Title:
Container and method of interconnecting and transporting multiple containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container is disclosed that is adapted to interconnect with like containers. The container has a connecting device disposed on a side wall. The connecting device is adapted to removably connect with a portion of an adjacent container. Once connected, one of the containers can be pulled which in turn pulls the other container along.



Inventors:
Most, Tobin R. (Akron, OH, US)
Skov, Erik L. (Akron, OH, US)
Reber, Fred (Shreve, OH, US)
Scherer, Thomas W. (Mansfield, OH, US)
Sander, David R. (Wooster, OH, US)
O'brien, Sean M. (Wooster, OH, US)
Schneider, Stephanie K. (Wooster, OH, US)
Hull, Kenneth W. (Wooster, OH, US)
Fernandez, Adrian (Akron, OH, US)
Application Number:
10/464136
Publication Date:
01/15/2004
Filing Date:
06/18/2003
Assignee:
RUBBERMAID, INC. (Wooster, OH)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/756
International Classes:
B65F1/14; B65F1/00; (IPC1-7): A47G19/00; B65D21/02; B65D53/00; B65D81/24
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SWENSON, BRIAN L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MARSHALL, GERSTEIN & BORUN LLP (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A container comprising: a base having a bottom panel, a contiguous upstanding sidewall, an interior space, and an open top; one or more wheels on or adjacent the bottom panel near a first side of the base; a handle disposed on the first side of the base; a connector disposed on a second side of the base, the second side being substantially opposite to the first side; wherein the connector is adapted to removably connect with a handle of a second container to couple the second container to the base.

2. A container according to claim 1, wherein the bottom panel of the container and the one or more wheels ground the container when in an upright position, and wherein only the one or more wheels ground the container when the container is tilted in the direction of the first side.

3. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector is fixedly attached to the second side.

4. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector is pivotally attached to the second side.

5. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector includes a pair of spaced apart connecting arms and a cross bar connected between the connecting arms.

6. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector comprises: a mounting fixture including a pair spaced apart bores disposed on the second side; and a hook having a pair of spaced apart connecting arms and a cross bar extending between the connecting arms; wherein inserting free ends of the connecting arms in the bores provides pivotal attachment of the hook to the mounting fixture.

7. A container according to claim 1, wherein the handle is fixedly attached to the first side.

8. A container according to claim 1, wherein the handle is pivotally attached to the first side.

9. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector is shaped to retain the handle of the second container when connected.

10. A container according to claim 1, wherein the connector is shaped to suspend one or more objects therefrom.

11. A container chain comprising: a plurality of containers, each container including a base having a bottom panel, a contiguous upstanding sidewall, one or more wheels on or adjacent the bottom panel near a first side of the base, a handle on the first side of the base, and a connector on a second side thereof, the first side being substantially opposite to the second side; wherein the connector of each container of the plurality of containers is adapted to removably connect with the handle of the other containers of the plurality of containers; and wherein the plurality of containers are interconnected with one another, handle to connector, in series so that the container chain can be moved by manipulating an end one of the plurality of containers.

12. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the bottom panel and the one or more wheels of each container ground the container when in an upright position; wherein only the one or more wheels of each container ground the container when tilted in the direction of the first side thereof; and wherein tilting an end one of the plurality of containers in the direction of the first side thereof tilts the other containers of the plurality of containers toward the respective first sides thereof.

13. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the connector of each container is fixedly attached to the second side thereof.

14. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the connector of each container is pivotally attached to the second side thereof.

15. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the connector of each container includes a pair of spaced apart connecting arms and a cross bar interconnecting the connecting arms.

16. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the connector of each container comprises: a mounting fixture including a pair spaced apart bores disposed on the second side; and a hook having a pair of spaced apart connecting arms and a cross bar extending between the connecting arms; wherein inserting free ends of the connecting arms in the bores provides pivotal attachment of the hook to the mounting fixture.

17. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the handle of each container is fixedly attached to the first side thereof.

18. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the handle of each container is pivotally attached to the first side thereof.

19. A container chain according to claim 11, wherein the connector of each container is shaped to retain the handle of any one of the other containers of the plurality of containers when connected.

20. A method of moving a plurality of containers, the method comprising: providing a handle on a first side of each container and a connector on a second side of each container, the second side being substantially opposite the first side, each container including a base having a bottom panel, a contiguous upstanding sidewall, an interior space, an open top, and one or more wheels on or adjacent the bottom panel near the first side of the base; removably connecting the handle of each container to the connector of an adjacent container of the plurality of containers, wherein the handle of a first container and the connector of a last container of the plurality of containers are not connected to another container of the plurality of containers; and moving the plurality of containers by moving an end one of the plurality of containers.

