Title:
Covered containers and related dispensing systems
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A container according to various embodiments of the invention includes a bottle, and a cap that is adapted to be attached adjacent the bottle (e.g., over the bottle's finish) to form an integrated container that is substantially in the form of a can. The integrated container may, for example, have dimensions that are substantially the same as the dimensions of a standard beverage can, such as a 12-ounce, 8.3-ounce, or 24-ounce beverage can. The container may be adapted, for example, to receive a beverage, food items, or toiletries. In addition, a method for dispensing the container from a standard beverage can dispenser is provided. In one embodiment, the method includes the steps of filling the bottle with a product, securing the cap adjacent to the bottle after filling the bottle with a product, and dispensing the resulting container from a standard can dispenser, such as a coin-operated automated vending machine.



Inventors:
Herold, Dale (Marietta, GA, US)
Application Number:
11/288012
Publication Date:
02/08/2007
Filing Date:
11/28/2005
Assignee:
Consolidated Container Company LP
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/259.1, 220/380, 220/737
International Classes:
B65D41/04; B65D25/00; B65D43/03; B65D43/18
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GROSSO, HARRY A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DALE HEROLD (MARIETTA, GA, US)
Claims:
We claim:

1. A container comprising: (A) a base portion that comprises: (1) a substantially tubular body portion, (2) a neck-type outlet, and (3) a shoulder portion extending between an upper portion of said body portion and said neck-type outlet; and (B) a cap portion defining an internal cavity, said internal cavity being dimensioned to receive said neck-type outlet, wherein: said container is adapted for assembly into an assembled configuration in which: (1) said cap portion is removably secured adjacent said base portion; (2) said neck-type outlet is disposed within said internal cavity of said cap portion; and (3) said cap portion covers, and restricts access to, both said outlet and at least a portion of said shoulder portion.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein said body portion has a substantially uniform, substantially circular cross-section.

3. The container of claim 1, wherein, when said container is in said assembled configuration: said shoulder portion is disposed within said internal cavity; and said cap portion covers, and restricts access to, both said neck-type outlet and said shoulder portion.

4. The container of claim 1, wherein: said cap portion comprises a first substantially vertical wall; said base portion comprises a second substantially vertical wall; and said first vertical wall is substantially vertically flush with said second vertical wall when said container is in said assembled configuration and in an upright position.

5. The container of claim 4, wherein: said cap portion further comprises a fastening portion that is disposed within said internal cavity of said cap portion; said fastening portion extends downwardly from an upper interior surface of said cap portion; and said fastening portion is adapted to facilitate fastening said cap portion adjacent said base portion when said container is in said assembled configuration.

6. The container of claim 1, wherein: a lower portion of said first vertical wall has a substantially circular horizontal cross section when said container is in said assembled configuration and said container is in an upright position; an upper portion of said second vertical wall has a substantially circular horizontal cross section when said container is in said assembled configuration and said container is in said upright position; and said lower portion of said first vertical wall is dimensioned to fit substantially horizontally flush with said upper portion of said second vertical wall when said container is in said assembled configuration and said container is in said upright position.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein: said cap portion further comprises a fastening portion that is disposed within said internal cavity of said cap portion; said fastening portion extends downwardly from an upper interior surface of said cap portion; and said fastening portion is adapted to facilitate fastening said cap portion adjacent said base portion when said container is in said assembled configuration.

8. The container of claim 7, wherein: said fastening portion comprises a first threaded portion; said neck-type outlet comprises a second threaded portion; and said first threaded portion is adapted to be rotated into a threadedly mating relationship with said second threaded portion, and to thereby removably secure said cap portion adjacent said base portion.

9. The container of claim 7, wherein: said first threaded portion is an internally threaded portion; said second threaded portion comprises an externally threaded portion; said first threaded portion is adapted to gradually engage said second threaded portion when said first threaded portion is rotated in a first direction relative to said second threaded portion; and said first threaded portion is adapted to gradually disengage from said second threaded portion when said first threaded portion is rotated in a second direction relative to said second threaded portion, said second direction being opposite to said first direction.

10. The container of claim 7, wherein said fastening portion is adapted to form a snap-fit connection with said neck-type outlet.

11. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard 12-ounce beverage can.

12. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of between about 2 and 3 inches, and a height of between about 4 and 6 inches.

13. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of about 2.6 inches, and a height of between about 4 and 6 inches.

14. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of between about 2 and 3 inches, and a height of about 4.83 inches.

15. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of between about 2.6 inches, and a height of about 4.83 inches.

16. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, said container is adapted to be dispensed from an automated beverage can dispenser that is configured to dispense standard 12-ounce beverage cans.

17. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, said container is adapted to be dispensed from an automated, coin-operated beverage can dispenser that is configured to dispense standard 12-ounce beverage cans.

18. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard 8.3 ounce beverage can.

19. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of about 2.09 inches, and a height of about 5.3 inches.

20. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard 24 ounce beverage can.

21. The container of claim 1, wherein: when said container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of about 2.87 inches, and a height of about 7.63 inches.

22. The container of claim 1, wherein: said body portion defines at least two substantially curved recesses having a first radius of curvature; said body portion comprises at least two substantially arcuate portions having a second radius of curvature; said first radius of curvature is different from said second radius of curvature; and said substantially curved recesses are disposed in an alternating arrangement with said substantially arcuate portions.

23. The container of claim 1, wherein at least a portion of said body portion defines a plurality of vertical ribs positioned circumferentially around said body portion, wherein each rib has a substantially arcuate cross-section.

24. A container according to claim 1, wherein said body portion defines a recessed portion, said recessed portion comprising an extended smooth surface on which a label may be applied.

25. A method of distributing a product, said method comprising the steps of: (A) providing a plurality of containers, each of which comprises: (1) a base portion that comprises: (a) a substantially tubular body portion, (b) a neck-type outlet, and (c) a shoulder portion extending between an upper portion of said body portion and said neck-type outlet; and (2) a cap portion defining an internal cavity, wherein: said container is adapted for assembly into an assembled configuration in which: (1) said cap portion is removably secured adjacent said base portion; (2) said neck-type outlet is disposed within said internal cavity of said cap portion; and (3) said cap portion covers, and restricts access to, both said neck-type outlet and at least a portion of said shoulder portion; (B) filling each of said containers with said product; (C) assembling each of said containers into said assembled configuration; and (D) after said step of assembling said containers into said assembled configuration, dispensing said assembled containers from an automated dispenser.

26. The method of claim 25, wherein said body portion is substantially cylindrical.

27. The method of claim 25, wherein said automated dispenser is a refrigerated dispenser.

28. The method of claim 25, wherein said product is a beverage.

29. The method of claim 25, wherein said product is a food item.

30. The method of claim 25, wherein said product is a toiletry item.

31. The method of claim 25, wherein, for each particular one of said containers: said particular container is configured so that when said particular container is in said assembled configuration, the external dimensions of said particular container are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard 12-ounce beverage can.

32. The method of claim 25, wherein, for each particular one of said containers: said particular container is configured so that, when said particular container is in said assembled configuration, said particular container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of about 2.6 inches, and a height of about 4.83 inches.

33. A container comprising: a bottle, said bottle comprising a finish; and a cap that is adapted to be attached adjacent said bottle to form an integrated container that is substantially in the form of a can.

34. The container of claim 33, wherein said bottle comprises a shoulder portion adjacent said finish.

35. The container of claim 34, wherein: said cap defines an internal cavity; and said container is adapted so that when said cap is attached adjacent said bottle to form said integrated container, said finish is disposed within said internal cavity.

36. The container of claim 35, wherein: said container is adapted so that when said cap is attached adjacent said bottle to form said integrated container, said shoulder portion is disposed within said internal cavity.

37. The container of claim 33, wherein: said container is adapted so that when said cap is attached adjacent said bottle to form said integrated container, the external dimensions of said integrated container are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard 12-ounce beverage can.

38. The container of claim 33, wherein: when said cap is attached adjacent said bottle to form said integrated container, said container is substantially in the form of a cylinder having a diameter of between about 2.6 inches, and a height of about 4.83 inches.

