Title:
Food storage container organizer
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An organizer is provided for holding a plurality of containers and lids. The organizer is constructed of a base section and at least one container support section for holding the containers and lids. A plurality of shafts formed within and defined by a top surface of the container support section is distributed throughout the top surface. A plurality of pegs dimensioned for insertion into the plurality of shafts is provided as well. These pegs may be fitted with a protrusion or nub, which will enable the pegs to be lockingly inserted into the shafts. Additionally, an elastic mesh loop is fitted over a plurality of pegs for holding containers and lids in an organized fashion. The elastic mesh is capable of expanding based on the number and size of the containers and lids enclosed by the mesh.



Inventors:
Krempa, Scot (Oakdale, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/436788
Publication Date:
09/18/2008
Filing Date:
05/18/2006
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47G29/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KRYCINSKI, STANTON L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SCULLY SCOTT MURPHY & PRESSER, PC (GARDEN CITY, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An organizer for holding a plurality of containers and lids, said organizer comprising: a base section; at least one container support section for holding said containers and lids, said container support section having a plurality of shafts formed within and defined by a top surface of said container support section, said shafts being distributed throughout said top surface; and a plurality of pegs dimensioned for insertion into said plurality of shafts.

2. The organizer as in claim 1, wherein said each peg of said plurality of pegs has a protrusion located at a lower portion of said peg and at least a subset of shafts of said plurality of shafts includes a corresponding notch for allowing said peg with said protrusion to be inserted into said subset of shafts.

3. The organizer as in claim 2, wherein each shaft of said subset of shafts further comprises a locking chamber at the lower portion of said shaft, said locking chamber being dimensioned as at least an arc of a ring and adapted to allow receipt of said protrusion of said peg and rotation of said peg along said arc.

4. The organizer as in claim 3, wherein said locking chamber has a raised portion located at an end of said locking chamber, said raised portion being dimensioned and adapted for receiving said protrusion of said peg, said peg having a spring assembly for exerting decompressive force between said peg and a base connected to said peg by way of said spring assembly.

5. The organizer as in claim 1, wherein at least a subset of said plurality of shafts are dimensioned as elongated slits and grouped in sets of two or more, each set of two or more elongated slits are oriented at a plurality of discrete angles relative to each other and sharing a common endpoint, said pegs inserted into said set of elongated slits being capable of traveling along any of said two or more elongated slits.

6. The organizer as in claim 1, further comprising at least one sliding assembly allowing said at least one container support section to slide over said base.

7. The organizer as in claim 6, said sliding assembly further comprising: a groove inscribed on a top surface of said base section, said groove defining a path along which said container support section is free to move; a plurality of bearing assemblies embedded on said top surface of said base section and dimensioned to support said container support section, each said bearing assembly having a ring-shaped bearing base rotatably supporting a ball bearing, said ball bearing being held in place by a bearing cap having a central oculus through which a top portion of said ball bearing protrudes, said bearing cap being secured at a lower end to said bearing base; and a pin protruding from a bottom surface of said container support section, said pin dimensioned to slideably mate with said groove.

8. The organizer as in claim 1, further comprising a plurality of uprights connected to said base and adapted for supporting a plurality of said at least one container support section.

9. The organizer as in claim 1, wherein said plurality of pegs are components of holding members, said holding members being dimensioned and adapted for holding a plurality of containers and/or lids.

10. The organizer as in claim 9, wherein said holding members are formed of an elastic mesh looped around a plurality of pegs, said elastic mesh holding members being resizable based on placement of said pegs on said container support section.

11. An organizer for holding a plurality of containers and lids, said organizer comprising: a base section; at least one container support section for holding said containers and lids, said container support section having a plurality of elongated slits formed within and defined by a top surface of said container support section, said elongated slits grouped in sets, each set of elongated slits being oriented at a plurality of discrete angles relative to each other and sharing a common endpoint; and a plurality of pegs dimensioned for insertion into said plurality of elongated slits, each peg inserted into each set of elongated slits being capable of traveling along any of said elongated slits forming said set of elongated slits.

12. The organizer as in claim 11, further comprising at least one sliding assembly allowing said at least one container support section to slide over said base.

13. The organizer as in claim 12, said sliding assembly further comprising: a groove inscribed on a top surface of said base section, said groove defining a path along which said container support section is free to move; a plurality of bearing assemblies embedded on said top surface of said base section and dimensioned to support said container support section, each said bearing assembly having a ring-shaped bearing base rotatably supporting a ball bearing, said ball bearing being held in place by a bearing cap having a central oculus through which a top portion of said ball bearing protrudes, said bearing cap being secured at a lower end to said bearing base; and a pin protruding from a bottom surface of said container support section, said pin dimensioned to slideably mate with said groove.

14. The organizer as in claim 11, further comprising a plurality of uprights connected to said base and adapted for supporting a plurality of said at least one container support section.

15. The organizer as in claim 11, wherein said plurality of pegs are components of holding members, said holding members being dimensioned and adapted for holding a plurality of containers and/or lids.

