Title:
Stopper for bottle
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stopper for sealing a bottle comprising a core having a top surface, a bottom surface and one or more side surfaces and an enclosure that covers the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core. The seal between the stopper and the inner surface of the neck of the bottle is formed with a radially protruding sealing member that circumferentially engages the enclosure. The core may be made of materials selected from cork, synthetic cork, material that simulates cork or from combinations thereof. The core may also be made of other materials that may create a pleasing design for a particular application or need. The sealing member may be an O-ring that may be received by an O-ring gland formed in the enclosure or the sealing member may be injection molded with the enclosure, wherein the sealing member and the enclosure form an integral piece.



Inventors:
Caswell, Johnny E. (LaGrange, TX, US)
Arroyo, Vincent (Calistoga, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/295771
Publication Date:
12/02/2004
Filing Date:
11/15/2002
Assignee:
CASWELL JOHNNY E.
ARROYO VINCENT
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D39/00; (IPC1-7): B65D39/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
NGO, LIEN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
STEELE IP LAW, PLLC (HOUSTON, TX, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A stopper for sealing a bottle, comprising a core having a top surface, a bottom surface and one or more side surfaces; an enclosure covering the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core; and a radially protruding sealing member circumferentially engaging the enclosure, wherein the stopper is adapted for being inserted into a neck of the bottle, wherein the sealing member forms an interference fit with an inner surface of the neck of the bottle, and wherein the interference fit forms a fluid tight seal between the sealing member and the inner surface of the neck of the bottle.

2. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the core comprises cork.

3. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the core comprises a synthetic cork.

4. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the core is made of a material that simulates cork.

5. The stopper of claim 4, wherein the material is selected from a thermoplastic elastomer comprising a styrene block copolymer and a blowing agent.

6. The stopper of claim 5, wherein the blowing agent is selected from the group consisting of azodicarbonamide, ozodecarbonoxide and sodium bicarbonate.

7. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the enclosure comprises acrylic.

8. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the enclosure is made of materials selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polycarbonate and combinations thereof.

9. The stopper of claim 1, further comprising: a radially protruding lip encircling an upper perimeter of the enclosure, wherein the lip extends outwardly beyond an inner diameter of an opening of the bottle.

10. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the bottle is a wine bottle.

11. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the sealing member is an O-ring.

12. The stopper of claim 11, further comprising: an O-ring gland formed in the enclosure, wherein the O-ring gland receives the O-ring.

13. The stopper of claim 12, wherein the O-ring gland is positioned below the bottom surface of the core.

14. The stopper of claim 11, wherein the O-ring comprises an elastomer.

15. The stopper of claim 11, wherein the O-ring is made of a material selected from the group consisting of chloroprene, rubber, epoxy, silicone and fluorocarbon.

16. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the core is bonded to the enclosure.

17. The stopper of claim 16, wherein the bonding is with an adhesive.

18. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the enclosure is formed around the bottom surface and one or more side surfaces of the core by injection molding.

19. The stopper of claim 18, wherein the core is injection molded and wherein the one or more side surfaces of the core comprise a surface feature selected from one or more grooves, one or more ridges and a combination thereof.

20. The stopper of claim 19, wherein the enclosure is injected molded to bond the one or more side surfaces of the core to an inner surface of the enclosure.

21. The stopper of claim 1, wherein the sealing member is injection molded with the enclosure, and wherein the sealing member is integral with the enclosure.

22. The stopper of claim 21, wherein the sealing member comprises an elastomer.

23. A method for making a stopper for a bottle, comprising: a. providing a core having a top surface, a bottom surface and one or more side surfaces; b. enclosing the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core with an enclosure; c. encircling the enclosure with a radially protruding circumferential sealing member, wherein the sealing member forms an interference fit with an internal surface of the bottle, wherein the stopper is inserted into a neck of the bottle, and wherein the interference fit forms a fluid tight seal between the sealing member and the internal surface of the neck of the bottle.

1. The method of claim 23, wherein the core comprises cork.

2. The method of claim 23, wherein the core comprises a synthetic cork.

3. The method of claim 23, wherein the core is made of a material that simulates cork.

4. The method of claim 26, wherein the material is selected from a thermoplastic elastomer comprising a styrene block copolymer and a blowing agent.

5. The method of claim 27, wherein the blowing agent is selected from the group consisting of azodicarbonamide, ozodecarbonoxide and sodium bicarbonate.

