Title:
Apparatus and process for securing an object to the seat of an automobile
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A box or carton for storing floral arrangements or other objects on an automobile seat is disclosed. The box has openings which allow it and the object to be secured to the automobile seat by the seat belt. The box may have an automatic bottom which allows it to be stored flat and quickly erected, and may have an insert which has a slit and circular cutout and further secures the object. Instead of a box or carton, the invention may be applied by using only one or two sidewalls with openings and a bottom.



Inventors:
Jenkins, Taylor (Nampa, ID, US)
Application Number:
10/933931
Publication Date:
03/03/2005
Filing Date:
09/02/2004
Assignee:
JENKINS TAYLOR
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
206/423
International Classes:
B65D5/36; B65D5/42; B65D5/50; B65D85/52; (IPC1-7): B65D85/50; B65D5/52
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
PARADISO, JOHN ROGER
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
PEDERSEN & COMPANY, PLLC (BOISE, ID, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus for stabilizing an item on a seat of a vehicle, the apparatus comprising: a container having a sidewall, a bottom for placement on a seat of a vehicle, and an interior space for receiving an item to be stabilized, wherein the sidewall comprises at least one side panel extending generally vertically up from the bottom, and wherein the sidewall comprises at least two spaced openings; and a vehicle seat belt extending through two of said at least two spaced openings to secure the container to the seat.

2. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the container sidewall has four side panels and is generally rectangular.

3. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein two of said four side panels each have one of said openings.

4. An apparatus according to claim 2, wherein one of said four side panels has two of said openings.

5. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the container sidewall has three side panels and is generally triangular.

6. An apparatus according to claim 5, wherein two of said three side panels each have one of said openings.

7. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the container sidewall has only two side panels and each of said only two side panels has at least one of said openings, so that the seat belt passed through both of said only two side panels.

8. An apparatus according to claim 7, wherein said two side panels are on opposing sides of the bottom so that the container is generally a U-shape.

9. An apparatus according to claim 1, wherein the container sidewall has only one side panel, so that the container is generally an L-shape.

10. An apparatus of claim 1, further comprising: a floral arrangement inserted into the interior space of the container, wherein the floral arrangement is the item to be stabilized.

11. An apparatus of claim 10, wherein the seat belt is pressing against a vase containing the floral arrangement to pull the vase against the sidewall of the container and stabilize the floral arrangement in the container.

12. An apparatus as in claim 1, further comprising an automatic bottom.

13. An apparatus for securing a box to a seat of an automobile comprising: a box comprising four side panels; and the box further comprising two openings on at least one of said four side panels; wherein the box is on top of the seat of the automobile; and a seatbelt passes through the two openings and is buckled into a seat belt buckle.

14. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein: the side panels are between 4½ and 24 inches high, and between 3¾ and 15 inches wide; and the openings are at least 2½ inches high and at least 1 inch wide.

15. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising: a floral arrangement; wherein the floral arrangement is inside the box; and the seat belt is pressing against the floral arrangement.

16. The apparatus of claim 13 further comprising: an insert which is placed into the box; wherein the insert is square and the width of the insert is slightly less than the width of the side panels; and the insert comprises a slit and a circular cutout.

17. The apparatus of claim 16 wherein the insert receives a floral arrangement.

18. The apparatus of claim 13 wherein the box further comprises an automatic bottom.

19. The box of claim 13 further comprising an open top.

20. A process comprising: placing a generally cylindrical object into a box; placing the box onto a seat of an automobile; passing a seat belt through two holes in the box and across the generally cylindrical object; and buckling the seat belt into a seat belt buckle.

21. The process of claim 20 wherein the generally cylindrical object is a floral arrangement.

22. The process of claim 20 further comprising erecting a box blank into the box.

23. An apparatus for securing a carton to a seat of an automobile comprising: the carton comprising a sidewall having a plurality of side panels; wherein a shape of the carton is selected from the group consisting of a triangle, a square, and a hexagon; the carton further comprises at least two openings on the sidewall; wherein the carton is on top of the seat of the automobile; and a seatbelt passes through the two openings and is buckled into a seatbelt buckle.

24. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein: the side panels are between 4½ and 24 inches high, and between 3¾ and 15 inches wide; and the openings are at least 2½ inches high and at least 1 inch wide.

25. The apparatus of claim 23 wherein a top end of the carton is wider than a bottom end of the box, and the carton is adapted to stack on top of another carton.

