Title:
MODULAR CONTAINER
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A modular container is provided comprising a base module, an upper module and optionally, one or more internal modules. The base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion which incorporates means to removably attach another module. Internal modules comprise open top and bottom portions, each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module. The upper module comprises an open bottom portion comprising means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container.



Inventors:
Suljak, Joe (Kitchener, CA)
Kerr, Jeff (Cambridge, CA)
Application Number:
13/912760
Publication Date:
10/17/2013
Filing Date:
06/07/2013
Assignee:
SULJAK JOE
KERR JEFF
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
29/428
International Classes:
B65D21/02
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070062955FASTBAGMarch, 2007Day
20080210331Method of Filling a Reservoir By Means of a Cartridge-Reservoir and Associated CartridgeSeptember, 2008Compere et al.
20090302047ABSORPTIVE INSULATIVE CUP SLEEVEDecember, 2009Anderson
20090152231BOTTLE WITH DISPOSABLE BOTTLE CAP HOLDERJune, 2009Hanson
20070164032Container having a slideable coverJuly, 2007Cronin et al.
20070181574Packaging for butter or similar productsAugust, 2007Freudenreich
20030042828Compact utility medicine cabinet with sanitizingMarch, 2003Bonin
20030150860Structure of top cap for containersAugust, 2003Lee
20090236337Transport container system for goods, especially for fruit and vegetablesSeptember, 2009Orgeldinger
20080138477Food Storage and Serving DeviceJune, 2008Mular et al.
20090049996Thin film cooking and food transfer devices and methodsFebruary, 2009Calzada et al.



Primary Examiner:
POON, ROBERT
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Joe Suljak (23 Coopershawk Street, Kitchener, ON, N2K 4J7, CA)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A modular container comprising: a base module and an upper module, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising attachment means to removably attach the base module to the upper module, and said upper module comprising an open bottom portion comprising attachment means to removably attach to another module and a top portion that comprises means to access the contents of the container; and further comprising one or more overlay rings which removably attach around at least one of the modules of the container.

2. The container of claim 1, optionally comprising one or more internal modules, said internal modules comprising open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module, wherein said internal modules removably attaché to form the container between the base module and the upper module.

3. The container of claim 2, wherein one of said internal modules is an adaptor module comprising a top portion and bottom portion that differ in size or shape from one another.

4. The container of claim 2, wherein the top portion of the upper module is open to permit access to the contents of the container comprising an edge around its circumference.

5. The container of claim 2, wherein the top portion of the upper module is open and comprises attachment means for attachment of a lid.

6. The container of claim 2, wherein the top portion of the upper module comprises an opening.

7. The container of claim 2, wherein the attachment means of the base, internal and upper module is selected from screw threads, a portion that is of a shape or size to permit a friction fit, and a portion adapted to snap together with another module comprising co-operating flanges.

8. The container of claim 2, wherein the modules are made of a material selected from the group consisting of stainless steel, aluminum and other metals, wood, plastics, composite materials, and combinations of any of these materials.

9. The container of claim 2, further comprising a removable insert which fits inside the container and which functions to contain contents within the container.

10. The container of claim 9, further comprising a pedestal which removably fits onto the bottom of the insert, wherein said pedestal comprises a base and an upper wall extending upwardly from the base that fits onto the bottom of the insert and a lower wall extending downwardly from the base that elevates said insert within the container.

11. The container of claim 10, comprising multiple stacked inserts.

12. The container of claim 2, comprising multiple overlay rings.

13. The container of claim 1, wherein the overlay ring includes at least one of colour, texture, design, text, symbols and images.

14. The container of claim 12, wherein multiple overlay rings are stacked on one or more of said modules.

15. An article of manufacture comprising packaging and one or modules to form a modular container selected from the group consisting of a base module, an internal module and an upper module, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising means to removably attach another module, the internal module comprises open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module, and the upper module comprises an open bottom portion comprising means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container, wherein the packaging indicates that the modules how the modules may be connected to form a container.

16. An article of manufacture comprising packaging and one or more overlay rings adapted to fit onto a container, said overlay rings comprising at least one of colour, texture, design, text, symbols and images.