16. The organizer as in claim 15, wherein said holding members are formed of an elastic mesh looped around a plurality of pegs, said elastic mesh holding members being resizable based on placement of said pegs on said container support section.

17. An organizer for holding a plurality of food storage containers and lids, said organizer comprising: a base section having a plurality of uprights; at least one container support section for holding said food storage containers, said container support section having a plurality of shafts formed within and defined by a top surface of said container support section, said shafts being distributed throughout said top surface; at least one lid support section for holding said food storage container lids, said lid support section having a plurality of shafts formed within and defined by a top surface of said lid support section, said shafts being distributed throughout said top surface; at least one sliding assembly for allowing said at least one container support section and/or said at least one lid support section to slide over said base; and a plurality of pegs dimensioned for insertion into said plurality of shafts.

18. The organizer as in claim 17, wherein said plurality of pegs are components of holding members, said holding members being dimensioned and adapted for holding a plurality of food storage containers and/or lids.

19. The organizer as in claim 18, wherein said holding members are formed of an elastic mesh looped around a plurality of pegs, said elastic mesh holding members being resizable based on placement of said pegs on said container support section.

20. The organizer as in claim 17, said sliding assembly further comprising: a groove inscribed on the top surface of said base section, said groove defining a path along which said container support section is free to move; a plurality of bearing assemblies embedded on said top surface of said base section and dimensioned to support said container support section, each said bearing assembly having a ring-shaped bearing base rotatably supporting a ball bearing, said ball bearing being held in place by a bearing cap having a central oculus through which a top portion of said ball bearing protrudes, said bearing cap being secured at a lower end to said bearing base; and a pin protruding from a bottom surface of said container support section, said pin dimensioned to slideably mate with said groove.

Description:

I. FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to container organizers. More specifically, the invention relates to an apparatus for organizing food storage containers.

I. BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Throughout history, people have looked for methods of storing food that is both convenient to use as well as protective of the stored food. Initial food storage methods consisted of wrapping raw or prepared food with such varied materials as large leaves and cloth—all in an effort to protect food from the elements and pests. Throughout history, wood, paper, metal, and plastic materials have been utilized as wrapping materials or fashioned into containers for this purpose.

In more recent history, plastic food storage containers—popularized by Tupperware and commonly referred to by that moniker—have become a popular and common means for storing food. These food storage containers protect food against moisture and pests with an airtight seal formed between the container body and a matching lid. The airtight seal also can extend the shelf life of the food so stored.

While the use of these food storage containers has exploded, storage of the containers and their associated lids has become an ever more daunting problem for the consumer. Kitchen cabinets and drawers become packed with a clutter of assorted containers and lids of random sizes and shapes. Often times, finding a container and its matching lid becomes a frustrating, messy, and time-consuming task.

Thus, users of these containers have long tried to develop methods for storing these containers in an organized fashion.

II. SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide an apparatus for organizing and storing food storage containers.

To this end, an embodiment of the present invention includes a base section, a container support section having a plurality of openings defined by an upper surface of the container support section and distributed across the entirety of the upper surface, and at least one holding member having at least one protrusion dimensioned and adapted for locking insertion into one of the plurality of openings.

Additionally, the present invention may have a sliding assembly. The sliding assembly is inscribed with a groove on a top surface of the base section. The groove defines a path along which the container support section is free to move. The groove may be ‘L’ shaped, ‘T’ shaped, or any other appropriate shape. A pin protrudes from a bottom surface of the container support section, such that the pin slideably mates with the groove.

A plurality of bearing assemblies is embedded on the top surface of the base section as well. These bearing assemblies are dimensioned to support the container support section. Each bearing assembly is constructed of a ring-shaped bearing base rotatably supporting a ball bearing. The ball bearing is held in place by a bearing cap having a central oculus through which a top portion of the ball bearing protrudes. The bearing cap is secured, at a lower end, to the bearing base.

III. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

These and other features, aspects, and advantages of the present invention will become better understood with regard to the following description, appended claims, and accompanying drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 illustrates an embodiment of a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 illustrates a sliding assembly for an embodiment of a food storage container organizer as shown in FIG. 1 and in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2a illustrates an alternative sliding assembly for an embodiment of a food storage container organizer as shown in FIG. 1 and in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 3 illustrates a structural composition of an embodiment of a peg shaft used in a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 4 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 5 illustrates a structural composition of an alternative embodiment of a peg shaft used in a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 6 illustrates two embodiments of holding structures for use in a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 6a illustrates a close-up schematic of a portion of an expandable rigid side panel for use in a food storage container organizer, in accordance with the present invention; and

FIG. 7 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a food storage container organizer having multiple tiers, in accordance with the present invention.

IV. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF INVENTION

Referring to FIG. 1, an embodiment of a food storage container organizer 100 is shown. The food storage organizer 100 includes a container support section 102 and a base section 104 supporting the container support section 102. A plurality of shafts 106 is disposed across an upper surface of the container support section 102. The shafts 106 may be evenly spaced throughout the upper surface of the container support section 102.

