Title:
PLASTIC CONTAINER AND SEPARATELY FORMED HANDLE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A plastic container is disclosed that includes a hollow container portion and a separately formed handle portion. The container portion includes a base portion, a sidewall portion, and an upper portion. The handle includes handle portion and an upper annular portion that is configured to engage a portion of the upper portion of the container portion. The invention further includes additional features with respect to the container portion and the handle that may be included and combined in various configurations to provide a desirable container and separately formed handle.



Inventors:
Kaminski, Christopher E. (Northfield Center, OH, US)
Caldwell, Christopher T. (Monroe, MI, US)
Morgan, Edward V. (Northville, MI, US)
Application Number:
11/841312
Publication Date:
04/10/2008
Filing Date:
08/20/2007
Assignee:
PLASTIPAK PACKAGING, INC. (Plymouth, MI, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B65D23/10; B65D25/28
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CASTILLO, KEVIN CHARLES
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DYKEMA GOSSETT PLLC (BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MI, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A plastic container, comprising: a hollow container portion, the container portion including a base portion, a sidewall portion, and an upper portion with an opening; and a separately formed handle, the handle including an upper annular portion and a handle portion; wherein the upper annular portion of the handle is configured to engage a portion of the upper portion of the container portion, and the handle portion includes an outwardly projecting thumb-receiving formation.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 29/267,170 for PLASTIC CONTAINER, filed Oct. 6, 2006, which is incorporated herein in its entirety by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to plastic containers, and plastic containers including containers that include a separately formed handle.

SUMMARY

According to an aspect of the invention, a plastic container is disclosed that includes a hollow container portion and a separately formed handle portion. The container portion includes a base portion, a sidewall portion, and an upper portion. The handle includes handle portion and an upper annular portion that is configured to engage a portion of the upper portion of the container portion. The invention further includes additional features with respect to the container portion and the handle that may be included and combined in various configurations to provide a desirable container and separately formed handle.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a side view of a plastic container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of a plastic container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention, the container portion shown in phantom;

FIG. 3 is a side view of a plastic container with a handle (shown in phantom) attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 4 is a top view of a container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 5 is a side view of a plastic container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 6 is a side view of a plastic container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 7 is a perspective view of a plastic container shown in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8 is a side elevation view of a plastic container with a handle attached thereto in accordance with an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 8A is a side elevation view of a plastic container similar to that illustrated in FIG. 8;

FIG. 8B is a partial perspective view of the plastic container shown in FIG. 8A;

FIG. 8C is an enlarged cross-sectional view of the lower handle connection area illustrated in FIGS. 8A and 8B;

FIG. 8D is a partial side view of a portion of a plastic container as generally shown in FIGS. 8A and 8B, illustrating an attachment of the handle to the container portion;

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of an open handle according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 10 is a top view of the handle of FIG. 9, shown in an open and a closed configuration;

FIG. 11A is a front view of the handle of FIG. 9, shown in an open configuration;

FIG. 11B is a side view of the handle of FIG. 9, shown in a closed configuration;

FIG. 11C is a back view of the handle of FIG. 9, shown in a closed configuration;

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a closed handle according to an embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 13 is a top view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 14 is a bottom view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 15 is a front view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 16 is a back view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 17 is a left side view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 18 is a right side view of the handle of FIG. 12;

FIG. 19 is a perspective view of a closed handle according to another embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 20 is a top view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 21 is a bottom view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 22 is a front view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 23 is a back view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 24 is a left side view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 25 is a right side view of the handle of FIG. 19;

FIG. 26 is a perspective view of a closed handle according to yet another embodiment of the invention;

FIG. 27 is a top view of the handle of FIG. 26;

FIG. 28 is a bottom view of the handle of FIG. 26;

FIG. 29 is a front view of the handle of FIG. 26;

FIG. 30 is a back view of the handle of FIG. 26;

FIG. 31 is a left side view of the handle of FIG. 26; and

FIG. 32 is a right side view of the handle of FIG. 26.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Reference will now be made in detail to embodiments of the present invention, examples of which are described herein and illustrated in the accompanying drawings. While the invention will be described in conjunction with embodiments, it will be understood that they are not intended to limit the invention to these embodiments. On the contrary, the invention is intended to cover alternatives, modifications and equivalents, which may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.

