Title:
Reusable beverage container
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A beverage container has a body with a hollow interior. A spout is positioned at one end of the body and is configured to selectively dispense liquid from the interior of the body. The body also has a closed end opposite the one end. A seam is formed on the body between a first body section and a second body section and the two body sections are separable from one another along the seam. A liquid-tight seal is formed along the seam. Each body section is configured to define a part of the hollow interior of the body and to directly contact a liquid held in the hollow interior. A mechanism on the container can be manipulated to secure the body sections together sufficient to maintain the liquid-tight seal along the seam and to permit separation of the two body sections exposing their respective interior surfaces.



Inventors:
Mckinney, Larry T. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Connelly, Jacob (Concord, NC, US)
Hull, Kenneth W. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Cunningham, Ian W. (Huntersville, NC, US)
Application Number:
11/526559
Publication Date:
09/04/2008
Filing Date:
09/21/2006
Assignee:
Rubbermaid Incorporated (Huntersville, NC, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
220/4.24
International Classes:
B65D8/18; B65D6/28; B65D90/02
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
BRADEN, SHAWN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lempia Summerfield Katz LLC (Chicago, IL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A beverage container comprising: a body having an upper end, a lower end, a liquid containing hollow interior, and two body sections that can be separated from one another, each of the two body sections having an interior surface that defines a portion of the hollow interior of the body; a seam formed between the two body sections when assembled; a liquid-tight seal along the seam; a drinking spout near the upper end of the body; and a mechanism on the body that removably secures the two body sections together sufficient to maintain the liquid-tight seal and that can be manipulated to permit separation of the two body sections exposing their respective interior surfaces.

2. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the seam extends around a perimeter of the body from the upper end to the lower end.

3. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein one of the two body sections is a male section and has a primary wall and a perimeter rim extending from an edge of the primary wall and the other of the two body sections is a female section and also has a primary wall and a perimeter rim extending from an edge of the primary wall, wherein the perimeter rim of the female section overlaps and is received over a portion of the perimeter rim of the male section when the body is assembled.

4. A beverage container according to claim 3, further comprising: a gasket interposed between the perimeter rim of the female section and the perimeter rim of the male section to assist in creating the liquid-tight seal between the male and female sections when assembled.

5. A beverage container according to claim 4, wherein the gasket creates a dual seal arrangement when the male and female sections are assembled.

6. A beverage container according to claim 4, wherein the gasket comprises: a bead projecting from a surface of the gasket and extending around the gasket, wherein the bead interferingly wipes along a surface of the perimeter rim of one of the male or female sections as the body is assembled and remains pressed against the perimeter rim when the body is assembled; and a shoulder exposed on another part of the gasket and extending around the gasket, wherein an exposed edge of the perimeter rim of the one male or female section bears against and compresses the shoulder when the body is assembled.

7. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the seam extends around a perimeter of the body from the upper end to the lower end, and wherein the mechanism includes at least one fastener installed through an opening in one of the two body sections and connects the two body sections together, and wherein the at least one fastener can be removed to either expose the opening through which the hollow interior of the body can be filled with a liquid or to permit separation of the two body sections.

8. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the mechanism further comprises: a pair of fasteners installed through a respective pair of openings in one of the two body sections and connecting the two body sections together, the pair of fasteners extending in a direction generally normal to the orientation of the seam, wherein the pair of fasteners can be removed to permit separation of the two body sections, and wherein at least one of the pair of fasteners can be removed to expose the corresponding opening through which the hollow interior of the body can be filled with a liquid.

9. A beverage container according to claim 1, further comprising: a flexible strap having a pair of opposed ends, each end attachable to a side of the body, and wherein the strap can be attached to the body in a position extending over and spaced upward from the drinking spout near the upper end of the body and can be pivoted downward to provide access to the drinking spout.

10. A beverage container according to claim 1, further comprising: a pair of strap connectors, one each carried on opposite sides of the body near the upper end; a flexible strap having a pair of opposed ends; and an opening provided in each of the opposed ends of the strap, wherein the combination of the openings and the pair of connectors permits the strap to be installed in a plurality of different arrangements on the body, and wherein the plurality arrangements include 1) the pair of opposed ends each connected to a respective one of the connectors with the strap extending over and spaced upward from the drinking spout, 2) the pair of opposed ends each connected to a respective one of the connectors with the strap extending over and in contact with part of the drinking spout when in a closed position, and 3) the pair of opposed ends each connected to the same connector on one side of the bottle.

11. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein both of the two body sections are formed of a substantially rigid material and wherein one of the two body sections has a hole through a wall of the one body section below the drinking spout and above the lower end of the body, and wherein a flexible bellows is coupled to the one body section, covers the hole, and is configured to be squeezed inward toward the hollow interior of the body.

12. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the drinking spout is a push-pull spout received in a neck carried on only one of the two body sections.

13. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the mechanism comprises: at least one bolt with a hollow shaft, the at least one bolt removably securing the two body sections together, and wherein an interior of the hollow shaft is in fluid communication with the hollow interior of the body when the body is assembled.

14. A beverage container according to claim 1, wherein the mechanism comprises: a pair of receivers carried on the interior surface of one of the two body sections, each receiver carrying helical threads; a pair of openings in a wall of the other of the two body sections; a pair of guide tubes projecting from the interior surface of the other body section, each one aligned with one of the pair of openings; and a pair of bolts each received through a respective one of the pairs of openings and guide tubes, the pair of bolts each having helical threads that mechanically engage the helical threads of a respective one of the pair of receivers when the body is assembled.