21. A method of moving a plurality of containers according to claim 20, the step of moving comprising: tilting the end one of the plurality of containers in the direction of the first side thereof, wherein only the one or more wheels of the end one container ground the end one container, the tilting causing each of the plurality of containers to tilt in the direction of their respective sides; and moving the plurality of containers by moving the end one container of the plurality of containers.

22. A method of moving a plurality of containers according to claim 20, the step of moving further comprising pushing the end one of the plurality of containers.

23. A method of moving a plurality of containers according to claim 20, the step of moving further comprising pulling the end one of the plurality of containers.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority from U.S. provisional application Serial No. 60/389,616, filed Jun. 18, 2002.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention generally relates to trash containers, receptacles, and the like, and more particularly to such a container adapted to interconnect with like containers and to a method of interconnecting and transporting multiple containers.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0003] Certain types of trash containers are known to be relatively large in size in order to hold several loads of trash transferred from smaller household receptacles. Such containers are typically suited for outdoor use, as the containers are often stored outside and are left near a street for trash pick up. These containers, when fully loaded, can be quite heavy and cumbersome to move from a storage location to a street or pick up location.

[0004] Various methods and constructions have been devised to reduce the weight and to ease transportability of such containers. Many of these trash containers are now made from plastic materials utilizing a suitable molding process. Plastic containers are relatively light weight when compared to older steel trash cans. However, when fully loaded, the plastic containers can still be difficult to transport from one location to another. The containers must either be lifted or dragged between locations.

[0005] A number of trash containers are now available with wheels on one edge of their bottom surface to permit the containers to be pulled from one location to another. Transporting such a container is relatively easy. The container is simply tipped to one side to rest only on the wheels and then pulled by a handle and rolled on the wheels. Such a container can also be pushed in this manner. However, it can be awkward to push and properly steer a fully loaded container of this type from behind.

[0006] Many users try to save time and energy by moving two containers of this type at the same time between locations. This can be difficult because, in order for each container to roll properly, one must be pushed from behind and one must be pulled along at the same time. A user typically has a difficult time steering the forward or pushed container and pulling the rear container in the same time. This is particularly true where the containers are being moved over an irregular surface. It can be difficult to maintain control over both containers when the wheels of the front container encounter a bump. The containers can tip over or veere out of control easily. Further, it is nearly impossible to move more than two of these wheeled containers at the same time because all of the containers cannot be moved along the same travel path. Thus, all of the sets of wheels cannot roll in a straight path.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] Objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following description in conjunction with the drawing figures, in which:

[0008] FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one example of two trash containers constructed and interconnected in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0009] FIG. 2 is a side view of one of the containers shown in FIG. 1.

[0010] FIG. 3 is a front view of one of the containers shown in FIG. 1.

[0011] FIG. 4 is an enlarged perspective view of a portion of the container taken from Circle IV in FIG. 1 and with a portion of the interconnecting device removed.

[0012] FIG. 5 is an enlarged perspective view of a wire hook portion of the interconnecting device shown removed from the container shown in FIG. 3.

[0013] FIG. 6 is a side view of three interconnected trash containers as shown in FIGS. 2 and 3.

[0014] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of one of the trash containers shown in FIGS. 2 and 3 with a smaller trash bag hanging from the interconnecting device.

[0015] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a portion of another example of a trash container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

[0016] FIG. 9 is a side view of another example of a wire hook portion of an interconnecting device shown prior to its installation on a container.

[0017] FIG. 10 is a front view of the wire hook portion shown in FIG. 9.

[0018] FIG. 11 is a top view of the wire hook portion shown in FIG. 9.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0019] The present disclosure is for containers and methods that solve or improve upon one or more of the above-noted problems. A container is disclosed that is adapted to interconnect with one or more additional containers so that the interconnected containers can be pulled or pushed in a train or chain. The disclosed container constructions and methods permit more than two of such containers to be moved at the same time. The disclosed containers and methods also permit all of the interconnected containers to either be pushed or pulled together in the same direction. This keeps all of the containers in the same travel path and assists in preventing one or more of the containers from tipping over.

[0020] Referring now to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a pair of trash containers 10 that are interconnected with one another in series, similar to a train. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the containers 10 can be any type of container for storing and/or transporting a variety of materials. In the disclosed example, however, the container 10 is a trash container that is well known to those of ordinary skill in the art and is typically used to store and transport trash. FIGS. 2 and 3 illustrate one of the containers 10 in side and front view. In the disclosed example, each of the containers 10 shown in FIG. 1 are identical with one another. However, as will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the containers need not be identical, but instead can be different in general construction and shape and yet be capable of interconnection as shown.

