Title:
Carrier for beverage bottles
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A carrier shell and a central divider are molded of a resin composition and are assembled to form a beverage bottle carrier. The carrier shell is molded in a flat sheet with living hinges between a bottom panel, opposite side panels and end panel sections that are operatively positionable by folding at the living hinges to form a generally rectangular box configuration with an open top. Male and female tabs on the carrier shell interface with the central divider and interlockingly engage to secure the carrier in the box configuration with the central divider extending parallel between the opposite sides. Secondary dividers extend between the opposite sides and the central divider to form individual bottle compartments for placement of beverage bottle therein. The bottom of the carrier may include recesses for receiving the tops of bottles stored in a like carrier directly below the upper positioned bottle carrier to thereby facilitate vertical stacking of the bottle carriers when filled with beverage bottles.



Inventors:
Cherch, Xavier T. (Delray Beach, FL, US)
Miller, Edward A. (Boynton Beach, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/825447
Publication Date:
01/10/2008
Filing Date:
07/06/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D75/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
GEHMAN, BRYON P
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROBERT M. DOWNEY, P.A. (BOCA RATON, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A beverage bottle carrier comprising: a carrier shell formed of a resin composition and including a bottom panel, opposite side panels, and a plurality of end panel sections, and said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections being operatively positionable to extend upwardly from said bottom panel and generally perpendicular to said bottom panel; a central divider panel formed of a resin composition and including opposite faces, a bottom edge, a top edge and side edges, and said central divider panel being operatively positionable to extend upwardly from said bottom panel of said carrier shell, between said opposite side panels, and in parallel relation to said opposite side panels, and said central divider panel including an elongate aperture proximate to said top edge and defining a handle; and a plurality of secondary divider panels positioned to extend perpendicularly between said opposite side panels and said central divider panel to define a plurality of individual bottle compartments.

2. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 1 wherein said carrier shell is molded as a flat sheet, and wherein said flat sheet includes a plurality of living hinges extending between and dividing said bottom panel from said opposite side panels, and said living hinges further extending between and dividing said opposite side panels from said plurality of end panel sections, and said plurality of living hinges being structured and disposed to permit folding movement of said opposite side panels relative to said bottom panel, and folding movement of said plurality of end panel sections relative to said opposite side panels to form said carrier shell in a box configuration having an open top.

3. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 1 wherein said plurality of secondary divider panels are formed of a resin composition.

4. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 2 wherein said plurality of secondary divider panels are integrally formed with said carrier shell.

5. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 2 wherein said carrier shell further comprises a plurality of tabs for securing said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections in said box configuration with said central divider panel operatively positioned between and parallel to said opposite side panels.

6. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 5 wherein said plurality of tabs include male tabs and female tabs, and each of said male tabs being structured and disposed for interlocking engagement with correspondingly aligned ones of said female tabs.

7. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 6 wherein said central divider includes an arrangement of holes and said female tabs include a series of cups arranged for alignment with said arrangement of holes in said central divider, and said male tabs include a series of buttons positioned and arranged for passage through the holes in said central divider, and said male tabs being structured for interlockingly engagement with the series of cups on said female tabs when said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections are operatively positioned in the box configuration.

8. A beverage bottle carrier comprising: a carrier shell molded of a resin composition and including a bottom panel, opposite side panels, and a plurality of end panel sections, and a plurality of living hinges between said bottom panel and said opposite side panels and between said side panels and said plurality of end panel sections, and said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections being operatively positionable by bending along said plurality of said living hinges to extend upwardly from said bottom panel and generally perpendicular to said bottom panel to form a box configuration with an open top; a central divider panel formed of a resin composition and including opposite faces, a bottom edge, a top edge and side edges, and said central divider panel being operatively positionable to extend upwardly from said bottom panel of said carrier shell, between said opposite side panels, and in parallel relation to said opposite side panels, and said central divider panel including an elongate aperture proximate to said top edge and defining a handle; and a plurality of secondary divider panels positioned to extend perpendicularly between said opposite side panels and said central divider panel to define a plurality of individual bottle compartments.

9. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 8 wherein said plurality of secondary divider panels are integrally formed with said carrier shell.

10. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 8 wherein said carrier shell further comprises a plurality of tabs for securing said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections in said box configuration with said central divider panel operatively positioned between and parallel to said opposite side panels.

11. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 10 wherein said plurality of tabs include male tabs and female tabs, and each of said male tabs being structured and disposed for interlocking engagement with correspondingly aligned ones of said female tabs.

12. The beverage bottle carrier as recited in claim 11 wherein said central divider includes an arrangement of holes and said female tabs include a series of cups arranged for alignment with said arrangement of holes in said central divider, and said male tabs include a series of buttons positioned and arranged for passage through the holes in said central divider, and said male tabs being structured for interlockingly engagement with the series of cups on said female tabs when said opposite side panels and said plurality of end panel sections are operatively positioned in the box configuration.

Description:

This non-provisional patent application is based on provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/819,450 filed on Jul. 7, 2006.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to carriers for beverage bottles and more particularly to a reusable beverage bottle carrier formed from a moldable resin.

