Title:
Cap with visible tamper-indicating seal
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The inventions disclosed herein include a clear cap and tamper-indicating seal combination for containers. The preferred cap is at least partially non-opaque to allow a customer to perceive the tamper-indicating seal through the cap at the point of purchase. In a first embodiment, the tamper-indicating seal serves as a label, wherein the customer can perceive, through the cap, information such as printing which is indicative of the contents of the container. In a second embodiment, the tamper-indicating seal serves as a tamper evident seal, wherein the customer can perceive, through the cap, at the point of purchase, whether the seal has been breached. In a third embodiment, the tamper-indicating seal serves as both a label and a seal, wherein the tamper-indicating seal creates a liquid resistant seal between the cap and the opening of the container. In a forth embodiment, the tamper-indicating seal serves as both a label and a tamper evident seal.



Inventors:
Hidding, Douglas J. (Barrington Hills, IL, US)
Application Number:
11/222429
Publication Date:
03/08/2007
Filing Date:
09/08/2005
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/258.1, 215/232
International Classes:
B65D51/00; B65D41/00; B65D51/20
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20070272650Container Stopper and Manufacturing Method ThereforNovember, 2007Kishi et al.
20050263475Convenience system for handling of baby bottlesDecember, 2005Carlson et al.
20040211781Cosmetics container with locking functionOctober, 2004Lin
20080296249Combination bottle and bottle cap openerDecember, 2008Lockerman et al.
20090057260Tamper-Evident ContainerMarch, 2009Mohindra
20070114200STACKABLE BOTTLE SYSTEMMay, 2007Lane
20030146182Bottle bankAugust, 2003Gerke
20110011820WINE BOTTLE CAP ASSEMBLY AND MANUFACTURING METHOD AND APPARATUS THEREOFJanuary, 2011Park et al.
20080272916Bottle Cap and BottleNovember, 2008Breysse et al.
20140190972LIQUID CONTAINER WITH MULTIPLE OPENINGSJuly, 2014Gowans et al.
20100215294DISPOSABLE BEVERAGE POUCH WITH NIPPLEAugust, 2010Berman



Primary Examiner:
VOLZ, ELIZABETH J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BAKER & MCKENZIE LLP (formerly Chicago account) (Dallas, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A closure for a container containing a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a generally circular cover and a skirt depending from a periphery of the generally circular cover; the generally circular cover and the skirt defining an interior space; the cap having a skirt with at least one inwardly directed protuberance holding the tamper-indicating seal in the interior space; at least a portion of the generally circular cover allowing the tamper-indicating seal to be viewed through the cover; and the tamper-indicating seal providing an indication about the product, said indication being visible through the circular cover.

2. A closure for a container containing a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a generally circular cover and a skirt depending from a periphery of the generally circular cover; the generally circular cover and the skirt defining an interior space; the cap having a skirt with at least one inwardly directed protuberance holding the tamper-indicating seal in the interior space; at least a portion of the generally circular cover allowing the tamper-indicating seal to be viewed through the cover; and the tamper-indicating seal providing an indication about the product, said indication being visible through the circular cover, the tamper-indicating seal comprising a foil layer and a bottom layer of plastic rendering the tamper-indicating seal capable of being heat sealed to the container at a upper lip of a neck of the bottle, wherein the tamper-indicating seal is adapted to serve as a seal for the bottle.

3. A closure for a container containing a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a generally circular cover and a skirt depending from a periphery of the generally circular cover; the generally circular cover and the skirt defining an interior space; the cap having a skirt with at least one inwardly directed protuberance holding the tamper-indicating seal in the interior space; at least a portion of the generally circular cover allowing the tamper-indicating seal to be viewed through the cover; and the tamper-indicating seal providing an indication about the product, said indication being visible through the circular cover, the tamper-indicating seal comprising a foam layer shaped to be held between the generally circular cover and a lip of the container upon placement of the closure onto the bottle.