15. A beverage container according to claim 14, wherein each of the pair of receivers telescopically engages a respective one of the pair of guide tubes when the body is assembled.

16. A beverage container comprising: a body having an upper end, a lower end, and a liquid containing hollow interior, wherein the majority of the body is formed of a substantially rigid material; a push-pull spout at the upper end of the body configurable to dispense liquid from the hollow interior when pulled out; a hole in the body between the push-pull spout and the lower end, the hole having a perimeter; and a flexible bellows coupled to the body around the perimeter of the hole and covering the hole in the body, wherein the flexible bellows can be pushed into the body toward the hollow interior to dispense liquid from the push-pull spout when pulled out.

17. A beverage container according to claim 16, wherein the flexible bellows is molded to the body around a perimeter of the hole.

18. A beverage container according to claim 16, wherein the body has two body sections that can be separated from one another, each body section having an interior surface that defines a portion of the hollow interior of the body.

19. A beverage container according to claim 18, wherein the body has a side-to-side width dimension and a height dimension from the upper end to the lower end, and wherein the body has a front-to-back depth between primary walls of the two body sections that is less than the width and height dimensions.

20. A beverage container assembly comprising: a body having an upper end, a lower end, a pair of opposed sides, and a liquid containing hollow interior, the body having a profile depth between the pair of opposed sides that is thinner than a width across the pair of opposed sides and a length relative to the upper end and the lower end; a drinking spout near the upper end of the body; and at least one device removably installed in an opening in one of the opposed sides, wherein the device can be opened or removed to expose the opening through which the hollow interior of the body can be filled with a liquid with the body oriented generally horizontally.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Disclosure

The present disclosure is generally directed to beverage containers and bottles, and more particularly to a reusable beverage container or bottle that can be emptied and refilled and that can be broken down for easy cleaning of the container interior.

2. Description of Related Art

There are many types of drinking containers known in the art that can be carried with the user, that can be opened, closed, and re-sealed, and that can be emptied, refilled, and re-used. These types of containers typically have a bottom, an upstanding sidewall, a neck, a mouth opening into the neck, and some sort of closure or cap. Often, the closure device is removable and can be opened and closed over the mouth opening at the neck. A number of more recent types of drinking containers have an openable and closeable, push-pull spout positioned within the mouth opening of the neck. Such containers are of the bottle variety and typically have a circular cylinder shape, are fairly tall, and have a spout carried on a cap that covers the mouth opening or received in the bottle neck or mouth opening.

When a user wishes to clean this type of drinking container or bottle, the user is often faced with a dilemma. This is particularly true for larger volume, taller bottles or containers. A large bottle with a neck and a mouth opening in the neck is typically difficult to clean by hand and may not be adequately cleaned in a dishwasher. The mouth opening is usually not large enough for a user to reach inside the bottle and/or is too tall for the user to reach the bottom and lower extremities of the interior. Larger containers also do not fit well within an interior of a dishwasher. Additionally, the large sized interior is not efficiently cleaned in a dishwasher because the opening at the bottle neck is typically relatively small compared to the size of the rest of the container. Smaller bottles may fit in a dishwasher, but the mouth openings are typically smaller, making it more difficult to clean the inside of the bottle by hand and making it more difficult for cleaning fluid in a dishwasher to enter the smaller sized mouth opening.

Thus, if the bottle is hand washed, a user will often not do an effective job cleaning the bottom of the bottle interior because of the difficulty fitting their hand inside the opening at the neck. If washed in a dishwasher, portions of the interior of the bottle may not be sufficiently cleaned. The user may choose to use a separate cleaning device to reach and clean all of the interior surfaces of the bottle. However, such a device may not always be readily available. There is simply no efficient and easy method to adequately clean the interior of a drinking container or bottle of this type.

When a user wishes to refill their beverage container or bottle, especially during some type of athletic or exercise activity, they typically must have access to a deep sink or basin or a tall faucet at a water supply. This is because the height of this type of drinking container or bottle prevents the bottle from fitting in a vertical orientation between the water outlet and the bottom of the basin at the water source. It is therefore sometimes difficult to place the opening of the bottle neck directly beneath the water source with the bottle oriented vertically. As a result, either the bottle can not be completely filled because it must be tipped to reach the water supply, or the user will have difficultly placing the opening of the bottle neck directly in the stream of the water supply. A typical example would be where a user fills their bottle at a public drinking fountain. The bottle typically cannot be filled all the way because it must be tipped to a fairly steep angle in order for the stream of water to reach the mouth opening of the bottle neck. Thus, the user may be prevented from completely filling their container.

Many conventional beverage containers or bottles have a circular cylindrical vessel or body and a removable twist-off cap. Containers typically do not come with any means for making the bottle easy to carry. If a user wants to travel with their bottle, they must find a place to accommodate the circular configuration. Often, the container has a relatively large diameter making it difficult for a user to find an adequate location for storing and carrying the container. Additionally, such bottles are often formed of flexible, resilient plastic to permit a user to squeeze the bottle to dispense liquid. If the large and flexible container is stored in a location where it can be squished or compressed against other objects, the container can deflect or crush. This can result liquid leaking from the container. If the container is formed of a rigid material, liquid can only be dispensed by removing a cap on the bottle. A vented push-pull type spout does not function properly on such rigid bottles.