39. The container of claim 33, wherein said container further comprises an external seal that: (A) extends circumferentially around both a portion of said cap portion and at least a portion of said base portion; and (B) covers an interface between said cap portion and said base portion.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/631,536 entitled “Covered Container and Related Dispensing Systems and Methods,” filed on Nov. 28, 2004, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

There has recently been a rise in popularity among beverages, such as water (e.g., spring water), juice, tea, coffee, health shakes, and milk, that have traditionally been distributed in bottles rather than cans. Beverage bottles are often unsuitable for distribution using standard dispensers, such as can dispensers. Accordingly, there is currently a need to find an improved way to conveniently distribute and dispense these beverages, as well as other beverages, food items, and other items (e.g., medicine, toiletries, etc.) on a wide scale.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

A container according to a particular embodiment of the invention comprises: (A) a base portion that comprises: a substantially tubular (e.g., cylindrical) body portion, a neck-type outlet, and a shoulder portion that extends between an upper portion of the body portion and the neck-type outlet; and (B) a cap portion that defines an internal cavity, the internal cavity being dimensioned to receive the container's neck-type outlet. In various embodiments, the container is adapted for assembly into an assembled configuration in which: (A) the cap portion is removably secured adjacent the base portion; (B) the neck-type outlet is disposed within the internal cavity of the cap portion; and (C) the cap portion covers, and restricts access to, both the outlet and at least a portion of the shoulder portion. In a particular embodiment of the invention, when the container is in the assembled configuration, the container is substantially in the shape of a standard can (e.g., a 12-ounce can). This may allow the container to be dispensed from a standard automated 12-ounce can dispenser.

A method of distributing a product according to various embodiments of the invention comprises the step of: (A) providing a plurality of containers, each of which comprises: (1) a base portion that includes a substantially tubular body portion, a neck-type outlet, and a shoulder portion extending between an upper portion of the body portion and the neck-type outlet; and (2) a cap portion that defines an internal cavity. In various embodiments, the container is adapted for assembly into an assembled configuration in which: (1) the container's cap portion is removably secured adjacent the container's base portion; (2) the container's neck-type outlet is disposed within the internal cavity of the container's cap portion; and (3) the cap portion covers, and restricts access to, both the neck-type outlet and at least a portion of the container's shoulder portion. In particular embodiments, the method further comprises the steps of: (B) filling each of the containers with a product; (C) assembling each of the containers into the assembled configuration; and (D) after the step of assembling the containers into the assembled configuration, dispensing the assembled containers from an automated dispenser.

A container according to further embodiments of the invention comprises: (A) a bottle that comprises a finish; and (B) a cap that is adapted to be attached adjacent the bottle to form an integrated container that is substantially in the form of a can (e.g., a standard 12-ounce can). In various embodiments, the assembled container is adapted to be dispensed from a standard automated 12-ounce can dispenser.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Having thus described the invention in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:

FIGS. 1 and 2 illustrate front views of a container according to a particular embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3A illustrates a front view of a container according to a further embodiment of the invention having its cap portion removed.

FIG. 3B illustrates a front view of the base portion shown in FIG. 3A and a cross sectional front view of the cap portion taken along section 3B-3B shown in FIG. 3A.

FIG. 4A illustrates a front view of the container shown in FIG. 3A having its cap portion secured in place adjacent the container's base portion.

FIG. 4B illustrates a front view of the base portion shown in FIG. 4A and a cross-sectional front view of the cap portion taken along section 4B-4B shown in FIG. 4A.

FIG. 5A illustrates a perspective view of a container base portion according to a particular embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5B illustrates a perspective view of a container cap portion according to a particular embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6A is a top view of the container base portion shown in FIG. 5A.

FIG. 6B is a bottom view of the container cap portion shown in FIG. 5B.

FIG. 7 is a close-up perspective view of the container outlet shown in FIG. 5A.

FIG. 8 is a perspective view of the container of FIGS. 5A and 5B, with the container's cap portion shown attached adjacent the container's base portion.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the container of FIGS. 5A and 5B, with the container's cap portion shown partially unscrewed adjacent the container's base portion.

FIG. 10 illustrates a front view of a container according to a particular embodiment of the invention in which the container's cap portion is being used as a coaster for the container's base portion.

FIG. 11 illustrates a perspective view of a container according to another embodiment of the invention in which the container's cap portion is being used as a coaster for the container's base portion.

FIG. 12 illustrates a perspective view of a container according to a particular embodiment of the invention in which the container's cap portion is being used as a coaster for the container's base portion.

FIG. 13A illustrates a perspective view of a container according to yet another embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 13B and 13D illustrate front views of the container shown in FIG. 13A.

FIG. 13C illustrates a top view of the container shown in FIG. 13A.

FIG. 14A illustrates a perspective view of the container shown in FIG. 13A.

FIG. 14B illustrates a front view of the container shown in FIG. 13A.

