Title:
Animal-resistant refuse container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to the invention is directed to an animal resistant refuse container that may include a container body, a lid and latching mechanisms to secure the lid to the container body. In one embodiment, the container body includes a pair of handles extending from its vertical side walls on opposite sides of the container body proximate the top end, and the lid includes a pair of anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid with each anchor member corresponding to one of the handles of the container body. The latching mechanisms each include a lid connector configured to attach to one of the anchor members and a handle connector configured to attach to one of the handles, and with one of the connectors being configured to releasably attach to the corresponding anchor member or handle. The lid may be secured to the container body when the latching mechanisms are attached to the corresponding anchor members and handles, and the lid may be removable from the container body when the releasable connectors of the latching mechanisms are detached from the corresponding anchor members or handles.



Inventors:
Craft, Charles W. (Apple Creek, OH, US)
Andrikanich, Justin C. (Stow, OH, US)
Johnston, Michael R. (North Canton, OH, US)
Application Number:
11/342508
Publication Date:
08/02/2007
Filing Date:
01/30/2006
Assignee:
RUBBERMAID INCORPORATED (Fairlawn, OH, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D45/16
View Patent Images:
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20090071027CONTAINER DEVICE FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL HUMIDITY ABSORBER WITH AN ANTI-SPILL SYSTEMMarch, 2009Schmidt Dios
20030189046Drink canOctober, 2003Quispe Gonzalez
20050205582Titanium based composite cookwareSeptember, 2005Cheng



Primary Examiner:
ELOSHWAY, NIKI MARINA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MOORE & VAN ALLEN PLLC (Charlotte, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A refuse container comprising: a container body having vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and a pair of handles extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body on opposite sides of the container body; a lid having a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and a pair of anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid, each anchor member corresponding to one of the handles of the container body; a pair of latching mechanisms, each corresponding to one of the handles and the corresponding anchor member, each latching mechanism including a lid connector configured to attach to the anchor member and a handle connector configured to attach to the handle, wherein one of the lid connector and the handle connector is configured to releasably attach to the corresponding anchor member or handle, wherein the lid is secured to the container body when both latching mechanisms are attached to the corresponding anchor members and handles, and wherein the lid is removable from the container body when the releasable connectors are detached from the corresponding anchor members or handles.

2. A refuse container according to claim 1, wherein the handles engage the rim of the lid to secure the lid to the top end of the container body when the lid is received over the top end of the container body.

3. A refuse container according to claim 1, wherein the handles are pivotally connected to the sides of the container body to move between an upward engaged position wherein the handles engage the rim of the lid to secure the lid to the top end of the container body when the lid is received over the top end of the container body, and a disengaged position wherein the handles do not engage the rim of the lid.

4. A refuse container according to claim 1, wherein the handle connector of each of the latching mechanisms releasably engages the corresponding handle and comprises a hook extending away from the lid connector and configured to be disposed around and engage the handle to secure the lid to the container body.

5. A refuse container according to claim 4, wherein each latching mechanism comprises an elastomeric member connecting the lid connector and the handle connector, and wherein the lid connector, handle connector and elastomeric member are configured such that a force must be applied to the latching mechanism to stretch the elastomeric member to provide clearance for the hook to attach to and detach from the corresponding handle.

6. A refuse container according to claim 5, wherein each latching mechanism comprises an outwardly extending grip configured for engagement by a user to apply a force to stretch the elastomeric member.

7. A refuse container according to claim 1, wherein the lid connector of each latching mechanism comprises a swivel eye piston snap having a hook configured to releasably engage the corresponding anchor member to secure the lid to the open end of the container body.

8. A refuse container according to claim 7, wherein each swivel eye piston snap comprises a piston slidable within a body of the swivel eye piston snap between an extended position wherein the piston is disposed in an opening of the hook and engaging a tip of the hook to form a closed loop and maintain attachment to the corresponding anchor member, and a retracted position wherein the opening of the hook is exposed to allow detachment of the lid connector from the anchor member.

9. A refuse container according to claim 8, wherein the handle connector of each latching mechanism comprises a clamp surrounding the corresponding handle and connected to a swivel connector of the swivel eye piston snap.

10. A refuse container comprising: a container body having vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and at least two container body attachment projections extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body; a lid having a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and at least two anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid; at least two latching mechanisms, each latching mechanism including a lid connector configured to attach to one of the anchor members and a container body connector configured to attach to one of the container body attachment projections, wherein one of the lid connector and the container body connector is configured to releasably attach to an anchor member or a container body attachment projection, respectively, wherein the lid is secured to the container body when each of the latching mechanisms are attached to a corresponding anchor member and container body attachment projection, and wherein the lid is removable from the container body when the releasable connectors are detached from the corresponding anchor members or container body attachment projections.

11. A refuse container according to claim 10, wherein the container body includes two container body attachment projections disposed on opposite sides of the container body, the lid includes two anchor members, and the refuse container comprises two latching mechanisms.