Additionally, these types of bottles and containers typically do not include any type of handle or other device for carrying the bottle or for attaching the bottle to another object such as a backpack, belt loop, or the like. Thus, the container must be stored in a readily available space or receptacle on another object that is of sufficient size and shape for storing such a container. Further, because of the size and configuration of a conventional beverage container of this type, the container typically cannot be stored or carried in a pocket of an article of clothing or the like.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reading the following description in conjunction with the drawing figures, in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of one example of a beverage container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the other side of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is an exploded view of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 4 is a longitudinal cross-section of the beverage container taken along line IV-IV of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 5 is an enlarged fragmentary view of an upper fastener portion of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 6 is an enlarged fragmentary view of the lower fastener portion of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 7 is an elevation of the bottle assembly shown in FIG. 1 being filled beneath a shallow basin faucet.

FIG. 8 is an enlarged fragmentary view of the spout assembly portion of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 4.

FIG. 9 is a perspective view of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1 and with the strap arranged in one possible configuration in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1 and with the strap shown in another possible alternate configuration.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 1 and with the strap shown in yet another possible alternative configuration.

FIG. 12 is an exploded view of another example of a beverage container constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a longitudinal cross-section of the beverage container taken along line XIII-XIII of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 12.

FIG. 14 is an enlarged fragmentary view of a portion of the upper fastener of the beverage container that is shown in FIG. 13.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSURE

The present invention is for a beverage container or bottle assembly that solves or improves upon one or more of the above-noted and other problems with and disadvantages of prior art bottles and containers. In one example, the disclosed bottle assembly has a thin profile, flask-shaped or kidney shaped body. The disclosed bottle assembly also has a two-part body that can be taken apart for cleaning and reassembled for continued use. The disclosed bottle assembly also has a push-pull spout or dispenser at one end and yet can be filled easily while lying in a horizontal orientation. The disclosed bottle assembly also has a substantially rigid shell or body and yet can be squeezed to dispense liquid from the spout. The disclosed bottle assembly also has a carrying strap that is reconfigurable to a number of different, useful arrangements and configurations. These and other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent upon reviewing this disclosure.

Turning now to the drawings, FIGS. 1 and 2 show two perspective, opposite side views of one example of a beverage container or bottle assembly 20 that is constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention. The bottle assembly 20 in this example has a body 22 or shell forming a liquid containing vessel that has a relatively thin profile when viewed from the side. The body 22 has a length and width that are larger in comparison to the thinner profile or depth, when viewed from the opposite front or back sides (see FIGS. 1 and 2). In the disclosed example, the body 22 or shell has an hourglass or kidney-like tapered shape with a narrower waist region 24 positioned between an upper end 26 and a lower end 28 of the body.

The disclosed bottle shape can vary considerably and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The body can be a conventional round cylinder and yet achieve or provide a number of the features and advantages of the present invention. The body can also take on any number of other shapes and configurations and yet do the same. The present invention is not intended to be limited to only the bottle shape disclosed and described herein. However, the thinner profile shape may make the disclosed bottle assembly easier to carry, transport, and store in many instances.

The disclosed bottle assembly 20 generally has a drinking orifice 30 in the exposed tip of a push-pull spout assembly 32. The spout assembly 32 is provided near the upper end 26 of the body 22 and generally has a cylindrical neck 34. In the disclosed example, the push-pull spout assembly 32 also has a slidable stopper 36 received I the open end of the neck 34. The drinking orifice 30 is formed in the terminal end of the stopper 36. The stopper 36 essentially opens or closes the spout assembly 32 when pulled out or pushed into the neck 34, respectively.

FIG. 3 illustrates an exploded view of the bottle assembly 20. In one aspect of the present invention, the body 22 has two halves or body sections 42 and 44. The two sections are joined along a seam or joint 46 that, in this example, extends along an end-to-end perimeter of the body 40. In this example, one of the body sections is a male section and the other is a female section that slips over and overlaps a portion of the male section. As can be seen in FIG. 3, the female body section 42 has a generally planar, but slightly cupped, primary wall 48. The body section 42 also has a perimeter upstanding rim 50 that extends from an edge of the wall 48. The rim 50 is oriented generally normal to the primary wall 48 in this example. The primary wall 48 and the perimeter rim 50 combine to form a concave shape. An interior space 52 is created within the confines of the rim 50 and the wall 48 of the female section 42 and forms a part of the liquid containing interior of the bottle assembly 20 described herein.

As depicted in FIG. 3 and the cross-section of FIG. 4, the male section 44 of the body 22 also has a similarly configured primary wall 54 and a perimeter rim 56 that projects from an edge of the wall 54. The rim 56 is also oriented generally normal to the primary wall 54. An interior space 58 of the male body section 44 is formed within the confines of the primary wall 54 and the perimeter rim 56 and also forms a part of the liquid containing interior of the bottle assembly 20.

The particular shapes and configurations of the body sections 42 and 44 can vary considerably and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Additionally, the width, height, and depth of each body section can also vary to provide bottle assemblies of different liquid containing volumes. The concavity and curvature of the walls and rims of the sections can also vary from that shown and described. Further, the position, location, and orientation of the seam or joint 46 on the bottle assembly 20 can also vary and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

In the disclosed example as shown in FIG. 3, the female section 42 includes a plurality of molded buttresses 59 that interconnect the perimeter rim 50 and the primary wall 48 to add strength and rigidity to the body section. The male section 44 can include similar structural enhancing features as well, if desired. Clearly, other surface ribbing or other features and/or structures can be added to the bottle parts to add structural integrity, strength, and rigidity as well.