17. A method of making a modular container as defined in claim 1 comprising the steps of: i) providing a base module, an upper module and optionally one or more internal modules, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising attachment means to removably attach the base module to another module, said upper module comprising an open bottom portion comprising attachment means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container, and said internal module comprising open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module; ii) optionally connecting the base module to one or more internal modules by connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the base module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of the internal module, and connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the internal module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of any subsequent internal modules; and iii) connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the base module or internal module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of the upper module.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This is a continuation-in-part of PCT/CA2011/001342 filed on Dec. 9, 2011, which claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/421,686 filed on Dec. 10, 2010, the contents of each of which are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates generally to containers, and more particularly, to modular containers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Various types of cups, mugs, bottles, and other food and/or beverage containing systems exist, including standard drinking cups, water bottles, coffee mugs, travel mugs, sports bottles, thermal containers, etc. Despite the existence of a variety of different containers, there is a need for containers that can be customized to suit the user's need, e.g. to fit into a particular mug holder such as the mug holder of a particular vehicle and to suit a user's preference in terms of function, design and aesthetics.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A novel multi-purpose containing system has now been developed which is modular in nature and permits a user to design a unique product that suits particular needs and desires.

Accordingly, in a first aspect, a modular container is provided comprising: a base module and an upper module, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising means to removably attach another module, and said upper module comprising an open bottom portion comprising means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container.

In another aspect of the invention, a method of making a modular container is provided comprising the steps of:

    • i) providing a base module, an upper module and optionally one or more internal modules, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising attachment means to removably attach the base module to another module, said upper module comprising an open bottom portion comprising attachment means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container, and said internal module comprising open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module;
    • ii) optionally connecting the base module to one or more internal modules by connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the base module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of the internal module, and connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the internal module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of any subsequent internal modules; and
    • iii) connecting the attachment means of the top portion of the base module or internal module to the attachment means of the bottom portion of the upper module.

In another aspect of the invention, an article of manufacture comprising packaging and one or more modules of a modular container selected from the group consisting of a base module, at least one internal module and an upper module, wherein said base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion, the top portion of the base module comprising means to removably attach an internal module, said internal module comprising open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module, and said upper module comprising an open bottom portion comprising means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container, and wherein the packaging indicates that the module is useful to form a modular container.

In a further aspect of the invention, an article of manufacture is provided comprising packaging and one or more overlay rings adapted to fit onto a container, wherein said overlay rings comprise at least one of colour, texture, design, text, symbols and images and said packaging indicates that the overlay rings are for fitting around an container.

These and other aspects of the invention are described in detail by reference to the following drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view (A) and a side view (B) of a modular container in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates perspective and side views of base modules (A, B, C, D) for use in the modular container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 illustrates perspective and side views of internal modules (A, B) for use in the modular container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 illustrates perspective and side views of adaptor modules (A, B) for use in the modular container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 illustrates perspective and side views of upper modules and accessories (A, B, C, D) for use in the modular container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6 illustrates radial/axial seals (A), plug and gasket seals (B) and a crab claw seal (C);

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of an insert (A) for use in a modular container, and a side view of an insert in a modular container (B);

FIG. 8 is a front sectional view of an insert in use with a pedestal (A) within a modular container (B) and in use with multiple pedestals (C);

FIG. 9 illustrates a perspective view of various embodiments of a modular container (A, B, C, D);

FIG. 10 illustrates a module overlay ring on a module of a modular container;

FIG. 11 illustrates a perspective and sectional view of a non-modular container with overlay rings (A) and perspective and sectional view of a module with multiple overlay rings side-by-side (stacked) (B);

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of multiple-layered module overlay rings and their use to generate a cut-out design;

FIG. 13 is a side section view of multiple-layered overlay rings;

FIG. 14 is a perspective view of two overlay rings that generate a design (A) on modules which form a container (B);

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of adjacent overlay rings illustrating a face (A/B) that are rotated (C) or flipped (D) to change the face, as well as overlay rings for use to play a game (E/F).

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A modular container is provided. The modular container comprises a base module and an upper module. The base module comprises a closed bottom portion and an open top portion that includes means to removably attach the base module to another module. The upper module comprises an open bottom portion that includes means to removably attach to another module and a top portion comprising means to access the contents of the container. The container may optionally contain one or more internal modules. Internal modules comprise open top and bottom portions each of which comprise means to removably attach to another module.

Referring now to FIG. 1, a modular container 10 is shown including a base module 12, internal modules 14 and an upper module 16. The modules of the container 10 are removably connected to one another as will be described in more detail.

As shown in FIG. 2, the base module 12 comprises a closed bottom portion 20 and an open top portion 22. The term “closed” is used herein to refer to a bottom portion that is covered and does not permit access to the internal portion of the base module 12. The bottom portion 20 may or may not be sealed, and thus, it may or may not be able to retain contents, e.g. liquids, without leakage. The term “open” as it relates to the top portion 22 of the base module 12 indicates that the top portion 22 is uncovered and permits access to the internal portion of the base module 12. The top portion 22 comprises attachment means 28 adapted to removably attach the base module 12 to another module. Between the top and bottom portions of the base module 12, is the body 24 of the base module 12. The body 24 of the base module 12 may assume various shapes and sizes (e.g. height and width) to provide a base module 12 that is rounded (FIG. 2A), flat (FIG. 2B), flanged (FIG. 2C), tapered (FIG. 2D) or that assumes other suitable shapes.

