Title:
Continuous seal container assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is a container assembly for food and liquids. The container assembly has a lid and a base each of which has a series of prongs. The prongs of the base and lid interlock to form a continuous seal with high surface area and passages with many bends that together prevent air and bacteria from entering the container assembly and prevent food and liquids from leaking out of the container assembly. One or more of the lid prongs has a protrusion that fit into corresponding depressions between the base prongs to urge the rims together and create and maintain the seal. In a second embodiment, the outermost prong of the lid also has a protrusion attached to it which locks around the outermost base prong further urging the rims together and further creating and maintaining the seal.



Inventors:
Ooi, Kee Seong (Sungai Petani, MY)
Application Number:
11/196193
Publication Date:
02/08/2007
Filing Date:
08/02/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D6/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
HICKS, ROBERT J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WEISS & MOY, P.C. (PHOENIX, AZ, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A container assembly comprising: a base having a substantially planar bottom, a base perimeter wall extending upward from said bottom, and a base rim extending outward from said base perimeter wall; a lid having a substantially planar top, a lid perimeter wall extending downward from said top, and a lid rim extending outward from said lid perimeter wall; wherein said lid rim has at least three prongs extending vertically downward wherein the innermost prong is attached to the lid rim and extends vertically upward and wherein at least one interior prong has a protrusion attached to said at least one interior prong; wherein said base rim has at least two prongs extending vertically upward wherein the innermost prong is attached to the base rim and extends vertically upward and wherein at least one space between the prongs has a depression to receive the protrusion of said at least one interior prong of said lid rim; wherein said lid rim prongs and said base rim prongs are sized and shaped to mate together; and wherein the mating of said protrusion of said at one least one inner prong of said lid rim and said depressions in said at least one space between said prongs of said base rim urges said lid rim and said base rim together to seal said container assembly.

2. The base according to claim 1 wherein said base contains a protrusion along the outer perimeter of said substantially planar bottom of said base.

3. The base according to claim 1 wherein said base perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar bottom toward said base rim.

4. The base according to claim 1 wherein said substantially planar bottom is curved inward.

5. The lid according to claim 1 wherein said lid contains a depression along the outer perimeter of the substantially planar top of said lid.

6. The lid according to claim 1 wherein said lid perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar top toward said lid rim.

7. The lid according to claim 1 wherein said substantially planar top is curved inward.

8. A container assembly comprising: a base having a substantially planar bottom, a base perimeter wall extending upward from said bottom and a base rim extending outward from said base perimeter wall; a lid having a substantially planar top, a lid perimeter wall extending downward from said top and a lid rim extending outward from said lid perimeter wall; wherein said lid rim has at least three prongs extending vertically downward, wherein the innermost prong is attached to the lid rim and extends vertically upward, wherein at least one interior prong has a protrusion attached to said at least one interior prong, and wherein the outermost prong has a protrusion attached to said outermost prong; wherein said base rim has at least two prongs extending vertically upward wherein the innermost prong is attached to the base rim and extends vertically upward and wherein at least one space between the prongs has a depression to receive the protrusion of said at least one inner prong of said lid rim; wherein said lid rim prongs and said base rim prongs are sized and shaped to mate together; wherein the mating of said protrusion of said at one least one interior prong of said lid rim and said depression in said space between said prongs of said base rim urges said lid rim and said base rim together to seal said container assembly; and wherein said protrusion of said outer prong of said lid rim fits around the outermost prong of said base rim further urging said lid rim and said base rim together and further sealing said container assembly.

9. The base according to claim 8 wherein said base contains a protrusion along the outer perimeter of said substantially planar bottom of said base.

10. The base according to claim 8 wherein said base perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar bottom toward said base rim.

11. The base according to claim 8 wherein said substantially planar bottom is curved inward.

12. The lid according to claim 8 wherein said lid contains a depression along the outer perimeter of the substantially planar top of said lid.

13. The lid according to claim 8 wherein said lid perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar top toward said lid rim.