FIG. 14C illustrates a perspective view of the cap portion of the container shown in FIG. 13A.

FIG. 15A illustrates a front view of a container according to another embodiment of the invention, wherein the dashed lines illustrate the interface between the outlet portion and the cap portion within the cap portion.

FIG. 15B illustrates a bottom view of the container shown in FIG. 15A.

FIG. 16A illustrates a front view of a container according to another embodiment of the invention, wherein the dashed lines illustrate the interface between the outlet portion and the cap portion within the cap portion and the concave surface defined by the bottom surface.

FIG. 16B illustrates a side view of the container shown in FIG. 16A.

FIG. 17 illustrates a perspective view of a container according to another embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 18 illustrates a front view of a container according to an alternative embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 19A illustrates a front view of a container according to another embodiment of the invention in which the container includes a label.

FIG. 19B illustrates a front view of a container according to an alternative embodiment of the invention in which the container includes a label.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

Various embodiments of the present invention now will be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all embodiments of the inventions are shown. Indeed, the present inventions may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will satisfy applicable legal requirements. Like numbers refer to like elements throughout.

Overview

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a container 100 according to one embodiment of the invention includes a base portion 105 and a cap portion 150. The cap portion 150 is adapted to be removably secured adjacent to the base portion 105, as discussed in greater detail below. For example, FIG. 1 shows the cap portion 150 removed from the base portion 105, and FIG. 2 shows the cap portion 150 removably attached adjacent to the base portion 105.

In various embodiments of the invention, after the cap portion 150 is secured in place adjacent to the base portion 105, the cap portion 150 and base portion 105 cooperate to form a substantially cylindrical container 100 that, in one embodiment, has external dimensions that are substantially the same as those of a standard-sized 12-ounce beverage can (e.g., a standard 355 ml soda can). As a result, in one embodiment, the container 100 (e.g., after the container is filled) may be packaged and dispensed using mechanisms already in place for distributing standard-sized 12-ounce beverage cans, such as, for example, a “fridgepack” packaging arrangement or a beverage can vending machine. In addition, various embodiments of the container 100 can be filled at a bottle distributor. Although the container 100 may be particularly suitable for use with beverages, various embodiments of the container are adapted to be filled with other products such as one or more food items, convenience items (e.g., baby wipes or skin lotion), or other personal products. The containers can be produced from any suitable material, including, but not limited to glass, plastic, and/or aluminum.

Structure of the Container

Base Portion

In various embodiments of the invention, such as the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the base portion 105 includes a top portion 120, a bottom support surface 195, and a body portion 115 that extends between the top portion 120 and the bottom support surface 195. The body portion 115 is substantially tubular and has a substantially circular cross-section. However, the body portion 115 may have other shapes, for example, the body portion 115 may be substantially tubular and have a substantially triangular or rectangular cross-section. In addition, although the embodiments described above preferably have a substantially uniform horizontal cross-sectional area along the length of the body portion 115, other various alternative embodiments, such as the embodiments illustrated in FIGS. 16A, 16B, and 17 may have horizontal cross-sectional areas that vary (e.g., in size or shape) along the length of the body portion 115.

In various embodiments, the top portion 120 includes an outlet portion 125 and a shoulder portion 110 that extends between an upper edge of the body portion 115 and the outlet portion 125. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the shoulder portion 110 has a substantially hemispherical shape, and the outlet portion 125, which has a substantially tubular shape, extends in an axially outward direction from the shoulder portion 110. The outlet portion 125 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 is a neck-type outlet that is substantially tubular and has a circular horizontal cross-section. However, the shoulder portion 110 and the outlet portion 125 can have any of a variety of suitable shapes. For example, as discussed below in greater detail, the shoulder portion 110 may have a substantially conical shape, as shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, 4B, 5A, 7, and 9-12, or the shoulder portion 110 may be a substantially flat, planar surface, as shown in FIGS. 13A-D and 14A-C. The outlet portion 125 may be, for example, (1) an externally threaded neck-type outlet, as shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, 4B, 5A, 6A, 7, and 10-12, (2) a wide-mouthed neck-type outlet, (3) a punch type tab, or (4) any other suitable outlet.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the base portion 105 includes a bottom support surface 195 and defines a rounded edge between the body portion 115 and the bottom support surface 195. The bottom support surface 195 in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 is substantially flat. However, in alternative embodiments, the transition between the body portion 115 and the bottom support surface 195 may have other shapes and structures. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 3A-5B, a lower portion of the body portion 215 tapers in a radially inward direction toward the bottom support surface 295. In addition, in FIG. 4B, one embodiment of the bottom support surface 195 defines a concave recess relative to the exterior of the container 100. In another alternative embodiment shown in FIGS. 15A and 15B, the bottom support surface 495 comprises a plurality of ribs 471 that extend in an axially outward direction from the body portion 415 and are positioned substantially equidistant from each other around the perimeter of the lower portion of the body portion 415.