[0021] Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, each container 10 generally has a base 11 with a bottom panel 12 and an upstanding contiguous side wall 14 extending upward from a perimeter of the bottom panel. The side wall 14 is generally shaped as a cylinder. In this example, the side wall 14 has four panels 16a, 16b, 16c, and 16d defining a substantially rectangular cylinder, though with rounded corners between each pair of interconnected side panels 16. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the side wall 14 can be shaped in any manner desired to provide an enclosed volume for storing and/or transporting trash or other materials. For instance, the side wall 14 can be oval, square, rectangular, cone, octagonal, or pyramidal in shape, or be configured having any shape and yet fall within the scope and spirit of the disclosure.

[0022] The side wall 14 has a top edge (not shown) that defines a top opening (not shown) providing access to an interior storage space 18. A lid 20 is provided that can positively seat with or latch onto the top edge of the side wall to cover the top opening. The interior storage space 18 is found within the enclosure defined by the side wall 14, bottom panel 12, and lid 20. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the lid can also be attached to the top edge of the side wall 14 with a hinge to facilitate access to the storage space 18 without having to remove the lid 20.

[0023] In this example, the container carries a pair of wheels 22 freely rotatable and supported on axles 24 secured to the container in a suitable fashion. The wheels are adapted to either rest slightly above or barely touching a ground surface “G” when the container 10 rests on its bottom panel 12. This is to insure that the container has stability when standing upright and does not inadvertently roll when left unattended. The wheels are also adapted to touch the ground surface “G” and to lift or raise all other container components above the ground when tilted for transporting, as shown in FIG. 1 and described below. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the container 10 can also include additional wheels to provide transporting the container 10 without tilting thereof. For instance, the container 10 can include a wheel disposed at each corner of the bottom panel 12 for a total of four wheels. Accordingly, the container 10 can be maintained in an upright position and moved without having to be tilted. In such a case, however, one or more of the wheels may include a braking device that when activated prevents movement of the container 10 when placed on an inclined or uneven surface.

[0024] In this example, the container 10 also has a U-shaped handle 26 extending from the side wall 14, in this case, the rear side panel 16c. The handle 26 can be connected to the container either so that it cannot move or so that it can rotate or pivot at its ends 28 coupled to the side wall. The handle 26 in either example has a cross bar 30 adapted to be grasped by a user. The handle 26 is affixed or can be rotated to an orientation with the cross bar 30 extended upward and spaced from the container side wall, as is shown in FIG. 2. In this way, the handle 26 can either be easily grasped by a user and used to pull or push the container when being transported, or be used to interconnect with an adjacent container when desired. The pivotable handle 26 in this example permits the handle to rotate to the most natural handle/grip position for the user, depending on the tilt angle of the container. The handle 26 may also be shaped or have a soft grip material to provide better gripping therof by a user without being uncomfortable to hold.

[0025] In this example and in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, the disclosed container 10 also has an interconnect device 40 disposed on a side of the side wall 14 opposite the handle 26. In this example, the device 40 is positioned on the front side panel 16a. The disclosed interconnect device 40 includes a pair of spaced apart mounting fixtures 42 provided on the side wall 14. The device 40 also includes a steel wire hook 44 that can double as a second handle for the container 10.

[0026] Turning to FIGS. 4 and 5, the mounting fixtures, in this example, each have a cut out or hollowed out region 46 in the side wall 14. Each region 46 terminates at an end wall 48, wherein the end walls 48 of the respective region 46 are angled relative to each other and to a plane perpendicular to the side wall, and face outward away from one another to a predetermined depth. A blind bore 50 is formed in each of the end walls 48, wherein the blind bores 50 extend toward one another. The mounting fixtures 42 disclosed and described herein are illustrative only. As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, other mounting configurations and constructions for an interconnecting device can be provided within the scope and spirit of the teachings of the present disclosure.

[0027] The disclosed wire hook 44 has a cross bar 52 extending between a pair of spaced apart connecting arms 54. Each connecting arm 54 terminates at an in-turned segment 56. The in-turned segments 56 in this example are oriented generally parallel and co-linear with one another and generally perpendicular to their respective connecting arms 54. The connecting arms 54 are concavely curved facing upward to define the hook shape of the wire hook 44.

[0028] To assemble the device 40, the connecting arms 54 are physically spread apart and the in-turned segments 56 are inserted one each into the corresponding blind bores 50. The wire hook 44 can thus be installed and removed as desired as an accessory to the container in this example. When installed, the wire hook 44 can be rotated about the in-turned segments 56 within the blind bores 50. The cross bar 52 can be utilized as a second handle for the container.