12. A refuse container according to claim 10, wherein the container body attachment projections comprise handles extending from the vertical side walls.

13. A refuse container according to claim 12, wherein the handles engage the rim of the lid to secure the lid to the top end of the container body when the lid is received over the top end of the container body.

14. A refuse container according to claim 12, wherein the handles are pivotally connected to the sides of the container body to move between an upward engaged position wherein the handles engage the rim of the lid to secure the lid to the top end of the container body when the lid is received over the top end of the container body, and a disengaged position wherein the handles do not engage the rim of the lid.

15. A refuse container according to claim 10, wherein the container body connector of each of the latching mechanisms releasably engages the corresponding container body attachment projection and comprises a hook extending away from the lid connector and configured to be disposed around and engage the container body attachment projection to secure the lid to the container body.

16. A refuse container according to claim 15, wherein each latching mechanism comprises an elastomeric member connecting the lid connector and the container body connector, and wherein the lid connector, container body connector and elastomeric member are configured such that a force must be applied to the latching mechanism to stretch the elastomeric member to provide clearance for the hook to attach to and detach from the corresponding container body attachment projection.

17. A refuse container according to claim 16, wherein each latching mechanism comprises an outwardly extending grip configured for engagement by a user to apply a force to stretch the elastomeric member.

18. A refuse container according to claim 10, wherein the lid connector of each latching mechanism comprises a swivel eye piston snap having a hook configured to releasably engage the corresponding anchor member to secure the lid to the open end of the container body.

19. A refuse container according to claim 18, wherein each swivel eye piston snap comprises a piston slidable within a body of the swivel eye piston snap between an extended position wherein the piston is disposed in an opening of the hook and engaging a tip of the hook to form a closed loop and maintain attachment to the corresponding anchor member, and a retracted position wherein the opening of the hook is exposed to allow detachment of the lid connector from the anchor member.

20. A refuse container according to claim 19, wherein the container body connector of each latching mechanism comprises a clamp surrounding the corresponding container body attachment projection and connected to a swivel connector of the swivel eye piston snap.

21. A latching mechanism for a refuse container having a container body and a lid, wherein the container body includes vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and handles extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body, and wherein the lid includes a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid, the latching mechanism comprising: a handle connector configured to attach to one of the handles of the container body; and a lid connector configured to attach to one of the anchor members disposed proximate a handle to which the handle connector is attached, wherein one of the handle connector and the lid connector is configured to releasably attach to one of the handles or one of the anchor members, respectively, and wherein a plurality of the latching mechanisms secure the lid to the container body when each of the latching mechanisms are attached to one of the handles and to one of the anchor members disposed proximate the handle.

22. A latching mechanism according to claim 21, wherein the handles of the container body are pivotally connected to the sides of the container body to move between an upward engaged position wherein the handles engage the rim of the lid to secure the lid to the top end of the container body when the lid is received over the top end of the container body, and a disengaged position wherein the handles do not engage the rim of the lid, and wherein the latching mechanisms secure the handles in the upward engaged position when the lid connectors are attached to the anchor members and the handle connectors are attached to the handles.

23. A latching mechanism according to claim 21, wherein the handle connector releasably engages the corresponding handle and comprises a hook extending away from the lid connector and configured to be disposed around and engage the handle to secure the lid to the container body.

24. A latching mechanism according to claim 23, comprising an elastomeric member connecting the lid connector and the handle connector, and wherein the lid connector, handle connector and elastomeric member are configured such that a force must be applied to the latching mechanism to stretch the elastomeric member to provide clearance for the hook to attach to and detach from the corresponding handle.

25. A latching mechanism according to claim 24, comprising an outwardly extending grip configured for engagement by a user to apply a force to stretch the elastomeric member.

26. A latching mechanism according to claim 21, wherein the lid connector comprises a swivel eye piston snap having a hook configured to releasably engage an anchor member to secure the lid to the open end of the container body.

27. A latching mechanism according to claim 26, wherein each swivel eye piston snap comprises a piston slidable within a body of the swivel eye piston snap between an extended position wherein the piston is disposed in an opening of the hook and engaging a tip of the hook to form a closed loop and maintain attachment to the corresponding anchor member, and a retracted position wherein the opening of the hook is exposed to allow detachment of the lid connector from the anchor member.

28. A latching mechanism according to claim 27, wherein the handle connector comprises a clamp surrounding one of the handles and connected to a swivel connector of the swivel eye piston snap.

Description:

BACKGROUND

The present disclosure relates to refuse containers, and more particularly to a refuse container having a latching mechanism for securing the lid to the container body to prevent or discourage animals from removing the lid while allowing users, such as refuse collectors, to detach the latching mechanism and remove the lid from the container body.