Cap Portion

In various embodiments of the invention, the cap portion 150 is adapted to be removably secured in place over the container's outlet portion 125 and shoulder portion 110 and adjacent to the base portion 105 (e.g., after the base portion 105 is filled). In various embodiments of the invention, once the cap portion 150 is removably secured into this position, the cap portion 150 covers, or substantially covers, the outlet portion 125 and/or the shoulder portion 110 (see FIG. 2). In various embodiments, the cap portion 150 is adapted to prevent dirt and other debris from coming into contact with the container's outlet portion 125 and/or shoulder portion 110 when the cap portion 150 is in place adjacent the container's base portion 105.

In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, a wall 160 of the cap portion 150 is substantially tubular and has a uniform (and/or substantially uniform) circular horizontal cross-section along its length. However, it should be understood that the wall 160 of the cap portion 150 may take any appropriate alternative shape or structure, such as having a substantially triangular or substantially rectangular cross-section along its length. For example, according to the embodiments shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, 4A, 4B, 5B, and 8-12, the profile of the wall 260 of the cap portion 250 includes an upper portion 261, a lower portion 262, and a middle portion 263, and the middle portion tapers in a radially inward direction from the lower portion 262 toward the upper portion 261. In various embodiments, the profile of the lower portion 262 substantially mirrors the profile of the base portion 205 immediately adjacent to the cap portion 250 when the cap portion 250 is removably secured adjacent to the base portion 205, which in some embodiments, allows for a flush relationship between the base portion and the cap portion 250.

In various embodiments, the replaceable cap portion 250 has a height that is approximately 20% of the height of the assembled container 200. For example, in certain embodiments, the height of the cap portion 250 is about 1 inch when the height of the assembled container is about 5 inches. However, in various embodiments of the invention, the cap portion 250 has a height that is between about 2% and 50% of the assembled container's height (e.g., about 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, 30%, 35%, 40%, or 45% of the assembled container's height).

In various embodiments of the invention, the wall 160 of the cap portion 150 defines an internal cavity 165 that is adapted to receive the outlet portion 125 and/or the shoulder portion 110 of the base portion 105. For example, in the embodiment shown in FIG. 1, the cap portion 150 defines an internal cavity 165 in which the outlet portion 125 and the shoulder portion 110 are both received. In various embodiments, the cap portion 150 includes other shapes and structures for receiving the outlet portion 125, some of which are described in more detail below in relation to FIGS. 3B, 4B, 5B, and 6B.

In various embodiments of the invention, the cap portion 150 is adapted to be selectively removed and reattached adjacent the container's base portion 105. The assembly of the cap portion 150 and the base portion 105 into an integrated container is discussed below in more detail in the section below entitled “Assembled Container”. In other embodiments of the invention, the cap portion 150 is not adapted to be reattached adjacent the container's base portion 105 after the cap portion 150 is detached from the base portion 105.

Assembled Container

A particular embodiment of the invention, an example of which is shown in FIGS. 3A, 3B, 4A, and 4B, will now be discussed in greater detail. In this embodiment, the container's cap portion 250 is adapted to be selectively removed and reattached adjacent the container's base portion 205. In one embodiment, the container's cap portion 250 further defines a top surface 270 and a tubular internally threaded portion 255 having a substantially uniform circular cross section. The internally threaded portion 255 extends in an axially inward direction from the top surface 270 and is disposed within an internal cavity 265 of the cap portion 250 that is defined by the wall 260 and the top surface 270.

In this embodiment, the container's base portion 205 includes an externally threaded outlet portion 225 that is adapted to mate with the cap portion's internally threaded portion 255. The cap portion 250 is adapted to be removably secured adjacent to the container's base portion 205 by placing the base portion's externally threaded outlet portion 225 adjacent to the cap portion's internally threaded portion 255 and then twisting the cap portion 250 in a first direction until the cap portion 250 is securely in place adjacent to the container's base portion 205. As will be understood by one skilled in the art in light of this disclosure, a user may detach the cap portion 250 by twisting the cap portion 250 in a second direction that is opposite the first direction referenced above. In this way, the cap portion 250 may be selectively attached and reattached adjacent the container's base portion 205.