2. Discussion of the Related Art

Consumer beverages are generally produced and shipped in one of three types of containers: cans; bottles; or bulk shipments such as kegs or barrels. For shipping purposes, cans and bottles are typically packaged in boxes of 24 that are commonly referred to as cases. The bottles are often placed individually in the case and separated by cardboard dividers. However, sometimes bottles are placed in 6-pack carriers which are made using thin cardboard cut from a large sheet, folded and then glued to form a rectangular structure with a bottom, four sides, a center carrying handle and open top compartments arranged linearly on each side of the handle for placement of the bottles therein. Four of these 6-pack carriers, containing a total of 24 bottles, are then dropped into the case for shipment.

These cardboard carriers, when received by restaurants, bars, supermarkets, etc., are removed from the larger cartons in which they are shipped. The individual carriers are then typically placed in a refrigerated display for sale or, in the case of a restaurant or bar, in a cooler for storage until needed to fill refrigerated boxes behind the bar from which individual ones of the bottles are retrieved to fill a customer's beverage order. In order to more efficiently utilize storage space, the carriers are vertically stacked one upon another in the cooler. However, the thin cardboard construction of the carriers is not very sturdy and is subject to moisture absorption in the environment of a cooler. In short time, the integrity of the carriers weakens and becomes vulnerable to tearing and disintegration. Consequently, the degree to which cardboard 6-pack carriers can be vertically stacked is very limited, usually to no more than two carriers in height.

This problem is even more pronounced when individual carriers are reused because even though the carrier may be dried out from a previous use, mere drying does not reconstitute the carrier to its original strength. The problem with thin cardboard carriers has long been recognized in the beverage industry to the point where bottlers now issue warnings to end users that exposure of the carrier to dampness can result in bottle breakage or damage. Such breakage and damage is costly and can run as high as a 10% loss factor in a bar and restaurant establishment.

Thus what is desired is a carrier for bottled beverages that does not degrade when subjected to moisture and is readily stackable so that bottles can be effectively transported by hand carrying without breakage.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One embodiment of the present invention is a bottle carrier having a central divider which also includes a handle for carrying the carrier. The central divider is molded from a plastic or other suitable moldable resin and has a number of holes along each edge for interfacing with a carrier shell. The carrier shell is typically rectangular in shape and is molded in a flat sheet with living hinges in the areas where it is designed to be folded into its rectangular shape. A plurality of secondary dividers for separating adjacent bottles from each other is also integrally molded on the flat sheet. To assemble, the flat sheet is bent along each of the living hinges and further includes a male tab and a female tab at each end which interface with the central divider. The female tab has a series of cups which align with the holes at one edge of the central divider. The male tab has a like series of buttons which extend through the holes in the end of the central divider and interlockingly engage the cups in the female tab. The bottom of the carrier can also include integrally formed recesses for receiving the tops of bottles stored in a like carrier immediately below the first carrier.

These and other advantages of the invention will be further understood and appreciated by those skilled in the art by reference to the following written specification, claims and appended drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

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

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a bottle carrier embodying the present invention, wherein the carrier is formed of a molded resin;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the flat molded components of the carrier;

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of a partially folded carrier shell with the central divider in place;

FIG. 4 is a cross-sectional view of the interlocking tabs of the carrier shell capturing the central divider therebetween as shown in FIG. 1 and taken along the line 4-4, FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the bottom of a carrier illustrating individual recesses for engaging the tops of bottles stored below the carrier.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of the bottom of a carrier illustrating an alternate configuration for engaging the tops of bottles.

Like reference numerals refer to like parts throughout the several views of the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

For purposes of description herein, the terms “upper”, “lower”, “left”, “rear”, “right”, “front”, “vertical”, “horizontal”, and derivatives thereof shall relate to the invention as oriented in FIG. 1. However, one will understand that the invention may assume various alternative orientations and step sequences, except where expressly specified to the contrary. While the present invention has been shown and described in accordance with preferred and practical embodiments thereof, it is recognized that departures from the instant disclosure are fully contemplated within the spirit and scope of the invention. Hence, specific dimensions and other physical characteristics relating to the embodiments disclosed herein are not to be considered as limiting, unless the claims expressly state otherwise.

Turning to the drawings, FIG. 1 shows a beverage bottle carrier 20 configured to carry six bottles which is one of the preferred embodiments of the present invention and illustrates its various components. Bottle carrier 20 has a rectangularly shaped carrier shell 40 sized to receive six beverage bottles in a two-by-three arrangement. A central divider 30 longitudinally bisects the carrier shell 40 and includes a handle aperture 32 for ease of carrying by an individual. The height of central divider is no higher than the height of the bottles to be carried therein. Secondary dividers 60 further divide the interior of bottle carrier 20 into individual compartments 22 wherein each compartment 22 receives one bottle for carriage.