14. The lid according to claim 8 wherein said substantially planar top is curved inward.

15. A method for sealing foods and liquids in a container assembly comprising: placing a food or liquid into a base wherein said base comprises a substantially planar bottom, a base perimeter wall extending substantially vertically upward from said bottom and a base rim extending outward from said base perimeter wall; said base rim has at least two prongs wherein the innermost prong is attached to the base rim and extends vertically upward and wherein the space between the prongs has a depression to receive a protrusion of an interior prong of a lid rim; covering said base with a lid having a substantially planar top, a lid perimeter wall extending vertically downward from said top and said lid rim extending outward from said lid perimeter wall; wherein said lid rim has at least three prongs extending vertically downward, wherein the innermost prong is attached to said lid rim and extends vertically upward, and wherein said at least one inner prong has a protrusion attached to said at least one inner prong; wherein said lid rim prongs and said base rim prongs are sized and shaped to mate together; and wherein the mating of said protrusion of said at one least one interior prong of said lid rim and said depression in said space between said prongs of said base rim urges said lid rim and said base rim together to seal said food or liquid inside said container assembly.

16. The method of claim 15 wherein said outermost prong of said lid rim further has a protrusion attached to said outermost prong; and wherein said protrusion of said outermost prong of said lid rim fits around said outermost prong of said base rim further urging said lid rim and said base rim together and further sealing food or liquid inside said container assembly.

17. The method of claim 15 wherein said base contains a protrusion along the outer perimeter of said substantially planar bottom of said base, wherein said base perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar bottom toward said base rim, and wherein said substantially planar bottom is curved inward.

18. The method of claim 15 wherein said lid contains a depression along the outer perimeter of the substantially planar top of said lid, wherein said lid perimeter wall is inclined from the vertical, slanting outward from said substantially planar top toward said lid rim, and wherein said substantially planar top is curved inward.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to container assemblies for storing and transporting food, and in particular to an improved structure and method for sealing between the base and lid of a container assembly for storing food.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There are various container assemblies currently used in the “take-out” food industry and in disposable storage containers for home use which are capable of transporting and storing food for short periods of time. It is important that such container assemblies be sealed sufficiently to prevent leakage of the contents while in transport or storage and to prevent spoilage of the contents caused by the introduction of bacteria or air.

Currently, there are various designs available for such purposes in the food industry. Examples include the folded cardboard container assembly used widely for take-out in Chinese restaurants and other restaurants, aluminum foil base and plastic or cardboard lid container assemblies also used for take-out in restaurants and food stores, fold-over plastic containers (where the lid folds over the base) wherein there is a small protrusion in the lid portion that snaps into a small depression in the base portion, and plastic bags that zip or seal together and are more often used in homes. All of these have deficiencies because they are not air-tight thus permitting air and bacteria to enter and cause spoilage, not leakproof, inconvenient to use, or inefficient for storage.

Container assemblies which consist of a separate base and lid made of plastic typically have one to three seals along the rim of the base and lid. When it is a single seal, it often consists of a single U-shaped, V-shaped, or square protrusion that fits into a mirror image U, V or depression, respectively in the lid (for example, Dais, et al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,789,393; Schultz, et al., U.S. Pat. No. 6,868,980; and Tucker, et al., U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,170,696; 6,467,647; and 6,910,599). When there is more than one seal, they are each interior to the other along the mated rims of the lid and base. The seals have small surface areas to prevent the flow of food, liquids and/or air. It is believed that the small surface area of the seals results in failure of the seal more often than is acceptable. Also, when there is more than one seal, there is often a space between the sealing structures, as in Chen, U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,056,138 and 6,196,404. In that case, it is believed that liquid may be able to leak through the innermost seal into a chamber between the sealing areas, and the liquid in that chamber can provide an independent source of leakage. Therefore, with such double or triple seal container assemblies, leakage can occur when one or more seals are broken.