Although the container's cap portion 250 is described as being attached adjacent to the container's base portion 205 via threading on the container's base portion 205 and cap portion 250, the cap portion 250 may alternatively be removably and replaceably attached adjacent the container's base portion 205 via any other suitable mechanism, such as a snap-fit connection.

In various embodiments of the invention, such as the embodiment shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B, after the container's cap portion 250 is secured in place adjacent the container's body portion 215, the cap portion 250 and body portion 215 cooperate to form a substantially integrated (e.g., integrated), substantially cylindrical (e.g., cylindrical) container 200 and, in one embodiment, has external dimensions that are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard-sized 12-ounce beverage can (e.g., a standard 355 ml soda can). As a result, in one embodiment, the filled container may be packaged and dispensed using mechanisms already in place for distributing standard-sized beverage cans. For example, in various embodiments, the container 200 is adapted to be dispensed from a standard can dispenser that is configured to dispense a plurality of cans, such as 12-ounce beverage cans. In various embodiments, the standard can dispenser may be automated, coin-operated, and/or refrigerated.

As another example, in various embodiments, the container 200 is adapted to be packaged in any of a variety of can packaging arrangements, such as a “fridgepack” packaging arrangement. Furthermore, in particular embodiments of the invention, the container 200 is adapted to fit into (and preferably matingly engage) a standard-sized cup holder.

In one embodiment, the assembled container 200 is substantially in the form of a cylinder and has a base diameter between about 2 inches and about 3 inches and a height between about 4 and about 5 inches. In a particular embodiment, the base diameter of the container 200 is about 2.6 inches and its height is about 4.83 inches, which are the approximate external dimensions of a particular standard-sized 12-ounce beverage can. In various embodiments, when assembled, the container is substantially cylindrical and has a base diameter between about 4 inches and about 6 inches and a height between about 9 inches and about 11 inches. For example, in one embodiment, the container's base diameter is about 4.5 inches and its height is about 9.2 inches.

In another embodiment (not shown), the assembled container has external dimensions that are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard-sized 8.3-ounce beverage can (e.g., a standard 250 ml energy drink can, such as a Red Bull™ can). For example, in one embodiment, the container may have a base diameter of between about 2 inches and 3 inches and a height of between about 5 inches and 6 inches. In a particular embodiment, the container has a base diameter of about 2.09 inches and a height of about 5.3 inches.

In another embodiment, such as the embodiment shown in FIG. 18, the assembled container 700 may have external dimensions that are substantially the same as the external dimensions of a standard-sized 24-ounce beverage can (e.g., a standard 710 ml beer can, which may, for example, have a base diameter of between about 2 inches and 4 inches and a height of between about 7 and 10 inches). In a particular example, the assembled container 700 may have a base diameter of about 2.87 inches and a height of about 7.63 inches. In yet another example, the assembled container 700 may have a base diameter of about 2.6 inches, which is typical for the base diameters of standard-sized 12-ounce beverage cans, and a height of about 9.157 inches, which may provide the container 700 with 24-ounces of volume while retaining a footprint of a standard-sized 12-ounce beverage can. In addition, in another alternative embodiment, the assembled container 700 has a base diameter of about 3 inches and a height of about 7.3 inches.

Furthermore, in a particular embodiment of the invention, which is not shown, a sealing mechanism (such as a piece of rubber or O-ring) is provided adjacent to the container's cap portion 150 (e.g., adjacent to an inner surface of the cap portion's substantially circular internally threaded portion) for sealing the container's externally threaded outlet portion 125. However, in other embodiments, the container's outlet portion 125 may be sealed through other means. For example, in various embodiments, the container's outlet portion 125 may be sealed with a tamper-resistant foil or plastic cover that is removably adhered onto the outlet portion 125.

