Title:
Clip for elliptically-shaped containers
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention relates to a device for retaining a plurality of containers. The device has a frame having a length dimension with opposite sides and a plurality of arms extending from opposite sides of the frame. Each arm has an arm portion extending substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the frame length and a curved portion connecting the arm portion to the frame length to form an open cavity between the frame and the arm. The cavity is adapted to receive and retain one of the elliptically-shaped containers. The cavity has at least one width dimension that is slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimension of the elliptically-shaped container when the container is not retained within the cavity.



Inventors:
Horton, Thomas C. (Newburgh, IN, US)
Teppen, Nancy (Evansville, IN, US)
Application Number:
11/272625
Publication Date:
05/17/2007
Filing Date:
11/14/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D75/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
FIDEI, DAVID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BRISTOL-MYERS SQUIBB COMPANY - MEAD JOHNSON (EVANSVILLE, IN, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A clip for retaining a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers, said clip comprising a frame having a length dimension with opposite sides and a plurality of arms extending from opposite sides of the frame, wherein: a. each arm has an arm portion extending substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the frame and a curved portion connecting the arm portion to the frame to form at least one open container-retaining cavity between the frame and the arm; b. the cavity is adapted to receive and retain one of the elliptically-shaped containers; and c. the cavity has at least one width dimension that is slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimension of the elliptically-shaped container when the container is not retained within the cavity.

2. The clip according to claim 1, wherein the cavity has multiple width dimensions that are slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimensions of the elliptically-shaped container.

3. The clip according to claim 1, wherein the arms flexibly adjust to receive and retain the elliptically-shaped container.

4. The clip according to claim 1, comprising multiple cavities.

5. The clip according to claim 1, wherein a retention barb is located at the terminal end of each arm.

6. The clip according to claim 1, wherein an additional retaining member is positioned on the frame at the opening of the cavity.

7. The clip according to claim 6, wherein the additional retaining member is elbow-shaped.

8. The clip according to claim 6, wherein the additional retaining member is prong-shaped.

9. The clip according to claim 1, wherein each cavity opens in the same direction.

10. The clip according to claim 1, wherein the cavities on one side of the frame open in one direction and the cavities on the other side of the frame open in the opposite direction.

11. The clip according to claim 1, wherein the device is formed from a plastic material.

12. The clip according to claim 1 comprising at least six arms.

13. The clip according to claim 11, wherein at least three arms are located on each side of the frame.

14. The clip according to claim 1, further comprising a handle fixedly attached to the frame.

15. A packaging assembly for retaining a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers, said packaging assembly comprising a packaging clip according to claim 1 and a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers retained within said cavities.

16. The packaging assembly according to claim 14, wherein the packaging assembly is shrink-wrapped.

17. The packaging assembly according to claim 14, wherein the packaging assembly is packaged in a cardboard container.

18. The packaging assembly according to claim 14, wherein the packaging assembly is mounted on a tray.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to a packaging device for containers.

2. Description of the Related Art

Commercially available containers, such as infant feeding bottles, are typically packaged in groups. In order to do so, the containers are often packaged in paperboard cartons or shrink-wrapped trays. This type of packaging is designed to protect the containers from being separated from one another and being damaged during shipment, handling, and storage. Upon purchase of the packaged containers, the consumer must open the packaging and remove a container to further use it. Unfortunately, once the paperboard carton or shrink wrapped tray is opened, the carton or tray can no longer securely retain the remaining containers. The containers are permitted to move freely inside the packaging, causing them to become susceptible to being damaged or mishandled.

Plastic clip systems designed to retain such containers have been developed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,191,975 to Pezzoli, etal. and U.S. Pat. No. 3,028,189 to Gialanella. In these systems, the clip device comprises an longitudinal central section and a plurality of opposed gripping members attached to the longitudinal central section. Each pair of gripping members forms an opening for receiving and retaining a cylindrical container, such as a baby bottle.

One disadvantage to the clip systems of Pezzoli and Gialanella is that they require two gripping members to retain each container. Because two gripping members are required to retain each container, both gripping members must flexibly adjust in order to receive a container or allow a container to be removed. This makes it physically difficult to insert or remove a container from the gripping members without using excessive force, which could ultimately damage the container or clip system.

Another disadvantage to the Pezzoli and Gialanella clip systems is that they are adapted to receive and retain only cylindrical containers. A container or bottle that has any other body configuration would not fit securely into the gripping members of the Pezzoli or Gialanella invention.

Non-cylindrical containers are becoming commercially popular. For example, some manufacturers of sports drinks are producing bottles with oval or elliptical body shapes in order to provide a bottle that is easy to grip and drink from while participating in a sports activity. The oval or elliptical shape fits into the hand more comfortably than a cylindrical drink bottle would.

Similarly, infant feeding bottles having an elliptical body configuration provide a bottle that is easier for both the infant and the caregiver to grasp. For example, U.S. Patent No. 6,786,344 to Kipperman relates to a baby bottle having an elliptically-shaped body, which ensures that the bottle is sufficiently narrow to enable a caregiver to comfortably hold the bottle while feeding the infant. For premature infants, the elliptical configuration of the bottle is especially important, as it is often necessary to encourage the infant to feed by stimulating its cheek during feedings. In one embodiment of the Kipperman elliptically-shaped bottle, the caregiver can hold the bottle between her middle and forefinger, allowing her to stimulate the baby's cheek with her thumb during the feeding. Bottles having this shape could not be contained within either the Pezzoli or Gialanella clip.

