Title:
Gravity feed product dispenser
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A motion-resistant system for displaying and dispensing articles has a flange means that is capable of flexing upward or downward along a horizontal axis and at least one compartment for holding article or products therein. A preferred embodiment has at least one divider attached to a center wall and the flange means attached releasably to a front face of a bottom support, wherein the flange means extends substantially beneath the front face of the bottom support, so as to permit the dispenser to abut the a store shelf and resist movement upon contact.



Inventors:
Robert, Paul Edmond (Lyndhurst, NJ, US)
Bissot, Maureen Ann (Lyndhurst, NJ, US)
Application Number:
09/833828
Publication Date:
10/17/2002
Filing Date:
04/12/2001
Assignee:
Advertising Display Company
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
221/303
International Classes:
A47F1/08; A47F5/11; (IPC1-7): B65H1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NOLAND, KENNETH W
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LONDA, BRUCE S. (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A system for displaying and dispensing articles, comprising a box having a top, a front wall having a lower opening along a lower edge thereof, a center wall residing generally parallel to and between the front wall and a rear wall, a bottom support extending perpendicular to and forward from the center wall adjacent a lower end thereof, and a flange means extending generally outward and along the length adjacent the bottom support, such that when in use the box is abutted against a store shelf by the flange means, the flange means being attachable to a front face of the bottom support by a securing means, wherein the flange means extends beyond a bottom edge of a front face of the bottom support, such that the box is capable of resisting motion upon contact.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the box further comprises at least one divider extending from the center wall to the front wall forming a plurality of vertical compartments.

3. The system of claim 2, wherein the at least one divider extends downward to sufficient distance so as to be able to retain products residing within the compartments when in use.

4. The system of claim 2, wherein the at least one divider extends upward to sufficient distance so as to be able to retain products residing within the compartments when in use.

5. The system of claim 2, wherein the front wall has at least one slot, and wherein the at least one divider comprises a tab extending rearward and conforming with the at least one slot.

6. The system of claim 2, comprising a plurality of dividers, each comprising a first securing means, the front face of the center wall further comprising a plurality of second securing means arranged in a row along a length of the center wall, structured to securingly interact with the first securing means to thereby retain the dividers to the front face of the center wall.

7. The system of claim 6, wherein the plurality of second securing means are arranged in two rows along the length of the center wall, a first upper row located at a set distance above a chosen line running along the length of the center wall, a second upper row located at the set distance below the chosen line, the first securing means being located at the set distance from a horizontal center line of the divider.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein the first securing means is a tab, and the second securing means is a slot structured to conform to and retain the tab therein.

9. A system for displaying and dispensing articles, comprising a box having a top, a front wall having a lower opening along a lower edge thereof, a center wall residing generally parallel to and between the front wall and a rear wall, a bottom support extending perpendicular to and forward from the center wall adjacent a lower end thereof, a plurality of dividers, each comprising a first securing means, the front face of the center wall further comprising a plurality of second securing means arranged in a row along a length of the center wall, structured to securingly interact with the first securing means to thereby retain the dividers to the front face of the center wall.

10. The system of claim 9, wherein the plurality of second securing means are arranged in two rows along the length of the center wall, a first upper row located at a set distance above a chosen line running along the length of the center wall, a second upper row located at the set distance below the chosen line, the first securing means being located at the set distance from a horizontal center line of the divider.

11. The system of claim 10, wherein the first securing means is a tab, and the second securing means is a slot structured to conform to and retain the tab therein.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The invention relates to an improved product dispenser. More particularly, the invention relates to a gravity feed product dispenser preferably made of corrugated board or the like, particularly adapted for residing on a store shelf, which may be filled with product and shipped to retailers for immediate setup and display.

[0002] In order to maximize efficiency and cost, it is desirable for a product manufacturer or distributor of product (such as pain reliever or the like) to be able to prepare a product display and dispenser which can be easily assembled, with flexibility to accommodate various product sizes, and to ship the dispenser, preferably pre-loaded with product, to the retailer. It is further desirable to provide a display dispenser which the retailer can receive, and set up with a minimal number of steps, so that the product can be made available to the customer as quickly and as conveniently as possible. In addition, as the dispenser of the invention is intended to reside on a store shelf, it is desirable to provide a configuration which resists shifting of the dispenser on the shelf during use. Furthermore, it is advantageous to provide a dispenser which has broad space available for graphics, while simultaneously masking the product storage area, so that even as product is being depleted, the display retains a ‘full’ appearance as product drops to the dispensing area by way of gravity.

[0003] The device of U.S. Pat. No. 1,663,088 requires a hinged front flap in order to access the products located therein. Due to its slender and vertical nature, the device may be easily tipped over upon contact, thereby losing its high visibility to customers and forcing the retailer to reposition the device to its original position or to an entirely different one.