There is a need for a container assembly having a continuous, large surface area seal along the rim of the base and lid which prevents food leakage and spoilage. In addition, there is a need for a container assembly which may be easily and readily assembled and disassembled. In addition, the container assembly must be of such quality such that it is capable of storing foods for some length of time. Yet another desirable feature is for a container assembly that may be easily and compactly stored.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is a continuous seal container assembly having a large surface area along the rim of the base and lid wherein the surfaces mate together to essentially eliminate leakage. The rim of the lid is constructed with a plurality of prongs analogous to tines of a fork, with the prongs fitting around mirror image prongs in the rim of the base. In this way there is both a large surface area of mated surfaces in a short linear distance and the path of the mated surfaces is tortuous such that liquids that might otherwise begin to leak through the mating surfaces are impeded from reaching the outer edge of the container assembly. Furthermore, at least one of the prongs in the lid rim has a protrusion that fits into a mirror image depression in the base rim to urge the two surfaces together and hold them in place. In a second embodiment, the outermost prong along the edge of the lid rim also has a protrusion that fits around the outer edge of the base rim further urging the mating surfaces together and locking the lid and base together. These prongs and protrusions in the rim of the lid when dimensioned to fit against or around the corresponding prongs and depressions in the rim of the base form a large surface area of mated surfaces which act as a defense against food leakage out of the container assembly and a defense against the entry of contaminants into the container assembly. Because the mating of the surfaces is a friction fit, the lid can easily be sealed on the base, subsequently pulled off, and resealed with minimal force to permit easy and convenient multiple uses.

Finally, the container assemblies of the present invention are same size stackable, with one base fitting into the base of the next container assembly, and the lids acting in the same fashion. These features dramatically reduce the storage space required to store said container assemblies with lid and base separated before they are used. The container assemblies are also stackable one on top of the other when in the fully assembled position as well. The present invention is, therefore, a safe, easy to use container assembly that can be used in the food preparation and distribution industries and in the private home.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a detailed understanding of the present invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a base of a container assembly, consistent with an embodiment of the present invention, viewed from above;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the base of FIG. 1 viewed from below;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a lid of a container assembly, consistent with an embodiment of the present invention, viewed from above;

FIG. 4 is perspective view of the lid of FIG. 3 viewed from below;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 showing how they fit together;

FIG. 6 is a side, half-section view of the lid of FIG. 3;

FIG. 7 is a side, half-section view of the base of FIG. 1;

FIG. 8 is a side, half-section view of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 separated, but showing how they mate together;

FIG. 9 is a side, half-section view of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 mated together;

FIG. 10 is an enlarged side, half-section view of the rim of the lid of FIG. 3 for the first embodiment;

FIG. 11 is an enlarged side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 3 for the first embodiment;

FIG. 12 is an enlarged side, half-section view of the rim of the lid of FIG. 3 for a second embodiment;

FIG. 13 is an enlarged side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 1 for the second embodiment;

FIG. 14 is an enlarged, side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 1 and of the lid of FIG. 3 for the first embodiment with the base and lid separated, but showing how they mate together;

FIG. 15 is an enlarged, side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 for the first embodiment mated together;

FIG. 16 is an enlarged, side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 for the second embodiment separated, but showing how they mate together; and,

FIG. 17 is an enlarged, side, half-section view of the rim of the base of FIG. 1 and the lid of FIG. 3 for the second embodiment mated together.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

A detailed description of the invention follows below. Like reference numbers in subsequent figures have the same meaning. As will be described in the figures, the rim of the lid is constructed with a plurality of prongs analogous to tines of a fork, with the prongs fitting around mirror image prongs in the rim of the base. In this way there is both a large surface area of mated surfaces in a short linear distance and the path of the mated surfaces is tortuous such that liquids that might otherwise begin to leak through the mating surfaces are impeded from reaching the outer edge of the container assembly. Furthermore, at least one of the prongs in the lid rim has a protrusion that fits into a mirror image depression in the base rim to urge the two surfaces together and hold them in place. In a second embodiment, the outermost prong along the rim of the lid also has a protrusion that fits around the outer edge of the rim of the base further urging the mating surfaces together and locking the lid and base together. In a secondary feature of the invention, the container assemblies of the present invention are same size stackable, with one base fitting into the base of the next container assembly, and the lids acting in the same fashion. The container assemblies are also stackable one on top of the other when in the fully assembled position as well.

Turning now to the figures. Base 100 is shown in FIGS. 1 and 2. In FIG. 1, base 100 is viewed from the top. In FIG. 2, base 100 is viewed from the bottom. Detailed descriptions of the structure of the rim are set out in the enlarged views of the rim of the base, described below in FIGS. 11 and 13-17.