Thus, it would be useful to provide a packaging device for elliptically-shaped containers that allows the containers to remain secure after one container is removed from the packaging and retains the containers through the use of only one gripping member.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly, therefore, the present invention is directed to a novel packaging clip for retaining a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers. The clip has a frame having a length dimension with opposite sides and a plurality of arms extending from opposite sides of the frame. Each arm has an arm portion extending substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis of the frame length and a curved portion connecting the arm portion to the frame length to form an open container-retaining cavity between the frame and the arm. The cavity is adapted to receive and retain one of the elliptically-shaped containers by generally conforming to the elliptical shape of the container inserted therein. The cavity has at least one width dimension that is slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimension of the elliptically-shaped container when the container is not retained within the cavity.

The present invention is also directed to a such a novel packaging clip having retained elliptically-shaped containers.

It is an object of the invention to provide a device that retains a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers. It is also an object of the invention to provide a device that stabilizes containers during shipment, displays the containers while in inventory, distributes the containers easily and permits the re-storage of the containers.

Among the several advantages found to be achieved by the present invention is that the packaging device is adapted to receive elliptically-shaped containers and allows the containers to remain secure after one container is removed from the packaging. Additionally, the containers can be firmly reattached to the packaging device with ease by inserting the container into the cavity. This eliminates the possibility of dropping or mishandling due to unsecured containers. In certain embodiments, the present invention also provides a packaging device adapted to receive elliptically-shaped containers with the use of only one arm.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a more complete understanding of the present invention, reference is now made to the following descriptions taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

FIG. 1 is a top view of a packaging clip of the present invention in which all cavities face the same direction and one container is retained by the clip.

FIG. 1a is a top view of an alternate embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a top view of an alternate embodiment of a packaging clip of the present invention in which the cavities on opposite sides of the clip face opposite directions.

FIG. 2a is a top view of an alternate embodiment of a packaging clip of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the packaging assembly of the present invention in which a plurality of containers are retained by the clip.

Corresponding reference characters indicate corresponding parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Reference now will be made in detail to the embodiments of the invention, one or more examples of which are set forth below. Each example is provided by way of explanation of the invention, not a limitation of the invention. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various modifications and variations can be made in the present invention without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment, can be used on another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment.

Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers such modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents. Other objects, features and aspects of the present invention are disclosed in or are obvious from the following detailed description. It is to be understood by one of ordinary skill in the art that the present discussion is a description of exemplary embodiments only, and is not intended as limiting the broader aspects of the present invention.

Referring to FIG. 1, the present invention is directed to a novel packaging clip 10 for retaining a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers. The clip 10 has a frame 20 with a length dimension and opposite sides. A plurality of arms 30 extend from opposite sides of the frame 20. Each arm 30 has an arm portion 31 extending substantially parallel to the longitudinal axis 21 of the frame 20 and a curved portion 32 connecting the arm portion 31 to the frame 20. Each arm portion 31, curved portion 32 and a portion of frame 20 form an open container-retaining cavity 34 between the frame 20 and the arm 30. Each cavity 34 is adapted to receive and retain an elliptically-shaped container.

In some embodiments, the cavities 34 may be present on only one side of the frame 20 (shown in FIG. 1a). In this embodiment, the arms 30 would be disposed on one side of the frame 20. The opposite side of the frame 20 would be, therefore, straight or have another design, without cavities.

In the present invention, each cavity 34 has at least one width dimension that is slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimension of the elliptically-shaped container when the container is not being retained within the cavity 34. In a particular embodiment of the invention, the cavity 34 has multiple width dimensions that are slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimensions of the elliptically-shaped container when the container is not being retained within the cavity 34. In FIG. 1, width dimensions D1, D2 and D3 of the cavity 34 are shown. The diameter dimensions D4, D5 and D6 of the elliptically-shaped container 60 are also shown. In this embodiment, width dimensions D1, D2 and D3 are slightly smaller than the corresponding diameter dimensions D4, D5 and D6 of the elliptically-shaped container. This allows the arm 30 and frame 20 to securely retain the container by generally conforming to the elliptical shape of the container when the container is inserted properly into cavity 34.

In an embodiment, the frame 20 is substantially flat and has sufficient rigidity to support at least six containers without being distorted. In a particular embodiment, six arms 30 are provided along the length of the frame 20. In this embodiment, three arms 30 may be provided on each side of the frame 20. In another embodiment the packaging clip of the present invention may have a handle 222 fixedly attached to the frame 20 (shown in FIG. 3).

A container can be inserted into the packaging clip 10 by pushing the container between the frame 20 and arm portion 31. The arm 30 flexibly adjusts to receive the container into cavity 34. Once the container has been inserted into the cavity 34, the arm 30 returns to its original position, securely retaining the container. A container can be removed from the packaging clip 10 by pulling the container through the opening between the frame 20 and the arm portion 31. Again, the arm 30 flexibly adjusts to release the container. The arm 30 then returns to its original position.