In another aspect of the present invention, the disclosed bottle assembly has a leak resistant or liquid-tight seal along the seam or joint 46. The features of the disclosed seam 46 are now described with reference to FIGS. 3-6. The liquid-tight seal is formed, in part, by a combination of surfaces carried on the perimeter rims 50 and 56 of the body sections 42 and 44, respectively. In the disclosed example, the rim 50 of the female body section 42 has an interior surface 60 that faces the interior space 52 of the section. The perimeter rim 50 also terminates at an exposed edge 62. The perimeter rim 56 of the male section 44 has an exterior surface 64 that faces outward opposite the interior space 58 of the section. The perimeter rim 56 of the male section 44 also terminates at an exposed edge 66.

A resilient, deformable, contoured gasket or seal 70 is carried on and extends around the exterior surface 64 of the perimeter rim 56 on the male body section 44. The gasket in this example is configured to create a dual seal that has both a “wiper” seal aspect and a “compression” seal aspect. The disclosed male body section 44 has a U-shaped recess or undercut located at the base of the rim 56 and on the exterior side of the rim. The recess 72 faces in the direction of the female section 42 when the body 22 is assembled. An annular band 74 is formed on one perimeter edge of the seal 70 and is received in the recess 72. The band 74 is thicker than the remaining parts of the seal 70 and defines an annular shoulder 76 on one face of the band. The shoulder 76 faces in a direction outward from the recess and is exposed and also faces the female body section 42 when the body is assembled. A seal bead or rib 78 is provided on the exterior surface of the seal 70 near the end of the seal opposite the thicker band 74. The rib 78 projects radially outward around the perimeter of the seal 70.

When the two body sections 42 and 44 are assembled, the contoured seal 70 effectively forms a dual water-tight or liquid-tight seal arrangement. The rib 78 bears against and slides or “wipes” along the interior surface 60 of the perimeter rim 50 around the entire perimeter of the female section 42. The interference between the interior surface 60 and the rib 78 as the two body sections are slid together creates a first “wiper’ portion of the dual seal arrangement. The rib 78 remains deformed and under compression while the body is assembled. As the two body sections are assembled, the exposed edge 62 of the perimeter rim 50 on the female section 42 is drawn against the exposed shoulder 76 of the contoured seal 70. Compression force between this exposed edge 62 and the shoulder 76 creates the second “compression” portion of the dual seal arrangement.

As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the structure and configuration of the seal between the two body sections can vary and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The gasket or seal can take on different configurations and constructions and can be formed of many suitably deformable materials, such as silicone or thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) for example. A gasket or seal can be carried on either or both the male and female body sections and can have various beads, ribs, bands, wipers, and/or the like on different surfaces to create liquid-tight interference between mating surfaces and components. In one example, the contoured seal 70 can be dual molded as a part of one of the two body sections, and in this example, the male body section 44. In another example, the seal 70 can be a separate gasket attached to, adhered, to, or otherwise installed on a part of the body 22.

In another aspect of the present invention, the two body sections 42 and 44 are held together by a mechanical device or means in order to maintain the assembly and seal and to permit separation of the body sections. In one example, a pair of removable, threaded fasteners or bolts 90 and 91, as depicted in FIGS. 3-6. In the disclosed example, the male section 44 includes a pair of fastener openings 92 and 93 formed in the primary wall 54. Each of the fasteners openings in this example is formed having an integral, cylindrical guide tube 94 and 95, respectively. Each guide tube projects inward from the primary wall 54 toward the opposite body section 42. Also in this disclosed example, the female section 42 includes a pair of female cylindrical receivers 96 and 97 projecting inward from the primary wall 48 toward the male section. The receivers are hollow, but only open to the interior of the assembled bottle, not to the exterior of the female section 42. A plurality of female mechanical threads 98 are provided on the interior surfaces of each of the receivers 96 and 97 in this example.

Each of the fasteners or bolt 90 and 91 in this example includes a shaft 100 with a first portion 102 coupled to a larger diameter, round head 104. The first shaft portion 102 on each fastener is coupled to a second shaft portion 106. In this example, the second portions 106 have a smaller diameter than the first portions 102 and include mechanical male threads 108 on their exterior surfaces. Also in this example, each bolt or fastener 90 and 91 includes a seal recess 110 positioned near the larger diameter head 104 on the first shaft portion 102. A conventional O-ring 112 is seated in the recess 110 on each of the respective bolts 90 and 91. As shown in FIGS. 4-6, the O-rings 112 are compressed against interior surfaces 114 of the respective guide tubes 94 and 95 when the bolts 90 and 91 are installed. The O-rings 112 provide a compression, liquid-tight seal at the fastener openings 92 and 93 of the male body section 44 in this example. The O-rings can be formed of any suitable material, such as silicone.

As depicted in FIGS. 4-6, the male threads 108 on the fasteners or bolts 90 and 91 mechanically engage the female threads 98 in the receivers 96 and 97 when the bottle assembly 20 is assembled. Installing the bolts 90 and 91 in a conventional manner draws the two body sections 42 and 44 together. This creates compression between the seal shoulder 76 and the exposed edge 62 of the female section perimeter rim 50. As the two body sections are drawn together, the guide tubes 94 and 95 also telescopically align with and engage the corresponding receivers 96 and 97. The tubes and receivers align and overlap one another to provide positive and proper alignment between the two body sections when assembled. In this example, the ends 116 of the receivers 96 and 97 have a smaller diameter than the ends 118 of the guide tubes 94 and 95 and thus telescope into the guide tubes.

In the disclosed example, the fasteners 90 and 91 are formed of a molded plastic material and are hollow along a portion of their length. The structure can reduce material usage and reduce weight of the assembled product. In the disclosed example, the fasteners can be formed of a durable, substantially rigid plastic material such as acetal. However, other suitable materials, including non-plastics, can also be used to form the fasteners or bolts 90 and 91 as desired.

