Title:
Variable volume carton
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A blank can be erected into a carton that can be varied in volume. The carton can be configured in two different closed configurations, with the volume of the carton being different in the two closed configurations. In a first of the closed configurations, one or more flaps respectively hingedly connected to end edges of the carton's panels can close the carton's opening. In a second of the closed configurations, folding can take place so that the carton's panels are doubled over at a position between their ends.



Inventors:
Green, Aaron Joseph (Oregon, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/127603
Publication Date:
11/16/2006
Filing Date:
05/12/2005
Assignee:
Graphic Packaging International, Inc.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/235
International Classes:
B65D5/54; B65D17/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20070246520METHOD OF MAKING MULTIPLE PLY PARTITIONOctober, 2007Nyeboer
20040211825Rectangular bin with octagonal inner wallsOctober, 2004Champion et al.
20080245848FLEXIBLE LINER AND BAG-IN-BOX CONTAINER SYSTEMSOctober, 2008Plunkett et al.
20080190996Band Type Transparent Envelope for FilesAugust, 2008Kim et al.
20090072016Lattice compartmental insertMarch, 2009Molle
20060180643Bag in box (bib)August, 2006Stephenson
20090205992Gift ArticleAugust, 2009Williams
20070041670Decorative Gift WrapFebruary, 2007Spizman et al.



Primary Examiner:
DEMEREE, CHRISTOPHER R
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WOMBLE BOND DICKINSON (US) LLP (ATLANTA, GA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A variable volume carton, the carton comprising: first and second ends that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction; and a plurality of panels, wherein longitudinally extending side edges of said plurality of panels are respectively connected to one another so that said plurality of panels extend at least partially around the carton's interior, first end edges of said plurality of panels are proximate said first end, extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, and collectively at least partially define an opening while the carton is in an open configuration, with said opening being at said first end and providing access to the carton's interior while the carton is in an open configuration, second end edges respectively of said plurality of panels are proximate said second end and extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, said plurality of panels includes a plurality of fold lines that are operative so said plurality of panels can be folded and unfolded at a position between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said plurality of panels, each panel of said plurality of panels is doubled over while said plurality of panels is folded at said position between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said plurality of panels.

2. The carton according to claim 1, wherein for each panel of said plurality of panels, said panel in its entirety is at least generally planar while said plurality of panels is unfolded at said position between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said plurality of panels.

3. A variable volume carton, the carton comprising: first and second ends that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction; and a plurality of panels, wherein longitudinally extending side edges of said plurality of panels are respectively connected to one another so that said plurality of panels extend at least partially around the carton's interior, first end edges of said plurality of panels are proximate said first end, extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, and collectively at least partially define an opening while the carton is in an open configuration, with said opening being at said first end and providing access to the carton's interior while the carton is in an open configuration, second end edges respectively of said plurality of panels are proximate said second end and extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, said plurality of panels includes a plurality of fold lines that are operative so said plurality of panels can be folded over and thereby doubled over at a position between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said plurality of panels, and none of said fold lines, which are operative so that said plurality of panels can be doubled over, is in substantially close proximity to said second end.

4. The carton according to claim 3, wherein none of said fold lines, which are operative so that said plurality of panels can be doubled over, are within about 2 inches from said second end.

5. The carton according to claim 3, further comprising a plurality of flaps respectively hingedly connected to said first end edges of said plurality of panels, wherein said opening of the carton can be at least substantially closed by said flaps respectively overlapping one another.

6. A variable volume carton, the carton comprising: first and second ends that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction; and a plurality of panels including, at least, first and second side panels that are spaced apart from one another and extend in the longitudinal direction, and third and fourth panels that extend in the longitudinal direction and are spaced apart from one another at least while the carton in an open configuration, wherein longitudinally extending side edges of said plurality of panels are respectively connected to one another so that said plurality of panels extend at least partially around the carton's interior, first end edges of said plurality of panels are proximate said first end, extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, and collectively at least partially define an opening while the carton is in the open configuration, with said opening being at said first end and providing access to the carton's interior while the carton is in the open configuration, second end edges respectively of said plurality of panels are proximate said second end and extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, for each side panel of said first and second side panels, said side panel includes at least one longitudinal fold line that is positioned between, and distant from, said side edges of said side panel and extends toward said first end edge of said side panel, and said third panel includes at least one fold line that extends crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction and is positioned between, and distant from said first end edge and said second end edge of said third panel.