Various refuse containers configured to secure the lid to the refuse container have been previously described. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 4,691,840 to Ferbrache discloses a trash container comprising a receptacle base, a lid component, and a pair of handles mounted to opposite sides of the receptacle. Each handle is pivotally mounted to a side of the receptacle base and provides integral eccentric cam lobes which, as the handle is pivoted upward, rotate against the receptacle sidewalls into an upright locking position. Simultaneously, an outward projecting locking tooth from each handle penetrates a receptive groove in the container lid to secure the lid to the receptacle.

U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,558,796 and 4,666,054 to Jaicks disclose storage containers forming compartments for storing garbage and edibles. The compartments are kept sealed from entry by wild animals by the lid members being threadable onto the container member. A plurality of vertically extending hand grips are connected to the lid members at angular intervals. In the '796 patent, a plurality of hold down flange members are connected to the bottom of the container at angular intervals so that a user can hold the container member against the support surface with one or both feet while threading the lid onto or from the container member. In the '054 patent, a plurality of peripheral recesses are formed at angular intervals around the rim of the bottom wall of the container that are adapted to receive the forward part of the foot of a user so the user can hold the container member against the support surface with one or both feet while threading the lid onto or from the container member.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,331,310 to Silva et al. discloses a supporting apparatus for a refuse container and the lid for such container. The apparatus includes a bracket mountable on an upright and a support pivotally mounted to the bracket between a lower generally horizontal position and an upper generally vertical position. The support has portions which confine the container against lateral movement and portions which rest on the lid when the support is in the horizontal position so as to prevent access to the container by dogs and the like.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,199,161 to Nieminen et al. discloses a trash cart for storing garbage bags comprising an open-top container having a bottom and continuous substantially vertical side wall having a top edge and a hollow domed cover having an inwardly-turned rim, the inner edge of the rim extending to the top edge of the side wall, the cover overhanging the container by substantially to the extent of the rim whereby, when the cover is closed on the container, the cart has the appearance of a large mushroom or toadstool. The cover has an opening to receive the handle in a manner to prevent opening of the cover by animals, and is hinged to the container and a brace for the hinge forming a compartment in the cover for extra empty garbage bags. The container has a capacity to store a plurality of filled garbage bags and the domed cover is capable of storing at least one full garbage bag.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,044,114 to Terbrusch et al. discloses a trash container with a tightly secured cover in which a first engaging structure disposed on the outer surface about an open top of a pail interlocks with a second engaging structure disposed on the inner surface of a depending skirt of the cover to tightly secure the cover to the open top of the pail so that it will prevent an animal from entering through the open top and eat the trash therein.

U.S. Pat. No. 5,385,258 to Sutherlin discloses an animal tamper-resistant trash container and method of constructing such a trash container utilizing a conventional trash container having a bottom, side wall and an open upper end and removable lid therefore. The improvement included a first and second annular band or ring each clampably connectable around the lid and container adjacent its opening, respectively. A hinge is formed between the first and second bands whereby the lid is permanently pivotally attached to the open upper end of the container. A unique latch which automatically engages when the lid falls to a closed position is virtually unopenable by large wild animals such as a raccoons, foxes, opossums, dogs and the like.

In addition to the containers described in these patents, homeowners have resorted to other homemade solutions to prevent the tipping of refuse container and/or the removal of the lids by animals. One such homemade solution involves placing bricks, cinder blocks or other heavy objects on top of the lid to prevent animals from lifting the lids. Another homemade solution to keep the animals out of conventional trash cans is to strap bungee cords over the lids and attach the hooks of the bungee cords to the handles or the sides of the container. The bungee cords strap down the lid of the container, but may slide off the top of the lid and down around the sides and, because the bungee cords use hooks on both ends, the bungee cords can become completely detached from the container when the lid is removed and may be lost once they are separated from the container.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the invention is directed to a refuse container that may include a container body, a lid and a pair of latching mechanisms. The container body may have vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and a pair of handles extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body on opposite sides of the container body. The lid may have a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and a pair of anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid, with each anchor member corresponding to one of the handles of the container body. The latching mechanisms may each correspond to one of the handles and the corresponding anchor member. Each latching mechanism may include a lid connector configured to attach to the anchor member and a handle connector configured to attach to the handle. One of the lid connector and the handle connector may be configured to releasably attach to the corresponding anchor member or handle. The lid may be secured to the container body when both latching mechanisms are attached to the corresponding anchor members and handles, and the lid may be removable from the container body when the releasable connectors are detached from the corresponding anchor members or handles.

In another aspect, the present invention is directed to a refuse container having a container body, a lid and at least two latching mechanisms. The container body may include vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and at least two container body attachment projections extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body. The lid may have a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and at least two anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid. Each latching mechanism may include a lid connector configured to attach to one of the anchor members and a container body connector configured to attach to one of the container body attachment projections, with one of the lid connector and the container body connector being configured to releasably attach to an anchor member or a container body attachment projection, respectively. The lid may be secured to the container body when each of the latching mechanisms are attached to a corresponding anchor member and container body attachment projection, and the lid may be removable from the container body when the releasable connectors are detached from the corresponding anchor members or container body attachment projections.