Also, optional openings 120 can be provided through portions of the shaft 100 in each of the fasteners in this example. This can be done to permit liquid to pass through the fasteners and to enter the hollow interior 122 of the fasteners in order to increase the overall volume of the assembled bottle assembly 20. The head 104 of each of the fasteners 90 and 91 in this example includes perimeter serrations 124 to enhance grip so that a user may easily tighten or loosen the fasteners as necessary.

In this example, the heads 104 are of a circular or round configuration, but can take on many different forms and configurations and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. Also, the existence, configuration, construction, and shape of the fasteners, guide tubes, receivers, and O-rings can vary as well and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the invention. In addition, the disclosed fasteners need not be made of plastic, as noted above, but instead could be formed from other suitable materials and using any suitable process manufacturing. Many different fastener structures and alternative mechanical devices could be used to secure the two body sections together and yet achieve the performance and functional characteristics of the present invention. For example, the mechanical device can include one or more different types of bolts, straps, clips, snaps, bands, and/or the like and yet achieve many of the advantages of the present invention.

The male and female body sections 44 and 42, respectively, can also be formed using any suitable manufacturing processes and/or materials. However, the majority of the two body sections can be made from a substantially rigid material, such as a hard plastic or the like. In one example, the male and female body sections 44 and 42 can be formed of a plastic resin such as polycarbonate (PC). A number of the advantages disclosed herein for the present invention can be achieved using a somewhat flexible material for the body sections. However, in order to achieve all of the benefits and advantages of the present invention; a majority of the primary panels and rims of the body sections should be formed of a substantially rigid material that holds its form during normal usage and under normal applied loads.

The substantial rigidity of the body 22 results in a bottle assembly 20 that is resistant to unwanted crushing or deflection that might otherwise cause a leak in the bottle. However, a rigid body 22 would normally prevent use of a typical push-pull type spout. Such a spout usually requires the beverage container be squeezed to generate any liquid flow, accelerate dispensing of liquid from the container, or at least develop an adequate flow rate from the spout. Thus, in another aspect of the present invention as shown in FIGS. 3-6, one of the body sections in the disclosed example is provided with a flexible diaphragm wall or bellows in a surface of the body. In this example, the rigid material of the female body section 42 has a hole 126 centrally located in the primary wall 48 between the location of the fasteners or bolts 90 and 91. The hole is a void in the hard plastic or other rigid material of the body section. A flexible or elastic bellows or diaphragm 128 is attached to the rigid material of the female body section 42 along the perimeter surrounding and defining the hole 126.

In one example, the flexible bellows 128 is formed of a durable, long lasting flexible or elastic, resilient material. For example, the flexible bellows 128 can be formed of a plastic resin such as thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). However, other materials can also be used to form the flexible bellows within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The bellows material can be adhered to the primary wall 48 of the female body section 42 using a dual-molding, over-molding, or other suitable process. In such a process, a chemical or molecular bond is formed between the material of the bellows 128 and the material of the female body section 42 that defines the hole 126.

The bellows or panel 128 is sufficiently flexible to be depressed inward toward the interior of the body 22. Thus, a user can “pump” the bottle assembly 20, i.e., pressure inside the container is increased, to generate an adequate flow rate of liquid. When the spout assembly 32 is opened or pull out from the neck 34, liquid can be dispensed from the bottle assembly 20. the open spout allows air return to permit repeated pumping action. The bellows 128 is also resilient and returns to its static position upon release of the pressure or load.

As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the flexible bellows can be created and adhered to the bottle assembly using any number of suitable flexible materials and attachment methods. However, a dual-molding process is well suited to produce a highly durable, liquid-tight connection between the two different materials of the bellows and the body section. In this example, the term bellows is used to describe the flexible wall nature of this region of the assembly 20. The material of the bellows need not be particularly thick or thin. However, the so-called bellows should be capable of withstanding many, many cycles of an application of force and of defecting under a load that can be readily achieved by a wide range of users.

As depicted in FIGS. 1 and 4, a secondary material layer can be added to other parts of the bottle assembly 20 for aesthetics, improved or enhanced grip, or other purposes as desired. In this example, an over-molded ring 130 of a material such as TPU is adhered to the exterior surface 132 of the perimeter wall 50 of the female body section 42. In this example, the ring 130 is formed of a softer material, such as TPU, than the hard plastic material of the body sections 42 and 44. As shown in FIG. 4, when the two body sections 42 and 44 are assembled, an exposed edge 131 of the ring 130 overlaps with a portion of the rim 56 of the male body section 44. The ring 130 can be used to enhance the appearance of the bottle assembly 20 and also to mask the seam or joint 46 created by the assembled parts. The ring 130 can be formed of a softer, higher surface friction material to assist the user in gripping the bottle during use. The ring can also be configured and positioned on the bottle surfaces to assist in protecting the bottle from damage if dropped.

In this example, a part of an exterior surface 134 of the primary wall 48 on the female section 42 also includes a secondary layer 136 of softer, over-molded material, such as TPU, that overlies the hard plastic material. In this example, the material layer 136 is provided in the region of the bottle neck 34, which is carried entirely on the female body section 42, and on the part of the primary wall 48 above the flexible bellows 128. This material layer 136 can also be formed of a softer material with relatively high surface friction characteristics to enhance the user's grip. Such surface features can also be added purely or at least partly to enhance the aesthetic appearance of the bottle assembly as well.

