Title:
Popcorn cap apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A popcorn container funnel cap including a mounting flange to engage under the bead of a popcorn container and including a longitudinally projecting open sided spout converging to a reduced in cross section mouth.



Inventors:
Reynolds, Rodney K. (Long Beach, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/485219
Publication Date:
01/17/2008
Filing Date:
07/12/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D81/34
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BAINBRIDGE, ANDREW PHILIP
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FULWIDER PATTON LLP (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
I claim:

1. Cap apparatus for attachment to the top of an open top upright popcorn container having a flexible upper marginal edge formed with a radial bead comprising: a base formed with a retainer ring configured with a downwardly projecting annular flange for gripping the marginal edge and including radially inturned bearing elements for releasingly engaging under the bead; the cap apparatus further including a scoop wall converging upwardly from the base to a reduced in cross section mouth and open on one side for free flow of popcorn from the base to the mouth.

2. The cap as set forth in claim 1 wherein: the retainer ring is resilient and open on one side.

3. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the base is formed with a handle.

4. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the wall is in the form of a semi-circular concave trough having opposite walls originating on the diametrical opposite sides of the base and formed with respective edges curving radially outwardly and distally from the ring funnel.

5. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the wall is formed with reinforcing ribs.

6. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the wall is frusto conically shaped to converge radially inwardly from the retainer ring at a first angle relative to the axis thereof and to thereafter project distally and slope radially inwardly at a second angle relative to the axis, the second angle being smaller than the first angle.

7. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the retainer ring is flexible.

8. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the annular flange is flexible.

9. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the annular flange is formed with a plurality of laterally inwardly projecting, circumferentially spaced teeth defining cam surfaces to engage the bead.

10. The cap apparatus of claim 1 wherein: the flange is constructed of resilient material and is split to be discontinuous about its periphery and is formed to, in an unflexed condition, yielding grip the bead and is sufficiently flexible to be flexed from its unflexed condition to be fitted over the bead.

11. The cap apparatus of claim 1 that includes: an annular, upwardly facing shoulder interposed between the base and cap.

12. Combination popcorn container and cap apparatus comprising: a cup shaped open top receptacle formed with a bottom wall and side walls terminating in a marginal upper edge configured with a radially outwardly projecting circumferential bead; a container cap including a base formed with a downwardly projecting annular flange encompassing the bead and configured with radially inwardly projecting retainer cam elements disposed below the bead; the bead or retainer flange being flexible; the cap further including a longitudinally extending scoop converging distally inwardly from the opposite sides of the base to a reduced in cross section mouth and open on one side for free flow of popcorn.

13. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein: the container is constructed of paper.

14. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein: the cap is constructed of plastic.

15. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein: the flange is opened on one side.

16. The apparatus of claim 15 includes: an elastic bead bridging the open side of the flange.

17. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein: the cap is formed with a handle.

18. The apparatus of claim 12 wherein: the flange is flexible.

19. Cap apparatus for an open top, upright popcorn container comprising: a base formed with a retainer ring to be received over the top of the container; retaining means for holding the base on the container; a cap including a scoop wall converging upwardly from the base to a reduced in cross section mouth and being open on one side for free flow of popcorn from the base to the mouth.

20. The cap apparatus of claim 19 wherein: the retainer ring is split to, when on the top of the container, form ring spaced apart ends; and the retaining means includes an elastic band connected between the ends.

21. Cap apparatus for attachment to an upright, open top popcorn container having a flexible upper marginal edge formed with a radially outwardly projecting bead, the apparatus comprising: a base formed with a peripheral retainer ring configured with a downwardly projecting annular flange formed with teeth spaced circumferentially there around and projecting laterally inwardly and formed with cam surfaces which taper radially inwardly and upwardly, the flange further being formed at the upper extremities of the respective cam elements with radially outwardly projecting groove segments for nesting receipt of a bead; a frusto conically shaped, annular shoulder projecting radially inwardly from the upper extremity of the flange; and a scoop wall projecting distally from the shoulder and formed on one side with a longitudinal opening for the passage of popcorn, the wall being formed with opposite sides which converge distally inwardly toward one another to a reduced in diameter mouth for dispensing popcorn therefrom.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to containers for receiving popped popcorn for individual consumption.

2. Description of the Prior Art

Popcorn is a popular snack at movies, theatres, amusement parks and other places of entertainment. The product is most tasteful when flavored by melted butter or other types of flavoring oils. Oil and butter render the popped kernels greasy to the touch and require excess use of napkins, tissue and the like. It has been long been a dilemma to the movie theatre operator that the profit generated from the demand for popcorn is often times offset to a great extent by the propensity for patrons to drop greasy popcorn on the seating upholstery, carpet or other floor covering and/or to wipe their greasy fingers on the arm rests or seats.