26. The apparatus of claim 23, wherein the seat belt comprises a lap belt and a shoulder belt, and both the lap belt and the shoulder belt extend through the openings.

27. An apparatus comprising: at least one side panel and a bottom connected to said at least one side panel; wherein said at least one side panel comprise a total of at least two openings; and a seatbelt passes through said two openings and is buckled into a seatbelt buckle.

28. The apparatus of claim 27 comprising only one side panel.

29. The apparatus of claim 27 comprising only two side panels.

Description:

This application is a non-provisional application, and claims priority from Provisional U.S. Patent Application Ser. No. 60/499,672, filed on Sep. 2, 2003, entitled “Collapsible Container With Restraining Features and Means of Securing,” the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a collapsible container which can be stored flat until used, then erected quickly, having a sturdy bottom, and features which allow the container to be restrained in a vehicle by means of a safety belt, and which can be used to transport objects which are susceptible to tipping, shifting, sliding, or falling over in a moving vehicle. More particularly, this invention relates to a container style and system that can be used to substantially improve time and space efficiencies in a retail store, provide superior protection of the product being transported, and enhance customer satisfaction and safety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Many retail businesses, particularly in the floral industry, sell items that are fragile and/or susceptible to tipping, sliding, or falling over in a moving vehicle. If the item has not been packaged properly, it can be very challenging and potentially hazardous for a customer who has purchased such an item to transport the item home, particularly if the customer is traveling alone. The roads would be much safer, and customers would be much more satisfied, if the customers could pay full attention to their driving instead of trying to keep their new purchase from falling over.

In the retail environment, where point of purchase packaging is used, it is important that the packaging materials can be quickly and easily used. It is also important to be able to stow sufficient quantities ready for use, close at hand, while taking up as little space as possible.

In the prior art, styles of packaging are available for the purpose of aiding in transporting and stabilizing products such as a vase floral arrangement or other unstable product. However, many of these styles were intended for commercial use, and are therefore too bulky, time consuming, too expensive, or difficult to use for point of purchase or consumer use.

Other prior art items, which are intended for point of purchase or consumer use, do not perform satisfactorily. They are frequently too flimsy or too short to adequately support the types of products that need support the most. In addition, the seats of vehicles are increasingly designed to conform to the human body; therefore the seats, not being flat, impede the stability of any rigid item placed thereon, which increases the need for the item to be restrained. Prior art styles of packaging or stabilizing devices fail to provide means for securing them in a vehicle. If a customer does attempt to secure an item such as a floral arrangement by means of a seatbelt, the lap belt usually slides to the bottom of the item where it does little if any good, while the shoulder strap frequently gets in the way or causes damage to the arrangement. Prior art styles of packaging also require a significant amount of time to assemble, and once assembled, they require a significant amount of space, which is a real problem particularly at busy times in the retail environment, when time and space are in short supply.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention comprises a container and method of using the same, wherein the container has a pair of openings which facilitate restraining of the container and its contents by means of a common automobile seat belt.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The accompanying drawings illustrate several aspects of embodiments of the present invention. The drawings are for the purpose only of illustrating preferred modes of the invention, and are not to be construed as limiting the invention. Preferred embodiments of the invention are shown in the attached drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a flat blank used to make the preferred embodiment of the invented container, a box.

FIG. 2 is a plan view looking down into the inside of the box of FIG. 1, at the start of the action of erecting the box.

FIG. 3 is a plan view looking down into the inside of the box of FIGS. 1-2, in its erected state.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the side of the box of FIGS. 1-3 at the start of the action of erecting the box, showing the tabs folded into the box.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the side of the box of FIGS. 1-4 after it has been erected.

FIG. 6 is a plan view looking down on an insert which may be placed into the box of FIGS. 1-5.

FIG. 7 is a perspective exploded view of the insert of FIG. 6 with a section being removed.

FIG. 8 is a perspective, exploded view of the box of FIGS. 1-5, with the addition of a floral arrangement and the insert of FIG. 6.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the box of FIGS. 1-5 and 8, with the floral arrangement of FIG. 8 and the insert of FIGS. 6 and 8 inside, and a seat belt inserted through the openings in the box.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the box of FIGS. 1-5 and 8-9 with arrows showing various paths along which a seat belt may be inserted and various spaces in which an object may be placed.

FIGS. 11 and 12 illustrate triangular embodiments of the invented container.