With the above-described bottle construction, the majority of the container can be formed of a substantially hard or rigid material and yet can employ a push-pull stopper that requires squeezing of the bottle to dispense fluid from the interior of the body. The flexible bellows 128 permits such a construction. The two-piece body 22 also permits the bottle assembly 20 to be broken down to expose all of the interior surfaces of the liquid containing space within the bottle body for easy cleaning. The thin profile of the bottle renders each body section 42 and 44 relatively thin or flat when disassembled. Thus, the body sections disclosed in the present example of the invention can be easily separated and placed in a dishwasher for cleaning without taking up much space. The components of the bottle assembly can also be easily hand washed without the use of any secondary or special devices and without difficulty in cleaning all surfaces of the bottle interior and dispensing components.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, because of its unique shape and construction, the bottle assembly 20 disclosed herein can be easily and readily filled using virtually any water source, such as a drinking fountain, a sink, a shallow- or deep-basin faucet, a water cooler, a refrigerator dispenser, or the like. The bottle assembly 20 can also be filled without removing or opening the spout assembly 32. A user need only remove one of the two fasteners 90 or 91, which opens the respective fastener opening 92 or 93 into the interior of the body 22. The guide tube 94 for the removed fastener 90 or 91 is thus exposed. In the disclosed example, the ends of the guide tubes are open. However, to facilitate faster refilling, the guide tubes can also include a plurality of fill slots 138 in the guide tube walls. A user can simply orient the bottle horizontally, as shown in FIG. 7, with the fastener opening 92 or 93 positioned beneath the water source, such as a public drinking fountain 139. Water can enter through the opening and pass through the fill slots 220 and the ends of the tubes into the interior of the assembled bottle assembly 20. The bottle can be easily filled in this manner and requires very little space because of the thin profile of the bottle as well as the horizontal orientation necessary for filling the bottle. When the bottle is filled, the user simply need replace the fastener 90 or 91 into the opening 92 or 93 to reseal the opening.

As depicted in FIGS. 3 and 4, the earlier described buttresses 59 on the female body section 42 each have an exposed surface 140 that faces the male body section 44. The exposed surface 140 of each buttress includes a notch 142. The notches 142 are positioned to receive the exposed edge 66 of the rim 56 on the male body section 44 when the two body sections are assembled. These notches further assist in properly aligning the two body sections when the bottle is assembled. The precise depth and position of the notches 142 relative to the edge 66 of the rim 56 on the male section 44 can be set to limit the degree of nesting or overlap between the two body sections when assembled. The notches can act as a travel stop between the two sections so that, when the body 22 is re-assembled by a user, the seal 70 is compressed only to the appropriate degree and no more.

In another aspect of the present invention best shown in FIGS. 3, 4, and 8, the push-pull spout assembly 32 is incorporated into the body 22, and yet the body can be broken down into two parts. In order to accomplish this and yet provide a functional push-pull spout assembly, the neck 34 is provided as an integral part of only one of the body sections. In this example, the neck 34 is molded integrally as part of the female body section 42. The neck 34 includes a longitudinal opening 150 with an interior surface 152. As noted above, the neck 34 in this example has an over-molded second material layer applied thereto in an optional manner. However, no such secondary layer need be provided.

In this example, the stopper 36 is formed of a somewhat flexible, resilient material such as TPE and includes a hollow stem 154 of one diameter and a head 156 of a larger diameter at a top end of the stem. The drinking orifice 30 is provided in the head 156 of the stopper 36. An exterior surface 158 of the stem has a plurality of annular wiper beads 160 extending circumferentially around the stopper. These beads 160 are compressed against the inner surface 152 in the opening 150 of the neck 34. Thus, liquid is prevented from passing between the outer surface 158 of the stem 154 and the inner surface 152 of the neck 34 by the beads 160. A plurality of feet 162 are positioned at the lower end of the stem 154 and project radially outward from the stem. The feet 162 and the stem 154 are of sufficient length to act as a travel stop or limiter for the stem. The feet 162 bear against a bottom edge or end 164 of the neck 34 to prevent the stopper from being pulled completely out of the neck opening 150.

The neck 34 is formed on one end, the upper end, of the one of the body sections and lies parallel to the majority surface or primary wall of the body section. An interior surface 165 of the hollow stem 154 in the stopper has a diameter that is larger than that of the drinking orifice 30 in the head 156. The interior of the stem 154 is sized to accommodate a device that stops up or plugs the drinking orifice 30 when the stopper is pushed down. In a typical push-pull spout device, the stop or plug component is integrally molded as part of the piece that would equate to the neck in this example. However, because of the neck and body section arrangement of the body 22 in this example, the push-pull spout assembly 32, other than the stopper 36 can not readily be molded as an integral part of the body section. Thus, a unique spout assembly is disclosed and described herein that can accommodate the construction of the bottle assembly 20.

In this example, the spout assembly 32 is formed in three parts and can be assembled from the exterior of the body. The stopper 36 and neck 34 are two of the parts. The interior surface 152 of the neck 34 is formed having a draft angle to accommodate an external mold direction. The third part of the spout assembly 32 is a separate flow plug or post 166. The post or plug 166 is inserted from the exterior of the body section into the opening 150 of the neck 34 and remains fixed in place. The flow plug 166 in this example is an elongate, bullet shaped device with a plurality of intermediate outward projections 168, which engage with like projections 170 extending inward from the surface of the neck opening 150 when inserted in the neck. These components stop the plug from traveling further into the neck 34. A bottom end of the plug 166 embodies a “Christmas tree” type, one-way fastener or rivet. Resilient, flexible prongs 171 of the “Christmas tree” rivet project outward and upward. When these prongs pass the lower ends of the neck projections 170, the prongs splay outward to prevent reverse travel of the plug. Thus, the separate flow plug or post 166 and stopper 36 can both be entirely and easily snapped together into the neck and then is retained in place by the prongs 171, the projections 168 and 170, the bottom surface 164 of the neck 4, and the stem feet 162.