7. The carton according to claim 6, wherein said fold line of said third panel extends at least substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and at least proximate each of said side edges of said third panel.

8. The carton according to claim 6, wherein for each side panel of said first and second side panels, said side panel further includes, at least, oblique fold lines that extend: divergently away from at least proximate said longitudinal fold line of said side panel, and obliquely with respect to said longitudinal fold line.

9. The carton according to claim 8, wherein for each side panel of said first and second side panels, all ends of said oblique fold lines are distant from said first and second end edges of said side panel.

10. The carton according to claim 8, wherein for each side panel of said first and second side panels, said side panel further includes, at least: a first fold line that extends crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, is at least proximate said oblique fold lines of said side panel, is at least proximate said longitudinal fold line of said side panel, and is positioned between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said side panel, and a second fold line that extends crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, is at least proximate said oblique fold lines of said side panel, and is positioned between, and distant from, said first fold line and said second end edge of said side panel.

11. The carton according to claim 6, wherein said fourth panel includes at least one fold line that extends crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction and is positioned between, and distant from said first end edge and said second end edge of said fourth panel.

12. The carton according to claim 6, further comprising a first flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said fourth panel, and a second flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said third panel, wherein at least one of said first and second flaps at least partially closes said opening of the carton while the carton is in a first closed configuration, said first flap includes a first tab for interacting with a feature of said second flap for at least partially maintaining the carton in the first closed configuration, and said first flap further includes a second tab for mating with a slot in said third panel for at least partially maintaining the carton in a second closed configuration in which said opening of the carton is at least partially closed.

13. The carton according to claim 12, wherein: said first tab tapers in a first direction, said second tab tapers in a second direction, and said first and second directions are opposite.

14. The carton according to claim 6, further comprising a plurality of flaps respectively hingedly connected to said first end edges of said plurality of panels, wherein said opening of the carton is at least substantially closed by said plurality of flaps.

15. The carton according to claim 14, wherein: said longitudinal fold lines extend in a common plane; and for each panel of said first and second side panels, said flap hingedly connected to said side panel includes a fold line that at least substantially extends in said common plane.

16. The carton according to claim 6, wherein: said fold line of said third panel extends at least substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and at least proximate each of said side edges of said third panel; said fourth panel includes at least one fold line that extends at least substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and at least proximate each of said side edges of said fourth panel, and is positioned between, and distant from, said first end edge of said fourth panel and said second end edge of said fourth panel; a first longitudinal distance is defined from said fold line of said third panel to said first edge of said third panel; a second longitudinal distance is defined from said fold line of said fourth panel to said first edge of said fourth panel; and said first and second longitudinal distances are at least about equal.

17. The carton according to claim 16, wherein: said fold line of said third panel is a first fold line of said third panel; said fold line of said fourth panel is a first fold line of said third panel; said third panel includes, at least, a second fold line that extends at least substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and at least proximate each of said side edges of said third panel, and is positioned between, and distant from said second end edge of said third panel and said first fold line of said third panel; said fourth panel includes, at least, a second fold line that extends at least substantially perpendicular to the longitudinal direction and at least proximate each of said side edges of said fourth panel, and is positioned between, and distant from said second end edge of said fourth panel and said first fold line of said fourth panel; a third longitudinal distance is defined from said second fold line of said third panel to said first edge of said third panel; a fourth longitudinal distance is defined from said second fold line of said fourth panel to said first edge of said fourth panel; and said third and fourth longitudinal distances are at least about equal.

18. The carton according to claim 6, wherein in a closed configuration of the carton: said opening is at least substantially closed; for each side panel of said first and second side panels, longitudinally extending portions of said side panel are folded along said longitudinal fold line so that said longitudinally extending portions are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another; and said third and fourth panels are at least generally folded along said fold line of said third panel so that each of said third and fourth panels is doubled over.

19. The carton according to claim 18, wherein portions of said third panel that are respectively located on opposite sides of said fold line of said third panel are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another while said third and fourth panels are doubled over.