This then leads to the need to, when furnishing a theatre, giving attention to stain resistant upholstery and grease resistant floor coverings. This, and removal of greasy stains and fingerprints from the upholstery, adds to the expense of equipping and maintaining a movie theatre. Greasy or even unflavored popcorn on the floor can result in customers stepping on it, particularly in the darkened theatre, resulting in a slip and fall incident leading to a painful injury to the customer and liability to the theatre operator, all adding to the expense of operation and driving up insurance premiums.

Popcorn is often sold in an unbuttered state with the customer having ready access to the condiment stand where an abundant supply of melted butter or flavoring oil is available to be dispensed onto the hot popcorn to permeate down through the popped kernels to the bottom of the popcorn container. Juxtaposed the flavoring oil dispenser is typically a paper napkin dispenser with an abundant supply of napkins to encourage the customers to make ready use thereof for wiping of his or her fingers after each helping of the flavored popcorn. The napkins are often taken in abundance and the excess or soiled napkins promptly wadded up and discarded on the floor adjacent the customers seat thus leaving a plentiful collection of napkins at the end of the feature movie to be collected by the cleaning crew during the intermission. This is not only wasteful of the napkins but adds to the cost of clean up.

From the foregoing, it is clear that a need exists for serving of butter flavored popcorn without the necessity of the consumer handling the individual popped and flavored kernels. In recognition of this need, numerous different proposals have been made in effort to solve the problem. One such proposal is a funnel constructed of paper and formed on its base with radially inwardly projecting, upwardly inclined crush tabs to permit engagement of the funnel with a top bead of a popcorn container. The funnel is then formed with a conically shaped circumferentially continuous wall tapering down to a reduced in diameter restrictive opening to constrict flow of the popcorn and to cause it to jam up at the opening to restrict free flow of the kernels themselves. A device of this patent is shown in U.S. Pat. No. 6,431,415 to Schreiber. While of benefit for its intended purposes, devices of this type suffer the shortcoming that as the popped kernels jam up at the outlet of the funnel the user is required to, while holding the container elevated, shake and jiggle the popcorn container in effort to induce release of even limited numbers of popped kernels. Such an arrangement is inconvenient for the customer sitting in a quiet crowded movie theatre faced with the prospect of elevating the container over his or her head and in the line of sight of viewers sitting behind, while he or she jiggles and shakes the container in an inverted orientation in effort to dispense the popcorn at what can seem like an excruciating slow rate of flow. Such inconvenience and tendency to draw unwanted attention to the consuming customer would discourage use by the customers even if the product were made available commercially.

Other efforts to solve the problem propose use of popcorn bags to be held open by a funnel and sleeve arrangement to dispense popcorn therefrom. A device of this type is shown in U.S. Patent Publication No. 2005/0139085 to Clark. Such devices are expensive to manufacture and awkward to use, particularly in the diminished lighting often employed in movie theatres.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The popcorn container cap of the present invention is characterized by a retainer flange to fit about the open end of a popcorn container to releasably attach to the container. The cap includes an axially projecting funnel wall open on one side and narrowing in the distal direction inwardly from its opposite sides to terminate in a delivery mouth such that popped popcorn kernels from the container will have free flow to such mouth for consumption by the user.

In some embodiments, the cap includes a retainer flange configured with peripheral, radially inwardly projecting bearing elements which frictionally fit over the marginal bead of the container to hold the cap in place. In other instances, the retaining flange will be split to adjust to different diameters or may even include an elastic band or the like to draw it closed into a mounting arrangement.

Other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the features of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a popcorn container cap apparatus embodying the present invention;

FIG. 2 is an end view of the cap apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a partial front view of a cap apparatus shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 4 is a partial longitudinal is a sectional view, in enlarge scale, taken along the line 4-4 of FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a longitudinal sectional view, taken along the line 5-5 of FIG. 4;

FIG. 6 is a partial transverse sectional view, taken along the line 6-6 of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is an end view of a second embodiment of the popcorn container cap apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a front view similar to FIG. 7 but showing the retainer flange expanded;

FIG. 9 is a front view of a third embodiment of the popcorn container cap apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 10 is an end view of the popcorn container cap apparatus shown in FIG. 9;

FIG. 11 is a back view of the container cap apparatus depicted in FIG. 9;