6. The method of claim 23, wherein the enclosure comprises acrylic.

7. The method of claim 23, wherein the enclosure is made of a material selected from polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and polycarbonate.

8. The method of claim 23, further comprising: encircling an upper perimeter of the enclosure with a radially protruding lip, wherein the lip extends outwardly beyond an inner diameter of an opening of the bottle.

9. The method of claim 23, wherein the bottle is a wine bottle.

10. The method of claim 23, wherein the sealing member is an O-ring.

11. The method of claim 33, further comprising: forming an O-ring gland in the enclosure, wherein the O-ring gland receives the O-ring gasket.

12. The method of claim 34, further comprising: positioning the O-ring gland below the bottom surface of the core.

13. The method of claim 33, wherein the O-ring comprises an elastomer.

14. The method of claim 33, wherein the O-ring is made of a material selected from chloroprene, rubber, epoxy, silicone and fluorocarbon.

15. The method of claim 23, further comprising: bonding the core to the enclosure.

16. The method of claim 38, wherein the bonding is with an adhesive.

17. The method of claim 23, wherein the enclosure is formed around the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core by injection molding.

18. The method of claim 40, wherein the core is injection molded, the method further comprises: forming a surface feature in the one or more side surfaces of the core, wherein the surface feature is selected from one or more ridges, one or more grooves and combinations thereof.

19. The method of claim 41, wherein the enclosure is injection molded to bond the one or more side surfaces of the core to an inner surface of the enclosure.

20. The method of claim 23, wherein the sealing member is injection molded with the enclosure, and wherein the sealing member is integral with the enclosure.

21. The method of claim 43, wherein the sealing member comprises an elastomer.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] This invention relates to bottle stoppers and more particularly to stoppers used to seal wine bottles and other similarly packaged goods.

[0003] 2. Description of the Related Art

[0004] For many years, the wine industry has relied on natural cork to seal wine bottles. However, there are disadvantages that are inherent in the use of natural cork as a wine bottle closure. One of the principal disadvantages of natural cork is cork taint. Cork taint exists because of a chemical compound (2,4,6-trichloranisole or “TCA”), found naturally in the cork bark. This taint effects the odor and flavor of the wine and accounts for as much as 50% of the spoilage of all wine bottled with natural cork as a closure.

[0005] Another problem associated with cork is the broad diversity that exists for natural cork quality. In an attempt to deal with this problem, the cork industry has adopted subjective standards that generally relate to the number of lenticels, cracks and their sizes, overall aesthetics, smell and functionality, all of which are subject to the growing and harvesting conditions experienced in the cork growing regions of the world. Each individual cork is therefore unique unto itself in all of its characteristics, and corks have a wide range of variations. These variations may cause as much as 20% spoilage of bottled wine, due principally to such physical characteristics as non-circular cross-sections, cork size, density, and cell sizes internal to the natural cork that cannot be detected during manual grading. These uncontrollable variations cause leakage and unwanted oxidation of wine.

[0006] Another drawback of natural cork is the fact that cork is an extremely limited resource. Natural cork bark is harvested from the cork oak that is only able to replenish itself about once every 10 years. This, coupled with the fact that new plantings require 30 years to come to maturity, leaves the natural cork industry with a limited ability to increase productivity to meet the ever-increasing demand of this commodity.

[0007] Another drawback is the cost of natural cork. Due to its limited availability, especially for higher quality products, and due to increasing demand, the cost of using cork products in the wine industry has risen dramatically. This trend probably will not shift as cork remains a limited resource and cork production is labor intensive.

[0008] In spite of these drawbacks, a majority of vintners utilize natural cork for wine bottle closures. As a result, both the wine industry and the consumers have accepted cork closures and tolerate a certain level of loss due to defective cork. As a result, efforts to develop a synthetic closure acceptable to the wine industry and to consumers have failed, except in the area of screw caps made from aluminum and plastic, and a small segment of molded closures. No wine bottle closure has been developed that maintains the highly desirable ceremony of opening the wine bottle, has none of the disadvantages of natural cork, is aesthetically pleasing, is consistently reproducible and provides an acceptable substitute for wine aficionados.

[0009] It would be an advantage to provide a bottle closure that effectively seals a bottle and does not contaminate the bottled wine. It would be advantageous if such a closure provides the enjoyment of the wine bottle opening experience that wine aficionados now enjoy with conventional cork closures.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] The present invention provides a stopper for sealing a bottle comprising a core having a top surface, a bottom surface and one or more side surfaces and an enclosure that covers the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core. The seal between the stopper and the inner surface of the neck of the bottle is formed with a radially protruding sealing member that circumferentially engages the enclosure. The stopper is adapted for being inserted into the neck of the bottle to form an interference fit that provides the fluid tight seal.