Referring now to FIG. 2, bottle carrier 20 typically comprises two molded resin pieces, central divider 30 and carrier shell 40. Central divider 30 includes handle aperture 32 proximate to an upper edge 33, and also has formed on each face 31 two vertically oriented guides 36 proximate to bottom edge 38 for receiving and stabilizing secondary dividers 60. Guides 36 are laterally spaced according to the desired lateral spacing of secondary dividers 60. Each side edge 35 has a plurality of holes 34 inset therefrom and extending therealong.

Carrier shell 40 is formed as a generally flat molded resinous sheet with a specific geometry conforming to the dimensions of the desired final carrier. Specifically, as in the case of the six-pack carrier represented by carrier shell 40, the flat pattern includes a bottom section 42 which is connected to opposing sides 46 by bottom-side living hinges 44. Living hinges are well known in the industry and can be formed in numerous geometries. Each of opposing sides 46 are connected to end sections 50 with side-end living hinges 48. Thus, there are two end sections 50 at a left end of carrier shell 40 and two end sections 50 at a right end of carrier shell 40. One of the end sections 50 at each left and right ends has a female tab 54 attached thereto with end-tab living hinges 52, and the other end sections at each left and right ends has a male tab 56 attached thereto with a like end-tab living hinge 52.

Female tabs 54 include a plurality of cups 64 formed therealong defining a receptacle 65 and spaced along female tab 54 to correspond to holes 34 in central divider 30. In like manner, male tabs 56 include a plurality of buttons 66 protruding from one face of male tab 56 and spaced therealong to correspond to holes 34 in central divider 30.

An interior face 58 of each carrier side 46 has two secondary dividers 60 integrally molded thereto and substantially perpendicular to interior face 58. Secondary dividers 60 are laterally space to correspond to the lateral spacing of guides 36 on central divider 30. Each secondary divider 60 includes an interior edge 62 to be received in a corresponding guide 36 at assembly of bottle carrier 20.

Referring now to FIGS. 2-4, bottle carrier is assembled by placing central divider 30 so that it longitudinally bisects bottom section 42 of carrier shell and extends vertically upwards therefrom. Female tabs 54 and male tabs 56 are folded at end-tab living hinges 52 in the direction of arrows “A” (FIG. 2). Correspondingly, end sections 50 are also folded in the direction of arrows “A” (FIG. 2) at side-end living hinges 48 thus yielding the configuration shown in FIG. 3. Opposing sides 46 are then folded upwards at bottom side living hinges 44 in the direction of arrows “B” (FIG. 3) to thereby complete the bottle carrier configuration, as seen in FIG. 1.

Each of buttons 66 on male tabs 56 are aligned with and extend through a corresponding hole 34 in central divider 30 and are aligned with corresponding receptacles 65 in cups 64 of female tabs 54. To complete assembly of bottle carrier 20, buttons 66 are pressed into receptacles 65 of cups 64. As shown in FIG. 4, buttons 66 and cups 64 can include lips 68, 69 respectively for interlocking engagement to maintain bottle carrier 20 in an assembled state and to permit disassembly upon completion of use of bottle carrier 20 for compact transport for reuse.

Where the carrier 20 is intended to be permanently assembled, buttons 66 can be adhesively bonded in receptacles 65 or ultrasonically welded thereto. Alternatively, for permanent assembly of bottle carrier 20, holes 34, cups 64 and buttons 66 can be eliminated and tabs 54, 56 can be permanently bonded or welded to central divider 30.

FIG. 5 illustrates one possible configuration for a bottom surface 43 of bottle carrier 20. Bottom surface can include a plurality of individual retainers 70 formed thereon wherein each of retainers 70 has a central recess 72. Retainers 70 are arranged to correspond to the placement of tops of bottles in a like bottle retainer 20 stored immediately below. Each of the central recesses 72 receives therein the top of a bottle thereby permitting the stacking of multiple bottle carriers 20 one on another for secure and stable storage of multiple bottle filled carriers 20. Those practiced in the art will readily recognize that the geometric shape of retainers 70 and recesses 72 can be varied so long as recesses 72 readily receive therein the tops of bottles stored in a bottle carrier 20 therebelow.

FIG. 6 illustrates an alternate configuration bottle carrier 20 wherein bottom surface 43 has formed thereon elongated retainers 80 wherein each retainer 80 includes a recess 82 which receives a plurality of tops of bottles stored in a bottle carrier therebelow. Retainers 80 and recesses 82 can also be formed in various geometric shapes so long as the bottle tops of bottles stored therebelow are received in recesses 82. Those practiced in the art will also recognize that retainers 70 and 80 can also be configured to be received on prior art cardboard bottle carriers to permit the stable stacking of multiple carriers one on another.

While the above discussion is directed to a rectangular configuration of a six-pack bottle carrier, the concepts disclosed herein are also applicable to other geometries of carriers and other correlations of living hinges interconnecting bottom, side and end panels of a carrier. Correspondingly, those practiced in the art will recognize that the concepts disclose herein are also applicable to carriers for different quantities of bottles such as 4, 12, 24, and 36 bottles.

In the foregoing description those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that modifications may be made to the invention without departing from the concepts disclosed herein. Such modifications are to be considered as included in the following claims, unless these claims expressly state otherwise.