Lid 101 is shown in FIGS. 3 and 4. In FIG. 3, lid 101 is viewed from the top. In FIG. 4, lid 101 is viewed from the bottom. Detailed descriptions of the structure of the rim are set out in the enlarged views of the rim of the lid, described below in FIGS. 10, 12, and 14-17.

FIG. 5 shows base 100 and lid 101 viewed from the top. Base 100 and lid 101 are separated in FIG. 5, and the dotted lines show how base 100 and lid 101 fit together when they are mated to effect sealing.

FIG. 6 shows lid 101 in a side, half-section view. The shaded portions are in the plane of the paper. The unshaded portions are the perspective view of the structures as they wrap around into the dimension perpendicular to the paper. The rim 102 of lid 101 is discussed in more detail in enlarged views, below, in FIGS. 10, 12, and 14-17. Side 103 can be essentially vertical, but is ideally slanted slightly inward from lid rim 102 to lid top member 112 so the lids 101 can be stacked for efficient storage before a container assembly is put into use. Lid 101 also has depression 110 which goes around the circumference of lid 101 and can therefore be seen in FIGS. 6, 8 and 9 in two places at the top of lid 101. Top member 112 of lid 101 is flat or slightly bowed into the interior of lid 101 (i.e., downward as drawn in FIGS. 6, 8 and 9).

FIG. 7 shows base 100 in a side, half-section view. The shaded portions are in the plane of the paper. The unshaded portions are the perspective view of the structures as they wrap around into the dimension perpendicular to the paper. The rim 105 of base 100 is discussed in more detail in enlarged views, below, in FIGS. 11 and 13-17. Side 106 can be essentially vertical but ideally is slanted slightly inward from base rim 105 to base bottom member 113 so the bases 100 can be stacked for efficient storage before a container assembly is put into use. Base 100 also has protrusion 108 which goes around the circumference of base 100 and can therefore be seen in FIGS. 7, 8 and 9 in two places at the bottom of base 100. Bottom member 113 of base 100 is flat or curved slightly into the interior of base 100 (i.e., upward as drawn in FIGS. 7, 8 and 9).

FIGS. 8 and 9 show base 100 and lid 101 together in side, half-section views. In FIG. 8, base 100 and lid 101 are separated. The dotted lines show how base 100 and lid 101 fit together. In FIG. 9, base 100 and lid 101 are mated together to effect storage. The distance between the outer edges of protrusion 108 of base 100 is slightly less than the distance between the inner edges of depression 110 of lid 101. In this way, a number of closed container assemblies can also be stacked.

It should be noted that FIGS. 1 through 8 are drawn to show a circular shape for base 100, lid 101, and therefore the container assembly taken as a whole. However, any reasonable shape can be utilized, for example circular, oval, square, or rectangular, without changing the meaning or function of any of the structures described herein or claimed below.

The principal features of the invention are shown in FIGS. 10-17. The first embodiment is shown in FIGS. 10, 11, 14 and 15. A second embodiment is shown in FIGS. 12, 13, 16 and 17. FIG. 10 shows an enlarged side, half-cut view of rim 102 of lid 101. As shown, there are three prongs. The prong represented by reference number 120 is attached directly and vertically to lid 101. A second prong, represented by reference number 122 is the outermost part of the structure. A third prong, represented by reference number 123 has a protrusion, 124, attached to the prong. Although three prongs are shown (reference numbers 120, 122, and 123), wherein one prong 123 contains the protrusion 124, any number of prongs can be utilized, with any number of the inner prongs having the protrusion 124 attached to that prong.

