Title:
Drinking cup and cover with flow directing assembly
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A drinking cup that includes a container base for holding a liquid to be consumed, and lid having a drinking spout that is removable attachable to the container baseband a flow directing assembly that is coupled to the lid which flow directing assembly allows liquid in the container base to be extracted through the drinking spout when the drinking cup is tilted so that the drinking spout is located at an upper position on the lid.



Inventors:
Higgins, Daniel (Saline, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/438110
Publication Date:
03/27/2008
Filing Date:
05/19/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G19/22
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
MCKINLEY, CHRISTOPHER BRIAN
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BUTZEL LONG, P.C. (Bloomfield Hills, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A drinking cup that comprises: a container base for containing a liquid to be consumed; a lid that is removable attachable to the container base and includes a drinking spout; and a flow directing assembly that is coupled to the lid which flow directing assembly allows liquid in the container base to be extracted through the drinking spout when the drinking cup is tilted so that the drinking spout is located at an upper position on the lid.

2. A drinking cup according to claim 1, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel that has a liquid inlet on an end portion which is in fluid communication with the interior of the base container and is in fluid communication with the spout on an opposite end.

3. A drinking cup according to claim 1, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel and a flow directing element which can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway having an inlet and an outlet.

4. A drinking cup according to claim 3, wherein the flow chamber is made of a rigid of semi-rigid material and the flow directing element is made from a resilient or flexible material.

5. A drinking cup according to claim 2, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel and a flow directing element which can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway having the liquid inlet and being in fluid communication with the spout.

6. A drinking cup according to claim 5, wherein the glow chamber is made of a rigid or semi-rigid material and the flow directing element is made from a resilient or flexible material.

7. A drinking cup according to claim 3, wherein the flow channel is coupled to the lid and the flow directing element is coupled to the flow channel.

8. A drinking cup according to claim 1, wherein the lid further comprises an air vent opening and the flow directing assembly further comprises a valve element that cooperates with the air vent opening to allow ambient air to enter the drinking cup.

9. A drinking cup according to claim 8, wherein the flow directing assembly further comprises an air venting chamber.

10. A drinking cup according to claim 8, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel and a flow directing element which can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway having the liquid inlet and being in fluid communication with the spout, and the valve element comprises a portion of the flow directing element.

11. A drinking cup according to claim 5, wherein the flow directing assembly further includes a one-way fluid valve within the fluid passageway.

12. A drinking cup according to claim 11, wherein the one-way fluid valve comprises a portion of the flow directing element.

13. In a drinking cup having a base for containing a liquid to be consumed and a lid that is removable attachable to the base and includes a drinking spout, the improvement comprising a flow directing assembly that is coupled to the lid which flow directing assembly allows liquid in the container base to be extracted through the drinking spout when the drinking cup is tilted so that the drinking spout is located at an upper position on the lid.

14. A drinking cup according to claim 13, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel and a flow directing element which can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway having an inlet and an outlet.

15. A drinking cup according to claim 13, wherein the lid further comprises an air vent opening and the flow directing assembly further comprises a valve element that cooperates with the air vent opening to allow ambient air to enter the drinking cup.

16. A drinking cup according to claim 15, wherein the flow directing assembly further comprises an air venting chamber.

17. A drinking cup according to claim 15, wherein the flow directing assembly comprises a flow channel and a flow directing element which can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway having the liquid inlet and being in fluid communication with the spout, and the valve element comprises a portion of the flow directing element.

18. A drinking cup according to claim 14, wherein the flow directing assembly further includes a one-way fluid valve within the fluid passageway.

19. A drinking cup according to claim 18, wherein the one-way fluid valve comprises a portion of the flow directing element.

20. A drinking cup according to claim 14, wherein the flow chamber is made of a rigid or semi-rigid material and the flow directing element is made from a resilient or flexible material.

Description:

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to drinking cups that are designed to transition young children from drinking liquids from nippled bottles to drinking liquids from open top cups, glasses, bottles, etc.

BACKGROUND ART

The use of spill-proof cups having drinking spouts and separate air vents is well known. Such spill-proof cups typically include drinking spouts and air vents that are arranged in somewhat similar structural configurations. Other than visual design changes, improvements in spill-proof cups have focused on valving mechanisms and the air vent arrangements that respond to suction generated during drinking to open and allow liquid to pass through the spout and to allow air to enter the air vent when a vacuum is developed in the interior of the cup.