In one embodiment of the packaging clip 10, the cavities 34 on both sides of the frame 20 face the same direction (shown in FIG. 1). In another embodiment of the invention, the cavities 34 on one side of the frame 20 face one direction and the cavities 34 on the opposite side of the frame 20 face the opposite direction (shown in FIG. 2).

In certain embodiments of the invention, the packaging clip 10 has a retention barb 33 on the terminal end of each arm 30. The retention barb 33 enhances the ability of the packaging clip 10 to retain the containers. Although the retention barbs 33 are shaped in a particular manner in the drawings, the retention barbs 33 of the invention may have various shapes. The retention barbs 33 can comprise any shape that enhances the ability of the clip 10 to retain the containers.

FIG. 2a shows an embodiment of the invention having a first arm 130, a second arm 140 and a third arm 150. In this embodiment, arm portions 141 and 151 are shorter than arm portion 131. An optional prong 122 is provided on the frame 120, opposite the first arm 130, to enhance the ability of the first arm 130 to retain an elliptically-shaped container. An additional retaining member 121 is present on the frame 120, opposite the second arm 140 and third arm 150. In a particular embodiment, the additional retaining member 121 can be elbow-shaped. In another embodiment, the additional retaining member 121 can be prong-shaped. The additional retaining member 121 enhances the ability of second arm 140 and third arm 150 to retain an elliptically-shaped container by providing an entrance to the cavity 134 that is slightly smaller than the minor diameter dimension of the elliptically-shaped container.

Though not shown, it can be appreciated that the first arm 130 could have an arm portion 131 that was slightly shorter than is shown in FIG. 2a. In this embodiment, an elbow 121 could be provided on the frame 120, opposite first arm 130. Similarly, the length of arm portions 141 and 151 could be extended and a prong 122 provided on the frame 120, opposite second and third arms 140 and 150.

FIG. 3 illustrates a packaging assembly of the present invention. The packaging assembly 200 is designed to retain a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers 260. The packaging assembly 200 comprises a packaging clip 270 as described above and a plurality of elliptically-shaped containers 260 retained within the cavities of the clip 260.

Each of the elliptically-shaped containers 260 has an elliptically-shaped cylindrical body portion 261. With one particular container, a circular-shaped cylindrical upper body portion 262 and a circular-shaped cylindrical lower body portion 263 are included. The circular-shaped upper body portion 262 and the lower body portion 263 have a diameter that is greater than the major diameter of the elliptically-shaped body portion 261. This prevents the elliptically-shaped body portion 261 from slipping out of the packaging clip 200. The containers 260 also comprise a cylindrical top portion 264 adapted to removably receive a closure.

If desired, a packaging assembly according to the invention could be enclosed in plastic wrap. Similarly, the packaging assembly could have the bottoms of the containers resting in a tray and the entire assembly could be enclosed in plastic wrap.

In an embodiment, the packaging clip of the present invention is molded of a suitable plastic material, which may be blow molded, by extrusion or injection, so that it is a unitary member of uniform wall thickness. Any plastic material known in the art can be used to form the packaging clip. A suitable plastic for forming the packaging clip includes, but is not limited to, polystyrene, polystyrene-acrylonitile, acrylonitile-butadiene-styrene, styrene-maleicanhydride, polycarbonate, polyethylene terephthalate, polyvinylcyclohexane, and blends thereof.

The present invention provides many advantages over packaging clips of the prior art. By requiring only one arm to retain a container, the present invention maximizes the number of containers that can be retained in a given frame length. Additionally, because the clip retains the containers through the use of only one arm, it is easier to insert and remove containers from the clip. Only one arm has to flexibly adjust in order to receive or release the container. This may allow the user to remove or replace a bottle with only one hand.

The packaging clip of the present invention allows the remaining containers to remain secure after one container is removed from the clip. The packaging clip can be easily reused. It is durable and relatively inexpensive to produce. It stabilizes the containers during shipment and displays the containers while in inventory. Furthermore, it allows the assembly to be conveniently shrink-wrapped in plastic, placed in a cardboard container, or mounted on a carrier tray.

The present invention can be used to package containers for commercial distribution purposes, to collect empty containers, or may be re-used with other elliptically-shaped containers.

While the particular invention is designed for an elliptically-shaped bottle, it can be appreciated that the packaging clips of the invention could be adapted for bottles having other shapes, such as ovular-, circular- or triangular-shaped bottles.

Although preferred embodiments of the invention have been described using specific terms, devices, and methods, such description is for illustrative purposes only. The words used are words of description rather than of limitation. It is to be understood that changes and variations may be made by those of ordinary skill in the art without departing from the spirit or the scope of the present invention, which is set forth in the following claims. In addition, it should be understood that aspects of the various embodiments may be interchanged both in whole or in part. For example, while methods for the production of a sterile liquid nutritional supplement made according to those methods have been exemplified, other uses are contemplated. Therefore, the spirit and scope of the appended claims should not be limited to the description of the preferred versions contained therein.