Title:
Bottle Closure and Security Device in the Form of a Metal Screw Stopper With Prolonged Ring and Overlying Decorated Plastic Capsule
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The device serves for closing bottles having an externally threaded circular mouth, and comprises a metal screw stopper (14) with ring of prolonged type, and a capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) of heat-shrinkable plastic. The capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) covers not only at least substantially the entire lateral surface of the actual screw stopper (16), but also at least the upper part of the prolonged ring (20). The capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) is fixed to the metal stopper (14) with prolonged ring both in correspondence with the actual screw stopper (16) and in correspondence with the prolonged ring (20), so that a trace thereof remains when the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A) is removed. In addition to constituting a guarantee against tampering, the outer surface of the capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) can present required colorations and/or writings and/or brand names and/or designs and or reliefs, at a cost decidedly lower than if these latter were formed directly on the metal stopper (14).



Inventors:
Macchi, Francesco Piero (Varese, IT)
Application Number:
11/914545
Publication Date:
08/14/2008
Filing Date:
05/31/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
215/364
International Classes:
B65D39/08; B65D39/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
SMALLEY, JAMES N
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Los Angeles-LADAS & PARRY (LOS ANGELES, CA, US)
Claims:
1. A closure device for bottles having an externally threaded circular mouth, and comprising: a metal screw stopper (14) with ring of prolonged type; a capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) of heat-shrinkable plastic; characterised in that the capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) covers not only at least substantially the entire lateral surface of the actual screw stopper (16), but also at least the upper part of the prolonged ring (20), and that the capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) is fixed to the metal stopper (14) with prolonged ring both in correspondence with the actual screw stopper (16) and in correspondence with the prolonged ring (20), so that a trace thereof remains when the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A) is removed.

2. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the fixing between the capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) and the metal stopper (14) is obtained by using a suitable glue.

3. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the outer surface of the capsule (26) or tubular element (26A) presents required colorations and/or writings and/or brand names and/or designs and or reliefs.

4. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the capsule (26) comprises a skirt (32) and an endpiece (28) which upperly closes the skirt (32).

5. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the capsule comprises only a skirt (32).

6. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A), after being heat-shrunk, is slightly withdrawn from the lower edge of the prolonged ring (20).

7. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A), after being heat-shrunk, passes beyond the lower edge of the prolonged ring (20).

8. A closure device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A) is provided with means which facilitate its tearing.

9. A closure device as claimed in claim 8, wherein the means which facilitate tearing of the capsule (26) or of the tubular element (26A) comprise a tear-off tab.

10. A closure device as claimed in claim 8, wherein the means which facilitate tearing of the capsule (26) or of the tubular element (26A) comprise at least one region in which the capsule (26) or the tubular element (26A) is weakened, in order to tear on unscrewing the actual stopper (16).

11. A closure device as claimed in claim 10, wherein the at least one weakened region is obtained by providing one or more series of through perforations in the capsule (26) or in the tubular element (26A).

Description:

The present invention relates to a closure device for bottles having an externally threaded circular mouth, and comprising a metal screw stopper of the type provided with a lower ring which—in contrast to common security rings for screw stoppers, which have a very small vertical extension (hereinafter known as “common security rings”), which only just covers a circular undercut provided on the bottle neck—extends significantly downwards (hereinafter known as “prolonged ring”), well beyond said undercut, to hence cover a substantial part of the bottle neck.

An aluminium closure device of this type (i.e. with a prolonged security ring), known for at least 30 years, is produced by the French company Pechiney and known by the brand name STELVIN or STELCAP. In this closure device the prolonged security ring (as in the case of common security rings for screw stoppers) form one piece with the screw stopper itself via a series of angularly equidistant connection teeth, obtained by forming coplanar circular slits of equal angular extension in the device, which define said teeth. These teeth tear on unscrewing the screw stopper because the security ring is unable to follow the movement of the actual stopper consequent on its unscrewing, as the ring adheres to said undercut. Consequently, if said teeth are found not to be integral, this indicates that the bottle has been previously opened, while the presence of integral teeth is the proof that the bottle contents have not been violated.