Some examples of spill-proof cups can be found in U.S. Pat. Nos. 6,230,923 to Hung, 6,102,245 to Haberman, U.S. Pat. No. 6,050,445 to Manganiello, U.S. Pat. No. 5,988,425 to Yehl et al., U.S. Pat. No. 5,89.0,620 to Belcastro, U.S. Pat. No. 5,706,973 to Robbins, III et al., and U.S. Pat. No. 5,542,670 to Morano.

As shown in FIG. 1 taken from U.S. Pat. No. 5,890,620 to Belcastro, and known to most parents who have raised young children, generally all spill-proof cups have at least spouts if not spout/air vent arrangements that are configured so that, when in use, a child has to hold the cups directly in front of his or her face, blocking his or her vision.

The present invention is directed to spill-proof cups that are designed and configured to allow children to drink put of the cups, without having the cups block the children's vision.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

According to various features, characteristics and embodiments of the present invention which will become apparent as the description thereof proceeds, the present invention provides a drinking cup that includes:

a container base for containing a liquid to be consumed;

a lid that is removable attachable to the container base and includes a drinking spout; and

a flow directing assembly that is coupled to the lid which flow directing assembly allows liquid in the container base to be extracted through the drinking spoilt when the drinking cup is tilted so that the drinking spout is located at an upper position on the lid.

The flow directing assembly includes a flow channel that comprise a flow chamber and a flow directing element that can be coupled together to form a fluid passageway that has a liquid inlet oh an end portion which is in fluid communication with me interior of the base container and is in fluid communication with the spout on an opposite end.

According to embodiments of the present invention, the flow chamber is made of a rigid or semi-rigid material and the flow directing element is made from a resilient or flexible material.

According to other various embodiments of the present invention, the flow directing assembly can provide for venting and ambient pressure equalization of the drinking cup and one-away control of fluid through the fluid passageway.

The present invention further provides an improvement for drinking cups that have bases for containing liquids to be consumed and lids that are removable attachable to the bases and include a drinking spouts, the improvement comprising a flow directing assembly that is coupled to the lids which flow directing assembly allows liquid in the container bases to be extracted through the drinking spout when the drinking cups are tilted so that the drinking spouts are located at an upper position on the lids.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

The present invention will be described with reference to the attached drawings which are given as non-limiting examples drily, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a young person drinking from a conventional spill-proof cup in a conventional manner.

FIG. 2 is a perspective cut-away view of a spill-proof cup according to one embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a perspective cutaway view of a spill-proof cup according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is a perspective cut-away view of a spill-proof cup according to another embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 6.

BEST MODE FOR CARRYING OUT THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to drinking cups that are designed to transition young children from drinking liquids from nippled bottles to drinking liquids from open top cups, glasses, bottles, etc. More particularly, the present invention is directed to spill-proof cups that comprise a container base and a lid or cap that includes a drinking spout of some fashion and a liquid flow directing assembly that is associated with the lid or cap. The container base contains a liquid that is to be made available for drinking and can have a generally cylindrical shape, a “pinched” shape, or any conventional shape or configuration that is known in the art of spill-proof cups and containers.

Likewise, the drinking spout can be cylindrically shaped, can comprises an expandable and/or flexible tube or straw or a pull-out or pop-up straw or mouthpiece, can be in the form of a well or reservoir, can be economically molded for comfort and function, or can be of any conventional shape or configuration that is known in the art of spill-proof cups and containers.

The lid or cap and container base can be configured to be removably coupled together in any convenient manner such as having cooperating threaded structures, twist locking structures, a snap-on or snap together configuration, or any other suitable structure known in the art of spill-proof cups and containers.

The liquid flow directing assembly generally includes a liquid flow directing element and a flow chamber. The flow chamber is attached to or molded on the bottom of the lid or cap and is configured to receive the flow directing element therein. When the flow directing element is positioned in the flow chamber, the flow directing assembly allows liquid to enter the flow chamber at one end and be drawn out of the spout that is located above an opposite end of the flow chamber.

According to alternative embodiments of the present invention, the flow directing element can be provided with valve elements that restrict, regulate or provide for fluid and/or air control or regulation.