The internal module 14 comprises open top 32 and bottom 30 portions, each of which comprise attachment means 38a, 38b, adapted to removably attach to another module as shown in FIG. 3. The internal module 14 also comprises a body portion 34 which, as with the base module 12, may vary in shape and size.

The internal module 14 may be in the form of an adapter module 18 as shown in FIG. 4, that is useful to connect together modules of different sizes and shapes to form a modular container in accordance with the invention. An adapter module 18 comprises an open bottom portion 50 and an open top portion 52, each of which comprise attachment means 58a, 58b adapted to removably attach to another module and a body portion 54. An adapter module 18 essentially corresponds with an internal module except that the top and bottom portions 52, 50 of the adapter module 18 will generally vary in size or shape from one another. Thus, an adaptor module 18 may be used to connect a base module 12 with an open portion 22 of a cross-sectional size to an internal module 14 or upper module 16 having a bottom portion 30, 50 which is either larger (FIG. 4B) or smaller (FIG. 4A) in cross-section than the open portion of the base module.

The upper module 16 comprises an open bottom portion 40 that includes attachment means 48a adapted to removably attach to the attachment means 28 of the top portion 22 of a base module 12 or the attachment means 38a of a top portion 32 of an internal module. The upper module 16 also comprises a top portion 42 which permits access to the contents of the container. In one embodiment, the top portion 42 is open as shown in FIG. 5A comprising an edge 43 that may vary with utility. For example, if the upper module 16 is for a drinking cup, its edge 43 will be suitable for this utility, e.g. rounded and smooth for the comfort of the user. On the other hand, if the upper module 16 is for pouring, the edge 43 will be appropriately formed to include a spout-like shape, and if the upper module 16 is to be used on a decorative container, the edge 43 may be formed to assume decorative features. In another embodiment, the top portion 42 may include attachment means 48b, as shown in FIG. 5B, for attachment to a lid or other covering (e.g. a child's sipping cup lid) 45 via corresponding attachment means 46 on the lid 45. As one of skill in the art will appreciate, lid 45 may vary is size and shape and is not restricted in this regard. In a further embodiment, the top portion 42 of the upper module 16 may be closed, or may incorporate an opening 47, such as but not limited to that shown in FIGS. 5C and 5D, that may be covered by a cover piece 49 that may, for example, slide, rotate, snap or twist into position over the opening 47, or which may be attached to the upper module via a flexible arm or other means that permits attachment thereof to the opening 47 to render the top portion 42 closed or detachment to open the top portion 42. The opening 47 may incorporate means to access the contents of the container 53, such as a straw or the like, that may extend into the container through the opening as shown in FIG. 5D and will permit access to the contents of the container, for example, consumption of the contents of the container. The access means 53 may also extend outwardly from the lid 45 (as shown), or may be flush with the surface of the lid 45. The access means 53 may also include a cap 55 that seals the access means 53 to prevent leaking or spilling of the contents of the container.

Attachment means (28a/b, 38a/b, 46 and 48a/) adapted to removably attach one module to another, e.g. a base module 12 to an internal or upper module 14, 16, or an internal module 14 to an upper module 16, or a lid 45 to an upper module 16, are formed in the top portion 22 of the base module 12, in the top and bottom portions 32, 30 of the internal module 14, in the bottom portion 40, and optionally in the top portion 42, of the upper module 16 and may be formed in the lid 45. The attachment means may comprise any means suitable to attach adjacent modules together, and may be formed within the top or bottom portions of a given module. Suitable attachment means include screw threads, a portion that is of a shape or size to permit a friction fit, and a portion adapted to snap together with another module which may include co-operating flanges and the like. Alternatively, the attachment means may be a separate component from the module that is useful to attach two modules together, e.g. mechanical fasteners.

Thus, to make a modular container in accordance with an aspect of the invention, the base module 12 may optionally be connected to one or more internal modules by connecting the attachment means 28 of the top portion 22 of the base module 12 to the attachment means 38 of the bottom portion 30 of an internal module 14, and connecting the attachment means 38 of the top portion 32 of the internal module 14 to the attachment means 38 of the bottom portion 30 of any subsequent internal modules 14. Once all desired internal modules 14, including any adaptor modules, are connected, the upper module 16 is connected to the container 10. To connect the upper module 16, the attachment means 28 of the top portion 22 of the base module 12 or the attachment means 38 of the top portion 32 of the uppermost internal module 14, if present, is connected to the attachment means 48a of the bottom portion 40 of the upper module 16. If the container comprises a lid 45, the lid is connected to the container by connecting the attachment means 46 of the lid 45 to the attachment means 48b of the top portion 42 of the upper module 16.