4. A closure for a container which holds a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a lid and a skirt depending from a periphery of the lid; the cover and the skirt defining an interior space; at least a portion of the cover comprised of a material that renders a portion of the tamper-indicating seal visible, when the closure is applied to the container, the tamper-indicating seal being located at the interior space of the cap wherein the tamper-indicating seal can be perceived by vision through at least a portion of the cover; the tamper-indicating seal providing information about the product visible through the cover.

5. A closure for a container which holds a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a lid and a skirt depending from a periphery of the lid; the cover and the skirt defining an interior space; at least a portion of the cover comprised of a material that renders a portion of the tamper-indicating seal visible, when the closure is applied to the container, the tamper-indicating seal being located at the interior space of the cap wherein the tamper-indicating seal can be perceived by vision through at least a portion of the cover; the tamper-indicating seal being visible through the cover, the tamper-indicating seal comprising a grip for assisting in the removal of the tamper-indicating seal from the container after the cap is removed.

6. A closure for a container containing a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the cap having a cover and a skirt depending from a periphery of the cover; the cover and the skirt defining an interior space; the cap having a skirt with at least one inwardly directed protuberance holding the tamper-indicating seal in the interior space; at least a portion of the cover allowing the tamper-indicating seal to be viewed through the cover; and the tamper-indicating seal providing an indication about the product, said indication being visible through the cover, the tamper-indicating seal comprising a foil layer and a bottom layer of plastic rendering the tamper-indicating seal capable of being heat sealed to the container at a upper lip of a neck of the container, wherein the tamper-indicating seal is adapted to serve as a tamper evident seal for the container.

7. A closure for a container containing a product comprising: a cap and a tamper-indicating seal; the tamper-indicating seal adapted to be located near an underside of a lid of the cap, and the lid being comprised of a material such that the tamper-indicating seal can be seen through at least a portion of the lid of the cap.

8. The closure of claim 7 wherein the at least a portion of the lid of the cap is translucent.

9. The closure of claim 8 wherein the material comprising the cap is substantially colorless.

10. The closure of claim 9 wherein the tamper-indicating seal contains information about the type of product contained in said container and/or the source of the product in the container.

11. The closure of claim 10 wherein the tamper-indicating seal and the cap are each tamper evident.

12. The closure of claim 7 wherein the tamper-indicating seal serves as a tamper evident seal for the container.

13. The closure of claim 12 wherein the tamper-indicating seal serves as a label for the product contained in the container.

14. The closure of claim 13 wherein the label is held near the underside of the cap by at least a portion of the inside surface of a skirt of the cap.

15. The closure of claim 14 wherein the label is held near the underside of the cap by at least one raised portion on the inside surface of the skirt of the cap.

16. The closure of claim 7 wherein the cap is threaded, and the tamper-indicating seal is held by at least one thread.

17. The closure of claim 7 wherein the closure is an unthreaded, push-on type cap, and the tamper-indicating seal is held by at least one inwardly directed bead on a skirt of the cap.

18. The closure of claim 7 wherein the tamper-indicating seal comprises a foil layer rendering the tamper-indicating seal capable of being inductively heat sealed to an upper surface of a neck of the container, and the tamper-indicating seal further comprises a bottom layer of plastic for heat sealing to a lip of the container.

19. The closure of claim 7 wherein the tamper-indicating seal comprises a foam layer held between the lid of the closure and an upwardly facing surface of the neck of the container.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTIONS

The inventions described herein relate to closure devices, and in particular, relate to a cap and liner (such as a tamper indicating seal or membrane) combination for bottles. The preferred cap of the present inventions is at least partially transparent or translucent to allow a customer to perceive a printed or colored liner or membrane through the cap at the point of purchase.