As stated in WO2004/039686A1, the proprietor of which is the same as of the present application, it can happen that said teeth (of rings both of the common type and of the prolonged type) can tear on applying the bottle closure device, so that it no longer constitutes a guarantee. Moreover if distracted, the consumer may not notice that this closure device has been violated. In this respect, a person wishing to tamper with the said closure device, for example to alter the bottle contents or to abusively refill an already emptied bottle (possible with a less valuable liquid or even with a noxious product), the person could make the two sets of lacerated tooth fragments (one on the ring and one on the actual stopper) coincide, this being easily achieved by suitably rotating the ring after fully tightening the stopper. In this case in unscrewing the stopper, an inattentive consumer would probably not notice that the bottle has been tampered with.

It should also be noted that for a long time there have existed metal screw stoppers with a prolonged security ring having its outer surface variously coloured and/or presenting writings and/or designs and/or brand names and the like (hereinafter, for simplicity the term “decorations” will be used in this respect, this all-inclusive term to include all of the aforesaid), this however considerably increasing production costs.

This result is obtained starting from a circular aluminium sheet of suitable thickness (possibly pre-treated with a primer) which is deep drawn to obtain an element roughly in the form of an inverted cup, the required decorations (in the aforestated sense) then being applied to the outer surface of this deep-drawn element, a complicated and costly operation. To obtain the screw stopper with a prolonged ring, the cup-shaped metal element obtained in this manner (already provided with knurling facilitating unscrewing, with cuts forming the tearable teeth, and with an upper groove enabling the internal seal gasket to be applied) is then drawn over the end of the relative bottle with externally threaded mouth and then, using conventional threading techniques, is made to adhere to the bottle both by forming on the stopper a thread matching that of the mouth, and by making the prolonged ring adhere to the undercut and to the relative part of the bottle neck.

If decorations are to be obtained only on the upper circular surface of the screw stopper with prolonged ring, a variant of the aforedescribed procedure is used, by which only the central part of the circular starting sheet is initially decorated, i.e. that which, following deep-drawing, will become the upper central surface of the stopper, the subsequent steps being identical to those of the previous procedure. Although less costly than the preceding, this second method is still of high cost, which has to be added to the already high basic cost of this type of closure device. This means that to be able to use a screw stopper of this type at a cost which does not exceed marketable cost, high production must be guaranteed.

An object of the present invention is therefore to provide a closure device, comprising a screw stopper with prolonged ring, which makes any tampering evident.

Another object is to provide a closure device of the aforesaid type which is provided with decorations at least on its outer lateral surface, but also if required on the upper surface of the stopper, at a cost decidedly less than that in the case of known closure devices of this type; or, in other words, which has a commercially acceptable cost even if the number of pieces to be produced is not particularly high.

Before describing how said object is attained, it should be noted that from WO2004/039686A1 it is known to cover a screw stopper without security ring with a capsule or a tubular element of plastic material or metal foil, the capsule or tubular element extending below the lower edge of the screw stopper and being made to adhere to the bottle neck. Consequently to gain access to the bottle contents the capsule or tubular element must be torn, hence these latter themselves constitute the security device, their tearing not being able to pass unobserved and being easily achieved by any consumer, especially if appropriate means are provided which, besides facilitating this tearing, make any unscrewing of the stopper evident. These means are for example the well known tear-off tab, or weakened lines or regions provided in the capsule or tubular element (for example obtained by a series of through perforations or slits). The tubular element or capsule covers only the lateral surface of the screw stopper and part of the bottle neck, but not the circular upper surface of the screw stopper. If the capsule or tubular element is of plastic, this latter is of heat-shrinkable type, so that optimal adherence of the capsule or tubular element to the screw stopper and to the bottle neck are obtained by simply heating. For further details reference should be made to the text of WO2004/039686A1. Using the teachings of this latter, the drawbacks of closure devices in the form of a screw stopper with a common security ring have been overcome, these drawbacks also being stated in WO2004/039686A1.

Returning to the initially stated object, this is attained by the closure device of the present invention, comprising:

a metal screw stopper with ring of prolonged type;

a capsule or tubular element of heat-shrinkable plastic;

characterised in that the capsule or tubular element covers not only at least substantially the entire lateral surface of the actual screw stopper, but also at least the upper part of the prolonged ring, and that the capsule or tubular element is fixed to the metal stopper with prolonged ring both in correspondence with the actual screw stopper and in correspondence with the prolonged ring, so that a trace thereof remains when the capsule or tubular element is removed.