20. The carton according to claim 18, wherein at least in the closed configuration: for each side panel of said first and second side panels, said side panel further includes, at least, a plurality of fold lines that bound and thereby define an at least substantially triangular portion of said side panel, said triangular portion has a tip that is at least proximate said longitudinal fold line of said side panel, said triangular portion has an edge connected to an edge of a rectangular portion of said panel, and said triangular portion extends obliquely with respect to said rectangular portion, and said triangular portions of said first and second side panels extend convergently toward one another.

21. The carton according to claim 18, further comprising a flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said fourth panel, wherein said flap includes, at least, a tab for mating with a slot in said third panel for at least partially maintaining the carton in the closed configuration.

22. The carton according to claim 21, further comprising a flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said third panel, wherein: the closed configuration is a first closed configuration; said tab is a first tab; at least one of said flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said third panel and said flap hingedly connected to said first end edge of said fourth panel at least partially closes said opening of the carton in a second closed configuration of the carton; and said flap connected to said fourth panel further includes a second tab for interacting with a feature of said third panel for at least partially maintaining the carton in the second closed configuration.

23. A blank for forming a variable volume carton, the blank comprising: a plurality of panels including, at least, first and second panels; for each panel of said plurality of panels, said panel includes, at least, (a) opposite first and second end edges that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, and (b) opposite first and second side edges that are spaced apart from one another in a lateral direction; said second side edge of said first panel is connected to said first side edge of said second panel by a first longitudinal fold line; said first panel includes, at least, (a) a second longitudinal fold line that is positioned between, and distant from, said first and second side edges of said first panel, and (b) oblique fold lines that extend obliquely with respect to said second longitudinal fold line and divergently away from (1) said second longitudinal fold line, and (2) a predetermined location that is on said first panel and is positioned between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said first panel; said second panel includes at least a first transverse fold line that is positioned between, and distant from, said first and second end edges of said second panel; a first longitudinal distance is defined from said predetermined location on said first panel to said first end edge of said first panel; a second longitudinal distance is defined from said first transverse fold line to said first end edge of said second panel; and said first and second longitudinal distances are at least about equal.

24. The blank according to claim 23, wherein all ends of said oblique fold lines are spaced apart from said first and second end edges of said first panel.

25. The blank according to claim 23, wherein said first transverse fold line of said second panel extends to at least proximate each of said first and second side edges of said second panel.

26. The blank according to claim 23, wherein: said plurality of panels further includes, at least, a third panel; said second side edge of said second panel is connected to said first side edge of said third panel by a third longitudinal fold line; and said third panel includes, at least, a fourth longitudinal fold line that is positioned between, and distant from, said first and second side edges of said third panel, and oblique fold lines that extend obliquely with respect to said fourth longitudinal fold line and divergently away from at least proximate said fourth longitudinal fold line.

27. The blank according to claim 23, further comprising a flap connected by a fold line to said first end edge of said first panel, wherein: said flap includes a first tab and a second tab, said first tab tapers in a first direction, said second tab tapers in a second direction, and said first and second directions are opposite from one another.

28. The blank according to claim 23, wherein said second panel further includes a second transverse fold line that is positioned between, and distant from, said first transverse fold line and said second end edge of said first panel.

29. The blank according to claim 28, wherein said first panel further includes at least one transverse fold line that is aligned with said second transverse fold line.

30. The blank according to claim 23, wherein: said plurality of panels further includes, at least, a third panel and a fourth panel; said second side edge of said second panel is connected to said first side edge of said third panel by a longitudinal fold line, and said second side edge of said fourth panel is connected to said first side edge of said first panel by a longitudinal fold line.

31. The blank according to claim 30, further comprising: a first attachment panel that is connected by a longitudinal fold line to said first edge of said fourth panel and is for being attached to a first portion of said third panel; and a second attachment panel that is connected by a longitudinal fold line to said first edge of said fourth panel and is for being attached to a second portion of said third panel, wherein a gap is defined between said first and second attachment panels.

32. The blank according to claim 23, wherein said first panel further includes at least a second transverse fold line that is at least proximate said predetermined location on said first panel.

33. The blank according to claim 32, wherein said first and second transverse fold lines are at least substantially aligned with one another.

34. The blank according to claim 32, wherein said first panel further includes a third transverse fold line that is at least proximate said oblique fold lines, and said third transverse fold line is positioned between, and distant from, said second transverse fold line and said second end edge of said first panel.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to containers that can be reconfigured to define different volumes.