[0011] The core may be made of materials selected from cork, synthetic cork, material that simulates cork or from combinations thereof. The core may also be made of other materials that may create a pleasing design for a particular application or need.

[0012] The enclosure that covers the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core may be made of materials selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polycarbonate and combinations thereof. A preferred material, especially suited for a stopper to be used in a wine bottle, is acrylic.

[0013] The stopper may further comprise a radially protruding lip encircling an upper perimeter of the enclosure, wherein the lip extends outwardly beyond an inner diameter of an opening of the bottle.

[0014] The sealing member may be an O-ring that may be received by an O-ring gland formed in the enclosure. The O-ring gland may be positioned below the surface of the core, but may also be positioned anywhere along the length of the stopper. Optionally, more than one sealing member may encircle the enclosure at different postions along the length of the stopper. The O-ring may be made of an elastomer. The O-ring may be be made of a material selected from the group consisting of chloroprene, rubber, epoxy, silicone and fluorocarbon.

[0015] The core may be bonded to the enclosure by, for example, using an adhesive.

[0016] The enclosure may be formed around the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces by injection molding. The core may also be injection molded and may be molded with surface features selected from one or more grooves, one or more ridges and a combination thereof. When the enclosure is injected molded around a core having the grooves or ridges in the side surfaces, the one or more side surfaces of the core will be bonded to the inner surface of the enclosure.

[0017] The sealing member may be injection molded with the enclosure, wherein the sealing member and the enclosure form an integral piece. The sealing member if the integral piece may be made of an elastomer to provide the compressible surface required to form the interference fit with the neck of the bottle.

[0018] The present invention also provides a method for making a bottle stopper comprising providing a core having a top surface, a bottom surface and one or more side surfaces, enclosing the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core with an enclosure, and encircling the enclosure with a radially protruding circumferential sealing member, wherein the sealing member forms an interference fit with an internal surface of the bottle, wherein the stopper is inserted into a neck of the bottle, and wherein the interference fit forms a fluid tight seal between the sealing member and the internal surface of the neck of the bottle.

[0019] The core may be made of materials selected from cork, synthetic cork, material that simulates cork or from combinations thereof. The core may also be made of other materials that may create a pleasing design for a particular application or need.

[0020] The enclosure that covers the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces fo the core may be made of materials selected from the group consisting of polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, polycarbonate and combinations thereof. A preferred material, especially suited for a stopper to be used in a wine bottle, is acrylic.

[0021] The method may further comprises encircling an upper perimeter of the enclosure with a radially protruding lip, wherein the lip extends outwardly beyond an inner diameter of an opening of the bottle.

[0022] The method may further comprise forming an O-ring gland in the enclosure, wherein the O-ring gland receives the O-ring gasket and optionally, positioning the O-ring gland below the bottom surface of the core. The O-ring that may be received into the O-ring gland may be made of an elastomer. The O-ring may be made of a material selected from chloroprene, rubber, epoxy, silicone and fluorocarbon.

[0023] The method may further comprise bonding the core to the enclosure, wherein the bonding is with an adhesive.

[0024] The enclosure may be formed around the bottom surface and the one or more side surfaces of the core by injection molding. The method may comprise, wherein the core is formed by injection molding, forming a surface feature in the one or more side surfaces of the core, wherein the surface feature is selected from one or more ridges, one or more grooves and combinations thereof.

[0025] The sealing member may be injection molded with the enclosure, wherein the sealing member is integral with the enclosure. The sealing member may be an elastomer.

[0026] The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of a preferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawing wherein like reference numbers represent like parts of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0027] FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view of a bottle and one embodiment of the closure according to the present invention.

[0028] FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the stopper of the present invention.

[0029] FIGS. 3A and 3B are a cross sectional view and a top view of one embodiment of the stopper of the present invention having a lip for retaining the inner core.

[0030] FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of on embodiment of the stopper of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0031] The present invention provides a stopper for sealing a bottle and is particularly useful for sealing a wine bottle. The generally cylindrical stopper comprises a core having all of its exposed surfaces covered with an enclosure except for the core's top surface. A circumferential sealing member engages the stopper at a point between the top surface and the bottom of the stopper and forms a seal between the stopper and the internal neck of the bottle by forming an interference fit.