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a child drinking from a conventional spill-proof cup in a conventional manner. The spill-proof cup shown in FIG. 1 is described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,890,620 to Belcastro and is typical of spill-proof cups that provide a spout oh one side of lid and an air vent opening on an opposite side of the lid. Moreover, the spill-proof cup shown in FIG. 1 is typical of spill-proof cups in which the spout is designed to allow liquid that is located in a lower portion of the cup to be extracted through the spout. Accordingly, as illustrated, a child drinking from the cup has to hold the cup so that the spout is positioned downward so the liquid that is located at a lower position in the cup can flow outward through the spout. One downside to this arrangement is that, as shown, the cup necessarily blocks the child's field of view as the cup is held upward for drinking.

The present invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 2-7 in which common reference numerals are used to identify similar structural elements where possible.

FIG. 2 is a perspective cut-away view of a spill-proof cup according to one embodiment of the present invention. The spill-proof cup which is generally identified by reference numeral 1, includes a container base 2 which has a closed bottom (not shown), is generally cylindrically shaped and has external threaded structures 3 provided near the top 4. In other embodiments the container base 2 can have a “pinched” shape, or any conventional shape or configuration that is known in the art of spill-proof cups and containers. The function of the container base 2 is to hold a quantity of liquid for a person such as a child to drink.

The spill-proof cup 1 includes a lid 5, which is shaped to be complementary to the container base 2 so that the lid 5 can fit over and be coupled to the container base 2. In the embodiment shown, the lower inner surface of the lid 5 is provided with internal threaded structures 6 that are complementary to the external threaded structures 3 provided near the top 4 of the container base 2. The cooperating threaded structures provided on the lid 5 and container base 2 enable the lid 5 and container base 2 to be coupled together in a fluid tight manner. In alternative embodiments, the lid 5 and container base 2 can be provided with twist locking structures, snap-on or snap together configurations, or any other suitable structure or arrangement known in the art of spill-proof cups and containers.

The lid 5 shown in FIG. 2 includes a drinking spout 7 that extends outward from the top of the lid 5 in a known manner. The drinking spout 7 is shown as having a conventional curved shape and being positioned over an opening 8 that extends through the lid 5. Liquid contained within the spill-proof cup 1 can be extracted, through the opening 8 when a person such as a child holds the cup and sucks on the drinking spout 7. The drinking spout 7 itself can be hollow with one or more openings that extend through the top thereof (See FIG. 3). In alternative embodiments, the drinking spout 7 can be cylindrically shaped, can comprise an expandable and/or flexible tube or straw or a pull-put or pop-up straw or mouthpiece, can be in the form of a well or reservoir, can be ergonomically molded in any desired shape that provides for comfort and function, or can be of any conventional shape or configuration that is known in the art of spill-proof cups on containers.

A liquid flow directing assembly is provided within the bottom of the lid 5 and includes a flow chamber 10 and a liquid flow directing element 11. The flow chamber 10 has a generally elongated shape defined by a peripheral wall 12 that extends downward from the bottom of lid 5 as shown. One end of the flow chamber 10 extends so as to be positioned beneath opening 8 formed in lid 5. The opposite end of the flow chamber 10 extends to the other side of lid 5 as will be understood from the description of FIG. 3 which follows. The flow chamber 10 defines an open channel that is in fluid communication with opening 8 formed in lid 5, and can either be molded together with the lid 5 or formed as a separate structure and attached thereto in any convenient manner.

The liquid flow directing element 11 is configured to be received in the flow chamber 10 as indicated in FIG. 2 and shown in FIG. 3. Whereas the flow chamber 10 is made from a substantially rigid material such as a rigid or semi-rigid plastic, the liquid flow directing element 11 is made from a resilient or flexible material such as an elastomeric material, a thermoplastic elastomer, silicone, soft rubber or the like which will allow the liquid flow directing element 11 to form a sufficient seal against the flow chamber 10 so that liquid under a suction force will flow in a desired direction as discussed below.

The liquid flow directing element 11 includes a bottom 13 and a peripheral wall 14 that extends upward from the bottom 13 as shown in FIG. 2. The peripheral wall 14 of the liquid flow directing element 11 is configured to be received within the peripheral wall 12 of the flow chamber 10 and sized to form a sufficient seal against the peripheral wall 12 of the flow chamber 10 to ensure that liquid under a suction force will flow in a desired direction as discussed below.

The embodiment of the liquid flow directing element shown in FIG. 2 includes a tab 15 that will allow the liquid flow directing element 11 to be separated from the flow chamber for purposes of cleaning the elements of the cup. For practical purposes, the tab 15 should be located near an end of the liquid flow directing element 11 because it will be easier to pull one end of the liquid flow directing element 11 from the flow chamber 10 than pull both ends but simultaneously.