FIG. 12 is perspective view of a fourth embodiment of the popcorn container cap apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a right hand end view of the cap apparatus shown in FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a partial side view of the cap apparatus shown in FIG. 12;

FIG. 15 is an end view of a fifth embodiment of the cap apparatus of the present invention;

FIG. 16 is a top plan view thereof;

FIG. 17 is an end view similar to FIG. 15 but showing the cap apparatus expanded; and

FIG. 18 is a partial front view of the cap apparatus shown in FIG. 17.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Referring to FIGS. 1-5, the popcorn container cap apparatus of the present invention includes, generally, a cap apparatus 21 constructed to releasably connect to a popcorn container 23 and formed with a peripheral annular retainer flange 25 and a longitudinally projecting spout 27 formed on one side with a longitudinal popcorn release opening 29 leading to a reduced in diameter mouth 31.

Popcorn containers 23 come in all different sizes and shapes, often with self supporting walls defining an upwardly facing opening for access to the popcorn. It is this style of container to which the cap apparatus of this invention is attached. There are the usual small, medium, large caps or containers, sometimes cylindrical, square or rectangular in horizontal cross section. Thus, the cap apparatus 21 comes in different sizes and shapes for accommodating different size and configurations of containers. Typically, the walls of such containers are somewhat flexible to thus permit a relatively rigid cap to snap fit thereover. In other instances, the containers may be more rigid the retainer rings of the caps may be more flexible or even of an adjustable circumference as explained below.

Popcorn containers 23 are conventionally constructed of stiff waxed or coated paper or plastic and are typically configured at their upward extremity with radially outwardly turned circumferential beads 37 (FIG. 4). The cap apparatus 21, in one embodiment, is formed with the retainer flange 25 configured about the interior thereof with a plurality of radially inwardly projecting circumferentially spaced cam like teeth defining respective bearing elements formed on their radially inward sides with radially outwardly and downwardly inclined bearing surfaces 41 to cooperate in combination to form an outline of a frusto conically shaped envelope to be frictionally received over the bead 37 to nest such bead in the annular groove 43 at the top of the respective teeth.

The cap apparatus 21 may be constructed of stiff paper, plastic or any other desired material and, in some embodiments, will be configured with a base defining a continuous band forming the retainer flange 25. The base is then formed with a low inclined conically shaped parametrical, annular shoulder 47 which angles radially inwardly and distally from the flange 25 at an angle approximately 60° to 80° to the longitudinal axis and then transitions distally to form the conically shaped scoop 27 angling radially inwardly and distally at an angle approximately 20° to the axis. The scoop 27 may take many different forms, it only being important that it funnel down to a mouth 31 having a lateral dimension of about 1 to 2 inches and that, at least, the last ⅓ opening up laterally to provide an open top trough for when the scoop is tilted downwardly toward the mouth, relatively unrestricted flow of popcorn toward such mouth. In the particular embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-5, the scoop wall is generally conically shaped extending approximately 315° around the perimeter thereof leaving the flow opening 29 with an expanse of about 45° of the total circumference. Also, in this embodiment, the flow opening 29 expands radially outwardly in a fan shape from the mouth 31 to the shoulder 47.

As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, the cap apparatus 21 may be manufactured from formed paper or cardboard, lightweight molded plastic or any other desirable material. In practice, the apparatus may include longitudinal corrugations or reinforcement ribs to contribute to the longitudinal stiffness thereof. It may come in selected different configurations and dimensions to accommodate the shape of various different containers and cross sectional shapes thereof. A theatre concession stand may stock an abundant supply of such caps nested together in tubular packaging or the like and stored under the concession counter near the popcorn popper.

When an order is filled, the container 23 of the desired size and shape may be selected and the cap apparatus 21 of the corresponding size and shape selected from one or more different tubular packaging containers. The selected popcorn container 23 may be scooped into the popped popcorn for filing thereof and the cap apparatus 21 grasped and easily snapped over the open end thereof to embrace the peripheral bead 37. It will be appreciated that with many different conventional containers 23 the side walls thereof and beads 37 are somewhat flexible. In those instances, the annular mounting flange 25 will have fairly substantial hoop strength since it is under tension as applied to the container. That is, the popcorn stand attendant can merely grasp the flange area of the cap away from the mouthpiece 31, either with a clean hand, sterile cloths or a wipe to position the mounting flange over the bead 37. The attendant may then, by merely pressing axially downwardly on the shoulder 47, drive the respective cam elements of the teeth 41 downwardly over the bead thus compressing the bead a slight degree radially inwardly until it registers with the locking grooves 43 thereby allowing the bead to flex radially outwardly under its inherent tension to thus snap into the groove and hold the cap securely in position.