A conventional carton includes panels that are respectively connected to one another and extend around an interior of the carton. Typically, a bottom end of the carton remains closed by overlapping bottom flaps, whereas an opening at the top end of the carton can be opened and closed with top flaps. Cartons can be used to contain a variety of goods, such as cereal. In some situations, only a portion of the goods contained in a carton are dispensed from the carton, and then the carton is reclosed for the purpose of storing the remaining goods in the carton. It is typical for the volume of some cartons to remain the same irrespective of how full they are. This can be disadvantageous with respect to optimizing use of a storage space (e.g., cupboard). Accordingly, variable volume boxes are known, and examples of these are disclosed in U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,251,808 and 6,102,277.

Notwithstanding, there is always a desire for cartons that provide a new balance of properties.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF SOME ASPECTS OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, a blank can be erected into a carton that can be varied in volume. In accordance with one aspect, the carton includes first and second ends that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction, first and second side panels that are spaced apart from one another and extend in the longitudinal direction, and third and fourth panels that extend in the longitudinal direction and are spaced apart from one another at least while the carton is in an open configuration. Longitudinally extending side edges of the panels are respectively connected to one another so that the plurality of panels extend around the carton's interior. First end edges of the panels extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, and collectively define an opening that is located at the first end of the carton for providing access to the carton's interior while the carton is in an open configuration. Second end edges of the panels extend crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction, and collectively at least partially define the second end of the carton, which typically remains closed. For each of the first and second side panels, the side panel includes at least one longitudinal fold line that is positioned between the side edges of the side panel and extends from a location that is positioned between, and distant from, the first and second end edges of the side panel toward the first end edge of the side panel. The third panel includes at least one fold line that extends crosswise with respect to the longitudinal direction and is positioned between, and distant from, the first end edge and the second end edge of the third panel.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the carton can be configured in at least two different closed configurations, with the volume of the carton advantageously being different in the two closed configurations. In a first of the closed configurations, one or more flaps respectively hingedly connected to one or more of the first end edges of the panels can close the carton's opening. In a second of the closed configurations, folding can take place along at least the above-discussed fold lines of the panels so that the panels are doubled over at a position between their first and second end edges. Optionally, different arrangements of fold lines can be provided for enabling this folding over, and features can be provided for maintaining the carton in its closed configurations.

In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the fold lines for facilitating the second closed configuration (e.g., the doubling over of the panels) do not reach to the second end (e.g., bottom end) of the carton. As a result and advantageously, the carton has a substantial interior volume for containing goods, or the like, while the carton is in the second closed configuration. The carton's volume is smaller in the second closed configuration than it is in the first closed configuration.

Other aspects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Having described some aspects of the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are illustrative of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention and are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is a schematic, pictorial view of a carton in a first closed configuration;

FIG. 2 is a top plan view of the carton in a partially open configuration;

FIG. 3 is a schematic, pictorial view of the carton in a second closed configuration, in which numerous panels of the carton are doubled over; and

FIG. 4 is a plan view of a blank from which the carton can be erected.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Referring now in greater detail to the drawings, in which like numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views, a carton of an exemplary embodiment of the present invention is designated by the numeral 10. As best understood with reference to FIG. 1, the carton includes top and bottom ends 12, 14 that are spaced apart from one another in a longitudinal direction. Extending longitudinally between the top and bottom ends are front, rear and side panels 16, 18, 20, 22 that are respectively connected to one another at their side edges so that these panels extend around the carton's interior. The directional references, for example “top”, “front” and “side”, referred to in this Detailed Description section are used for ease of understanding rather than for the purpose of narrowing the scope of the present invention. For example and alternatively, the front panel 16 can be referred to as the rear panel, and the rear panel 18 can be referred to as the front panel.

Dashed lines are used in FIG. 1 to schematically illustrate features that would otherwise be hidden from view. In addition, whereas FIG. 1 can be characterized as a left side, front, top perspective view of the carton 10, a generally corresponding right side, front, top perspective view of the carton is a mirror image of FIG. 1.

After being initially closed, the carton's bottom end 14 typically remains closed by an overlapping, fastened (e.g., adhered) together arrangement of lower flaps 24 that are respectively connected to lower edges of the panels 16, 18, 20, 22. The carton's bottom end 14 can be closed in any conventional manner, and optionally it can be opened or be in any conventional configuration that does not unduly interfere with operativeness of the carton 10.

