 in bowl 12. As seen above for FIG. 1, the geometry includes a generally vertical edge having a rounded shoulder adjacent to the top of the base. As shown in FIGS. 4 and 8, the peripheral edge is generally vertical. The vertical edges may include a resilient gasket material, such as rubber or the like, to enhance sealing against ridges 30. Alternative embodiments of the edge are disclosed in FIGS. 3A, 3B and 3C.

FIG. 3A discloses a base having a flat top 50, the peripheral edge 56 having generally vertical wall 58 (only partially shown), a ledge 58a and a tapered edge 60a. FIG. 3B discloses a base having a flat top 50, a peripheral edge 56 having a generally vertical wall 58 (only partially shown), and a step 58a. FIG. 3C discloses a base having a flat top 50, the peripheral edge 56 having a generally vertical wall 58 (only partially shown), an annular ring 58a and a step 60a.

As seen from the description of the invention, the invention provides for a simple and inexpensive way of reducing the headspace in a storage container for food or other material. This will allow for maintaining freshness of the food for a longer period of time and allow for a longer storage life.

The exemplary embodiments herein disclosed are not intended to be exhaustive or to unnecessarily limit the scope of the invention. The exemplary embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principles of the present invention so that others skilled in the art may practice the invention. As will be apparent to one skilled in the art, various modifications can be made within the scope of the aforesaid description. Such modifications being within the ability of one skilled in the art form a part of the present invention and are embraced by the appended claims.