[0004] U.S. Pat. No. 1,904, 760 discloses a receptacle for dispensing product, wherein the receptacle has an open front and rear sides. Moreover, a cover must be removed in order to fill the dispenser, making the task of loading or reloading the receptacle an inefficient one. Due to its open front and rear sides, product may accidentally be jarred from the receptacle if the receptacle is tipped.

[0005] The dispenser in U.S. Pat. No. 1,519,825 is substantially encased in glass, thereby creating danger to people handling the dispenser and increasing costs for manufacturing and packaging. Furthermore, the vertical nature of the dispenser makes it prone to tipping over on contact. Hence, the ideal position for this dispenser is against a wall to prevent tipping. Since this position is at the rear of the shelf, the product loses effective visibility because customers have to strain to find the product.

[0006] The instant invention solves the deficiencies stated in the prior art, while providing improvements as stated herein.

SUMMARY

[0007] Accordingly, the present invention provides for a product dispenser generally in the form of a box, having a top being or capable of being at least partially opened, a front wall having a lower opening along a lower edge thereof, a center wall residing generally parallel to and between the front wall and a rear wall, a bottom support extending perpendicular to and forward from the center wall adjacent the lower end thereof. The area between the center wall and the front wall is where the product is retained for dispensing, and can be known as the product storage area. The product storage area preferably has at least one, and preferably a series of spaced-apart vertical dividers, extending from the center wall to the front wall, forming a plurality of compartments for retaining product. The dividers may be removably affixed at various locations within the product storage area to provide flexibility in customizing the compartment sizes to the particular products being contained therein.

[0008] The dividers extend downward for a sufficient length past an upper edge of the lower opening so as to retain the products within their respective compartments until removed by the user. The lower opening, bounded above by the lower edge of the front wall, and below by bottom support, acts as a dispensing window for the products. As product is removed, at the bottom of each compartment through the dispensing window, the product above drops down by gravity to the bottom support to replace the removed product.

[0009] A particular feature of the invention is the support flange means, extending outwardly from the front edge of the bottom support. The flange means is preferably a unitary flange member running substantially along the length of the bottom support. In addition, the flange means may be one or a series of spaced-apart flange member. The flange means is preferably flexed about its connection with the bottom support, such that in use it may be folded downwardly to abut, and eventually be secured against, a front-facing wall portion of the bottom support. However, as the purpose of the flange means is to provide resistance against movement of the dispenser with respect to the shelf, a sufficient resistance to rotation about its fold axis, even without being secured to the bottom support, may also be provided as an alternative arrangement. In practice, the flange means may also be a separate from the bottom support, so long as it is secured to the front face of the bottom support. However, for ease of manufacture and installation, a unitary flange and bottom support is advantageous.

[0010] The flange means should extend outward to a degree, such that when folded down against the front face of the bottom support, the flange means extends beyond the bottom edge of the front face of the bottom support, and therefore abuts the front of the store shelf when in use. The degree of extension beyond the bottom of the front face of the bottom support (or, beyond the bottom surface of the dispenser itself) should be generally the thickness of the store shelf. However, the guiding factor should be that the flange means should act, in combination with the store shelf, to resist movement of the dispenser with respect to the shelf when the user is retrieving product from the dispenser.

[0011] In order to maximize the retaining ability of the flange means, it is preferable that it be secured to the front face of the bottom support by a securing means, such as an adhesive, e.g. double-sided tape, or any other suitable means. In a preferred embodiment, the securing means, such as double-sided adhesive tape, interlocking tab and slot arrangements, or hook-and-loop fasteners, are provided on one or both of the facing surfaces of the underside of the flange means and the front face of the bottom support.

[0012] A further feature of the invention resides in the flexibility of configuration with respect to the size and arrangement of the vertical product storage compartments. The width of the vertical compartments may be varied to accommodate differing product sizes from compartment to compartment; or simply to allow the dispenser to accommodate a different product size over all. In this regard, the securing means for holding the vertical dividers in place are provided to allow this flexibility of configuration. In a preferred embodiment, a tab and slot arrangement is used wherein the vertical dividers are provided with tabs extending rearwardly for insertion into corresponding slots on the front face of the center wall. By providing a series of slots located along the length of the center wall, the location of which are preferably determined according to various expected product sizes, each dispenser can be assembled to accommodate a particular size or combination of differently sized product.