An upper opening 26 (partially shown in FIG. 2) to the interior of the carton 10 can be selectively opened and closed. The opening 26 is defined between upper edges of the panels 16, 18, 20, 22. The carton 10 (e.g., the opening 26) is shown in a first closed configuration in FIG. 1, a partially open configuration in FIG. 2, and a second closed configuration in FIG. 3, as will be discussed in greater detail below. Advantageously, the volume of the carton 10 can vary significantly between the first closed configuration of FIG. 1 and the second closed configuration of FIG. 3, although a variety of volume changes are within the scope of the present invention.

Some of the features of the carton 10 in its first closed configuration will be described in the following, with reference to FIG. 1 and in accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention. In the first closed configuration, the carton 10 is in the form of a box, namely a rectangular parallelepiped. Accordingly, for each of the panels 16, 18, 20, 22, the panel is at least generally planer, and typically substantially planar. That is, in the first closed configuration, the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 are not folded and thereby doubled over as illustrated in FIG. 3.

In addition, while the carton 10 is in the first closed configuration, the opening 26 is at least substantially closed, and typically completely closed, by the overlapping arrangement of upper flaps 28, 30, 32 that are respectively connected to upper edges of the panels 16, 18, 20, 22. One or more of the upper flaps 28, 30, 32 can be omitted, although typically at least one of the upper flaps will be present for securing the carton 10 in its second closed configuration, as will be discussed in greater detail below. Regarding the overlapping arrangement of upper flaps 28, 30, 32 that is illustrated in FIG. 1 more specifically, the forward upper flap 30 is hingedly connected to the upper edge of the front panel 16, the forward upper flap 30 is above the side upper flaps 28 that are respectively hingedly connected to the upper edges of the side panels 20, 22, and the forward upper flap 30 is below the rearward upper flap 32 that is hingedly connected to the upper edge of the rear panel 18.

As illustrated in FIG. 1, tearing has not yet occurred along upper tear lines 34 that are in the rearward upper panel 32. The carton 10 can be initially opened by tearing along the upper tear lines 34, as discussed in greater detail below. The upper tear lines 34 can be characterized, even before being torn, as dividing the rearward upper flap 32 into a main portion 36 (of the rearward upper flap) that is positioned between remnant portions 38 (of the rearward upper flap). The rearward upper flap's main portion 36 includes a forward tab 40, which is partially defined between the upper tear lines 34, and a rearward tab 42, which is defined by a tab-defining tear line 44. Fold lines 46, which are in the rearward upper flap's main portion 36, extend respectively outwardly from the ends of the tab-defining tear line 44.

Each of the rearward upper flap's remnant portions 38 are adhered to the forward upper flap 30 for remaining with the forward upper flap, as will be discussed in greater detail below. The forward tab 40 is releasably fastened to a feature of the forward upper flap 30. More specifically in accordance with the exemplary embodiment, the forward tab 40 is releasably adhered to a portion of the forward upper flap 30, or even more specifically the forward tab is adhered to a tear-away portion 48 (FIGS. 2 and 4) of the forward upper flap. As shown in FIG. 2, the forward upper flap's tear-away portion 48 has been torn away from a corresponding remnant portion 50 of the forward upper flap 30.

An acceptable method of arranging the carton 10 in its open configuration, and some of the features of the carton in its open configuration, will be described in the following, with reference primarily to FIG. 2 and in accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention. In the open configuration, the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 are not folded and thereby doubled over as illustrated in FIG. 3. That is, in the open configuration, for each of the panels 16, 18, 20, 22, the entire panel is at least generally planar, and more specifically the entire panel is at least substantially planar as illustrated in FIG. 1.

While the carton 10 is in its first closed configuration that is illustrated in FIG. 1, the forward tab 40 can be pulled away from the forward upper flap 30 so that: the forward upper flap's remnant and tear-away portions 50, 48 tear away from one another, tearing occurs along the upper tear lines 34 so that the rearward upper flap's main portion 36 tears away from the rearward upper flap's remnant portions 38, and the rearward upper flap's main portion pivots about the upper edge of the rear panel 18 to expose the carton's opening 26. The rearward upper flap's remnant portions 38 typically remain adhered to respective portions of the forward upper flap 30. Thereafter, the forward and side upper flaps 30, 28 can be pivoted respectively about the upper edges of the front and side panels 16, 20, 22 to fully open the carton's opening 26, such as for facilitating the dispensing of goods from the carton's interior.