The attachment between modules via attachment means (28a/b, 38a/b, 46, 48a/b) may or may not form a sealed attachment, and thus, attached modules may or may not be able to retain contents, e.g. fluids and/or liquids, without leakage. As one of skill in the art will appreciate, components such as o-rings, gaskets and gasket-like components may be utilized to provide a sealed attachment between modules and thereby prevent the leakage of contents within the modular container. As with the attachment means themselves, sealing components may be formed in the attachment means, e.g. crab claw seal, plug seal, gasket seals, combination seals, or other seals, or may be independent structures used when attaching modules as shown in FIG. 6. Radial 62 and axial 64 gasket seals are illustrated in FIG. 6A, plug seals 66 are illustrated in FIG. 6B and crab claw seals 68 are illustrated in FIG. 6C.

The body 24, 34, 44 and 54, of each of the modules 12, 14, 16 and 18 may vary in size, e.g. including height and width. In addition, the body 24, 34, 44 and 54 of each module 12, 14, 16 and 18 may also vary in shape. Thus, the body 24, 34, 44 and 54 may, for example, be circular, oval, square or have an irregular shape, in cross-section. As one of skill in the art will appreciate, the body of each module may be any shape that does not impact on its function to form a container with other modules. In this regard, it is noted that different shaped modules may be connected to form a unique modular container. FIG. 9 illustrates embodiments of modular containers in accordance with the invention.

The modules 12, 14, 16 and 18 of the modular container 10 may be made using well-established techniques, such as injection molding techniques and other suitable techniques depending on the materials employed. A variety of materials are suitable for use to make the modules including, but not limited to, plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PETE or PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polystyrene (PS, HIPS, or ABS), biodegradable plastics (including biodegradables), polycarbonates (PC), polyethylene (PE), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), polyetheretherketone (PEEK), melamine formaldehyde (MF) and polylactic acid (PLA); stainless steel, aluminum and other metals, wood, composite materials, and combinations of any of these materials.

The present modular container 10 may be provided with an insert 60 as illustrated in FIG. 7A which fits within the container 10. The insert may function to provide a sealed container for use with food and beverages. The insert may also function to provide an insulated container for use with hot or cold foods or beverages. Thus, the insert may be made from stainless steel, glass, ceramics, plastics or other appropriate material. It may also comprise within its walls a thermal component to allow it to maintain a hot or cold temperature. The insert may be inserted into a modular container 10 as shown in FIG. 7B and maintained in position within the container by the upper module of the container. For example, the insert 60 may include at its upper edge a rim 62 or other means to engage with the upper module 16, between the upper module 16 and a lid 45, or between the upper module 16 and an internal module 14 as shown in FIG. 7B. When the upper module is attached to the internal module, the rim 62 will be held in place by this attachment. The insert 60 may also be held in position by friction. The insert will also provide for straightforward cleaning of the container as the insert may be readily removed from the container to permit its cleaning

A pedestal 64 may be used with the insert 60 in a modular container in accordance with the invention to add extra height to the insert 60, if needed, to fit within the container 10. As shown in FIG. 8A, the pedestal 64 comprises a base 67 with an upper wall 66 extending upwardly from base 67 and a lower wall 68 extending downwardly from base 67. The pedestal 64 is sized and shaped to removably fit onto the bottom of a given insert 60. Thus, the base 67 of the pedestal corresponds to the bottom of the insert 60, and the upper wall 66 of the pedestal fits onto the bottom of the insert 60. The upper wall of the pedestal is of a height sufficient to support the insert 60 stably within the container 10. Similarly, the height of the lower wall 68 is sufficient to provide a stable base for the insert 60. In one embodiment, the height of the lower wall 68 of pedestal 64 will coincide with the height of the modules of the container such that the pedestal 64 raises the insert 60 the height of a module. This will permit the top of the insert to line up (approximately) with the top of the container 10. As shown in FIG. 8B, a single pedestal 64 may be used to support an insert 60 within a modular container 10, or multiple pedestals may be stacked onto one another if the insert 60 requires added height to fit into a given container 10.