[0029] The container 10 can be moved by being tipped onto the wheels 22. A user typically pulls the handle 26 toward himself and downward to tip the container 10 onto the wheels 22. Once the container 10 is tipped onto the wheels 22, the bottom panel 12 does not touch the ground surface “G”, and the container 10 can be easily transported by the wheels 22. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that the angle of the tilting can vary depending on, for example, the height of the user, the size and weight of the objects inside the container 10, and/or the condition of the ground surface “G” on which the container is transported. Accordingly, a user can typically adjust the angle of the tilting when transporting the container to provide a balanced load and comfort.

[0030] Turning to FIGS. 1 and 6, a plurality of the containers 10 can be interconnected and pulled or pushed in series. To interconnect one container with another, a first container can be tipped onto its wheels 22 with the handle 26 facing downward. The cross bar 30 of the handle 26 is then rested on the curved connecting arms 54 of the wire hook 44 of an adjacent container 10. As shown in FIG. 6, a third container 10 can then be tipped and the handle 26 rested on the exposed wire hook 44 of a previously interconnected container 10. Additional containers can be likewise interconnected, if desired. The exposed handle 26 of the end most container (shown as the left side container in FIGS. 1 and 6) can be grasped by a user. The train of containers 10 can then be pulled or pushed as desired in order to transport the multiple containers 10 at the same time. Pulling multiple linked containers may be easier than pushing them, but the invention is not limited to only pulling the container chain. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that for containers that include four wheels and do not require tipping onto the wheels for transport, pulling or pushing of a chain of containers 10 does not require tipping the containers onto their respective wheels.

[0031] As shown in FIG. 7, the wire hook 44 can be utilized to hang one or more additional trash bags 60, store trash container liners, or the like when not being used to transport multiple containers 10. The wire hook 44 in this example can also be removed from the container 10 if desired. One of ordinary skill in the art will readily appreciate that a variety of household items and tools can also be suspended from the hook 44. For instance, a user can suspend gardening and yard tools from the hook 44 when working in a garden and placing garden refuse or debris in the container 10. In another example, a broom and a dust pan can be suspended from the hook 44.

[0032] The positioning of the wire hook 44 and the handle 26 on each container can be varied to achieve different results. To achieve a desired tilt angle of interconnected containers, the height of the handle 26 and wire hook 44 relative to one another can be varied as desired. In the disclosed example, the wire hook 44 is positioned at a lower elevation than the cross bar 30 of the handle in order to permit the tipped, interconnected container 10 to reach an over-center condition. This will keep the handle 26 resting on the wire hook and prevent the tipped container from returning to an upright position when unattended.

[0033] As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the interconnecting device 40 can vary considerably from the example shown and described herein. For example, the hook 44 can be formed from alternative materials, other than the disclosed steel wire, or can be replaced by an integrally molded hook element 70 as shown in FIG. 8. The hook element 70 is affixed to the side wall 14 and can be integrally molded therewith, if desired. Such a hook element 70 would not be removable or pivotable. Also, the mounting fixtures could be molded as protrusions instead of as cut out regions as shown herein. Further, the hook element need not have a cross bar 52, but instead can include two separate hooks for connecting with the handle 26 and for stability.

[0034] To illustrate another alternative example, FIGS. 9-11 show a different configuration of a wire hook 80 that can replace the hook 44 described above. In this example, the hook 80 has a pair of in-turned segments 82 extending inward toward one another from respective spaced apart legs 84. The legs extend upward from respective connecting arms 86. A cross bar 88 extends laterally between the connecting arms 86. In this example, the cross bar 88 is upwardly curved to define a “hook” that will retain a handle of an adjacent container rested on the connecting arms. The cross bar 88 also has a rearwardly extending portion 90 that extends back in the direction of the legs 84. The portion 90 will assist in retaining a handle 26 on the hook 80 by capturing the handle cross bar 30 between the portion 90, the connecting arms 86, the cross bar 88, and the legs 84. The hook 80 would attached to the container by using the segments 82 in the same manner as the segments 56 described above.

[0035] Also, the disclosed interconnectable containers can be fabricated from any material as desired without departing from the spirit and scope of the disclosure. Further, completely different devices can be utilized for interconnecting two adjacent containers. Hook and loop (VELCRO®) fasteners can be utilized to removably interconnect adjacent containers. For example, a hook or loop strap can be provided on one side of each container base and a corresponding loop or hook strap can be provided on the opposite side of the base. Alternatively, hook and loop pads can be affixed to protruding objects such as handles of each container. As a further alternative, a strap having a hook and loop portions can be connected to one side of each container. The strap can wrap around a handle or an opposite side of an adjacent container and secure itself to maintain the wrapped arrangement.

[0036] Although certain container configurations and methods have been disclosed and described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present invention, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the invention that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.