Conveniently, this fixing between the capsule or tubular element and the metal stopper is obtained by using a suitable glue. It will be apparent that the connection obtained between the screw stopper and capsule or tubular element by heat-shrinkage alone is not sufficient to guarantee no tampering. In fact, under such conditions the tamperer could remove the capsule or tubular element and sell the bottle without this after tampering with the bottle contents. The use of a suitable glue (for example) means that if the capsule or tubular element is removed, residues of glue or even of the capsule or tubular element remain, so demonstrating tampering.

The second aforesaid object is attained by the closure device of the present invention, wherein the outer surface of the capsule or tubular element presents required colorations and/or writings and/or brand names and/or designs and or reliefs, i.e. the aforesaid “decorations”.

Although the aforespecified closure device comprises one piece (the capsule or tubular element of heat-shrinkable plastic) more than the traditional metal stopper with a prolonged ring carrying “decorations” on its outer surface, the fact that it is the added capsule or tubular element which carries these “decorations” means that production costs can be significantly reduced, so making the device of the present invention also competitive for production runs comprising a relatively small number of pieces. In this respect, the formation of “decorations” on a plastic capsule or tubular element is much less costly than in the case of traditional “decorated” metal screw stoppers with a prolonged ring. In contrast to these latter, the device of the invention offers maximum guarantee against tampering (as previously explained).

As will be apparent, the aforespecified solution is of extreme simplicity, such as to seem banal to a non-expert of the art. However remembering that the bottle closure device of STELVIN or STELCAP brand has existed for decades, and the fact that it is decidedly costly (so that the expert of the art had an incentive to find more economical solutions), and that plastic capsules or tubular elements for bottles have also been used for decades, it must be recognized that the solution of the present invention is not obvious.

With regard to the procedure for applying the closure device of the present invention to a bottle with an externally threaded mouth, the procedure described in WO2004/039686A1 can be conveniently applied. Specifically, a unit is produced consisting of the deep-drawn metal element of inverted cup-shaped—which (after threading) gives rise to the metal screw stopper with prolonged ring—and a capsule or tubular element of heat-shrinkable plastic previously glued to the deep-drawn metal element both in correspondence with the actual stopper and in correspondence with the prolonged ring—with the capsule or tubular element possibly presenting the required “decorations”—already mounted on the deep-drawn metal element. Consequently the user can apply this unit directly to the threaded-mouthed bottle using usual equipment and machines, to then proceed to the threading and possible heat shrinkage of the capsule or tubular element (as explained in WO2004/039686A1), all operations which can be carried out by known automatic high productivity machines (for example those utilized for applying the screw stopper of the brand name STELVIN or STELCAP). As the application of the capsule or tubular element involves heat-shrinkage, in designing the “decorations” to be present on the capsule account must be taken of the consequent dimension variations.

The invention will be more apparent from the ensuing description of two embodiments thereof given by way of example. In this description reference is made to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is an axial vertical section through a deep-drawn metal element from which a screw stopper with a prolonged ring is obtained;

FIG. 2 is an axial vertical section through a heat-shrinkable plastic capsule to be superposed on the deep-drawn element of FIG. 1, the capsule not yet having been subjected to final heat shrinkage and having dimensions which enable it, after final heat shrinkage, to entirely cover the actual screw stopper and the entire lateral surface of the prolonged ring;

FIG. 3 is an axial vertical section through a bottle neck with externally threaded mouth, to which a device of the present invention, obtained using the deep-drawn element of FIG. 1 and the capsule of FIG. 2, has already been applied;

FIG. 4 shows a tubular element of heat-shrinkable plastic, used if only the lateral surface of the screw stopper and the relative prolonged ring are to be covered;

FIG. 5 is similar to FIG. 3, but with the difference that the closure device shown therein is provided with the tubular element of FIG. 4.

It should be noted that in the figures the thicknesses are shown greater than the actual thicknesses for reasons of clarity.