FIG. 11 shows an enlarged, side, half-cut view of rim 105 of base 100. In FIG. 11, there is one less prong, 130 and 136, then there are prongs in the rim of lid 101. The space 131 that is between prongs 130 and 136 and is opposite prong 123 of FIG. 10 has a depression 132 into which protrusion 124 of FIG. 10 fits so the two rims 102 and 105 can be snapped together and hold. Clearly, the length of side 120 of FIG. 10 must be the same length as side 134 of prong 130, while the length 133 of prong 136 and the length 137 of prong 130 in FIG. 11 must be the same length as prong 123 in FIG. 10, and the length of prong 122 of FIG. 10 must be the same as the length of prong 135 of FIG. 11. Also, the length of prongs 130 and 136 must be the same as the lengths of spaces 129 and 128 between the prongs in FIG. 10. In FIG. 11, although two prongs are shown (reference numbers 130 and 136) any number of prongs can be utilized, as long as they are one less than the number of prongs in the lid of FIG. 10. Furthermore, any number of the prongs can have spaces 131 with depressions 132 at the end of sides 132 and 133 wherein the depressions mate with the protrusion 124 of FIG. 10 as long as there are the same number of space and depression structures in FIG. 11 as there are inner prong and protrusion structures as in FIG. 10.

The second embodiment is seen in FIGS. 12 and 13. The additional structure of this second embodiment is the protrusion 127 attached to the outermost prong 122. Clearly, the length of prong 120 must be at least as great as the length of prong 135 of FIG. 13. Protrusion 127 can then snap around prong 136, urging the rim of the lid and the rim of the base together and further contributing to sealing of the lid and base together. All other reference numbers in FIGS. 12 and 13 are the same as the reference numbers in FIGS. 10 and 11 and have the same meaning.

FIGS. 14 and 15 show enlarged, side, half-section views of the rims of the base and lid for the first embodiment. The additional teaching in FIGS. 14 and 15 relative to FIGS. 10 and 11 is seen in the shading and illustration of how the rim of the lid and rim of the base fit together. With respect to the shading, the shaded portions are in the plane of the paper. The unshaded portions are the perspective view of the structures as they wrap around into the dimension perpendicular to the paper. In FIG. 14, the dotted lines show how lid 101 and base 100 fit together when they are mated to effect sealing, more specifically how the rim of the lid 102 and the rim of the base 105 fit together. In FIG. 15, the lid 101 and the base 100, more specifically the rim of the lid 102 and the rim of the base 105 are mated together. In FIG. 14, the reference numbers and their meaning are the same as in FIGS. 10 and 11. The reference numbers have been omitted in FIG. 15, but they can be seen in FIGS. 10, 11 and 14.

FIGS. 16 and 17 show enlarged, side, half-section views of the rims of the base and lid for the second embodiment. The additional teaching in FIGS. 16 and 17 relative to FIGS. 12 and 13 is seen in the shading and illustration of how the rim of the lid and rim of the base fit together. With respect to the shading, the shaded portions are in the plane of the paper. The unshaded portions are the perspective view of the structures as they wrap around into the dimension perpendicular to the paper. In FIG. 16, the dotted lines show how lid 101 and base 100 fit together when they are mated to effect sealing, more specifically how the rim of the lid 102 and the rim of the base 105 fit together. In FIG. 17, the lid 101 and the base 100, more specifically the rim of the lid 102 and the rim of the base 105 are mated together. In FIG. 16, the reference numbers and their meaning are the same as in FIGS. 12 and 13. The reference numbers have been omitted in FIG. 17, but they can be seen in FIGS. 12, 13 and 16.

In FIGS. 10-17, with the exception of the protrusions 124 and 127 and the depression 123, the prongs and spaces of the base and lid rim structures are shown as essentially rectangular, that is, with all angles essentially being right angles. The essence of the invention is not dependent on shape. Any reasonable geometric shapes, including but not limited to U-shapes and V-shapes, can be used. Furthermore, the internal protrusion has been described as being attached to the lid rim and the corresponding depression has been described as being part of the base rim. The reverse locking system can also be used. The only requirements are that the lid rim structure and base rim structure match exactly so that there are no spaces along the mated rims, and that there be a sufficient number of turns in the path between the mated rim surfaces such that flow is sufficiently impeded. That is, the only requirements are that the prongs of the lid rim match the spaces of the base rim, the prongs of the base rim match the spaces of the lid rim, the internal protrusions of the lid rim match the internal depressions of the base rim (or the reverse if that is the design utilized), the external protrusion of the lid rim in the second embodiment be sized to lock exactly around the outermost prong of the outermost base rim prong, and that there be a multiplicity of prongs—no fewer than three in the lid rim and correspondingly no fewer than two in the base rim.

While the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to the preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that the foregoing and other changes in form, and details, may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.