To identify the contents of a bottle, it is well known in the art to use opaque, colored caps, to apply adhesive backed labels to the top surface of a cap, and/or to print directly on the top of the cap. In the field of bottling and selling milk, bottlers use different colored caps to differentiate one kind of milk from another; i.e., red caps may be used to designate whole milk, light blue for skim milk, and yellow for 1%, etc. Colored caps are also used to designate different kinds of juices or different flavors of beverages.

To provide a liquid-tight seal on a bottle, it is well known in the art to use a seal, or liner, in combination with the cap. Cap suppliers often sell their colored caps with the liners placed on the inside of the cap. Because the liner is pre-installed on the inside of the cap, the liner is pressed against the bottle neck into intimate contact with the lip of the bottle opening when the cap is applied to the bottle. Two types of liners are generally in use today with blow molded bottles. The first type of liner is made of a soft pliable sealing material, such as a foam. The second type of liner, a foil liner, has a heat sensitive surface which can be heated into sealing engagement with the lip of a container neck by induction heating to form a membrane sealing the container closed.

In the bottling industry, it is well known to include tamper-evident features. With blow-molded bottles, bottlers often incorporate two levels of tamper evident features. A first level is incorporated into the design of the cap and a second level is incorporated underneath the cap. For a first level of tamper evidence, caps on bottles sold to consumers include an integrally formed (i.e., injection molded) feature such as a ratchet ring for threaded caps and a pull-tab for push-on caps. For a second level of tamper evidence, liners are often used. In particular, bottlers often use a liner that can be heat sealed around the opening of the bottle. The heat sealed liners are tamper evident in that, once the liner is removed from the lip of the bottle opening, the liner cannot be easily reattached to the bottle opening. Therefore, upon opening the bottle at home, the consumer can ascertain whether the product has been tampered with by visually verifying that the liner is present and sealed to the bottle opening.

While the combination of bottle caps and liners of the types currently in use provides for an acceptable means of product identification and sealing, these combinations do have their limitations. First, it is more costly to manufacture caps in an array of colors. This is because it takes time to change an injection molding machine over from one color to another, and because keeping inventory of various colors of caps means that more investment is required for that inventory and for the equipment and personnel to manage that inventory.

Second, the opaque caps of the prior art prevent consumers from ascertaining at the point of purchase whether the second level of tamper evidence—i.e. the heat seal label—has been tampered with. As discussed above, the prior art caps incorporate a first level tamper-evident feature into the cap that prevents the consumer from verifying the condition of the seal until after the purchase is made when the consumer removes the cap. Generally, consumers do not remove the cap until they have arrived at home, sometimes days after they have made the purchase. In the event that the consumer finds a broken seal, it will be very inconvenient for the consumer to return the product to the store.

Therefore, there is a need for a cap and liner combination which will provide a cost effective method of identifying the contents of a bottle. There is also a need for a cap and liner combination which will allow a consumer to ascertain, at the point of purchase, whether someone has tampered with the tamper-evident seal.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTIONS

The present inventions relate to a clear cap and liner combination for bottles which solves the problems of the prior art. The preferred cap of the present inventions is at least partially transparent or translucent to allow a customer to perceive the liner through the cap at the point of purchase. In one embodiment, the liner serves as a label, wherein the customer can perceive, through the cap, information such as printing. The printing can be indicative of the product, such as the name of the manufacturer, the name of the bottle contents, ingredients, and/or nutritional data. Because the liner can be easily customized to identify the product contained in a bottle, only one version of a cap need be manufactured for use with many different products. In a second embodiment, the liner serves as a tamper evident seal, wherein the customer can perceive, through the cap, whether the seal has been breached. As such, the consumer will know, at the point of purchase, whether or not the product has been tampered with. In a third embodiment, the liner serves as both a label and a seal, wherein the liner creates a liquid resistant seal between the cap and the opening of the bottle. In a forth embodiment, the liner serves as both a label and a tamper evident seal.