In the disclosed example, the flow plug 166 is formed of a generally hard plastic material and is generally rigid, but should have some resiliency imparted to the prongs 171 in order to be installed in the neck end and then retained therein. For example, the flow plug 166 can be formed of a high density polyethylene (HDPE) or other suitable plastic resins. However, the material of the flow plug can also vary within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Elongate, open ended slots 172 extend upward from the bottom end of the stem 154 in the stopper. The slots provide clearance for and seat around the various projections 168 and 170 to permit travel of the stopper 36 relative to the plug 166 once installed.

As shown in FIG. 8, when the stopper 36 is pushed downward to its closed position such that the head 156 bears against a top edge of the neck 34, the drinking orifice 30 seats interferingly around a nub 173 on the top of the flow plug 166. In the closed position, the interference between the nub 173 and the drinking orifice 30 prevents liquid from being dispensed from the bottle assembly 20. In order to open flow of the stopper assembly 32, the stopper 36 is pulled outward from the neck 34 to the degree permitted by the feet 162 at the bottom end of the stopper 36. The wiper beads 160 still prevent liquid from passing between the exterior of the stopper stem 154 and the interior surface 152 of the neck. However, liquid is free to flow through the interior of the stem 154 around the flow plug 166 and out the drinking orifice 30 in the head 156. The unique construction of the stopper assembly 32 on the disclosed bottle assembly 20 permits the body 22 to be separated into its two sections 42 and 44 without affecting the integrity of the push-pull stopper assembly.

As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the particular configuration and construction, as well as the materials and manufacturing processed used, for the stopper assembly parts can vary and yet fall with in the spirit and scope of the present invention. The shape and configuration of the flow plug and the stopper can also vary and yet perform as intended and as disclosed herein. The position, orientation, and construction of the neck 34 can also vary within the spirit and scope of the invention.

In another aspect of the present invention, a handle or carrying strap 180 is removably attached to the bottle assembly 20. In the disclosed example, the strap 180 has first and second opposed ends 182 and 184. Each of the ends includes a slotted opening 186 and 188, respectively. In this example, each opening 186 and 188 is essentially identical. In other examples, one or both of the openings need not be slotted and could be different from one another to provide different strap functions and arrangements, as well as optional modes of detachment from the bottle assembly, if desired.

In the disclosed example, each of the openings 186 and 188 is essentially identical and kidney or “keyhole” shaped. Each opening has a more remote region 190 that is closer to the corresponding end of the strap. Each opening also has an inner region spaced further from the corresponding strap end. The two regions in the openings 186 and 188 in each strap end 182 and 184 are separated by a tapered region or narrower middle region. In the disclosed example, the strap is also formed of a plastic resin and is intended to be resilient and flexible. In one example, the strap can be formed of a linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE). However, the material used to fabricate the strap can also vary and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention and can include other plastic resin materials or even non-plastic materials.

In the disclosed example as best shown in FIGS. 1, 2, 4, and 5, the bottle assembly 20 includes two locations for attaching the strap 180. A strap connector 200 is positioned at one location on one side of the body 22 and a strap connector 202 is positioned is positioned at the other location on the other side of the body. In the disclosed example, the strap connector 200 is carried on the female body section 42 and the strap connector 202 is integrally carried on an end of the bolt or fastener 90 nearer the upper end 26 of the body 22 and on the male body section 44 side of the body.

The connector 200 in this example includes a stem 204 with external male threads. A blind bore 206 is formed in a surface of the primary wall 50 of the female body section 42 and includes female mechanical threads. In this example, the blind bore is axially aligned with the receiver 96. The connector 200 is threaded into and retained in the blind bore 206 as shown in FIGS. 4 and 5. An exposed end of the connector 200 projects from the surface of the body section 42. The exposed end is in the form of a snap configuration including a groove 210 positioned closer to the body and a round, larger sized head 212 at the distal most end of the strap connector end 200. In this example, the exposed end also has a washer or stop around the stem and spaced from the head 212. The groove is positioned between the stop 213 and head 212 and has a width sufficient to receive the thickness of only one of the strap ends 182 or 184 on the strap connector 200.

As shown in FIGS. 4 and 5, the connector 202 on the bolt or fastener 90 has a substantially similar construction in that it has a groove 214 positioned between the head 104 of the bolt and a distal most connector head 216 spaced a distance from the head 104. The width of the groove 214 on the connector 202 is sufficient in this example to permit the thickness of two strap ends such that both the strap ends 182 and 184 of the strap 180 can be connected to the connector 202, as described below.

Each of the connectors 200 and 202 is sized so that the strap 180 can be interferingly installed over the connectors. The size of the connector heads 216 and 212 on the connectors 202 and 200 are such that the heads can be interferingly received in either one of the regions 190 or 192 in each of the openings 186 and 188 of the strap ends 182 and 184. The size of the tapered middle 196 in each of the openings is limited to prevent the strap, once installed on the connectors, from moving easily from one region 190 to the other region 192 in the openings. Thus, the strap 180 can be attached to or removed from the bottle assembly 20 but is configured so that the strap is retained on the connectors 200 and 202 when attached.