In a further aspect, the invention is directed to a latching mechanism for a refuse container having a container body and a lid. The container body may include vertical side walls, a central cavity extending downwardly therebetween, a top end defining an opening of the refuse container, and handles extending from the vertical side walls and disposed proximate the top end of the container body. The lid may include a downturned peripheral rim receivable over a top end of said container body, and anchor members disposed on a top surface of the lid. The latching mechanism may include a handle connector configured to attach to one of the handles of the container body, and a lid connector configured to attach to one of the anchor members disposed proximate a handle to which the handle connector is attached, with one of the handle connector and the lid connector being configured to releasably attach to one of the handles or one of the anchor members, respectively. A plurality of the latching mechanisms may secure the lid to the container body when each of the latching mechanisms is attached to one of the handles and to one of the anchor members disposed proximate the handle.

Additional aspects of the invention are defined by the claims of this patent.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a side elevation view of an embodiment of the refuse container and latching mechanism in accordance with the invention;

FIG. 2 is a side elevation of an embodiment of a latching mechanism for the refuse container of FIG. 1, along with partial sections of the lid and the corresponding container handle;

FIG. 3 is a top elevation of the latching mechanism of FIG. 2, along with partial sections of the lid and the corresponding container handle;

FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of an embodiment of a lid locking container handle, along with a partial section of the lid and a partial section of the container body to which the container handle is affixed, of the refuse container of FIG. 1;

FIG. 5 is a partial side elevation view of the refuse container of FIG. 1 with the lid locking container handle in the unlocked position;

FIG. 6 is a partial side elevation view of the refuse container of FIG. 1 with the lid locking container handle in the locked position;

FIG. 7 is a side elevation of an alternative embodiment of a latching mechanism for the refuse container of FIG. 1, along with partial sections of the lid and the corresponding container handle; and

FIG. 8 is a top elevation of the latching mechanism of FIG. 7, along with partial sections of the lid and the corresponding container handle.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF VARIOUS EMBODIMENTS

Although the following text sets forth a detailed description of numerous different embodiments of the invention, it should be understood that the legal scope of the invention is defined by the words of the claims set forth at the end of this patent. The detailed description is to be construed as exemplary only and does not describe every possible embodiment of the invention since describing every possible embodiment would be impractical, if not impossible. Numerous alternative embodiments could be implemented, using either current technology or technology developed after the filing date of this patent, which would still fall within the scope of the claims defining the invention.

It should also be understood that, unless a term is expressly defined in this patent using the sentence “As used herein, the term ‘______’ is hereby defined to mean . . . ” or a similar sentence, there is no intent to limit the meaning of that term, either expressly or by implication, beyond its plain or ordinary meaning, and such term should not be interpreted to be limited in scope based on any statement made in any section of this patent (other than the language of the claims). To the extent that any term recited in the claims at the end of this patent is referred to in this patent in a manner consistent with a single meaning, that is done for sake of clarity only so as to not confuse the reader, and it is not intended that such claim term by limited, by implication or otherwise, to that single meaning. Finally, unless a claim element is defined by reciting the word “means” and a function without the recital of any structure, it is not intended that the scope of any claim element be interpreted based on the application of 35 U.S.C. § 112, sixth paragraph.

Referring initially to FIG. 1, an animal-resistant refuse container 100 in accordance with the invention is illustrated as including a container body 102 having a pair of container handles 104 mounted to and/or extending there from, and a lid 106 disposed on an open upper end of the container body 102 to close the refuse container 100. In the illustrated embodiment, the container body 102 is generally cylindrical in shape with a central cavity, and is defined generally by upwardly-extending cylindrical side walls 108 having a top edge 110 (FIG. 2) defining an opening at the top end. The lid 106 is shaped to correspond to the shape of the open end of the container body 102, such as circular in top plan view in the illustrated embodiment, and has a generally domed top surface 112 that merges into a downturned peripheral flange 114. The lid 106 may further include an elongated lid handle 116 extending upwardly from the domed top surface 112 along a diametric line across the lid 106 such that the lid handle 116 may be oriented and aligned between the container handles 104. At either end of the lid handle 116, the lid 106 may include anchor members, such as upwardly extending tabs 118, for attaching latching mechanisms 120 between the lid 106 and the corresponding container handles 104. The tabs 118 may have slots 122 therethrough such that one end of a latching mechanism 120 may be connected to the lid 106 at the tab 118 and the other end of the latching mechanism 120 may be connected to the corresponding handle 104 to secure the lid 106 to the container body 102 in a manner described more fully below.