[0032] The core of the stopper may be a cork of the type traditionally used to seal a wine bottle. Alternatively the core may be made of synthetic cork or of a material that simulates cork. An example of one suitable material is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,855,287, which is hereby fully incorporated by reference. Other materials that simulate cork known to those skilled in the art are equally acceptable. Alternatively, the inner core may be of any material and color that satisfies the needs of a given application, as when the application is for a bottle for which a cork or cork-like material may not be desirable.

[0033] The purpose of the core used in a stopper for wine bottles is to provide a cork, or a material that appears to be cork, for the enjoyment of wine consumers. Because corks have been used for hundreds of years as the preferred stopper for wine bottles, wine aficionados do not readily accept stoppers for wine bottles that are not corks. While most of the following description involves wine bottles, the present invention is not limited to only wine bottles and their stoppers, but includes all types of bottles that may be sealed with a stopper, including bottles having non-circular openings.

[0034] The stopper of the present invention may help bridge the need of the wine industry for a better wine bottle stopper with the desire of the wine consumers for a cork that maintains and enhances their ceremonial wine opening experience. The stopper of the present invention may be pulled using a conventional corkscrew because the top surface of the cork or cork-like core is not covered by the enclosure. Furthermore, a cork may have writing or designs applied to the cork before being covered with the enclosure. If the core is a material that simulates cork, and the core is injection molded at the same time as the enclosure, then the mold may include designs or writing to simulate the writing or designs traditionally placed on wine corks to communicate authenticity to the consumer. Designs may also be either etched or molded into the surface of the enclosure.

[0035] The enclosure is preferably made of a clear acrylic material and may be formed by injection molding. The clear acrylic enclosure allows the wine consumer to view the cork or cork-like core after the stopper has been pulled from the bottle using a conventional corkscrew. If desired, a tinted acrylic may be used. Other materials that may be used to form the enclosure include, for example, polystyrene, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or polycarbonate. A wide range of colors may be used to tint the enclosure as desired for a particular application.

[0036] The core must be firmly encased in the enclosure so that the core is not pulled loose when the stopper is pulled from the bottle using a corkscrew. If the core is injection molded, then the mold for the core may provide ridges or grooves in the core's surface to prevent inadvertent release from the enclosure. These ridges or grooves may provide “dovetailing” with the internal surface of the enclosure when the enclosure is injection molded around the core. This “dovetailing” firmly holds the core in place when a corkscrew is used to pull the stopper from the neck of the bottle. If a cork or similar material that is not injection molded is used as the core for the stopper, then the enclosure may comprise a circumferential lip that extends radially inward from the perimeter of the open top of the enclosure, extending slightly over the outer circumference of the core to retain the core in place within the enclosure as the stopper is being pulled from the bottle. Alternatively, an adhesive may be used to bond the core to the internal surface of the enclosure.

[0037] A circumferential sealing member forms a fluid tight seal between the stopper and the internal surface of the neck of the bottle. If the stopper is compressible, like cork, then the sealing member is not required because the cork and bottle will form a fluid tight seal due to the interference fit. A sealing surface results from the use of a compressible material that is placed between two typically non-compressible surfaces to form a fluid-tight joint. Sealing surfaces are often gaskets and O-rings that are manufactured in a large number of sizes and shapes to provide the compressible material required to form fluid-tight joints in a wide variety of applications.

[0038] Because the enclosure covering the core in the stopper is a generally non-compressible material, a circumferential gasket like the sealing member must be inserted between the enclosure and the internal surface of the neck of the bottle to form a fluid tight seal. The circumferential sealing member that engages the enclosure provides the required seal. The sealing member may be an O-ring that is received by an O-ring gland circumferentially formed in the outer surface of the enclosure. Alternatively, the sealing member may be formed as a circumferentially outwardly protruding portion as part of the injection molding process so that the enclosure and the gasket-are integral.

[0039] The gasket may be made of any compressible material suitable for forming an O-ring or suitable for being injection molded to form an integral sealing member with the enclosure. Another requirement is that the material does not react with or otherwise taint the contents of the bottle. Some materials that would be suitable as a sealing member material for use with wines include, for example, chloroprene, rubber, epoxy, silicone and VITON, a registered trademark of a fluorocarbon by DuPont, a Delaware corporation.