FIG. 1 generally illustrates a plastic container 10 according to an embodiment of the invention. As generally illustrated, plastic container includes a container portion 12 and a separately formed handle 14 attached thereto.

Container portion 12 may comprise, for example, a hollow, blow molded container. Further, container 12 may include a lower base portion 15 that is configured to support the container on a surface; a sidewall portion 16 that extends upwardly from the base portion 15; and an upper portion 18 above the sidewall portion 16 that includes an opening 20.

The container portion 12 may comprise a deformable synthetic polymeric material. For example, without limitation, container portion 12 may be made of polyethylene, polypropylene, polycarbonate, or polyethylene terephthalate, or other plastic material or plastic materials in combination, including multi-layer combinations.

The handle 14 may also be comprised of a polymeric material, although other materials, including those comprising one or more different polymers that are used to form container portion 12, may also be used. Also, while the illustrated embodiments show containers of several sizes and configurations, the invention is not so limited, and can be employed effectively with containers having various sizes and configurations.

An upper region 22 (shown in FIG. 1 in phantom) generally represents an upper region of the upper portion 18. The upper region 22 may include threads (such as conventional threading) or other formations (such as those that receive a portion of a cap) that are adapted to receive a closure device. Moreover, for some embodiments of the invention, the upper region 22 can employ a foil seal or other means for covering opening 20.

Handle 14 includes an upper annular portion 30 that, at least in part, surrounds and engages the upper portion 18 of the container portion 12, and a handle portion 32. In an embodiment, the upper annular portion 30 engages the upper portion 18 below upper region 22 and, in a preferred embodiment, the upper annular portion 30 is positioned so that it does not interfere with a means for providing a closure for the container portion 12, such as threading. Handle portion 32 is connected to and generally extends downwardly from the upper annular portion 30. Handle portion 32 may include one or more curved segments. Moreover, as generally shown in FIG. 1, handle 14 may include at least one radially-outward curved segment 34 and at least one radially-inward curved segment 36. Such radially-outward curved segments and/or radially-inward curved segments may curve toward or away from container portion 12. For some embodiments, handle 14 may have a vertical height H1 that is at least 0.40 the total vertical height H2 of container portion 12.

FIG. 2 generally illustrates another embodiment of a handle 14 that is shown engaging a comparatively larger container portion 12 (shown in phantom). The illustrated handle 14 includes a handle portion 32 with an outwardly projecting thumb-receiving formation 38. Thumb-receiving formation 38, which can be formed integrally with the handle portion 32, may include one or more curved portions (see e.g., 39a, 39b) that are sized and shaped to receive a portion of a user's thumb. As further generally illustrated, handle portion 32 may additionally include one or more grip formations 40, such as bumps or relatively small ridges, that extend from the handle portion. The grip formations can be configured to facilitate gripping by a user.

Another embodiment of a container 10 is shown in FIG. 3. As generally illustrated, container portion 12 can include a centerline (or central axis) CL that coincides with the central axis of opening 20. Line OD generally represents an offset distance that runs substantially parallel to the centerline CL. Line OD is offset a distance D1 about the centerline CL. In an embodiment, distance D1 is about 6 mm. As also generally illustrated in FIG. 3, a line TL generally represents a tangent line (perpendicular to the plane of the base of the container 10) of the furthest radially-outward portion of the container portion 12 on the handle-side of the container 10. As generally shown, in an embodiment, the furthest radial portion of handle portion 32 does not extend radially beyond the tangent line TL. In the illustrated embodiment, the furthest radial portion of the handle portion 32 is shown spaced a distance D2 from the tangent line TL. For some embodiments, distance D2 is at least 0.25 mm. Moreover, as also generally illustrated in FIG. 3, the sidewall portion 16 of the container portion 12 does not extend radially inwardly as far as the offset distance OD. For example, point P, which generally represents the radially innermost point on the sidewall portion 16 is radially outward of offset distance OD, and for most embodiments, should be no closer than the offset distance OD. Additionally, as generally shown in FIG. 3, when viewed in from the side, or in a similarly oriented cross section, portions of the inner side of the handle portion 32 and adjacent portions of the sidewall portion 16 of the container portion 12 may include segments that, for at least a short distance (e.g., 0.5 mm), run substantially parallel one another. FIG. 4 represents a top view of the centerline CL and offset distance OD (shown here as a solid line) for a container portion 12 according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIGS. 5 and 6 generally illustrate an additional feature that may be incorporated into embodiments of the invention. In the embodiments shown, a portion 50 of the sidewall portion 16 of the container 10 that is generally adjacent handle portion 32 include one or more recessed portions or indentations 52. The recessed portions or indentations, which may be formed integrally with the container portion 12, can be sized and configured to receive at least a portion of the fingers (e.g., the portion more proximate to the palm) and/or knuckles of a user when the user grasps or grips handle portion 32. Such a feature can permit the handle portion 32 that is intended to be gripped to be provided closer to the sidewall portion 16 of the container portion 12, and, for some applications and embodiments, can permit the user's hand to be slightly closer to the centerline CL of the container portion 12. FIG. 7 illustrates another embodiment of a container portion 12 (without attached handle 14) that includes a different form of recessed portions or indentations 52, which may be formed in-mold in the sidewall portion 16 that are adjacent to portions where a handle may be provided when formed as a plastic container 10. Of course, the invention is not limited to the illustrated recessed portions and indentations, and various other size and configurations of recessed portions and indentations are contemplated by the invention.