[0013] In order to easily assemble the device to provide for the desired slot arrangement, the invention contemplates a novel arrangement of slots that corresponds to the number of compartments for dispensing products. In a preferred embodiment, a primary set of slots, arranged in a row, may be provided for one common configuration of slots in the upper portion of the center wall. A secondary set, or row, of slots, corresponding to a different spacing of the dividers, may additionally be provided in the lower portion of the center wall. The primary and secondary series of slots are arranged such that the dividers are universal, in that they will work in conjunction with both the upper and lower rows of slots in either an upward or downward orientation. The vertical dividers are preferably provided with a tab located off-center by a set distance, and the primary and secondary (i.e. lower and upper) rows of slots are situated off-center (above or below center) by the same set distance, such that the tab will reside within either a primary or secondary slot, depending on the upward or downward orientation of the divider.

[0014] If it were attempted to place an increasing number of slots within a single row in the center wall, the structural integrity of the center wall would be compromised. The inventive arrangement allows for a doubling of the number of slots provided in the center wall. As the several dividers may be placed in either up or down orientation within a single desired configuration, the number of possible configurations is greatly increased, as both the first and second row of slots is available. A further advantage of this arrangement is that when the device is being assembled, the distinction between slots corresponding to a first arrangement of dividers are readily distinguished from those corresponding to a second arrangement, so that the first and second rows may be configured to correspond with first and second common configurations.

[0015] These and other objects of the invention are best understood and more apparent when the detailed description and the accompanying drawings are read in conjunction with each other.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0016] FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of the invention.

[0017] FIG. 2 is a front perspective view of a preferred embodiment of the invention situated on a shelf.

[0018] FIG. 3 is an isolated view of the bottom trim and the flange in a detached state.

[0019] FIG. 4 is a front perspective view of the plurality of dividers inserted into the slots of the center wall.

[0020] FIG. 5 is a front perspective view of another embodiment showing a series of slots in the center wall.

[0021] FIG. 6 is a side view of a vertical divider.

[0022] FIG. 7 is another embodiment of the invention showing a front perspective view of the vertical dividers extending downward when inserted into a primary series of slots.

[0023] FIG. 8 is another embodiment of the invention showing a front perspective view of the vertical dividers extending upward when inserted into a secondary series of slots.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[0024] As shown in FIG. 1, a product dispenser is generally in the form of a box, having a top (14), a front wall (2), a center wall (12), a rear wall (1), bottom support (6), and a flange means (8). The dispenser is preferably made of a material such as cardboard, so as to make it compact and lightweight. Due to the substantial surface area, both the front wall (2) and the flange means (8) are especially suitable for graphics pertaining to the product or article being dispensed.

[0025] The top (14) substantially covers the dispenser, extending toward the front wall (2), the front wall (2) extending downward has a lower opening (4) along its lower edge (9). The top (14) is situated perpendicular and adjacent to an upper edge (18) of a center wall (12), wherein the center wall (12) resides generally parallel to and between the front wall (2) and the rear wall (1). The area between the center wall (12) and the front wall (2) is where the product is retained for dispensing, and can be called a product storage area. The lower opening (4), bounded above by the lower edge (9) of the front wall (2), and below by the bottom support (6), acts as a dispensing window for the products. The bottom support (6) extends perpendicular to and forward from the lower end (5) of the center wall (12). As product is removed, at the bottom of each compartment through the dispensing window, the product above drops down by gravity to the bottom support (6) to replace the removed product. Because the front wall of the dispenser is open only at the bottom, dispensing region, the product storage is kept from view. Therefore, even as the product is being depleted, the dispenser avoids the look of an empty shelf, since the next product article drops down via gravity to the dispensing region.

[0026] Extending outwardly from the front edge (11) of the bottom support (6), the flange means (8) is preferably a unitary flange member running substantially along the length of the bottom support (6). It is contemplated that the flange means (8) may be one or a series of a spaced-apart flange member. The flange means (8) is preferably flexed about its connection with the bottom support (6), such that in use it may be folded downwardly to abut, and eventually secure against, a front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6) as shown in FIG. 2. In such an embodiment, the flange means may also be folded up towards the front wall, for ease of shipping. Upon receipt, the retailer then unfolds and engages the flange as above. It is further contemplated that the flange means (8) may be separated from the bottom support (6), so long as it is secured to the front face (16) of the bottom support (6). However, for ease of manufacture and installation, a unitary flange and bottom support is advantageous.

[0027] In order to maximize the retaining ability of the flange means, it is preferable that it be secured to the front face of the bottom support by a securing means, such as an adhesive, e.g. double-sided tape, or any other suitable means. In a preferred embodiment, the securing means, such as double-sided adhesive tape, interlocking tab and slot arrangements, or hook-and-loop fasteners, are provided on one or both of the facing surfaces of the underside of the flange means and the front face of the bottom support.