In addition to the function of the modules 12, 14, 16 and 18 to connect to form a container 10, the modules may also incorporate a storage compartment, e.g. for change, keys, and the like. For example, the base module 12 may include a compartment formed in the closed bottom portion thereof for storage of items.

Any of the base 12, internal or adapter 14, 18 or upper 16 modules may include accessory items, as either an integrally formed part of the module or an independently formed attachment. Such accessory items may include handles, fastening means such as fastening rings for use to fasten the container to shoulder straps, purses, brief cases, coolers, etc., aesthetic accessories which form the cup into a desired shape (e.g. trophy, character, etc.) and the like.

An overlay ring accessory 70 as shown in FIG. 10 is also provided for use with the present modular container, or any container. The overlay ring 70 fits around the exterior of the container. The ring 70 may be made of an expandible polymeric material or other materials noted above for making the modules of the container, rubber, a composite material, fabric, or a metal, stainless steel, etc. In the case of an expandible material, the ring 70 may readily be put in place over a container, or on a module of a modular container and retained in place by elastic forces. With respect to a non-expandible ring, these may be readily used with modules of a modular container which may be adapted to receive and retain an overlay ring in place thereon. In one embodiment, a container or module of a container may be formed with an indented body 72 and a protruding lip or ledge 74 at the top and bottom edges of the body 72 to retain the ring 70 in place thereon. The overlay ring 70 may also be designed to fit onto a rail and groove system, ride on oversized seal barriers or any other means to affix them to a container. The overlay rings 70 may be removably fixed in position on a container or may be rotatable about a container or module thereof.

The ring 70 may be utilized to customize a container as desired by a user by simply adding, removing, changing, or modifying said ring at any given time. Thus, the overlay ring may provide colour, texture, design, text, symbols, images and the like to a given container. The features of the overlay ring 70 may be provided thereon by printing, etching, engraving, fusing, gluing, laser cutting and secondary molding processes. The text, symbols, images and the like on the rings may be simply aesthetic in nature or may be used to label the container with its contents, with the name of the user or other text or images of the user's choice. Overlay rings may be cut to display text or images thereby exposing the surface of the underlying module, and rendering the image in the texture, colour, etc. of the module. Overlay rings may be stacked or layered on top of each other to have a base layer (70a), a mid layer (70b) and an outer layer (70c) as shown in FIG. 13, and may be etched or cut to incorporate a design or text in the outer ring 70c in the colour of the underneath rings 70a and 70b as shown in FIG. 12. Multiple rings may also be placed side-by-side on a non-modular container (FIG. 11A) or on a single module as shown in FIG. 11B to yield a mug of different colours, patterns, with designs, text, etc. Thus, multiple overlay rings may be stacked and aligned on a module or container. Such stacking or aligning may be used to create communications or images on the module or container as shown in FIG. 14.

FIG. 15 is a perspective view of overlay rings used to communicate information by attaching, rotating, flipping and aligning on the modules of the container. As an example, facial expressions created with overlay rings (A) may be aligned on the modules to make a face (B). Rotating the bottom overlay ring changes the mouth and the expression (C). The facial expression may alternatively be altered by flipping the mouth overlay ring (D). In another example, overlay rings are used to represent game pieces (car images) and the playing surface (numbers 0 to 9) in a racing game (E). Each car's position in the race is communicated by rotating the car overlays into a new position relative to the numbers overlay (F).

The overlay ring 70 may also provide a functional purpose such as grip, insulation and the like, depending on the material used to make the ring.

As will be appreciated from the foregoing, various modular containers may be made utilizing different combinations of the modules as described above. FIG. 9 illustrates examples of modular containers in accordance with the invention. The utility of the present modular container is not limited and may be used to hold both perishable goods, such as foods, beverages and flowers, as well as non-perishable goods, such as office supplies (pens, pencils, paper clips), household items (coins, tacs, nails, screws and miscellaneous items), and the like. Thus, the modules described herein may be attached to form cups, mugs, bottles, vases, storage containers and a variety of other useful containers.

The modular container advantageously provides a product that may be adapted to suit the user. Thus, the container may be transformed with respect to size (length, width and height), shape, function and design, depending on the situation. The transformation is achieved by simply replacing one or more modules of the container with a module(s) that provides the required feature. The modules are designed to interconnect to provide the flexibility to alter the final container as desired. Thus, a user may accumulate the modules required to convert a modular cup in accordance with the invention to a modular mug, bottle or container depending on the required function, or to convert a large-based modular mug to a smaller-based modular mug, depending on the mug holder with which it is to be used, or to convert an unidentifiable modular container to an identifiable modular container. Thus, the modular container described herein is a unique dynamic product that exceeds the utility of containers currently available in the market that are generally static in nature.