FIG. 8 illustrates another embodiment of the invention in which a lower portion 60 of handle portion 32 is connected or attached to a point in the lower one-half of sidewall portion 16. In other embodiments, a lower portion 60 of handle portion 32 may be connected or attached to a portion of the base portion 15. Moreover, for some embodiments in which a lower portion 60 of the handle 14 is secured to the sidewall portion 16 or the base portion 15, the handle 14 may have a vertical height H1 that is at least 0.70 the total vertical height H2 of container portion 12. For other embodiments, the handle 14 may have a vertical height H1 that is at least 0.75 the total vertical height H2 of container portion 12.

FIG. 8A generally illustrates a side elevation view of a plastic container 10 similar to that illustrated in FIG. 8. The illustrated container 10 includes a container portion 12 and handle 14 having a lower portion 60. In the illustrated embodiment, the lower portion 60 of the handle 14 further includes a means for attachment to the container portion 12, such as a formation or barb. FIG. 8A provides a partial perspective view showing the handle 14 connected to the sidewall portion 16 of the container portion 12. As generally illustrated in FIG. 8C, a portion of the container portion 12 (e.g., a portion of sidewall portion 16) may be configured to provide a receiving portion 16′ for receiving an attachment portion (e.g., barb 61) of the lower portion 60 of handle 14. FIG. 8D generally illustrates an attachment of the handle 14 to the container portion 12, wherein a barb 61 is mechanically secured (e.g., hooked or interference-fit) within a portion of receiving portion 16′ of the sidewall portion 16. Naturally, those of skill in the art will readily understand that the means for attachment is not limited to the illustrated embodiment and other forms of connection may be employed and still be within the scope and spirit of the present invention. Moreover, if desired for some applications, lower portion 60 of the handle may be additionally secured to or within a portion of container portion 12, for example, by gluing, bonding, and/or by employing a secondary treatment process, such as heat treating.

FIGS. 9-11C are views of a separately formed handle 14 according to an embodiment of the invention. FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the handle 14, shown in an open configuration. The open handle 70 includes upper annular portions 30a and 30b that combine to comprise an upper annular portion 30, and handle portions 32a and 32b that combine to form a handle portion 32. In the illustrated embodiment, upper annular portions 32a and 32b comprise two semi-circular portions, which may be integrally formed and connected together by a hinge 60. While it is possible, and often preferable, to form the handle 14 as a single component (e.g., a single molded component), for some embodiments, the handle 14 could instead be formed by two separately-formed components that are later firmly secured or connected at a position at or about the position where the hinge 60 is provided in connection with a unitary handle.

Upper annular portions 30a, 30b are configured to be wrapped around an upper portion 18 of a container portion 12. As generally illustrated, handle portions 32a and 32b may include formations that can be connected (e.g., snapped together in a positive, secured or locked engagement) to permit the handle 14 to be easily closed around a portion of the upper portion 18 of container portion 12 in a positive secured or locked manner. In an embodiment, handle portion 32a may include one or more “male” or extending formations, such as pins or connectors. For example, as generally shown in FIG. 9, handle portion 32a includes a plurality of protruding connectors 62a, 62b, 62c, 62d that are provided at different locations along the extent of the handle portion 32. With such an embodiment, handle portion 32b may include one or more corresponding “female” holes or receiving formations. For instance, as generally illustrated in FIG. 9, handle portion 32b may include a plurality of receiving formations 64a, 64b, 64c, 64d that respectively match up with and engage protruding connectors 62a, 62b, 62c, 62d provided in connection with handle portion 32a. Naturally, those of skill in the art will readily understand that the invention in not limited to the exemplary configurations shown, and other means for securing the handle portions 32a, 32b, such as alternating the protruding connectors and receiving formations on the two handle portions 32a, 32b, are also contemplated. Moreover, while mechanical means for securing the handle portions 32a, 32b are illustrated, for some embodiments, it may be desirable, in lieu of or in addition to the aforementioned means for securing, to bond portions of the handle portions together chemically, such as by employing an epoxy or glue, and/or by heat-treating a portion of the handle to further weld or meld one or more corresponding handle portions together.