In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 2, the end of the flow chamber 10 which is opposite the end that extends under opening 8 is provided with a notch 16 and the corresponding end of the liquid flow directing element 11 (as shown in FIG. 2) has a concave shape as illustrated. These two structures, which can be used together or separately, provide a liquid inlet 20 (See FIG. 3) through which liquid within the spill-proof cup 1 can flow into flow chamber 10 as will now be described in detail.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 2. In FIG. 3 the lid 5 is coupled onto the container base 2 by the cooperation of the threaded structures 3 and 6. As shown, a gasket 17 can be provided in lid 5 to ensure a fluid tight seal between the lid 5 and container base 2.

In order to drink from the spill-proof cup, the cup is positioned as shown FIG. 3 so that the spout 7 is at an upper portion of the lid 5. Liquid 18 in the spill-proof cup 1 settles to a lower portion of the container base 2 in this orientation of the spill-proof cup 1. As a person 19 applies a suction force to the spout 7 on lid 5, a vacuum is created in flow chamber 10 which is sealed except at the opening 8 that is in fluid communication with spout 7 and the liquid inlet 20 which is position at a lower portion of the flow chamber 10 in the illustrated orientation.

The vacuum created in the flow chamber 10 causes liquid 18 within the container base 2 to be drawn into flow chamber 10 through liquid inlet 20. As liquid within the flow chamber 10 is withdrawn or drank from spout 7, additional liquid is drawn into flow chamber 10 through liquid inlet 20 to replace the liquid in flow chamber 10 as long as a person 19 applies a suction force to the spout 7.

The embodiment of the invention depicted in FIGS. 2 and 3 does not include an air vent. Accordingly, when a person 19 ceases applying the suction force to the spout 7, the vacuum which is now distributed into container base 2 causes air to be drawn through spout 7 and flow chamber 10 and into container base 2 to equalize the pressure in the container base 2 with the ambient pressure.

FIG. 4 is a perspective cut-away view of a spill-proof cup according to another embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 5 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 4. The spill-proof cup of FIGS. 4 and 5 includes an air vent 21 that extends through lid 5 and is positioned between the spout 7 and a peripheral edge of the lid 5 whereat the air vent 21 is above the spout 7 when the spill-proof cup 1 is drank from as illustrated in FIG. 5. The air vent 21 can be provided with an air-permeable, liquid-impermeable membrane to ensure that liquid contained within the spill-proof cup 1 does not leak or seep out if desired.

The flow chamber 10 depicted in FIGS. 4 and 5 includes an air venting chamber 22 that extends beneath the air vent 21 provided in lid 5. In the illustrated embodiment the flow chamber 10 and air venting chamber 22 are joined together. However, it will be understood that the air venting chamber 22 can be a separate chamber from the flow chamber 10. The air venting chamber 22 and flow chamber 10, whether joined together for formed as separate structures, can be molded together with the lid 5 or formed as a separate structure(s) and attached to the lid 5 in any convenient manner.

The liquid-flow directing element 11 depicted in FIGS. 4 and 5 includes a valve element portion 23 that is configured to be received in the air venting chamber 22. As discussed above, the liquid flow directing element 11 is made from a resilient or flexible material such as an elastomeric material, a thermoplastic elastomer, silicone, soft rubber or the like which will allow the liquid flow directing element 11 to form a sufficient seal against the flow chamber 10 so that liquid under a suction force will flow in a desired direction as discussed below. In addition, the valve element portion 23 of the liquid flow directing element 11 forms a sufficient seal against the air venting chamber 22, so that when a sufficient vacuum is created in the container base 2, ambient air is allowed to enter the container base 2 through the air vent 21 and equalize the pressure (vacuum) in the container base 2 as discussed below.

The valve element portion 23 of the liquid flow directing element 11 in provided with a slit 24 which allows for air to pass therethrough as discussed below. The slit 24 can have an “X”-shape, a “Y”-shape or any suitable shape and comprise a plurality of slits.

