Title:
Twist up spout for beverage container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container cap includes an outer cap, an inner cap and a drinking tube. The drinking tube is extendable and/or retractable through a twisting motion of the outer cap. When retracted, the drinking tube is protected by the outer cap from environmental contaminants.



Inventors:
Cunningham, Ian W. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Furlong, Brian D. (Davidson, NC, US)
Hull, Kenneth W. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Claypool, Christopher J. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/321026
Publication Date:
08/17/2006
Filing Date:
12/29/2005
Assignee:
Rubbermaid Incorporated (Huntersville, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/387, 220/715
International Classes:
B65D51/16; A47G19/22; B65D83/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ALLEN, JEFFREY R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lempia Summerfield Katz LLC (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:
1. A cap for a container comprising: an inner cap including at least one port therein; a drinking tube partially surrounding a portion of the inner cap and slidably movable relative to the inner cap; an outer cap partially surrounding a portion of the drinking tube; and a retainer ring disposed around one end of the outer cap and rotatably attaching the outer cap to the inner cap; wherein the outer cap is rotatable relative to the drinking tube, the retaining ring and the inner cap; wherein rotation of the outer cap displaces the drinking tube in a longitudinal direction relative to the inner cap.

2. The cap of claim 1, wherein the inner cap has an opening at a first end adapted to mount the inner cap on a container.

3. The cap of claim 2, wherein the inner cap has at least one port proximate a second end.

4. The cap of claim 2, wherein an inner surface of the opening is threaded.

5. The cap of claim 2, wherein the inner surface of the opening is adapted to secure the cap to the container in a snap-fit arrangement.

6. The cap of claim 2, wherein the opening is threaded on an inner surface thereof.

7. The cap of claim 1, wherein the inner cap includes a thread on an outer surface thereof adapted to mount the retainer ring to the inner cap.

8. The cap of claim 1, wherein an outer surface of the drinking tube is threaded.

9. The cap of claim 8, wherein an inner surface of the outer cap is threaded and cooperates with the thread of the drinking tube to drive the drinking tube in a longitudinal direction when the outer cap is rotated.

10. The cap of claim 1, wherein the retainer ring is integral with the outer cap.

11. The cap of claim 1, wherein squeezing at two points along a circumference of the retainer ring allows the retainer ring to be removed from the inner cap freeing the outer cap and the drinking spout.

12. The cap of claim 1, wherein the inner cap is open at a first end and includes top surface at a second end.

13. The cap of claim 12, wherein at least one port is disposed in a wall of the inner cap proximate the top surface.

14. The cap of claim 13, wherein a resilient seal extends outward from the wall of the inner cap between the at least one port and the top surface.

15. The cap of claim 14, wherein a second resilient seal extends outward from the wall of the inner cap between the first end of the inner cap and the at least one port.

16. The cap of claim 15, further including a third resilient seal extending inward from the wall of the inner cap proximate the first end of the inner cap.

17. A resealable container for fluids comprising: a container base; an inner cap having at least one port therein; a drinking tube partially surrounding a portion of the inner cap and slidably movable relative to the inner cap; an outer cap partially surrounding a portion of the drinking tube; and a retainer ring disposed around one end of the outer cap and rotatably attaching the outer cap to the inner cap; wherein the outer cap is rotatable relative to the drinking tube and the inner cap; wherein rotation of the outer cap displaces the drinking tube in a longitudinal direction relative to the inner cap.

18. A method of dispensing liquids from a container comprising: providing a cap comprising: an inner cap having at least one port therein; a drinking tube partially surrounding a portion of the inner cap and slidably movable relative to the inner cap; an outer cap partially surrounding a portion of the drinking tube; and a retainer ring disposed around one end of the outer cap and rotatably attaching the outer cap to a portion of the inner cap; wherein the outer cap is rotatable relative to the drinking tube and the inner cap; wherein rotation of the outer cap displaces the drinking tube in a longitudinal direction relative to the inner cap; extending the drinking tube by rotating the outer cap; exposing the at least one port in the inner cap; and tilting the container to pour the liquid.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority benefit of U.S. provisional application No. 60/640,261 filed on Dec. 29, 2004.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Disclosure

The present disclosure is generally directed to container caps or spouts, and more particularly to extendable and/or retractable caps or spouts for drinking containers.

2. Description of Related Art

With a traditional drinking bottle or vessel, the drinker's mouth comes into contact with a surface that has been exposed to environmental debris. Many current container caps used on water bottles, including the popular push-pull squirt spout are easily subjected to dirt and other impurities when knocked over, especially when used outdoors.