As already stated, the closure device of the present invention is formed starting from a circular metal sheet (for example of aluminium) of suitable diameter, which is then deep-drawn in traditional manner to obtain an element of inverted cup-shaped such as that indicated by 10 in FIG. 1, already presenting coplanar circular cuts to define conventional tearable teeth 18. When mounted about the upper end of a bottle provided with an externally threaded mouth (such as that the neck 12 of which is shown in vertical cross-section in FIG. 3), conventional threading or screwing techniques are used to give rise to a metal screw stopper with a prolonged ring, this combination being indicated by 14 in said figure. By these techniques the thread is formed in the actual stopper (indicated by 16) and this latter is made to adhere to the annular undercut 24 (FIG. 3) with which standard bottles with a screw stopper are provided, the ring 20 extending considerably downwards (as in the case of the said screw closure device known by the brand name STELVIN or STELCAP) and adhering to the bottle neck 12. The ring 20 is consequently connected to the actual stopper 16 by conventional angularly equidistant teeth (not shown in detail in the figures for simplicity, given that they are universally known), to be torn when the actual stopper 16 is unscrewed.

The deep-drawn element 10 can be of any colour and hence “featureless”, however if considered opportune the circular starting sheet from which it is obtained can be “decorated” (in the previously specified sense), in particular limited to its central part which is to become the upper circular surface 22 (FIG. 1) firstly of the deep-drawn element 10 and then of the stopper 16 (especially if the solution of FIG. 5 is used, as will be seen hereinafter).

As can be seen from FIG. 3, over the stopper-ring combination 14 a plastic capsule is provided, shown in its heat-shrunk condition and indicated by 26, which in this specific case adheres to the entire outer surface (including the circular upper surface) of the actual stopper 16 and of the prolonged ring 20, this latter because the plastic capsule 26 is provided with a so-called circular “endpiece” 28, which however could also be lacking. Before undergoing heat shrinkage, the capsule 26 is as in FIG. 2, where it is indicated by 30, this figure showing that it comprises a slightly downwardly flared skirt 32 with its upper edge slightly turned to enable the endpiece 28 to be fixed to it.

Instead of using the capsule 26, possibly without the endpiece 28, the tubular element 30A could be used to obtain the closure device shown in FIG. 5, from which it can be seen that the tubular element 26A (after final heat shrinkage) covers only the lateral surface of the stopper-ring combination 14, the tubular element 26A not even reaching the upper edge of the stopper 16.

As already stated, a unit is formed composed of the deep-drawn element 10 on which the capsule 30 or tubular element 30A is superposed and then heat-shrunk, the two parts of this unit being glued together in at least one point in correspondence with the actual screw stopper 16 and in at least one point in correspondence with the prolonged ring 20, to prevent (as security against tampering) their wrongful separation without leaving traces. The bottler, on receiving this unit, can conveniently use said conventional automatic high productivity machines to obtain the device of the present invention.

Variations of the aforedescribed closure device can be produced. In particular, to obtain particular aesthetic effects, the capsule 26 or tubular element 26A can stop slightly above the lower edge of the prolonged ring 20; or the capsule or tubular element can pass beyond this lower edge, to consequently make contact with the relative part of the bottle neck. These variants are not shown in the drawings as they are totally evident on reading the preceding description and examining the accompanying figures.

The capsule 26 or tubular element 26A (as in the case of common capsules or common tubular elements of heat-shrinkable plastic) could be made difficult to tear without using for example a knife or other implement. However as stated, plastic capsules or tubular elements can be used provided with means for facilitating their tearing and indicating any tampering, or presenting at least one weakened region (in particular because of the presence of perforations or through slits), so that the capsule or tubular element tears easily in these regions on unscrewing the screw stopper, so making bottle tampering evident.

Although totally evident, it should be noted that said required “decorations” are present on the outer surface of the tubular element or capsule, on the skirt 32 and (if present) on the endpiece 28. Consequently the closure device of the present invention enables said “decorations” to be provided at low cost on a metal screw stopper with a prolonged ring, while at the same time providing maximum security against tampering.

Finally, it should be noted that although the STELVIN or STELCAP closure device must be produced in high quantity in order to achieve a commercially acceptable cost, the device of the present invention has an acceptable cost even if produced in considerably lesser quantity, hence even relatively small bottlers are able to use it.





 
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