Although not limited as such, the preferred application for the present inventions is as a closure device for blow-molded bottles. There are two types of caps which are generally in use today with blow-molded bottles: push-on caps and screw-on caps. These kinds of caps are often injection molded with polyethylene (both high and low density) or polypropylene, a common material used in injection molding. [polishing mold surfaces is important and/or reducing the thickness of the top wall, but need 0.025″ thickness]

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, objects, and advantages of the inventions described and claimed herein will be become better understood upon consideration of the following detailed description, appended claims and accompanying drawings where:

FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of the bottle cap and liner of the present invention with a corresponding blow-molded bottle;

FIG. 2 is a top view of the present invention which is applied to a corresponding blow-molded bottle;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of a screw-on cap with a liner placed between the underside of the cap and the lip of a bottle neck;

FIG. 4 is a top view of a standard heat seal liner;

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of an improved heat seal liner; and,

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional view of a push-on cap with a liner placed between the underside of the cap and the lip of a bottle neck.

It should be understood that the drawings are not necessarily to scale and that the embodiments are sometimes illustrated by graphic symbols, phantom lines, diagrammatic representations and fragmentary views. In certain instances, details which are not necessary for an understanding of the inventions described and claimed herein or which render other details difficult to perceive may have been omitted. It should be understood, of course, that the inventions described herein are not necessarily limited to the particular embodiments illustrated herein.

Like reference numerals will be used to refer to like or similar parts from Figure to Figure in the following description of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

FIG. 1 generally depicts one of the preferred embodiments of the present invention. An exploded perspective view of a container 14, bottle cap 2a, liner 4, and bottle neck 6a combination is shown. As demonstrated in FIGS. 1 and 2, the cap 2a is non-opaque such that printing on the liner 4 can be perceived through the cap 2a.

The bottle cap 2a shown in FIG. 1 is a screw-on type cap 2a. Screw-on caps 2a typically comprise a circular cover 20a, a skirt 22a depending from the peripheral edge of the circular cover 20a, and a ratchet ring 24 which is frangibly attached below the skirt 22a. On the inside surface 34a of the skirt 22a are threads 26—preferably four—which are adapted to mate with corresponding threads 66 on the neck 6a of the bottle. The ratchet ring 24 has internal teeth 28 for engagement with the bottle neck 6a, which has external teeth 74. Every other one of the internal teeth 28 are attached to a plurality of semi-circular outwardly directed tabs 30 which are equally spaced around the periphery of the skirt 22a, forming the frangible connection between the ratchet ring 24 and the bottle cap 2a. For further details regarding the screw-on cap 2a, see U.S. Pat. No. 6,003,701 which is incorporated herein by reference.

Although the cap 2a depicted in FIG. I is entirely non-opaque, the claims cover caps 2a in which only a portion of the cap 2a is non-opaque; i.e. the cap 2a would have a window. Accordingly, at least a portion of the cap 2a of the present invention is non-opaque such that the liner 4 can be perceived through the cap 2a, preferably through the circular cover 20a of the cap 2a. The non-opaque cap 2a may be translucent or transparent. However, it is preferable that at least the entire circular cover 20a is transparent to prevent distortion of any printing which is present on the liner 4. Distortion can minimized by careful resin selection/processing and mold polishing. The mold in the area that forms the top of the cap is preferably polished to SPI A-1, so that any surface diffraction of light passing through top or lid of the cap is minimized, making the top of the cap as transparent as possible. However, for certain applications, distortion may be a desired characteristic. For such an application, the cap 4 may be translucent so that the label 4 is at least still perceivable.

The cap 2a is preferably colorless, but some applications may require a colored cap. Nevertheless, the colored caps are non-opaque and are simply characterized by a hue. Both colorless and colored, non-opaque caps are covered by the claims herein.