There are current solutions that provide a separate cap piece that covers the drinking surface. Some of these caps are connected to the bottle with some sort of hinge, tether, or strap. The cap pivots or pulls out of the way and allows the user access the liquid. The cap can then be pivoted or replaced when the user wants to protect the drinking surface. In addition to the hinged solutions, there are a number of products that offer a separate cap that covers the drinking surface and can be fully removed.

The hinged or tethered cap solutions described above have at least two drawbacks. First, as the cap hinges out of the way, it hangs to the side of the bottle, often making it cumbersome to drink from the container, to manage or store in a cup holder or to store on a bicycle water bottle cage and the like. Second, it requires the drinker to perform two actions to access the liquid. They must first open the cap, and then a second operation is needed to access the water such as pulling up on a traditional push-pull squirt spout. Further, if the cap is free from the bottle, then the drinker needs to remove the cap and manage it in some way. With the separate cap solution, the cap can possibly be lost.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of a container cap, including an inner cap, a drinking tube, an outer cap and a retainer ring, and container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the disclosure;

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of the inner cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2B is a cross-sectional view of the inner cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 2C is a bottom plan view of the inner cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3A is a top perspective view of the drinking tube of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3B is a bottom perspective view of the drinking tube of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3C is a cross-sectional view of the drinking tube of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3D is a bottom plan view of the drinking tube of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4A is a bottom perspective view of the outer cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4B is a top perspective view of the outer cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4C is a side elevational view of the outer cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 4D is a bottom plan view of the outer cap of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5A is a bottom perspective view of the retainer ring of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5B is a top perspective view of the retainer ring of FIG. 1;

FIG. 6A is a cross-sectional view of the container cap of FIG. 1 in a closed condition;

FIG. 6B is a cross-sectional view of the container cap of FIG. 1 in an open condition; and

FIG. 6C is a close up view of the circle 6C of FIG. 6A.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

Observations and research of current users makes it clear that keeping a drinking surface of a container cap protected is a highly desirable feature. As water bottles are used in a variety of environments from outdoor activities to public work-out facilities, shielding the drinking surface and orifice from penetration of, or contact with, dirt, debris, sweat, or other environmental elements while still gaining easy access to the liquid is a product feature that is desired by many users.

The container cap disclosed herein extends and retracts a drinking tube with a twisting motion of an outer cap. When extended, the drinking tube is partially exposed creating a drinking interface for a user. When retracted, the drinking tube is substantially covered and protected from contaminants by the outer cap. The drinking tube is mechanically linked to the outer cap and may be extended through rotation of the outer cap.

FIG. 1 shows an exploded perspective view of the container cap 10 and a fluid container 5. The container cap 10 includes an inner cap 12 that is secured to the fluid container 5, in this embodiment by a threaded connection. An upper portion of the inner cap 12 is partially surrounded by a drinking tube 14 that is open at both ends and is slidably movable relative to the inner cap 12. An outer cap 16 retains and partially surrounds the drinking tube 14. The outer cap 16 is rotatable relative to the drinking tube 14 and the inner cap 12. A retainer ring 18 secures the outer cap 16 to the inner cap 12, thus also securing the drinking tube 14 between the outer cap 16 and the inner cap 12. The retainer ring 18 may be fixed relative to the outer cap, but rotatable with the outer cap 16 relative to the drinking tube 14 and the inner cap 12. Alternately, the retainer ring 18 may be fixed relative to the inner cap 12 and rotatable relative to the outer cap 16. Regardless, the retainer ring 18 secures the outer cap 16 to the inner cap 12 while allowing the outer cap 16 to freely rotate relative to the inner cap 12. Additionally, an optional storage strap 19 may be included for temporarily securing the container cap 10 and fluid container 5. For example, the storage strap 19 may be temporarily placed on a hook (not shown) so that the fluid container 5 is readily accessible to the user.

FIGS. 2A-2C detail the inner cap 12. The inner cap 12 includes a mounting portion 20 generally sized to be threadably mounted to an outer surface of the container 5 FIG. 1). The inner cap 12 generally narrows upwardly in an inward radial direction from the mounting portion 20 towards a top surface 22 forming a generally pyramid-like shape. A thread 24 encircles the inner cap 12 between the mounting portion 20 and the top surface 22. This thread 24 rotatably attaches the retaining ring 18 to the inner cap 12. Between the thread 24 and the top surface 22, two resilient seals 26, 28 are disposed circumferentially around the inner cap 12. Between these resilient seals 26, 28 are a plurality of openings or ports 30 that penetrate through a top portion of the inner cap 12. When the inner cap 12 is mounted to a container 5 (FIG. 1), access is provided to a storage volume within the container 5 through the plurality of openings or ports 30.