[0028] In its preferred embodiment, the dispenser is designed to be the length of a standard commercial shelf as shown in FIG. 2. The dispenser is preferably in the form of a box comprising a top (14) having an upper opening (7), the flange means (8), and a divider (10), wherein at least one divider (10) partitions the product storage area forming a plurality of compartments for retaining product. It is contemplated that the number of compartments may be as few as one, in the absence of a divider, or as many as desired by the manufacturer. The size of the upper opening (7) is defined by the distance between the front wall (2) and the center wall (12). The upper opening (7) is contemplated to act as a receiving means for the products to be placed into the product storage area for dispensing. The product storage area is further capable of being replenished once the products have been depleted.

[0029] Referring to FIG. 4, the dividers (10) are further contemplated to be preferably a series of spaced-apart vertical dividers, extending downwardly for a sufficient length past an upper edge of the lower opening so as to retain the products within their respective compartments until removed by a user. The dividers attach releasably to the center wall (12), for one or both are provided with a securing means (9, 20), such as an adhesive tape, interlocking tab and slot arrangement, hook-and-loop fasteners, or the like.

[0030] When the dispenser is set on a store shelf as shown in FIG. 2, the flange means (8) should extend outward to a degree, such that when folded down against the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6), the flange means (8) extends beyond the bottom edge of the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6), and therefore abuts the front of the store shelf when in use. The degree of extension beyond the bottom of the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6), or beyond the bottom surface of the dispenser itself, should be generally the thickness of the store shelf. However, the guiding factor should be that the flange means (8) should act, in combination with the store shelf, to resist movement of the dispenser with respect to the shelf when the user is retrieving product from the dispenser.

[0031] In order to maximize the retaining ability of the flange means (8), it is preferable that the flange means (8) be secured to the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6) by a third securing means (22), such as an adhesive or any other suitable means as shown in FIG. 3. In a preferred embodiment, the third securing means (22), such as adhesive tape, interlocking tab and slot arrangements, or hook-and-loop fasteners are provided on one or both of the facing surfaces of the underside of the flange means (8) and the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6).

[0032] Another contemplated embodiment of the invention is shown in FIGS. 7 and 8, wherein the first securing means is preferably a tab (20) and a second securing means is a corresponding slot (9). The actual number of slots and their placement thereof along the length of the center wall is preferably determined according to the number of vertical compartments and expected product sizes. In a preferred embodiment (FIG. 5), a series of slots, called a primary series of slots, is located along an upper portion along the length of the center wall (12). A secondary series of slots is optionally located along a lower portion along the length of the center wall (12). The primary and secondary series of slots (9) are arranged equidistant from a center line (30) at a set distance x, such that the divider (10) in either an upward or downward orientation extends substantially along the front wall (2) to retain products in the compartments contained therein. It should be understood that the ‘center line’ need not be the precise center of the center wall (12). Rather, the center line (30) should be chosen in conjunction with the size of the divider being used in order to insure proper downward reach of the divider. The vertical divider (10) includes a tab (20) located off-center relative to the length of the vertical divider (10) as shown in FIG. 6. The tab (20) is such that it will reside within any slot (9) of the primary or secondary series of slots, depending on the upward or downward orientation of the divider. The divider (10) is preferably constructed such that an upper end (24) of the divider (10) is equivalent in length to that of a lower end (23) of the divider (10), the importance of which is evidenced below. FIG. 7 shows that when the tab (20) of divider (10) resides in a slot (9) located in the primary series of slots, the divider (10) is preferably situated in a downward orientation and partially out of view by way of the front wall (2). FIG. 7 further shows the lower end (23) of the divider (10) visible extending downward from the lower edge (9) of the front wall (2). When the tab (20) of the divider (10) resides in a slot (9) located in the secondary series of slots as shown in FIG. 8, the divider (10) is situated in an upward orientation revealing the upper end (24) of the divider extending downward from beyond a lower edge (9) of the front wall (2). It is further contemplated that the aforementioned embodiment can operate in either the absence or presence of the flange means.

[0033] In a further embodiment, before the dispenser is set on the store shelf, the dispenser can be sent to the retailer packaged with the product or articles pre-loaded. The compact design permits easy transport and efficient packaging, wherein the flange means (8) is preferably folded toward the front wall (2) thereby covering the lower opening of the dispenser and exposing the underside of the flange means (8). Once received, the retailer just has to situate the dispenser on the edge of the store shelf and move the flange means (8), so that it is flush with the front wall (2) and secured to the front-facing wall portion (16) of the bottom support (6).

[0034] The aforementioned embodiments are meant to be illustrative only, and are not meant to be limiting. Of course, many changes in detail or construction can be made without departing from the scope of the invention.