As shown in FIG. 1, the liner 4 is displaced between the bottle cap 2a and bottle neck 6a. Two general types of liners 4 are preferred for the present invention: foam or foil. Foam liners 4 generally form a seal when compressed between the cap 2a and the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a. Foil liners 4 are generally used when the bottler desires to form a heat seal on the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a. A material that is suitable for the foam liner 4 is a foamed sheet material made of styrene and having a thickness for some applications of about 0.040″ inches. However, a person of ordinary skill in the art would know that many other materials can be used as an acceptable substitute to form the foam liner 4. Foil liners 4 are generally constructed of multiple layers. At a minimum, the foil liner must have a metal (preferably aluminum) layer with a plastic layer laminated on the underside of the metal layer to facilitate induction heat sealing to the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a. Some liners have a paper (or foam) backing adhered (via an adhesive) to the metal layer.

If an induction sealed liner (or other tamper indicating interior seal) is used, it may be possible to do any of the following: 1) completely eliminate a ratchet ring in the context of a screw cap 2) completely eliminate the pull tab in the context of a push-on cap, or 3) otherwise use simple non-tamper-indicating closure, and rely entirely on the inner tamper indicating seal, particularly when its condition (or presence) is readily visible through a transparent or translucent cap in accordance with the present invention. Among other things, the elimination of a ratchet ring or pull tab will reduce the amount of plastic used to make the cap, and will allow the shipment of more closures in a box, when the closure are shipped.

It is also contemplated that other liners 4 can be used that do not form a seal at the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a. Such a liner 4 may be used to provide an indication of the contents of the bottle 62a and not for sealing purposes. Such a non-sealing liner 4 could be comprised of a laminated paper or a simple foam disc.

The preferred liner 4 of the present invention provides an indication of the contents of the bottle through printing or coloring. An example of such a liner 4 is shown in FIG. 2, which is a top view of a bottle cap 2a and liner 4 of the present invention placed on top of a bottle neck. The printing on the label 4, “2%,” can be perceived through the cap 2a, being that the cap 2a is transparent. In some cases, depending on the thickness, softness and surface properties of the foam to which printing ink is applied, it may be useful to apply a covering layer, such as a lacquer or varnish or thin protective adhesive sheet to protect the printing from chipping or smearing.

The diameter of the liner 4 is generally sized to correspond to the diameter of the inside surface 34a of the bottle cap 2a such that the liner 4 fits snugly inside of the bottle cap 2a. It is preferable that the liner 4 is held firmly against the underside of the circular cover 20a to optimize printing clarity as seen through the circular cover 20a. At a minimum, however, the bottle cap 2a must hold the liner 4 near the underside of the circular cover 20a such that the liner 4 does not fall out of the bottle cap during the bottling operations. This can be achieved through several means. First, the liner 4 can be held inside of the bottle cap 2a by friction. Alternatively, holding means could be formed one the inside surface 34a of the bottle cap 2a to engage with the periphery of the liner 4, such as an inwardly directed projection. As shown in FIG. 3, the internal threads 26 of the preferred embodiment double as holding means, wherein the ends 32 of the threads 26 retain the liner 4 in place.

Referring back to FIG. 1, the bottle neck 6a, which is used with the present invention, is generally positioned at the top of the body 62a of a blow-molded bottle and is formed of a generally cylindrical exterior surface 64a. At the top edge of the exterior surface 64a is a lip 68 which defines an opening 70. The lip 68 is generally inwardly directed to form a sealing surface for sealing with the liner 4 and bottle cap 2a. The exterior surface 64a preferably includes four threads 66 which engage threads 26 on the inside surface of the cap skirt 6.

Further, the bottle neck 6a preferably includes two ratchet portions 72 having a plurality of ratchet teeth 74. The two ratchet portions 72 are located diametrically opposite each other on the exterior surface 64a below the threads 66. The container 14 also includes a circumferential “bumper roll” or transfer ring 76 located below the ratchet portions 72 to facilitate gripping the bottle during the filling operation and grabbing the bottle during the loading of the bottle into a shipping container.