FIG. 2B is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the inner cap 12. The resilient seals 26, 28 encircle the perimeter of the inner cap 12 at two locations. The first seal 28 is disposed just below the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12 and generally above the plurality of openings or ports 30. The second seal 26 is disposed just below a shoulder area 32 and generally below the plurality of openings or ports 30. These seals 26, 28, cooperate with the drinking tube 14 (FIG. 1) to seal the plurality of openings or ports 30, thus preventing liquid from exiting the container cap 10 when the drinking tube 14 is in a closed position. This example of the inner cap 14 includes generally trapezoidal-shaped openings or ports 30. However, the shape of the openings or ports 30 could be modified to produce virtually any particular flow pattern desired. Additionally, a single opening 30 could be used instead of a plurality. The inner cap 12 includes posts 34 between each of the openings or ports 30 to support the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12. Additionally, an annular shelf 36 is disposed just below the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12. Furthermore, a third seal 29 is disposed on an inner surface of the mounting portion 20 for sealing the inner cap and a top of the container 5 (FIG. 1) when the cap 10 is secured to the container 5.

FIG. 2C is a bottom plan view of the inner cap 12. An interior of the inner cap 12 includes one or more flow channels 38, 40. These channels 38, 40 allow all three seals 26, 28, 29 to be made from the same material in the same molding process. Thus, an optimal seal material can be used, and fewer manufacturing processes are required. Additionally, inner threads 42 are visible on the mounting portion 20 of the inner cap 12. The inner threads 42 engage threads on the outer surface of the container 5 (FIG. 1) to secure the container cap 10 to the container 5.

FIGS. 3A-3D illustrate the drinking tube 14. The drinking tube 14 includes a generally cylindrical driver portion 44 and a generally funnel shaped drinking portion 46. The driver portion 44 includes a plurality of threads 50 disposed on an outer surface thereof. The drinking portion 46 terminates at a distal end 52 in a widening spout portion 54. As shown in FIG. 3B, an interior of the drinking tube 14 includes one or more downwardly projecting fingers 56. These fingers 56 include a generally arch shaped opening 58 between two legs 59. The arch shaped opening 58 generally widens from near the drinking portion 46 to near the driver portion 44. These downwardly projecting fingers 56 cooperate with the plurality of openings or ports 30 on the inner cap 12 (FIGS. 2A-2C) to stabilize and guide the drinking tube 14 as it slides relative to the inner cap 12. Additionally, the arch shaped opening 58 provides precise control of the flow rate of a liquid flowing out of the openings or ports 30 by gradually increasing the area of a flow path through the openings or ports 30 and the arch shaped opening 58 as the drinking tube 14 extends. Thus, the further extended the drinking tube 14, the greater the flow rate of the liquid. Near the attached ends of the fingers 56 is an annular ridge 60 (FIG. 3C). The annular ridge 60 cooperates with the first seal 26 on the inner cap 12 (FIGS. 2A-2C) to seal the openings or ports 30 when the drinking tube 14 is in a closed position. Additionally, the second seal 28 cooperates with the inside wall of the driver portion 44 to seal the openings or ports 30 when the drinking tube is in a closed position (See FIG. 6A)

FIGS. 4A-4D illustrate the outer cap 16. The outer cap 16 may include a generally cylindrical base driver portion 70 having threads 72 on an inner surface thereof. A flared retaining flange 74 is integrally formed near one end of the outer cap 16. Near the other end of the outer cap 16, an opening 76 is formed. The opening 76 cooperates with the drinking tube 14 to provide an audible signal that the drinking tube is fully up or down (See FIGS. 6A and 6B). The outer cap 16 rotatably secures the drinking tube 14 to the inner cap 12 and protects the drinking tube 14 from ambient elements when the drinking tube 14 is in a closed position. The inner threads 72 of the outer cap 16 cooperate with the threads 50 on the drinking tube 14 to slidably extend the drinking tube 14 relative to the inner cap 12 when the outer cap 16 is rotated.

FIGS. 5A and 5B illustrate the retainer ring 18. The retainer ring 18 includes an inner thread 80 to cooperate with the threaded mounting portion 24 of the inner cap 12 (FIGS. 2A-2C). An annular flange 82 at a distal end of the retaining ring 18 retains the flared retaining flange 74 of the outer cap 16 (FIGS. 4A-4D) between the retainer ring 18 and the inner cap 12. The retainer ring 18 secures the outer cap 16 to the inner cap 12, while allowing the outer cap 16 to twist relative to the retaining ring 18 and the inner cap 12.