Referring to FIGS. 2 and 3, a first embodiment of a latching mechanism 120 in accordance with the invention is illustrated engaging a tab 118 and a handle 104 to secure the lid 106 to the container body 102. In this embodiment, the latching mechanism 120 is configured so that one end of the latching mechanism 120 may be permanently or semi-permanently attached to the tab 118, and the other end of the latching mechanism 120 may be readily attach to the handle 104 to secure the lid 106 to the container body 102 and to detach from the handle 104 to allow the lid 106 to be removed from the container body 102. At a first end of the latching mechanism 120, a lid connector 130 configured to be connected to the tab 118 by threading a bolt 132 or other fastener through openings in the lid connector 130 and through the slot 122 of the tab 118. The bolt 132 may connect the latching mechanism 120 to the lid 106 in a semi-permanent manner such that tools may be used to remove the latching mechanism 120 from the lid 106 for maintenance purposes or to attach the latching mechanism 120 to a different lid 106 of a different refuse container 100. Alternatively, the lid connector 130 may be more permanently connected to the lid 106 via a rivet or other similar fastener preventing the latching mechanism 120 from being easily detached from the lid 106. As a further alternative, the lid connector 130 may include a safety snap hook or similar fastener that may retentively engage the tab 118 while allowing the latching mechanism 120 to be removed from the lid 106 by manipulation without the need for tools.

The lid connector 130 may be connected to an oppositely disposed container body connector, such as handle connector 134, by an elastomeric member 136. The elastomeric member 136 may be fabricated from any resilient material, such as rubber, plastic, natural rubber, silicone, or other elastic or visco-elastic material, and is securely attached the lid connector 130 and handle connector 134 so that a force may be exerted to pull the connectors 130, 134 apart when locking the lid 106 to the handle 104, and the elastomeric member 136 may stretch under the force to allow the connectors 130, 134 to separate, without the elastomeric member 136 detaching from either of the connectors 130, 134. In addition to the portion connecting to the elastomeric member 136, the handle connector 134 includes a hook 138 and an outwardly extending grip 140. The hook 138 may extend outwardly on the handle connector 134 away from the connection to the elastomeric member 136, and may be configured to fit over and enclose the handle 104 in a manner that secures the hook 138 to the handle 104 under the force exerted by the tension in the elastomeric member 136. Configured in this way, the handle connector 134 is pulled away from the lid connector 130 a sufficient distance so that tip of the hook 138 is past the handle 104 allowing the hook 138 to be disposed around the handle 104 as the force of the elastomeric member 136 pulls the handle connector 134 toward the lid connector 130. To facilitate attachment to and removal from the handle 104 of the hook 138, the latching mechanism 120 may include a grip 140 configured to be grasped by a user. The grip 140 may extend outwardly away from the hook 138 so that the grip 140 may be grasped by a user of the refuse container 100 to manipulate the latching mechanism 120 when the hook 138 engages the handle 104. Further, the grip 140 may be configured to provide sufficient clearance to be grasped when the user is wearing gloves, such as during cold whether or when the user is a trash collector.

In the illustrated embodiment, the latching mechanism 120 is attached to the handle 104 to secure the lid 106 to the container body 102. To remove the latching mechanism 120, a user grasps the grip 140 and pulls outwardly in the direction of the arrows of FIGS. 2 and 3. Once the tip of the hook 138 is past the outer edge of the handle 104, the latching mechanism 120 is pulled upwardly slightly until the tip of the hook 138 has sufficient clearance from the handle 104 to that the hook 138 will not recapture the handle 104. The force of the user is lessened to allow the handle connector 134 to move inwardly toward the lid handle 116 under the biasing force of the elastomeric member 136, with the hook 138 moving past the handle 104.

While the lid connector 130, handle connector 134 and elastomeric member 136 are discussed above as being distinct components of the latching mechanism 120, those skilled in the art will understand that two or more of these components may be fabricated from a unitary piece of material. For example, in one embodiment, the connectors 130, 134 and elastomeric member 136 may be fabricated from a single unitary piece of elastomeric material such that separate attachment of the connectors 130, 134 to the elastomeric member 136 is not required. As a further alternative, the lid connector 130 and elastomeric member 136 may be fabricated from a single unitary piece of elastomeric material, with the handle connector 134 be fabricated from a relatively more rigid material, such as wood, aluminum, steel and the like, and attached to the free end of the elastomeric member 136 as described above. Still further, the hook 138 and grip 140 may be fabricated separately as a single component separate from the handle connector 134 from injection molded plastic or other material. The hook 138 and grip 140 may then be rigidly connected to the handle connector 134, or rotatably connected to the handle connector 134 and secured in position by a set screw (not shown). In the latter configuration, the set crew may be loosened to allow the hook 138 and grip 140 rotated between the illustrated position and a shipping position, such as through a 180° rotation from the illustrated position, that may facilitate stacking of the lids 106 during shipping. Other configurations of the components of the latching mechanisms 120 components are anticipated and are contemplated by the inventors as having use in a refuse container in accordance with the present disclosure.