Further, in an embodiment, an inside surface 31a, 31b of the upper annular portion 30 may include at least one formation, such as a notch or groove 66, that is configured to receive or engage a formation (such as a projection extending from a portion of the upper portion 18 that can be configured to engage a notch or groove), which can act as a locator to provide a means for orienting the handle 14 relative to the container portion 12 and can further serve to prevent undesirable rotation of the handle portion 32 about the container portion 12 when the handle 14 is applied or secured to the container portion 12. The invention is not limited to the aforementioned means for orienting the handle. For example, without limitation, the upper annular portion 30 may include a formation (such as a protrusion) that is configured to be received in a corresponding recess or receiving portion in the upper portion 18 of container portion 12.

FIG. 10 generally illustrates a top view of a handle of the type illustrated in FIG. 9 in both an open and a closed configuration. In the closed configuration, handle portions 32a, 32b are connected or otherwise secured together to form a single handle portion 32, and the upper annular portions 30a, 30b are closed together (e.g., about hinge 60) to form an upper annular portion 30. Upper annular portion may be configured to provide a desired diameter (e.g., D3) to snuggly surround and engage a portion of the upper portion 18 of container portion 12. FIGS. 11A-11C illustrate different views of the handle in both open (FIG. 11A) and closed (FIGS. 11B and 11C) configurations.

FIGS. 12-18 generally illustrate an embodiment of a handle 14 in a closed configuration. In the illustrated embodiment, handle 14 includes upper annular portion 30 and a handle portion 32. Handle portion includes an outwardly projecting thumb-receiving formation 38. The thumb-receiving formation 38 can be formed integrally with the handle portion 32, and may include one or more curved portions, such as portions 39a, 39b that are sized and shaped to receive a portion of a user's thumb. Handle portion 32 is also shown including a plurality of optional grip formations 40, such as bumps or relatively small ridges associated with a lower portion 70 of handle portion 32. Naturally, the grip formations are not limited to the illustrated grip formations 40, and one or more grip formations may be positioned and configured in a wide number of manners to facilitate the gripping or grasping of the handle by a user. FIGS. 19-25 generally illustrate an embodiment of a handle that is similar to that shown in FIGS. 12-18, but without the inclusion of all of the aforementioned exemplary gripping formations 40.

FIGS. 26-32 generally illustrate another embodiment of a handle 14 in a closed configuration. Handle 14 includes an upper annular portion 30 and a handle portion 32. As generally illustrated, handle portion 14 may include an outwardly projecting thumb-receiving formation 38 and, as general illustrated in FIGS. 26, 31 and 32, one or more recesses 80 that can be positioned and configured to receive a portion of a user's finger when the handle 14 is gripped.

The container 10 of the present invention thus includes a separately formed handle 14 that may be simply and conveniently and firmly secured to a container portion 12. The container portion 12 may be a lightweight plastic container that can be optimized for reheat stretch blow molding in conventional blow molding machines in a format that can permits a larger number of units to be prepared per cycle. Moreover, the separately-formed handles may also be formed using high-volume production techniques, including injection molding processes that permit large numbers of units to be prepared in an efficient manner. The assembled container is consumer friendly, easy to use and presents a stable, desirable final structure.

The foregoing descriptions of specific embodiments of the present invention have been presented for purposes of illustration and description. They are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise forms disclosed, and various modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching. The embodiments were chosen and described in order to explain the principles of the invention and its practical application, to thereby enable others skilled in the art to utilize the invention and various embodiments with various modifications as are suited to the particular use contemplated. It is intended that the scope of the invention be defined by the claims appended hereto and their equivalents.