FIGS. 6A and 6B illustrate the container cap 10 in two configurations, a closed, sealed condition, and an extended drinking condition. In the closed condition, as shown in FIG. 6A, the top edge 47 of the drinking portion 46 of the drinking tube 14 is at substantially the same elevation as the opening 76 of the outer cap 16 (See FIG. 6C for a close up view). The top edge 47 of the drinking tube 14 could be disposed between the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12 and the opening 76 of the outer cap 16 if desired. The first seal 26 contacts an inner portion of the annular ridge 60 of the drinking portion 46 of the drinking tube 14 providing a liquid-tight seal between the plurality of openings or ports 30 and the outside environment. Similarly, the second seal 28 contacts an inner surface of the driver portion 44 of the drinking tube 14 providing a second liquid-tight seal for the plurality of openings or ports 30. The first and second seals 26, 28 effectively prevent the contents of the container 5 from escaping or being contaminated by environmental elements. Furthermore, the third seal 29 provides a liquid tight seal between the inner cap 12 and the container 5.

The outer cap 16 substantially surrounds both the drinking tube 14 and the inner cap 12 in the closed position. The outer cap 16 provides protection for the drinking tube 14 from the outside environment. The retainer ring 18 attaches the outer cap 16 to the inner cap 12 by capturing the flared retaining flange 74 of the outer cap 16 and engaging the threads 24 of the inner cap 12. The retainer ring 18 may be removed by applying a force in two generally opposing locations on the retainer ring 18, thus distorting the retainer ring 18 and allowing the inner threads of the retainer ring 18 to disengage the threads 24 of the inner cap 12. In this manner, the container cap 10 may be disassembled for cleaning and reuse.

The downward projecting fingers 56 penetrate through each of the plurality of openings or ports 30. The arched portions 58 provide a fluid passageway from the container volume through the inner cap 12. In the closed condition, the first and second seals 26, 28 prevent the fluid from escaping to the environment. Additionally, the fingers 56 guide and stabilize the drinking tube 14 during extension and/or retraction.

The top edge 47 of the drinking tube 14 may include a notch 90 (See FIG. 6C) that is complementary in size and shape to a corresponding annular ridge 92 in the outer cap 16. As the drinking tube 14 approaches the fully closed position, the notch 90 and ridge 92 releasably join together in a “snap fit” type arrangement, thus providing the user with an audible and tactile indication that the drinking tube 14 is closed. Additionally, this arrangement provides stability to the drinking tube 14 partially preventing the drinking tube 14 from unwanted movement when the container cap 10 is bumped or otherwise jostled. The shown arrangement of the ridge 92 and notch 90 could be reversed if desired.

FIG. 6B shows the container cap 10 in the open position. The top 47 of the drinking tube 14 extends outward, away from the top of the outer cap 16 and away from the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12 when the outer cap 16 is rotated on one direction. When the outer cap 12 is rotated in the opposite direction, the top 47 of the drinking tube 14 retracts toward the top of the outer cap 16 and towards the top surface 22 of the inner cap 12. This extension and/or retraction is caused by the interaction of the threads 50 on the outer surface of the drinking tube 14 and the threads 72 on the inner surface of the outer cap 16.

When the drinking tube 14 is extended, the inner wall of the drinking tube 14 adjacent the first seal 26 moves from a smaller diameter to a larger diameter portion, thus causing the first seal 26 to lose contact with the inner wall of the drinking tube 14. The second seal 28, however, maintains contact with the inner wall of the drinking tube 14, thus allowing fluid to travel in only one direction when exiting the plurality of openings or ports 30. A shoulder 96 of the drinking tube 14 contacts the outer cap 16 at the fully extended and open position providing an oral and tactile indication to the user that the container cap 10 is open.

Generally, the components of the container cap 10 can be manufactured from plastic and/or elastomers through an injection molding process. However, one or more of the components may be manufactured from any appropriate material, such as, for example, metal or ceramic. One skilled in the art could select an appropriate material.

Additional features such as a “wiper” that swipes, and then covers the drinking tube 14 as the drinking tube 14 retracts and/or extends could be incorporated into the container cap 10. The wiper could be disposed between the drinking tube 14 and the outer cap 16 and would wipe the drinking tube 14 as the drinking tube 14 is extended and/or retracted further facilitating keeping the drinking tube 14 clean. The wiper could be generally formed from a flexible material, such as rubber, but may also be formed from a more rigid material such as plastic.

As mentioned above, the retractable drinking tube 14 keeps the surface that interacts with the drinker's mouth away from environmental debris and therefore gives the drinker a cleaner and more hygienic drinking experience. Further, the one-handed extension of the spout allows the drinker to not have to divert their attention from other activities.

Although certain functions and features of a twist up spout have been described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present disclosure, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the disclosure that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.





 
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