Once the carton 10 is in its open configuration, it can be returned to its first closed configuration by generally performing the above-described method of opening in reverse, except that the tearing would not be reversed. The returning of the carton 10 to its closed configuration can optionally include refastening the forward tab 40 to a feature of the forward upper flap 30. In one example, the forward upper flap 30 can include a tear line for forming a slot (not shown) that is proximate the forward upper flap's remnant portion 50 and is for releasably receiving the forward tab 40.

Features for facilitating arrangement of the carton 10 in its second closed configuration are described in the following, in accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention. In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the second closed configuration can also be referred to as a doubled over configuration, because in the second closed configuration the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 are folded and thereby doubled over as illustrated in FIG. 3.

Referring to FIG. 1, for each of the side panels 20, 22, the side panel includes: oblique fold lines 52 that extend divergently from proximate a lower end of a longitudinal fold line 54, an upper lateral fold line 56 that extends proximate the lower end of the longitudinal fold line, and a lower lateral fold line 58 that extends between the spaced apart ends of the oblique fold lines. The upper flaps 28 include fold lines 60 that respectively extend from proximate the upper ends of the side panel's longitudinal fold lines 54. The front panel 16 includes upper and lower lateral fold lines 62, 64. Likewise, the rear panel 18 includes upper and lower lateral fold lines 66, 68.

As best understood with reference to the left side panel 20 in FIG. 1, for each of the side panels 20, 22, fold lines thereof respectively segregate the side panel into upper portions 70, a central triangular portion 72, a forward triangular portion 74, a rearward triangular portion 76, and a lower portion 78. Each of the triangular portions 72 can be generally in the shape of a triangle, or at least substantially in the shape of a triangle, or the like. The fold lines of the front panel 16 respectively segregate the front panel into an upper portion 80, an intermediate portion 82 and a lower portion 84. Similarly, and as best understood with reference to FIG. 4, the rear panel 18 is segregated by its fold lines into an upper portion 86, an intermediate portion 88 and a lower portion 90. The front panel 16 includes a slot-defining tear line 92 that can be torn to define a slot for releasably receiving the rearward tab 42 in the carton's second closed configuration, as will be discussed in greater detail below.

One acceptable method for arranging the carton 10 in its second closed configuration, and some of the features of the carton while it is in the second closed configuration, will be described in the following, in accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention. As mentioned previously, the second closed configuration can also be referred to as the doubled over configuration, because in the second closed configuration the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 are folded so that they are doubled over as illustrated in FIG. 3. Whereas FIG. 3 can be characterized as a left side, front, top perspective view of the carton 10 in the second closed configuration, a generally corresponding right side, front, top perspective view of the carton is a mirror image of FIG. 3. Dashed lines are used in FIG. 1 to schematically illustrate the side panel's central triangular portions 72.

In accordance with the exemplary method for achieving the second closed configuration, the carton 10 is first configured in its open configuration, with the upper flaps 28, 30, 32 extending in the longitudinal direction along with the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 (e.g., so that for each side panel 20, 22 and its associated side upper flap 28, they are coplanar and the longitudinal fold line 54 and the flap's fold line 60 are aligned (e.g., collinear) and can be collectively referred to as aligned fold lines 54, 60). Then, the aligned fold lines 54, 60 at the right side of the carton are pushed toward the aligned fold lines 54, 60 at the left side of the carton, and vice versa, which causes the carton to transition to an intermediate configuration.

In the intermediate configuration, for each flap of the side upper flaps 28, the portions of the flap that are segregated from one another by the flap's fold line 60 are folded outwardly about the flap's fold line 60 so that: the originally relatively exterior surfaces of the portions of the flap 28 are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another, and the originally relatively interior surfaces of the portions of the flap 28 and the originally relatively interior surfaces of forward and rearward upper flaps 30, 32 are respectively in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another.