Labeling

In various embodiments of the invention, such as the embodiments shown in FIGS. 11, 19A, and 19B, the container 200, 800 may be provided with an outer label 297, 897 adjacent to an outer surface of the container's base portion 205, 805 and/or adjacent a wall 260, 860 of the container's cap portion 250, 850. For example, in one embodiment of the invention, this label 297, 897 may be, for example, a heat-shrink label or a label that is affixed (e.g., using a fastener such as glue) adjacent to an appropriate outer surface of the container 200, 800. Alternatively, the label 297, 897 may be printed directly on the container (or engraved into the container) in any appropriate manner.

In various embodiments of the invention, such as those shown in FIGS. 19A-B, at least a portion 898 of the container 800 may be made of a substantially transparent material, allowing a user to see a product (such as a beverage or food item, that is stored within the container's base portion 805) through the container's exterior surface. In one embodiment of the invention, the transparent material is adapted to allow a user to visually assess the current level of liquid or other product within the container, for example, by viewing the liquid or product through the transparent material. In a particular embodiment, such as the embodiment shown in FIG. 19A, the container 800 includes a label 897 that covers a portion of the body portion 815, leaving the remaining portion 898 of the body portion 815 uncovered to allow a user to see contents of the container through the transparent container material.

In yet another embodiment of the invention, an example of which is shown in FIG. 19B, the label 897 includes a non-transparent portion and a substantially transparent portion 899. The transparent portion further includes a plurality of substantially non-transparent markings that are spaced apart to allow a user to visually assess the current level of liquid or product within the container through the transparent portion 899.

Tamper Resistance Feature

In various embodiments of the invention, the container 200 may include a tamper resistance feature that allows users to determine whether the container has been previously opened. In one embodiment of the invention, which is not shown, this tamper resistance feature may be, for example, a length of perforated label material that extends between the container's base portion 205 and cap portion 250. In other various embodiments, the tamper resistance feature may be, for example, a length of perforated material, other than the label, that extends between the container's base portion 205 and cap portion 250 or a “child proof” lock on the cap portion 250 and the outlet portion 225, such as those known in the art. However, any other suitable tamper resistance device may be used in alternative embodiments of the invention.

Coaster Feature

In particular embodiments of the invention, such as the embodiments shown in FIGS. 10 through 12, the container's cap portion 250 defines one or more recesses that are adapted for receiving the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205. The one or more recesses allow the container's cap portion 250 to be optionally used as a coaster for the container's base portion 205. In one embodiment, the cap portion 250 is adapted to substantially mate with the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205. As shown in FIG. 5B, this may be accomplished, for example, by dimensioning a recess 275 in the container's cap portion 250 so that the recess 275 is substantially the same size and/or shape as the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205. In a particular embodiment of the invention, both a recess 275 in the container's cap portion 250 and the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205 have a substantially circular perimeter and have a diameter of about 2⅛ inches.

In a particular embodiment of the invention, such as the embodiments shown in FIGS. 5B and 6B, the container's cap portion 250 includes a top surface 270. The top surface 270 defines an upper recess 275 (see FIG. 5B), and an internal cavity 265 is defined by the top surface 270 and the wall 260 of the cap portion 250 (see FIG. 6B). The upper recess 275 may be, for example, on an opposite side of the top surface 270 from the internal cavity 265. In a particular embodiment of the invention, both the upper recess 275 and at least a portion of the cap portion 250 adjacent the internal cavity 265 are adapted to substantially mate with a bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205. As shown in FIGS. 11 and 12, in various embodiments, the upper recess and internal cavity allow the container's cap portion 250 to be used as a coaster in two different orientations—one in which the upper recess 275 is facing upwardly (see FIG. 11), and another in which the internal cavity 265 is facing upwardly (see FIG. 12).

In one embodiment, a bottom portion of the container's body portion 215 tapers in a radially inward direction toward the bottom support surface 295, as shown in FIG. 3B. When the cap portion 250 is laid on a substantially horizontal surface with its upper recess 275 facing upwardly, the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205 may substantially mate with the upper recess 275 as shown in FIGS. 10 and 11. However, when the cap portion 250 is laid on a substantially horizontal surface with the internal cavity 265 facing upwardly (see FIG. 12), the cap portion 250 may substantially mate with both the bottom support surface 295 of the container's base portion 205 and a lower portion of the container's body portion 215.

Integrated Dish Feature

In addition to the container's cap portion 250 being configured for use as a coaster for the container's base portion 205, the container's cap portion 250 may also be adapted for use as a dish that is adapted for storing food items or other products distributed from the container 200. For example, the cap portion 250 may be adapted to hold at least one food item dispensed from the container 200.