The liner 4a in FIG. 3 is shown affixed to the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a by heat sealing. Heat sealing can be performed by conduction or induction; however, induction is the preferred method for heat sealing the liner 4 to the blow-molded bottle. As better shown in FIG. 4, the liner 4a is a standard liner having a semicircular tab 40 extending from the periphery of the liner 4a. The tab 40 provides a gripping point to aid in the removal of the liner 4a by the consumer. Even though a standard foil liner is depicted in FIG. 3, the invention is not limited to this embodiment. For example, the liner 4b may have a paper, foam or other backing. The liner 4b of FIG. 5 also has a semicircular grip or tab 42, although the tab is much larger than the grip or pull tab 40. The diameter of the grip or tab 42 is preferably equal to the diameter of the liner 4b. Furthermore, the tab 42 extends from a diameter of the liner 4b instead of the periphery. To remove the liner 4b, the consumer would grip the tab 42, which is originally flush with the liner 4b, and pull the tab upward until the tab 42 lies in a plane roughly perpendicular to the liner 4b. Next, the consumer would apply upward force to the tab 42 to remove the liner 4b from the lip 68 of the bottle neck 6a. The liner 4b is preferable to the liner 4a, because the tab 40 of the liner 4a could interfere with application of the bottle cap 4a to the bottle neck 6a; the tab 40 is generally folded downward and is displaced between the threads 26 of the bottle cap 4a and the threads 66 of the bottle neck 6a. The liner 4b is commercially available from Unipac (of Canada) under the trademark Lift ‘n’ Peel™.

Although described herein with particular reference to screw on caps, the present inventions can also be used with push on caps 2b, as shown in FIG. 6, and/or push-on—screw-off caps. Push-on caps 2b typically comprise a circular cover 20b, a skirt 22b depending from the circular cover 20b, and a pull-tab 23 which is frangibly connected to the bottom of the skirt 22b. The circular cover 20b typically has a greater diameter than the cross-section of the skirt 22b whereby the cover 20b extends beyond the periphery of the skirt 22b to provide a gripping surface for removing the cap 2b from the bottle 62b. The pull-tab 23 is integrally molded with the cap 2b. The pull-tab 23 is used to separate the lower part of skirt 22b from the upper part of the skirt 22b by tearing the skirt along a scored tear line 21. A lower bead 25 on the inside surface of the lower part of the skirt 22b engages with the corresponding lower rib 27 on the bottle neck 6b. The lower bead 25 is located such that the cap 2b cannot be removed by the customer without first tearing the lower part of the skirt it away from the cap 2b along the tear line 21. An upper bead 29 on the inside surface of the skirt 22b engages with a corresponding rib upper rib 31 on the exterior of the bottle neck 6b for retaining the cap 2b on the bottle 62b after the lower part of the skirt has been removed, such that the cap 2b can be reapplied to and retained by the upper rib 31.

The application has particularly beneficial application in the field of blow-molded containers, such as those typically used for milk and juice to which a foil liner is typically and preferably applied. However, closures made in accordance with the invention will also have beneficial application on other containers, such as fiberboard containers with fitments that include an internal tamper-indicating pull ring (or grip) and frangible membrane, such as those shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,464,096. Using a transparent overcap as part of such a fitment will allow a consumer to easily see whether the membrane is intact without having to remove the overcap. As used herein, the term “tamper-indicating seal” is intended to include both a foil liner, as discussed above, and a removeable membrane with a grip to help remove the membrane as discussed in the '096 patent referred to above.

Although the inventions described and claimed herein (collectively sometimes referred to herein as the “invention”—singular) have been described in considerable detail with reference to certain preferred embodiments, one skilled in the art will appreciate that the inventions described and claimed herein can be practiced by other than the preferred embodiments, which have been presented for purposes of illustration and not of limitation. Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the preferred embodiments contained herein.