[0040] When inserted in the neck of a bottle, the stopper creates a fluid tight seal. Because the bottle's neck and the stopper are both substantially incompressible, the inside diameter of the bottle's neck must be manufactured within a close tolerance of between about 0.005 and about 0.050 inches, so that the stopper may be fully inserted into the bottle's neck. Preferably the tolerance for the inside diameter of the bottle's neck is between about 0.005 and about 0.030 inches. Most preferably, the tolerance for the inside diameter of the bottle's neck is between about 0.005 and about 0.010 inches. If the inside diameter of the bottle's neck is too small, the stopper will not be able to fit into the neck. If the inside diameter of the bottle's neck is too large, then the circumferential gasket will not be sufficiently compressed to form a fluid tight seal with the internal surface of the neck of the bottle, and the stopper will leak.

[0041] The sealing member may protrude outwardly from the stopper between about 0.010 and 0.030 inches in a relaxed (uninstalled) condition. Preferably, the sealing member may protrude outwardly from the stopper between about 0.015 and about 0.025 inches beyond the outer surface of the enclosure sidewalls when in a relaxed (uninstalled) condition. However, the sealing member may protrude outwardly at any distance required for a given application or need and all the dimensions given in this specification are given as examples only and are not meant to be limiting. It may be noted that both the length and diameter of the stopper and the length and diameter of the core may vary over a wide range as required for given applications and bottles.

[0042] While the stopper has been described thus far as having only one outwardly protruding circumferential sealing member encircling the enclosure, additional sealing members may be formed on the enclosure as necessary for any given application. Furthermore, to prevent the stopper from pivoting about the sealing member, an additional gasket surface may be added near the top of the stopper to create an additional seal and to prevent pivoting or other movement of the stopper within the neck of the bottle. Alternately, the upper portion of the enclosure adjacent to the open end may slightly thicken so that the outer diameter of the stopper's enclosure at the upper end of the stopper is just slightly more than the diameter of the stopper adjacent to the sealing member.

[0043] Optionally, the bottom circumferential edge of the stopper may be chamfered or beveled if desired to help guide the stopper into a bottle when, for example, using an automatic stopper-insertion machine.

[0044] FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view showing a bottle and the closure according to the present invention. A bottle 11 is shown having a narrow neck portion 12 as is standard for most wine bottles and for many other types of bottles used to sealably store contents 10. The stopper 20 is shown inserted into the neck 12 to seal the contents 10 within the bottle 11. The generally cylindrical core 14 is substantially enclosed by an enclosure 15 that covers the exposed outer surface and the bottom surface of the core 14. The top surface 18 of the core 14 is not covered by the enclosure 15. A circumferential lip 16 protrudes radially from the top perimeter of the enclosure 15 to prevent the stopper 20 from being pushed beyond the lip 16 into the neck 12.

[0045] FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view showing the stopper 20. The core 14 is substantially enclosed by the enclosure 15. The circumferential lip 16 protrudes radially outward from the top perimeter of the enclosure 15. An O-ring gland 17, preferably having the standard shape for a given O-ring as known to those having ordinary skill in the art, is formed in the enclosure 15 for receiving an O-ring (not shown) to form a fluid tight seal within the neck of a bottle (not shown).

[0046] FIGS. 3A and 3B are a cross sectional view and a top view of the stopper 20 having a radially inward protruding circumferential lip 18 to trap the core 14 within the enclosure 15. Because the stopper 20 is meant to be pulled from a bottle (not shown) with a conventional corkscrew, the core 14 must be firmly bonded to or secured to the enclosure 15 so that when the corkscrew (not shown) is screwed into the core 14 and then pulled, the entire stopper 20 will be pulled from the bottle. In one embodiment, a radially inward protruding lip 18 extends from the perimeter of the top of the enclosure 15 over the perimeter of the top surface 19 of the core 14. The lip 18 prevents the core 14 from being inadvertently pulled from the enclosure 15.

[0047] FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of a stopper 20 in accordance with the present invention. In this embodiment, the stopper 20 has more than one radially outwardly protruding sealing member 13. The sealing members 13 may be O-rings embedded in an O-ring gland or alternatively, the sealing members 13 may be injection molded and formed integrally with the enclosure 15, though the sealing members 13 would be made of an elastomer or other generally resilient and compressible material for creating a fluid seal when the stopper 20 is forced into its sealing position within the neck of the bottle.

[0048] It will be understood from the foregoing description that various modifications and changes may be made in the preferred embodiment of the present invention without departing from its true spirit. It is intended that this description is for purposes of illustration only and should not be construed in a limiting sense. The scope of this invention should be limited only by the language of the following claims.





 
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