Also in the intermediate configuration, for each side panel of the side panels 20, 22: the side panel's upper portions 70 are folded outwardly about the longitudinal fold line 54 so that the originally exterior surfaces of the side panel's upper portions 70 are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another, and the originally interior surfaces of the side panel's upper portions 70 and the originally interior surfaces of front and rear panel's upper portions 80, 86 are respectively in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another; the side panel's central triangular portion 72 extends obliquely with respect to the side panel's lower portion 78; the interior surface of the side panel's forward triangular portion 74 and the interior surface of the front panel's intermediate portion 82 are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another; and the interior surface of the side panel's rearward triangular portion 76 and the interior surface of the rear panel's intermediate portion 88 (FIG. 4) are in opposing face-to-face configuration with respect to one another. In addition, while the carton 10 is in the intermediate configuration, the side panel's central triangular portions 72 extend toward one another, the front and rear panel's intermediate portions 82, 88 converge toward one another in the upward direction, and the inside surfaces of the front and rear panel's upper portions 80, 86 (FIG. 4) are much closer to one another than they were in the first closed configuration.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the second closed configuration, which can also be referred to as the doubled over configuration, is like the intermediate configuration, except for variations noted and variations that will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art. After the carton 10 is in the intermediate configuration, the second closed configuration can be achieved by simultaneously folding everything that is above the front and rear panel's upper lateral fold lines 62, 66 forwardly so portions of the front panel's upper portion 80 is in opposing face-to-face relation with the front panels' intermediate and lower portions 82, 84.

While the carton 10 is being configured in either the intermediate configuration or the second closed configuration, the forward upward flap 30 can be pivoted relative to the front panel 16 so that the forward upper flap 30 is sandwiched between (i.e., in opposing face-to-face association with) each of the front panel's upper and intermediate portions 80, 82 in the second closed configuration, as illustrated in FIG. 3. As a result, the forward upper flap 30 does not cover the slot-defining tear line 92. Accordingly, the carton 10 can be secured in the second closed configuration, for example, by inserting the rearward tab 42 into the slot formed by tearing along the slot-defining tear line 92. Generally described, the carton 10 can be transitioned from the second closed configuration to the open configuration by performing the above-described procedure in reverse.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, while the carton 10 is fully secured in the second closed configuration, which is also referred to as the doubled over configuration, each of the above-described opposing face-to-face configurations can be opposing face-to-face contacts (except for exceptions noted and exceptions that will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art) so that the opening 26 (FIG. 2) is securely closed. At least some of the front panel's upper portion 80 will not be in opposing face-to-face contact with the front panel's lower portion 84 in the second closed configuration/doubled over configuration because of the forward upper flap 30 being sandwiched therebetween. Also during the second closed configuration/doubled over configuration, an upper attachment panel 94 (FIGS. 1 and 4) will be sandwiched between both: a portion of the inside surface of the front panel's upper portion 80 and the originally inside surface of the forward upper portion 70 of the left side panel 20, and a portion of the inside surface of the front panel's intermediate portion 82 and the originally inside surface of the forward triangular portion 74 of the left side panel 20. On the other hand, provisions can be made so that the forward upper flap 30 and the upper attachment panel 94 are not sandwiched as described above. In accordance with the exemplary embodiment, the upper attachment panel 94 and a lower attachment panel 96 (FIGS. 1 and 4) are for holding the carton in an erected configuration, as will be discussed in greater detail below.

Alternatively, other of the above-described face-to-face configurations and/or face-to-face contacts may be obstructed while the carton 10 is fully secured in the second closed configuration/doubled over configuration. As one example, some of the above-described face-to-face configurations and/or face-to-face contacts defined at originally interior surfaces may be at least partially impeded or prevented when the carton 10 contains goods (e.g., food products) or a bag containing such goods, because the goods and/or bag, or portions thereof, might get positioned between some of the surfaces that might otherwise be in a face-to-face configuration and/or face-to-face contact.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the lower lateral fold lines 58, 64, 68 are advantageously spaced apart from the carton's bottom end 14 so that the carton 10 has a substantial interior volume for containing goods, or the like, while the carton is in the second closed configuration. As mentioned previously, the second closed configuration can also be referred to as the doubled over configuration, since the panels 16, 18, 20, 22 are doubled over during the second closed configuration, for example as illustrated in FIG. 3. In accordance with the exemplary embodiment, the distance from the carton's bottom end 14 to the lateral fold lines 58, 64, 68 can be at least about 2 inches, or more specifically at least about 4 inches, or even more specifically at least about 6, and most specifically this distance is about 6 inches.