FIG. 13 illustrates a hexagonal embodiment of the invented container.

FIG. 14 illustrates a stackable embodiment of the invented container without an automatic bottom wherein the top end is wider than the bottom end.

FIG. 15 illustrates an embodiment of the invented container, comprising a back panel with two openings and a bottom, resting on an automobile seat.

FIG. 16 illustrates an embodiment of the invented container comprising two sidewalls with two openings each and a bottom.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

I do not intend to list all of the products for which this invention may be useful, nor do I intend to limit the scope of use to retail businesses, or the floral industry, since the specific applications which I envision are far too numerous. A reference to the specific product of a vase or to the industry is, however, useful for the purpose of example and for convenience of description.

The box blank 10 of FIG. 1 includes cut lines that are shown in the drawing by means of solid inked lines and score lines that are shown in the drawing by means of phantom lines. First flap line 36 and third flap line 38, however, may be either scored or semi-pierced. Although corrugated cardboard is the preferred choice of materials from which to make the box blank 10, other materials that can be formed into a similar configuration and be either bonded or joined, such as paperboard, plastic, foam, or composites, would also work. In the event that another material is used, it may not be necessary for the box blank 10 to be pre-formed in a flattened state as shown; it could instead be pre-formed into a partially folded, or a fully folded state, as shown in FIG. 2-FIG. 5. This is possible with materials such as plastics or composites.

The box blank 10 is scored by four spaced parallel lines to form four side panels 12-18 and an end flap 20. When the box blank 10 is folded along these score lines, and the end flap 20 is attached to the inside surface area 22 of first side panel 12, the four side panels 12-18 form a tube with a square or rectangular cross section.

The box, when erected, is preferably greater than about 3¾ inches wide and greater than about 4½ inches tall. Preferred embodiments that will be usable for many floral arrangements will be in the range of between about 6 and 15 inches wide by between about 6 and 24 inches tall. The preferred embodiment of the box is comprised of side panels 12-18 which are 9⅛ inches high by 7 inches wide.

The range of dimensions discussed above for the box may be achieved with side panels 12-18 which are at least 3¾ inches wide and at least 4½ inches tall, and preferably between about 6 and 15 inches wide by between 6 and 24 inches high. If the side panels 12-18 are smaller than 4½ inches tall, there will not be room for openings 44,45,46,47 through which the seat belt 76 may easily pass, whereas if the side panels 12-18 are wider than 15 inches, the box may support itself in the upright position, which may obviate the need for the invention to prevent the box from tipping over; however, such a box would still slide along the automobile seat, the prevention of which is another benefit of the invention.

Extending from the bottom of each of the side panels 12-18 is an automatic bottom closure flap, 24,26,28,30. Of these closure flaps, first closure flap 24 and third closure flap 28 have attachment half-flap panels 34 and 42, and bottom half-flap panels 32 and 40. First bottom half-flap panel 32 and third bottom half-flap panel 40 form part of the bottom of the box. The inside surface of first attachment half-flap panel 34 is attached to the outer surface of second closure flap 26. Likewise, the inside surface of third attachment half-flap panel 42 is attached to the outer surface of the fourth closure flap 30.

It should be noted that first closure flap 24 is not connected to fourth closure flap 30, and second closure flap 26 is not connected to third closure flap 28. Thus when the box blank 10 is folded between second side panel 14 and third side panel 16, and between first side panel 12 and fourth side panel 18, the box lies flat, as the closure flaps fold up and into the box, as shown in FIG. 2 and FIG. 4.

The aforementioned features of closure flaps 24-30 are the features of what is commonly termed in the corrugated box industry as an “automatic bottom”. The bottom is considered “automatic” because the closure flaps slide into place, making a square box, when pressure is applied. Other features which may be incorporated into the automatic bottom, but are not necessary, are a locking bottom, various relief notches, guide contours, and other features that may or may not add utility.

The auto-bottom feature allows the pre-made boxes to be shipped and stored in a minimum amount of space, and with maximum cost savings. Because the boxes are pre-made, or in other words already folded and bonded, as much as 45 seconds per box can be saved in the time required to prepare a box to be filled, as compared to boxes which were not already folded and bonded. Because of the large amount of time required to assemble other boxes, many retail stores spend time pre-making boxes, in anticipation for the day's business, so that the customers will not have to wait for the boxes to be assembled. These other boxes take on their full cubic shape when pre-made, and require a significant amount of space while waiting to be filled. On the other hand, the box of FIGS. 1-10 can be stored flat until ready to use.