Whereas the valve element portion 23 is depicted as being integral with the flow directing element 11, it is to be understood that the valve element portion 23 and the flow directing element 11 can be formed as separate structural elements as can the air venting chamber 22 and the flow chamber 10. However, providing the valve element portion 23 and the flow directing element 11 as an integral structural element reduces the number of pieces that have to be handled, e.g. removed and replaced, when the spill-proof cup 1 of the present invention is cleaned after being used. In addition, providing the valve element portion 23 and the flow directing element 11 as an integral structural element avoids providing a separate valve element portion 23 which could be relatively small so as to pose a potential choking hazard.

In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 4 (and FIG. 6), the end of the flow chamber 10 which is opposite the end that extends under opening 8 is provided with a notch 16 and the corresponding end of the liquid flow directing element 11 includes an alignment structure 9 that is configured to be received in notch 16.

In order to drink from the spill-proof cup depicted in FIGS. 4 and 5, the cup is positioned as shown FIG. 5 so that the spout 7 is at an upper portion of the lid 5. Liquid 18 in the spill-proof cup 1 settles to a lower portion of the container base 2 in this orientation of the spill-proof cup 1. As a person 19 applies a suction force to the spout 7 on lid 5, a vacuum is created in flow chamber 10 which is sealed except at the opening 8 that is in fluid communication with spout 7 and the liquid inlet 20 which is position at a lower portion of the flow chamber 2 in the illustrated orientation and at the air venting chamber 22 where at valve element portion 23 of the flow directing element 11 controls the venting or ambient air.

The vacuum created in the flow chamber 10 causes liquid 18 within the container base 2 to be drawn into flow chamber 10 through liquid inlet 20. As liquid within the flow chamber 10 is withdrawn or drank from spout 7, additional liquid is drawn into flow chamber 10 through liquid inlet 20 to replace the liquid in flow chamber 10 as long as a person 19 applies a suction force to the spout 7.

As the vacuum within the base container 2 increases, the valve element portion 23 of the flow directing element 11 opens up and allows ambient air to be drawn through air vent 21 into the base container 2, thereby equalizing the pressure within the base container 2.

As depicted in FIG. 5, the flow chamber 10 and air venting chamber 22 can be in fluid communication with one another. In alternative embodiment, the flow chamber 10 and air venting chamber 22 can be isolated from one another, except for their mutual fluid communication with base container 2 via the liquid inlet 20 and valve element portion 23 of the flow directing element 11.

FIG. 6 is a perspective cut-away view of a spill-proof cup according to another embodiment of the present invention. FIG. 7 is a cross-sectional view of the top portion of the spill-proof cup of FIG. 6. The embodiment of the spill-proof cup depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7 is substantially similar to that of FIGS. 4 and 5. However, in the embodiment of the invention depicted in FIGS. 6 and 7 the flow directing element 11 is provided with a one-way valve element 25 that is configured to create a seal between the spout 7 and the flow chamber 10. The one-way valve element 25 is shown in FIGS. 6 and 7 as being formed as a portion of the flow directing element 11 and is configured to be a type of flap-valve. The one-way valve element 25 has a free end 26 that is configured to seal against a lower internal portion of the spout 7 as shown in FIG. 7 under normal conditions. When a suction force is applied to the spout 7, the one-way valve elements 25 will resiliently deflect upward from the position depicted in FIG. 7 thereby allowing liquid to pass thereby and out of spout 7. Once suction is stopped, the one-way valve 25 returns to the position depicted in FIG. 7. In this “closed” position, the one-way valve 25 prevents liquid from leaking or seeping out of spout 7 when the spill-proof cup 1 is not in use.

It is to be understood that the one-way valve 25 can be incorporated in any position within flow chamber 10 between the spout 7 and liquid inlet 20. Moreover, the one-way valve 25 can be incorporated into the spout 7 and/or the liquid inlet 20 if desired. Further, the structure or type of one-way valve is not limited to that shown in FIGS. 6 and 7. In this regard other conventional one-way valve structures could be used including duck bill valves, flapper valves, ball check valves, etc.

As shown in FIGS. 3, 5 and 7, when the spill-proof cups of the present invention are used, i.e. drank from, the user's field of vision is not appreciably obscured. This makes the spill-proof cups of the present invention well suitable for use for young children, particularly toddlers who often try to drink while learning to walk, as well as drivers, runners and other whose field of vision should not be obscured or blocked while drinking.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to particular means, materials and embodiments, from the foregoing description, one skilled in the art can easily ascertain the essential characteristics of the present invention and various changes and modifications can be made to adapt the various uses and characteristics without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as described above.