The disclosed strap 180 is configured so that it can be attached to the bottle assembly in a number of different arrangements, depending upon the particular needs of a user. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4, the strap can be installed as a simple carrying handle spaced upward from the spout assembly 32 of the bottle assembly 20. To install the strap in this configuration, one end 182 of the strap 180 is snapped over one of the connectors 200 using the more remote region 190 in the one opening 186 and the other of the strap ends 184 is similarly installed using the more remote region 190 of the other opening 188. A user can place their hand under the strap in order to carry the bottle with the strap in this configuration. A user can also intertwine another object through the strap in this configuration in order to suspend the bottle 20 for the other object and leaving their hands free. The strap 180 can be pivoted to either side (see Arrows P) in this arrangement to expose and provide access to the spout assembly 32.

In an alternative example as shown in FIGS. 9 and 10, the carrying strap 180 can be configured to loop over a user's belt or the like. In this example, both ends 182 and 184 of the strap 180 are snapped over the same connector 202. The strap in this configuration can be suspended from a belt or other device for easy hands-free transport. FIG. 6 shows the similarly arranged strap 180, but pivoted downward and out of the way so that a user can access the spout to drink from the bottle.

FIG. 11 illustrates yet another arrangement of the strap 180 for which the disclosed example is well suited. In this example, the strap ends 182 and 184 are mounted to the opposed connectors 200 and 202 using the inner most regions 192 of the respective openings 186 and 188 of the strap. Employing the strap in this arrangement can retain the stopper 36 in its closed configuration to assist in preventing leaks while the bottle is transported or stored.

As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the structure and configuration of the strap 180 and connectors 200 and 202 can vary and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. The strap openings can be sized and configured to provide an insert and removal region that is large enough for free insertion and removal of the connector heads. The openings can also be configured to provide a region that is small enough so that the connector heads cannot slip through that region. Tapered regions can also be provided in the strap openings that permit forcible movement of the connector from one region to another in the strap openings without actually removing the strap from the connectors. Other configurations and strap arrangements are also possible.

In yet another aspect of the present invention, the two body sections 42 and 44 in the disclosed example will be held together relatively tightly by the gasket 70 and the close tolerance fit of the various components. When a user wishes to separate the two body sections for cleaning, it may be difficult to break the liquid-tight seal at the seam or joint 46. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 12, one example of a separation feature includes a separation tab 230 that projects upward from the upper end 26 of the body 22. In this example, the separation tab 230 projects upward from the male section 44. In order for a user to separate the two body sections, they can apply opposing forces with their fingers against the separation tab 230 and the neck 34, which is carried on the female body section 42 in the disclosed example. A prying force can be applied between the separation tab 230 and neck 34 to assist in breaking the seal and separating the body sections.

FIGS. 12-14 illustrate another example of a device for assisting in separating the body sections 42 and 44. As shown in the drawings, this device can be used in conjunction with the separation tab 230, or as a replacement for such a tab. In this example, the upper bolt or fastener 90 is replaced by a slightly modified bolt or fastener 240. In this example, the bolt or fastener 240 is in the form of a jack bolt. The jack bolt 240 has a proximal shaft 102 and a threaded distal shaft 106, similar to the prior described bolt 90. However, in this example the bolt 240 also includes an annular flange circumventing the bolt between the shaft portions 102 and 106. A groove 244 is created between the projection 242 and the proximal shaft portion 102. The bolt 240 described herein also includes a modified head 104, illustrating one alternative example of a non-round shaped head that can be used to loosen or tighten the bolt 240.

As shown in FIGS. 13 and 14, the jack bolt 240 is received through the opening 92 and the guide tube 94 in the male body section 44. The distal end of the guide tube 94 in this example includes an interior surface with an inward radially projecting rib 250. When the jack bolt 240 is installed as shown in FIGS. 13 and 14, the rib 250 is loosely received in the groove 244 in the jack bolt. Thus, the jack bolt is retained loosely attached to the male body section 44. The bolt 240 is free to rotate so that the bolt can be threaded into the receiver 96 on the mating female body section 42 as previously described.

The rib 250 and the groove 244 are loosely interlocked so that, as the fastener 240 is screwed or unscrewed, the male body section 44 is drawn toward or away from, respectively, the female body section 42 without additional force applied by the user. Thus, the jack bolt 240 performs the separating function simply by loosening the bolt 240 relative to the receiver 96. When the body 22 is assembled, the jack bolt 240 can also assist the user in assuring that the two body sections 42 and 44 are properly joined and sealed because the fastener will draw the male body section 44 toward the female body section 42 by virtue of the loosely interlocked rib 250 and groove 244.

As will be evident to those having ordinary skill in the art, the means, structures, and methods for separating the two body sections of a bottle assembly 20 constructed in accordance with the teachings of the present invention can vary considerably and yet fall within the spirit and scope of the present invention. A number of different mechanisms and devices can be employed on various parts of the assembly to assist the user in either assembling or separating the body sections. In the disclosed example of FIGS. 12-14, the lower fastener 91 can be considered to be the fill bolt, as it can be removed without separating the two body sections in order to permit filling the bottle assembly interior. Once installed, the bolt 240 will tend to remain fixed to the male body section 44 and thus will not be readily removable. In order to install and remove the bolt as needed, the openings 220 in the guide tube 94 can extend all the way to the distal end of the tube. This can permit the separated segments of the tube to splay outward, allowing the bolt 240 to be inserted and the rib 250 to seat in the groove 242. Removal of the bolt can be done in reverse.

Although certain beverage containers have been described herein in accordance with the teachings of the present disclosure, the scope of coverage of this patent is not limited thereto. On the contrary, this patent covers all embodiments of the teachings of the disclosure that fairly fall within the scope of permissible equivalents.