I wish to make particular note of second opening 44 and third opening 46, which are on opposing side panels 14, 18. When the box blank 10 is erected into a box, second opening 44 and third opening 46 together form a passage through which a seat belt 76 or other strap may be passed to secure the box for transport in a vehicle. It is desirable that second opening 44 be placed in the upper front region of second side panel 14. Likewise, third opening 46 should be situated at the upper front region of fourth side panel 18. Each of second opening 44 and third opening 46 may cross partially or even entirely over into third side panel 16; however it is not necessary that they do so.

First opening 45 and fourth opening 47, also on opposing side panels 14, 18, help create symmetry that make orienting the box simpler. Although this invention may be constructed with or without first opening 45 and fourth opening 47, it is desirable to include them, since they provide increased functionality and greater flexibility in the way the box is used. A seat belt 76 may also be passed through first opening 45 and fourth opening 47. The seat belt 76 may also be passed through the box in other configurations, as illustrated in FIG. 10.

While openings 44,45,46,47 are all illustrated as being at the same level above the bottom of the box and in about the top half of the side panels, the openings may be at different levels above the bottom, and/or in the middle or lower portions of the sidewall.

The openings 44,45,46,47 are preferably 4 inches long by 1⅞ inches wide. While openings 44,45,46,47 as small as about 2½ inches long by about 1 inch wide may be sufficient for receiving the seatbelt 76 and its tongue end, larger openings of about 3½ to 5 inches high by about 2 inches wide are preferred, because larger openings make it easier to “thread” the seat belt 76 tongue into the second opening 44 and out the third opening 46. The openings 44,45,46,47, are preferably vertical or diagonal, corresponding to the angle of the seat belt 76; however, the openings 44,45,46,47, may also be horizontal or any other angle.

The operation of the box is illustrated in FIGS. 2-5. The closure flaps 24-30 are pushed up and inside the box to make the box lie flat for shipment or storage, as shown in FIG. 4. When the opposite sides of the flattened box are pushed toward each other by a person in the direction of arrows A and B (FIG. 2), the closure flaps 24-30 are automatically pulled down into a single bottom plane which is perpendicular to the side panels 12-18, forming a box.

FIG. 3 shows the inside of the closure flaps 24-30 when the box is in an erected state. At this stage, the box has an appearance best seen in FIG. 5.

FIG. 6 shows one type of insert 48 that may be used to provide additional support which may be necessary for smaller, fragile objects. Other styles of inserts or means of support may be used as appropriate; however it is useful by way of example to provide a depiction of a particular insert. The phantom lines 54-58 depict semi-pierced lines that allow any of sections 60-64 to be easily detached, in order for the insert 48 to fit around a larger object. Insert 48 is designed to fit onto a cylindrically shaped object, such as a vase, by sliding the insert onto the object through slit 52 up to circular cutout 50. The width of the insert 48 should be slightly less than the width of the side panels 12-18 so that the insert 48 will fit snugly into the box when erect.

FIG. 7 shows how the insert 48 can be adjusted to fit over a larger object by removing one of sections 60-64. FIG. 7 is shown with first section 60 removed revealing a larger slit 68 and larger circular cutout 66.

FIG. 8 illustrates part of the system in which the box and insert 48 are used. In the case of the box being used with a floral arrangement 70, the box is erected, and the insert 48 is slid onto the floral arrangement 70, as indicated by arrow C, and then the vase with insert are placed inside the box, as indicated by arrow D. It should be understood that the use of an insert 48 or other means of support is not always necessary, as in the case of a larger or less fragile item.

FIG. 9 illustrates an embodiment of the invention as it pertains to a retail customer using the box to transport purchased goods. The box with floral arrangement 70 and insert 48, if needed, is placed on the seat of an automobile with first side panel 12 against the back of the seat. A seat belt 76 is then passed through second opening 44 and third opening 46, and then fastened to secure the box and its contents in the vehicle. The seat belt 76 passes generally horizontally through the box and between the holes 44, 46. As shown in FIG. 9, the lap belt 72 secures the box to the seat. The shoulder strap 74 is kept from interfering with the floral arrangement by second opening 44 and third opening 46. Once the seat belt 76 is buckled into the seat belt buckle, the box is secured to the seat of the automobile.

More than one pair of openings may be incorporated into the box at other locations, to facilitate multiple seat belt styles or multiple sizes of contained objects, or to allow installation in multiple orientations of belt to box or box to seat. FIG. 10 illustrates various paths E, F, G, H, I, and J by which a seat belt may be passed through any two of the openings 44, 45, 46, and 47. These various paths allow objects of various sizes and shapes to be easily secured within the box in locations 78, 80, 82, 84, 86, or 88, with or without the use of the insert 48.

While FIGS. 1-10 illustrate a container that is a rectangular box with four panels, alternative embodiments of the invented container may comprise different numbers of parts and/or different arrangements of panels. Thus, the present invention may also be embodied in a triangle carton 110, 210, as illustrated in FIGS. 11 and 12, or a hexagon carton 310, as illustrated in FIG. 13, for example. Alternatively, the present invention may be embodied in a stackable carton 410 without an automatic bottom wherein the top end is wider than the bottom end, as illustrated in FIG. 14. The stackable carton may not be foldable, but may rather be made of molded plastic or other suitable material so that it is a single, integral piece. Such an embodiment may also be beneficial for its ability to contain spilled water or condensed moisture and prevent the same from contacting or staining the vehicle upholstery. Optionally, spacers 412 may be added or molded integrally into the stackable carton 410 to prevent multiple stackable cartons 410 from stacking so closely and tightly that they cannot easily be separated.

Many other shapes, sizes and configurations are envisioned, with the preferred features being a carton bottom for stabilizing the floral arrangement or other item on a car seat and with a carton sidewall of one or more panels adapted to be secured by a seatbelt, preferably via openings through which the seatbelt is guided. As may be seen in the examples in FIGS. 11-14, cartons 110, 210, 310 and 410 include a bottom 115, 215, 315, 415, and a sidewall 120, 220, 320, 420 with a plurality of openings 125, 225, 325, and 425 through which the seatbelt may extend. The seatbelt pulls the carton sidewall against the back of the vehicle seat. Most preferably, the seatbelt portion that is inside the carton extends around the floral arrangement vase or container in such a way that the vase or container is between the seatbelt and at least one sidewall panel of the carton and the floral arrangement is pulled toward the back of the seat. The floral arrangement or other item is therefore stabilized, preferably by being supported by the bottom of the carton, at least partially surrounded by the sidewall of the carton, and secured relative to the carton and the vehicle seat by the seatbelt.

FIGS. 15 and 16 illustrate embodiments of the invented container that include fewer panels and that do not surround all sides of the floral arrangement or other item. Thus, the present invention may be embodied in only a back panel 510 and a bottom 520, wherein the back panel 510 comprises two openings 525 which are configured to allow a seatbelt 76 to pass through them, as shown in FIG. 15. In this embodiment, the generally vertical panel 510 rests against the back B of the vehicle seat 600 and the generally horizontal bottom 520 rests on the seat portion S of the vehicle seat 600. The present invention may also be embodied in only two side panels 14, 18, and a bottom 520, wherein the side panels 14, 18 each comprise at least one opening 525 configured to allow a seat belt 76 to pass through them, as shown in FIG. 16.

The top of the container is preferably left open and free from flaps that could interfere with loading the container. The open top allows delicate objects such as the flowers in a vase floral arrangement to extend freely out the top. The open top also reduces interference with other delicate items such as a bow or delicate glasswork that might be attached to the vase. The open top also reduces material requirements of the container, which is better for the environment, and reduces cost. However, flaps, sheath material, cellophane, or other protective material may extend up from the main body of the container to shield, support, or cover upper portions of the floral arrangement 70 or other item.

The openings, when used to restrain the container and its contents with a seat belt, help to keep the shoulder strap from interfering with a floral arrangement that may be contained in the container. The seat belt is preferably not attached or fixed to the container, but simply passes through the container. The seat belt secures the floral arrangement within the container by pressing against the floral arrangement. The floral arrangement is then pressed against the container and toward the seat of the automobile.

In its simplest embodiments, the invented floral arrangement stabilization container system may consist of or consist essentially of a container with one or more vertical side panels, a bottom, a plurality of openings in the side panel(s) receiving a seat belt, the seat belt extending between the openings and around a portion of a floral arrangement vase to pull the container and the box against the automobile seat.

Although this invention has been described above with reference to particular means, materials and embodiments, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to these disclosed particulars, but extends instead to all equivalents within the scope of the following claims.