It will be appreciated that in some instances, the caps will be mounted in a dispenser or the like and in individual customers may individually select a cap and withdraw it from the dispenser to exercise the option of placing it on the container when desired. That is, the customer may elect to season the popcorn with liquid butter or flavoring oil and salt or the like and thereafter attach the cap as described above.

The customer may then carry the capped container upright to his or her seat with the cap somewhat restricting spillage of the popcorn. To partake of the popcorn, the user need merely grasp container and elevate the cap and container combination slightly above the level of his or her mouth, tilting the container to incline the scoop 27 downwardly such that topped popcorn will flow from the container downwardly toward the mouth 31 in a fairly unrestricted manner. In this regard, the popcorn will flow under the influence of gravity without restriction as influenced by the upwardly facing opening 29 to permit a stream of such popcorn to be bunched up projecting upwardly from the profile of the envelope that would otherwise be defined by a continuous wall conical scoop wall. In this manner, the user may dispense the desired quantity of popcorn for ingestion in a relatively short period of time without shaking or jiggling the container so as to minimize intrusion upon the enjoyment his or her neighboring viewers.

When finished or, at the conclusion of the entertainment, the user may discard the empty or nearly empty container 23 with a cap attached thus tending to restrict spillage of any remaining popcorn and rendering the task of the cleaning crew less challenging and minimizing any necessity of wiping up or applying grease spray to grease spots which may have otherwise formed on the arm rests, seats and upholstery.

The second embodiment of the popcorn cap apparatus as shown in FIG. 7 is similar to that shown in FIGS. 1-3, expect that it is formed it its base with a split shoulder 61 and flange 63 to form an adjustment gap 65 between the proximate ends of the shoulder and cap. The cap apparatus of FIGS. 7 and 8 is constructed of resilient material such as heavy paper, plastic or the like to provide springiness in the shoulder and flange such that it will normally assume the closed position shown in FIG. 7. In use, however, the ends of the respective shoulder and flange may be separated to be spaced apart forming the gap 65 as shown in FIG. 8 for convenient receipt of the bearing surfaces of the flange over the container bead 37 to be frictionally held on the container as described herein above.

The third embodiment of the cap apparatus of the present invention shown in FIGS. 9-11 is similar to that shown in FIGS. 7 and 8 except that it is formed with a downwardly extending cylindrical rib-work including a circular split retainer ring 71 to grip the container medially and carried from the flange 63 by means of axial ribs 73, 74 and 75 spaced equidistant about the flange 63. It will be appreciated that the axial rib 73 at the gap 65 is attached to only one end of the split flange 63 and ring 71 to thus leave the opposite end thereof free to expand and contract as dictated by the circumference of the container 23. The longitudinal rib 75 mounts a C-shaped axial handle 77 for convenient grasping by the user.

Consequently, in use, the container 23 of FIGS. 9-11 may be filled with popcorn and the handle 77 grasped with one hand and the ring and flange grasped by the other hand to spread the proximate ends thereof apart sufficiently to be received down over the top end of the container 23. The user may then release such flange and ring 71 to allow the inherent resiliency thereof to grip the container so that a user utilizing the handle 77 can conveniently raise the container and gap apparatus to his or her mouth for use as described herein above.

Referring to FIGS. 12-14, the fourth embodiment of the cap apparatus of the present invention includes a base formed with an annular flange 25 and configured at one end with a radially inturned gearing shoulder 81 extending approximately 160° thereabout, the other 200° circumference of the flange 25 being formed with a distally projecting scoop, generally designated 83, having the opposite sides thereof tapering radially inwardly toward one another toward the reduced cross section mouth 85. The opposite walls of the scoop 83 are curved to project distally and taper radially outwardly toward mouth 85.

The fifth embodiment of the popcorn cap apparatus of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 15-18 includes, generally, a resilient split mounting flange 91 formed with confronting ends which may be spread apart to define a gap 93, the ends being connected together by an elastic strip 95 serving to cooperate in functionally holding the device on the container bead. Elastic strip may take many different forms and may include a rubber strip sewn into an extensible cloth sheath. Such apparatus is formed with a distally projecting scoop, generally designated 97 terminating in a mouth 99 and being opened on one side for the flow of popped popcorn.

From the foregoing, it will apparent that the popcorn cap apparatus of the present invention provides an economical means for capping a popcorn container to control release of the popcorn but providing for free flow of the popcorn to the users mouth to thereby provide dispensation of a abundant quantity of popcorn with each discharge.