As noted above, in various embodiments of the invention, the container's cap portion 250 defines a top surface 270 that defines an upper recess 275, and the upper recess 275 may be substantially the same size and/or shape as the bottom support surface 295. This may allow a plurality of the containers 200 to be stably stacked on top of each other by, for example, placing the bottom support surface 295 of a first container 200 into the upper recess 275 that is defined in the cap portion 250 of a second, like container 200 so that the bottom support surface 295 is within a substantially mating relationship with the upper recess 275.

Exemplary Alternative Embodiments of the Invention

It should be understood that many different embodiments of the invention are possible. For example, in various alternative embodiments, such as the embodiment shown in FIGS. 13A-13D and 14A-14C, the container's top portion 320 defines a shoulder portion 310 that has a substantially flat upper surface, and the shoulder portion 310 defines an opening that serves as an outlet portion 325. In one embodiment (not shown), the opening may be covered (or substantially covered) by a punch type tab (such as those associated with standard soft drink cans) before the container 300 is opened. In another embodiment (not shown), the opening is covered by a wrapper, such as a foil wrapper. In various embodiments of the invention, the container 300 includes a removable (and preferably replaceable) cap portion 350 that is adapted to substantially (and preferably entirely) cover the container's flat upper surface 310.

In a particular embodiment of the invention shown in FIGS. 15A and 15B, the body portion 415 of the container 400 has a substantially tubular shape with a substantially uniform circular cross-section along the length of the body portion 415. In this embodiment, the lower portion of the body portion 415 tapers in a radially inward direction toward the bottom support surface 495, and the bottom support surface 495 is defined by a plurality of ribs 471 that extend in an axially outward direction from the lower portion of the body portion 415 and that are spaced equidistantly apart around the perimeter of the body portion 415. The shoulder portion 410 may taper in a radially inward direction from the body portion 415 toward the outlet portion 425, forming a substantially conical shaped shoulder portion 410, and the outlet portion 425 may have an externally threaded, substantially cylindrical shape.

In this embodiment, the exterior wall 460 of the cap portion 450 has a substantially circular horizontal cross-section and includes a lower portion 461, an upper portion 462, and a middle portion 463 that tapers in a radially inward direction from the lower portion 461 toward the upper portion 462. Furthermore, the cap portion 450 defines a top surface 470 that defines an upper recess 475, and the upper recess 475 is substantially planar and has a substantially circular perimeter that is larger than the perimeter of the bottom support surface 495.

In various embodiments, the cap portion 450 further defines a substantially cylindrical, internally threaded portion 455 that is disposed within the internal cavity 465 of the cap portion 450 that is defined by the cap portion's exterior wall 460 and extends from the top surface 470 into an internal cavity 465 defined by said cap portion 450. The substantially cylindrical internally threaded portion 455 may be adapted for mating with the external threaded portion of the outlet portion 425.

In another alternative embodiment, an example of which is shown in FIGS. 16A and 16B, the body portion 515 of the container 500 defines two substantially curved recesses 517 that have a first radius of curvature and two substantially arcuate portions 519 that have a second radius of curvature, wherein the first radius of curvature that is greater than the second radius of curvature. The two substantially curved recesses 517 are positioned on opposite sides of the container 500 and intermediate the two substantially arcuate portions 519. In various embodiments, the lower portion of the body portion 515 tapers in a radially inward direction toward the bottom support surface 595, and the bottom support surface 595 defines a concave recess relative to the exterior of the container 500.

In yet another alternative embodiment, which is shown in FIG. 17, the container 600 has a substantially cylindrical shaped body portion 615, and an upper portion of the body portion 615 defines a plurality of vertical ribs 617 that are positioned circumferentially around the body portion 615 and adjacent to each other. Each rib 617 may have a substantially arcuate cross-section that is concave relative to the exterior of the container 600. The circumference of the container 600 as measured around the ends of the ribs 617 may be substantially the same as the circumference around the remainder of the body portion 615, and the circumference of the container 600 around the center of the ribs 617 may be less than the circumference of the container 600 around the ends of the ribs 617.

Although both the container's cap portion and the body portion are described and shown in various embodiments above as being substantially tubular and as having a substantially circular cross-section, in various embodiments of the invention, either the cap portion or the body portion (or both) may be in any other appropriate shape.

CONCLUSION

Many modifications and other embodiments of the invention will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which this invention pertains having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.