In the illustrated embodiment, the handles 104 are pivotally mounted on the sides 108 of the container body 102, and engage the lid 106 to secure the lid 106 to the container body 102. Referring to FIG. 4, the lid 106 is configured to be engaged and retained by the handles 104, and includes an annular groove 144 midway down the vertical width of the peripheral flange 114 and extending the circumferential extent of flange 114. On each side of the container body 102, a handle support buttress 146 extends outward from the plane of the corresponding side 108, and is of generally elongate rectangular configuration. An inward step 148 extends along an upward longitudinal side of the support buttress 146 and intersects with the cylindrical sides 108 of the container body 102. Situated along the support buttress 146 is a mounting boss 150 of elongate rectangular construction. The mounting boss 150 is hollow and includes a pair of assembly apertures 152 situated in opposite ends thereof. Disposed adjacent to the opposite ends of the mounting boss 150 are vertical tracks 154 which are recessed within the sides 108 of the container body 102. Each of the tracks 154 is of an upright rectangular shape, the size of which being prescribed in greater detail below.

Each of the handles 104 (one of which is shown) is of a generally U-shaped configuration. Each handle 104 comprises a bight portion 156 from which elongate arm segments 158, 160 extend. The arm segments 158, 160 adjoin the bight portion 156 of each handle by way of intermediate segments 162, 164, respectively. The intermediate segments 162, 164 are offset from the plane of the remote arm segments 158, 160 such that the bight portion 156 of each handle 104 lies in a plane outward of the plane of segments 158, 160. The purpose for the offset of bight portion 156 is to enable the user of the waste container to conveniently grasp the portion 156 as a handle in transporting the container from one location to another. It will be appreciated from FIG. 4 that the segments 158, 160, 162, 164, and bight portion 156 are of generally tubular plastic construction, with each segment being of relatively large diameter. As a result, bight portion 156 is of full grip diameter for the comfort of the user as a handle.

Situated at distal ends of the arm segments 158, 160 are camming lobe projections 166. Each camming lobe projection 166 is of a triangular side-profiled shape, with a remote planar side 168 of each lobe projection 166 facing the container body 102 in general alignment with the vertical tracks 154 formed therein. It will be appreciated that the remote side 168 of each camming lobe 166 is flat and extends generally in a vertical direction. A lid locking tooth projection 170 is likewise provided integral with each arm segment 158, 160 and is of a general triangular shape generally similar to the camming lobe projections 166. Each tooth projection 170 is spaced apart from its corresponding lobe projection 166, and extends parallel thereto. Further, each tooth projection 170 provides an inwardmost flat surface 172 extending parallel with lobe surface 168 which rotates with the handle into a horizontal orientation in a manner described below. As seen from FIG. 4, proximate to the distal end of each arm segment 158, 160 of the handles 104 is an inward directed stud projection 174 of cylindrical shape. The projection 174 has a retention flange 176 which extends in an annular direction partially around each stud projection 174 and is spaced a distance from the arm segments 158, 160.

The lid 106 fits over the top edge 110 of the container body 102 until the downward edge of the peripheral flange 144 of the lid 106 rests upon the step portion 148 of the container body 102. Since the lid 106 and container body 102 are both of circular cross section, the lid 106 can be oriented upon the container body 102 in any orientation throughout a 360 degree range. When used with the latching mechanism 120, however, the lid 106 is oriented with the tabs 118 proximate the handles 104. Each of the handles 104 is secured to the handle mounting boss 150 of the container body 102 by insertion of the pivot stud projections 174 of the handle through the apertures 152 in opposite ends of the mounting boss 150. As a stud projection 174 penetrates through the aperture 152, the annular retention flange 176, which tapers outwards, engages against an internal side of the end mounting boss 150 to retain the handle 106 in a pivotal relationship to the mounting boss 150.

FIGS. 5 and 6 show the lid locking handles 104 assembled to the container body 102, and illustrate in sequence the operation of the handles 104 in securing the lid 106. With reference to FIG. 5, the handle 104 is pivoted away from the container body 102 so as to enable the lid 106 to slide over the top of the container body 102. The surfaces 168 of camming lobe projections 166 of the handle 104 at this point approach parallel with the recesses of the vertical tracks 154 within the container body 102. Subsequent to the positioning of the lid 106 upon the container body 102, seated against the horizontal step 148 thereof, the lid locking handles 104 can be pivoted upward into an upright position as illustrated in FIG. 6. During the pivotal upward movement of the handles 104, the radiused lobe projections 166 impress against the vertical tracks 154 as the tooth projections 170 of the handles 104 protrude into the annular groove 144 of the lid 106. In the upright locked position illustrated in FIG. 6, the elongate camming lobe projection 166 has deformed the resilient waste container body 102 inward at the track recesses 154 such that latent resilient forces within the elastomeric container body 102 exert an outward force against each lobe projection 166. This residual elastomeric force frictionally secures the camming lobe projections 166 into the horizontal orientation depicted in FIG. 5, and resists any inadvertent or unintended pivotal movement of the handle 104 out of its locking relationship with the lid 106, thereby providing a first level of security to prevent animals from removing the lid 106 and accessing the interior of the container body 102. Release of the handle 104 can be achieved by manual pivotal movement of the handle 104 away from the lid 106, overcoming the frictional lock between the container body 102 and the camming projections 166.

As described previously, the container body 102 and lid 106 are of circular cross sectional shape, whereby the lid 106 can be situated upon the container body 102 in any position within a 360 degree range. It will be noted that the locking handles 104 effectively function to lock the lid 106 to the container body 102 regardless of the orientation of the lid 106 throughout its 360 degree range of operation. However, in order to attach the latching mechanisms 140 and further secure the lid 106 to the container body 102, the lid 106 will be oriented with the tabs 118 of the lid 106 proximate the handles 104. In other alternative embodiments, the container body 102 and the lid 106 may have other cross-sectional shapes than the circular cross-sectional shape of the illustrated embodiment, such as square, rectangular, triangular, ovoid and the like, so that the lid 106 mates with the top of the container body 102 and tabs 110 on the lid 106 can be disposed proximate the handles 104 of the container body 102 for attaching the latching mechanisms 120. Additionally, the refuse container 100 may be provided with more than two handles 104 and corresponding tabs 110 as necessary to provide a desired level of attachment and security.

With reference to FIG. 1, it will be noted that the bight portion 156 of the locking handles 104 extends upward from the lid 106 in prominent fashion. The separation of the handle 104 from the lid 106 facilitates attachment of the hook 138 to the handle 104 as described above. Further, because of the offset between the bight portion 156, the arm segments 158, 160, and intermediate segments 158, 164, the bight portion 156 can operate as a handle for transporting the refuse container 100. Moreover, because dual handles 104 are provided on opposite sides of the container, the bight portions 156 can be used for lifting the refuse container 100 upward without disturbing the lid lock. Additional description of the lid locking handles and an associate trash container can be found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,691,840, entitled “Lid Locking Handle for Waste Container,” the entire disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. However, while the container body 102 is illustrated and described herein as having pivoting handles 104 locking the lid in place, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the refuse container 100 having latching mechanisms 120 may be implemented with handles that are fixedly attached to the sides 108 of the container body 102 and/or that do not engage the lid 106 to lock the lid 106 in place, but with the latching mechanisms 120 still securing the lid 106 to the container body 102.

The refuse container 100 described above was tested with and without the latching mechanisms 120 securing the lid 106 to the container body 102. The tests involve placing the refuse container 100 among four captive raccoons weighing up to 15 pound each and observing the raccoons' attempts to access the refuse container 100. The raccoons involved in the testing are regularly challenged by their keepers by providing refuse containers to open for exercise and behavior management. The success of each test was measured by the amount of time necessary for the raccoons to open the refuse container, with the test being deemed successful if the refuse container remained unopened after 30 minutes. In the first test, an empty refuse container 100 was placed upright with the handles 104 locking the lid 106 in place without the latching mechanisms 120. The engagement of the open end of the container body 102 by the annular groove 144 of the lid 106 substantially limited the raccoons' ability to pull at and damage the lid 106. The raccoons lost interest after 15 minutes, and the raccoons did not have much activity investigating or attempting to unlock the handles 104 thereafter.

In a second test, the refuse container 100 was filled with 48 pounds of weight to keep the container 100 upright and to simulate being filled with garbage, and was placed upright with the handles 104 locking the lid 106 in place without the latching mechanism 140. After approximately 15 minutes, one of the handles 104 was unlocked when one of the raccoons attempted to pull itself onto the top of the refuse container 100. However, the raccoons were unable to tip the refuse container 100 over, and the raccoons failed to remove the lid 106 within 30 minutes. The test was extended after 30 minutes by placing the refuse container 100 on its side with one of the handles 104 unlatched. Once the refuse container 100 was tipped and unlocked, the raccoons were able to pull the lid 106 of the container body 102 within approximately 30 to 60 seconds, and gain access to the interior of the refuse container 100.

As a final test, latching mechanisms 140 as described above locked the handles 104 in the upright engaged position and secured the lid 106 to the container body 102. In the latching mechanisms 140 used in this test, the elastomeric member 136 was fabricated from rubber. The refuse container 100 was filled with 35 pounds of weight to simulate the container 100 being at least partially filled with garbage. When the locked refuse container 100 was exposed to the raccoons, the raccoons chewed and tugged at the rubber elastomeric member 136, but could not break the member 136. The raccoons did not attempt to unhook the latching mechanisms 120 and ultimately could not unlock the handles 104 and gain access into the refuse container 100. After a relatively short period of time, and in significantly less time than the 30 minute time limit, the raccoons lost interest and ceased attempting to open the locked refuse container 100.

FIGS. 7 and 8 illustrate an alternate embodiment of a latching mechanism 180 utilizing a standard swivel eye piston snap 182 of the type known to those skilled in the art and commonly used to attach a dog leash to a dog collar or to attach a shoulder strap to purse, computer bag, duffle bag, or a garment bag, among other applications. In this embodiment, the latching mechanism 180 may be attached to the handle 104 by a clamp 184 encircling the handle 104 and fastened to a connector 186 of the snap hook 182 by a rivet 188. Alternatively, the clamp 184 may be attached to the connector 186 by a less permanent fastener, such as the bolt 132 used in the latching mechanism 120 discussed above. As is commonly known to those in the art, the snap hook 182 includes a body 190 having one end pivotally attached to the connector 186 to allow the body 190 to swivel. The opposite end of the body 190 defines a hook 192 having an opening on one side. The snap hook 182 further includes a piston 194 slidably disposed in the body 190 and biased outwardly from the body 190 by an internal spring (not shown) toward the tip of the hook 192 to enclose the interior of the hook 192 and retain articles disposed therein, such as dog collars, corresponding portions of fasteners and the like. The piston 194 includes a button 196 disposed outwardly of the body 190 of the snap hook 182 and engageable to slide the piston 194 inwardly into the body 190 such that a retained article may be removed through the opening of the hook 192.

Once the lid 106 is placed on the container body 102 and, if necessary, the tabs 118 are aligned proximate the handles 104, the snap hook 182 is attached to the tab 118 by retracting the piston 194 and passing the tip of the hook 192 through the slot 122 of the tab 118. When the button 196 of the piston 194 is released, the piston 194 closes the opening of the hook 192 to maintain attachment to the tab 118. Depending on the configuration of the latching mechanism 180, it may be necessary to apply sufficient force to cause the handle 104 to deflect slightly to allow the tip of the hook 192 to reach the slot 122 of the tab 118. Alternatively, the dimensions of tab 118, the clamp 184 and the snap hook 182 may be such that the tip of the hook 192 reaches the slot 122 without deflecting the handle 104. Still further, the clamp 184 may be configured so that the handle 104 may be slidable therein so that the tip of the hook 192 may reach the slot 122 of the tab 118. In order to open the refuse container 100, the snap hook 182 may be detached from the tab 118 by engaging the button 196 to retract the piston 194 and expose the opening of the hook 192.

It will also be appreciated that this embodiment of the latching mechanism 180 allows the refuse container 100 to be opened while maintaining attachment of the lid 106 to the container body 102. Each of the latching mechanisms 180 except one may be detached from the lid 106, thereby allowing the lid 106 to be removed from the container body 102 while the lid 106 remains tethered to the handle 104 of the container body 102 by the remaining latching mechanism 180. Those skilled in the art will understand that other connection mechanisms and configurations of the latching mechanism 180 are possible and contemplated by the inventors wherein both the handle 104 and the lid 106 are retentively engaged by the latching mechanism 180 such that the lid 106 may be secured to the container body 102 by one of the latching mechanisms 180 when the lid 106 is opened.

The embodiments shown and discussed herein are illustrative of refuse containers 100 and latching mechanisms 120, 180 in accordance with the invention. Additional configurations of refuse containers and latching mechanisms in accordance with the invention are contemplated by the inventors. For example, the container body 102 may include additional handles 104 spaced about the sides 108 and/or the lid 106 may include additional anchor members or tabs 118 for connecting the latching mechanisms to the handles 104. Moreover, the anchor members or tabs 118 may extend outwardly from other positions on the top surface 112 of the lid 106, and need not extend from the lid handle 116. Configured in this manner, additional latching mechanisms may be used to secure the lid 106, or it may be possible to secure the lid 106 in more than the two alternate positions shown herein with the lid handle 116 aligned between the container handles 104. Alternatively, the slots 122 may be provided in the lid handle 116 itself to eliminate the need for forming additional anchor members or tabs 118 on the top surface 112 of the lid 106. In other embodiments, the portion of the container body 102 engaged by the latching mechanism 120 may not be a handle of the container body 102. Any other container body attachment projection from the sides 108 of the container body 102 that is engageable by the latching mechanisms 120, 180 to secure the lid 106, such as outwardly extending bosses, hooks and the like, and the handles 106 need not be pivotable and/or lid locking as described therein so long as the lid 106 is secured to the container body 102 when the latching mechanisms are attached.

While the preceding text sets forth a detailed description of numerous different embodiments of the invention, it should be understood that the legal scope of the invention is defined by the words of the claims set forth at the end of this patent. The detailed description is to be construed as exemplary only and does not describe every possible embodiment of the invention since describing every possible embodiment would be impractical, if not impossible. Numerous alternative embodiments could be implemented, using either current technology or technology developed after the filing date of this patent, which would still fall within the scope of the claims defining the invention.