FIG. 4 illustrates a blank 98 from which the carton 10 can be formed, in accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention. As mentioned above, the forward tab 40 can be adhered to the tear-away 48 portion of the forward upper flap 30. This tear-away portion 48 of the forward upper flap 30 can be formed by a continuous cut line 100 that extends about half way into the thickness of the blank 98. As alluded to above, the carton 10 can be secured in its erected configuration through the use of attachment panels 94, 96. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the attachment panels 94, 96 are attached by longitudinal fold line(s) 102 to a side edge of the front panel 16. As illustrated in FIG. 1, the attachment panels are fastened to a marginal portion of the interior surface of the left side panel 20. This fastening can be via adhering, such as with glue, or the like, or this fastening can be via any other conventional means. Other means for securing the blank 10 in its erected configuration are also within the scope of the present invention.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a lateral fold line 104 extends across the upper attachment panel 94 and a gap 106 is defined between the attachment panels 94, 96. The upper attachment panel's fold line 104 and the gap 106 are optional, but it can be advantageous to provide them so that they reduce any negative impact that the attachment panels 94, 96 might have on folding the carton 10 into the second closed configuration.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the upper flaps 28, 30, 32 are respectively attached to the upper edges of the side, front and rear panels 20, 22, 16, 18 by lateral fold lines 108, 110, 112, 114; and the lower flaps 24 are respectively attached to the lower edges of the side, front and rear panels 20, 22, 16, 18 by lateral fold lines 116, 118, 120, 122.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, a fold line can be any at least somewhat line-like arranged, although not necessarily straight, form of weakening that facilitates folding therealong; and a tear line can be any at least somewhat line-like arranged, although not necessarily straight, form of weakening that facilitates tearing therealong. More specifically, but not for the purpose of narrowing the scope of the present invention, conventional fold lines include: a crease or score line, such as formed with a blunt scoring knife, or the like, which creates a crushed portion in the material along the desired line of weakness; a cut that extends partially into the material along the desired line of weakness, and/or a series of spaced apart cuts that extend partially into and/or completely through the material along the desired line of weakness; or various combinations of these features. More specifically, but not for the purpose of narrowing the scope of the present invention, conventional tear lines include: a cut that extends partially into the material along the desired line of weakness, and/or a series of spaced apart cuts that extend partially into and/or completely through the material along the desired line of weakness, or various combinations of these features.

As a more specific example, one type of conventional tear line is in the form of a series of spaced apart cuts that extend completely through the material, with adjacent cuts being spaced apart slightly so that a nick (e.g., a small somewhat bridging-like piece of the material) is defined between the adjacent cuts for typically temporarily connecting the material across the tear line. The nicks are broken during tearing along the tear line. The nicks typically are a relatively small percentage of the tear line, and alternatively the nicks can be omitted from a tear line such that the tear line is a continuous cut line.

In situations where cutting is used to provide a fold line, typically the cutting will not be overly extensive in a manner that might cause a reasonable user to incorrectly consider the fold line to be a tear line. In contrast, where nicks are present in a cut line (e.g., tear line), typically the nicks will not be overly large or overly numerous in a manner that might cause a reasonable user to incorrectly consider the subject line to be a fold line.

In accordance with one specific version of the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, all of the fold lines are score lines, except that the fold lines 52, 56, 62, 66 are each in the form of fold lines formed by a series of spaced apart cuts that extend completely through the blank 98, and the lateral fold line 114 is in the form of a series of spaced apart cuts that are formed in and along a score line, with these cuts extending completely through the blank.

In accordance with the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, the blank 98 and carton 10 are constructed of paperboard, or the like, and the paperboard can optionally have one or more other materials coated or laminated thereon. For example, paperboard typically weighs at least about 100 pounds per ream, with each sheet of paperboard typically being at least about 0.012 inches thick, so that it is heavier and more rigid than ordinary paper. The blank 98 and carton 10 can also be constructed of other materials, such as cardboard, or any other material having properties suitable for enabling the carton to function at least generally as described above.

For example, one or both sides of the blank 98 can be coated with a clay coating, or the like. The clay coating can be printed over with product, advertising, and other information or images. The blank 98 may then be coated with a varnish or other protective coating to protect any information printed on the blank. The blank 98 may also be coated with, for example, a moisture barrier layer, on either or both sides of the blanks. Other coating and laminating upon the blank 98 is also within the scope of the present invention.

It will be understood by those skilled in the art that while the present invention has been discussed above with reference to exemplary embodiments, various additions, modifications and changes can be made thereto without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims.