Title:
Stackable container system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stackable container and stacking unit, the stackable container having a body including a walled aperture passing therethrough. The stacking unit includes at least one rod having a first end affixed onto a top face of a base, the rod having a cross-sectional dimension which is receivable within the aperture of the stackable container. A securing mechanism may be provided for releasably securing the containers thereon and for preventing their unauthorized or unintentional removal. In use, the container is storable on the stacking unit by arrangement of the container such that the rod is caused to be inserted through its aperture.



Inventors:
Wagner, Richard Norman Zach (Beverty Hills, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/025301
Publication Date:
06/29/2006
Filing Date:
12/29/2004
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D25/22
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CASTELLANO, STEPHEN J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
TUTUNJIAN & BITETTO, P.C. (Melville, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A stackable container system comprising: a container having a body with a first side and a second side, the body including a walled aperture passing therethrough from the first side to the second side; and a stacking unit having at least one rod, wherein a first end of the rod is affixed onto a top face of a base and a second end of the rod is receivable within the aperture of the container.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the rod comprises a telescopic rod.

3. The system of claim 1, further comprising a securing mechanism for securing the container onto the rod.

4. The system of claim 3, wherein the rod includes a plurality of holes for insertion of the securing mechanism at a desired location along said rod.

5. The system of claim 3, wherein the securing mechanism is slidable along said rod.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the container includes a neck having an opening at a first end.

7. The system of claim 5, further comprising a closure means for securing to said neck to cover said opening.

8. The system of claim 1, wherein the first and second sides of the container are substantially smooth.

9. The system of claim 1, wherein the rod is comprised of a manually deformable material.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates generally to stackable containers and a stacking unit for same, and more specifically, to shaped containers which are freely stackable on one another and securable onto a supporting structure, thus providing for, e.g., convenient storage, display, shipping and distribution of the containers.

2. Description of Related Art

Bottles, especially those made of polycarbonate and other plastics have been in widespread commercial use for many years to transport and store many different types of liquids and come in a variety of sizes. Typically, portable ‘handheld’ beverage bottles are of an elongate, cylindrical form and secured together with e.g., plastic or cardboard packaging for product shipping, distribution and display purposes. Prior art plastic bottles have characteristically been circular in cross-section because such configuration presents the fewest number of stress points at which leaks might occur.

If individual handheld bottles are desired to be displayed, the individual bottles typically must be arranged to stand on a horizontal surface, e.g., on aisle or refrigerator shelves, and the resultant display takes up considerable amount of valuable and often limited shelf or floor space. Further, such an arrangement is labor intensive and tedious to procure, making re-stocking time-consuming, and the bottles are unstable due to their relatively narrow base and easily knocked over, and re-arrangement is often required.

Typical beverage containers are also bulky to carry and grasp, and it is especially difficult if more than one is attempted to be carried at a time. If dropped, the bottles can roll around due to their shape, and often roll away from the user, which can be frustrating in situations having sloped areas such as, e.g., movie theaters, stadiums, etc.

Accordingly, a container which can be stored and displayed in a compact, efficient and secure manner is highly desirable.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a stacking system comprising a stacking unit and a specially shaped container for use therewith adapted for stacking with, e.g., others similar to its own kind simply, quickly and securely.

Advantageously, a stacking system according to the present invention provides improved convenience, efficiency and security in storing, transporting and displaying individual containers. A container according to the present invention may be used for holding liquids, such as various beverages, detergents, etc.; semi-solid products such as gels, shampoos, tomato sauce, etc.; or solid goods such as snack foods, grains, salt, etc.

According to an aspect of the present invention, a stackable container is provided comprising a container comprising a body having a first side and a second side, the body including a walled aperture passing therethrough from the first side to the second side. A stacking unit is provided comprising at least one rod, wherein a first end of the rod is affixed onto a top face of a base and a second end of the rod is receivable within the aperture of the container.

These and other aspects, features and advantages of the present invention will be described or become apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, which is to be read in connection with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings where like reference numerals depict similar elements throughout the views:

FIG. 1 is an exemplary front perspective view of a stackable container according to an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a front view of the stackable container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a front perspective view of stackable containers stacked on a stacking unit according to an embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 4 is a top view of the unit of FIG. 3; and

FIG. 5 is a perspective front view of an exemplary stacking unit according to an aspect of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the Figures, the illustration of FIG. 1 depicts a front perspective view of a stackable container 100 according to an aspect of the present invention; FIG. 2 is a front view thereof.

The stackable container 100 comprises a body 101 with a neck 103 at a first end of the container having an opening 104 for dispensing/refilling contents within. The neck 103 may be threaded to receive a closure means 105 (e.g., a threaded cap as shown in dotted lines). Any suitable closure means may be contemplated, including e.g., retractable “sports” tops, any of a variety of pop-off tops, corks, etc. The size (e.g., diameter) of the neck 103 may be reduced or enlarged according to the contents of the container. The body 101 may be manufactured of any suitable material which is, e.g., substantially moisture and/or air impermeable, including, e.g., polycarbonate or other plastics, glass, aluminum or other metals, cardboard, etc.

Body 101 is generally hollow for containing the volume of the contents of the container (e.g., liquids, solids, semi-solids, etc.) and includes a walled aperture 107 passing therethrough from a first side 109 to a second side 111 which opposes said first side 109. In a preferred embodiment as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the body 101 is of a substantially circular or ‘donut-like’ shape with flattened sides 109 and 111, with a flat base 113 at a second end of the container sufficient for, e.g., allowing the container to stand upright independently. Other container shapes, however, may be contemplated, such as squares, octagons, triangular, rectangular, etc. Further, the container 100 may be formed in the shape of various objects or images, such as e.g., vehicles, animals, letters of the alphabet, etc, and may be imprinted with school or athletic team logos, etc. The outer surface of each of the first and second sides 109 and 111 is preferably substantially smooth, i.e., without protrusions or recesses, such that when the containers are stacked (e.g., as shown in FIG. 3) they are freely slidable relative to each other. However, the container 100 may include various ergonomic features/designs to, e.g., improve a user's secure grip of the container 100, such as, e.g., ridges and/or concave depressions, etc. which preferably, do not interfere with this slidability.

The preferred embodiment of the container 100 of the present invention comprises a polycarbonate container which may be molded according to procedures familiar to those skilled in the art. Any size container 100 may be contemplated, e.g., containers for individual use or for bulk goods transport and delivery, and other materials may be used for constructing the container 100 as discussed above. The container 100 may also include various optional accessories, e.g., an integrally molded or detachable cup-holder adaptor for facilitating placement of the container 100 in e.g., vehicle cup-holders.

The aperture 107 is preferably located at a substantially center portion of the body 101 and may be of any desired diameter but preferably at least large enough to receive, e.g., a rod therethrough for use with a stacking system (see e.g., FIG. 3). Other locations of the aperture 107 may be contemplated (e.g., off-center, at an edge, in a protruding portion from the body 101, etc.). Additionally, while a circular aperture is shown in the Figures, other aperture shapes may be contemplated (e.g., squares, ovals, octagonal, triangular, rectangular, etc.). The aperture 107 may also be formed in the outline of various objects and images (e.g., vehicles, animals, letters of the alphabet, etc.), depending on and/or complementing, e.g., the form/shape of the overall body 101.

FIGS. 3-5 depict exemplary illustrations of a stacking unit 300 according to an aspect of the present invention. At least one elongate rod 301 is provided, wherein a first end 502 of the rod is preferably secured to a top face 305 of a base 303 in a substantially upright position (e.g., rod 301 is substantially perpendicular to the top face 305 of base 303). The rod 301 may be fixedly or removably attached to the base 303. Although an elongate cylindrical rod 301 is shown in the FIGS., it is noted that other rod shapes may be contemplated (e.g., straight-sided rods having cross-sections in the shape of a square, triangle, octagon, etc.)

In the exemplary embodiments of FIGS. 3-5, two rods 301 are shown affixed to the base 303. It is to be noted that the particular positions and/or configurations of the rods 301 and the depiction of base 303 as shown in the Figures are for exemplary purposes only and other positions and/or configurations of the rods 301 and/or base 303 may be contemplated. For example, alternate configurations may be contemplated with multiple rods 301 arranged in any fashion (e.g., linearly, circularly, ‘zig-zagged’, etc.) as well as units having multiple rods with a base 303 which includes, e.g., a rotatable tray therein having rods 301 affixed thereon to facilitate a ‘carousel’ effect to further maximize accessibility of the containers during display and sale.

The aperture 107 facilitates stacking of the containers 100 via placement of the container 100 such that a second end 504 of the rod 301 is caused to be passed through the aperture 107. A cross-sectional dimension of the rod 301 (e.g., a diameter “d”) is preferably of a size which at least insertably fits through the apertures 107 of the containers 100 it is intended to hold and display. The cross-sectional dimension of rod 301 may be constant throughout the rod's length or vary (e.g., the rod 301 may be tapered having varying thicknesses throughout). FIG. 4 shows a top view of the stacking unit 300 with placement of exemplary containers 100 in dotted lines, showing rods 301 inserted through the containers' apertures 107.

Rods 301 may be hollow or solid and may be formed of a non-deformable, rigid material such as e.g., hard plastic, metal, etc., or of a rigid yet flexible (e.g., manually deformable) material which may be bent, e.g., at various curves or angles relative to the base 303.

Each rod 301 may be of any length “L” (see FIG. 5) as desired or feasible for its intended use, e.g., to hold any desired number of containers 100. Further, rods 301 may be telescopic, thus providing for extension and retraction for adjustment in their length as desired.

A securing or “locking” mechanism 501 may be provided to releasably secure containers 100 onto the rod 301 and prevent their unauthorized or unintentional removal, and/or to secure a telescopic version of rod 301 at a desired length. The securing mechanism 501 may comprise, e.g., a bolt, compressive/friction means, detents, spring clips, retractable clamps, spring-loaded pegs, pressure locks, etc., and may further be lockable so as to be tamper-resistant. The rod 301 may include holes 503 for insertion of the securing mechanism 501 (e.g., of a bolt-type). The holes 503 may be located at any desired intervals along the rod 301 to facilitate adjustability in the placement of the securing mechanism 501 along the rod 301. Alternatively, the securing mechanism 501 may be permanently affixed at a single location on the rod 301 or be slidable along the rod 301.

It is to be noted that the holes 503 may be disposed at any location along the rod 301 and the particular locations shown in FIG. 5 are for exemplary purposes only. Multiple holes 503 may be provided in appropriate positions as warranted to accommodate, e.g., a securing mechanism 501 where desired.

The stacking unit 300 may be of any size which is suitable for its desired purpose and location, e.g., a floor display, a refrigerator shelf display, etc. The stacking unit 300 may be durably constructed of materials such as, metal, plastic, etc. for continuous re-use, or may be constructed of disposable materials, (e.g., cardboard, etc.).

Advantageously, a container 100 of the present invention may freely be flipped and stacked on top of one another regardless of each container's shape, or the shape and/or location of its aperture 107. That is, the aperture 107 may be located off-center, be of different shapes, etc. and each container 100 in a stack may be of varying shapes and sizes, and stacking capability would not be adversely affected. To facilitate stacking, it is only necessary that the apertures 107 of each container 100 in a stack are of a size which is at least sufficient to receive the cross-sectional dimension of the rod (e.g., the diameter “d” of rod 301).

Further, the containers 100 and stacking unit 300 of the present invention optimize use of storage and display space, provide greatly increased efficiency and ease of transportability and increased security in both handling and display of containers, and in its reusable embodiment, renders packaging of individual containers intended for individual sale unnecessary, thus reducing packaging overall. The present invention provides container stacking ability without requiring tedious or careful alignment of mated containers having raised and recessed regions, and in one embodiment also provides for a tamper-proof stacking arrangement.

Those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the configurations disclosed herein are for exemplary purposes and may be changed without departing from the spirit of the invention.

Although illustrative embodiments of the present invention have been described herein with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various other alterations, modifications and improvements may be affected therein by one skilled in the art. Such alterations, modifications and improvements are intended to be within the scope and spirit of the present invention. Accordingly, the foregoing description is by way of example only and is not intended to be limiting. This invention should be limited only by the claims and equivalents thereof.