A plurality of pegs 108 is provided for insertion into the shafts 106. The pegs 108 may be round, square, hexagonal, triangular or any other appropriate shape. The shafts 106 are dimensioned with a matching cross-section such that the pegs 108 are readily insertable and accepted by the shafts 106. The peg 108 and shaft 106 may include a locking mechanism as well, so that the pegs 108 cannot be accidentally removed from the shafts 106.

The container support section 102 and the base section 104 may be constructed from plastic, wood, glass, rubber, or a metal—for example, aluminum or steel. Additionally, the food storage container organizer 100 is preferably around 21 inches long by 12 inches wide. However, any dimensions that can adequately accommodate food storage containers are appropriate for the present invention.

As shown in FIG. 2, a sliding assembly may be affixed between a base section 202 and a container support section 204 so that the container support section 204 moves laterally along the sliding assembly. In this way, the food storage container organizer can be easily accessed by the consumer when necessary while also remaining unobtrusive when food storage containers are not needed. In addition, a handle 212 allows a user to easily pull and push the container support section 204 along the sliding assembly.

The sliding assembly includes a set of lower rails 206 and a set of upper rails 208. The upper rails have a plurality of rolling members 210, such as wheels or bearings. The upper rails 208 are dimensioned and disposed to rest in the lower rails 206 with the rolling members 210 contacting a surface of the lower rails, thus supporting the container support section 204.

An alternative sliding assembly is shown in FIG. 2a. A base 214 is constructed with a groove 216. Herein, the groove 216 is shown and described as an L-shaped groove, however the groove 216 may be dimensioned as a T-shaped groove or any other configuration, as appropriate.

Additionally, a plurality of bearing assemblies 218 are embedded in the base 214. A container support portion 215 is equipped with a pin 217 positioned on the underside of the container support portion 215 and aligned to slidingly mate with the groove 216. The pin 217 restricts the range of motion of the container support portion 215 to a path defined by the shape of the groove 216.

Alternatively, in order to provide additional stability, a double L configuration having a first L-shaped groove 216 and a second L-shaped groove oriented in the same direction as the first L-shaped groove. The second L-shaped groove is positioned within the rectangular area bounded by the two perpendicular arms of the first L-shaped groove 216. In this configuration, a second pin is positioned on the underside of the container support portion 215 and aligned to slidingly mate with the second groove, thus reducing rotational motion of the container support portion 215.

Further, the groove may be disposed with a cut-out (not shown) at the intersection of the two perpendicular arms. The cut-out allows the pin 217 to be positioned at a point slightly beyond the intersection. When the pin 217 is positioned in the cut-out, the container support portion 215 is in the rest position, such that the edges of the container support portion 215 align with the edges of the base 214 and the cutout prevents side-to-side motion.

Inset B illustrates an enlarged view of the bearing assembly 218 showing the components of the bearing assembly 218. The bearing assembly 218 is constructed of a ball bearing 220 seated on a ring-shaped bearing base 222 having a central cavity dimensioned to partially receive the ball bearing 220, such that the bearing is allowed to rotate freely. A dome shaped bearing cap 224 having a central oculus 226 is affixed to the bearing based 222. An upper portion of the ball bearing 220 protrudes through the oculus 226. The bearing assembly 218, thus constructed, allows the ball bearing to freely rotate in any lateral direction while preventing the ball bearing 220 from being removed.

The sliding assembly constructed as shown in FIG. 2a and described above allows the container support section 215 to slide along two axes as defined by the groove. In addition, the container support section 215 may be rotatable about the pin 217.

It should be noted that the above-described sliding assembly embodiments are only two examples of sliding assemblies appropriate for use in the present invention and should not be viewed as the sole sliding assemblies that can be used with the present invention. Other sliding assemblies and means may be employed within the scope of the present invention as well. Alternatively, a swivel base, as well known in the art, may be employed instead of, or in conjunction with, a sliding assembly as well.

FIG. 3 shows a cut-away 310 of a container support section 300 showing the internal structure of an embodiment of the shafts 302 having a locking mechanism. Herein an embodiment of a locking mechanism will be described in detail. In the present embodiment, the shaft 302 has a keyhole shape with a circular portion 304 having a protruding notch 306 at one end.

A peg 312 has a bottom cross-section dimensioned to mate with the shaft 302. Specifically, a nub 314 protrudes from a side of a central shaft 316 of the peg 312. A locking chamber 308 is located at the lower portion of the shaft 302, which allows the peg 312 and its nub 314 to rotate by at least a few degrees in a direction. Thus, when the peg 312 has been inserted and rotated, the nub 314 is positioned within the locking chamber 308. Any attempt to remove the peg 312 without first returning the nub 314 to the unlock position will result in the nub 314 contacting an upper surface of the locking chamber 308. In this way, the peg 312 is firmly held in place.

To aid in turning the peg, an indentation 318 is provided at the top surface of the peg, which can accommodate a screwdriver tip. Thus, a screwdriver may be employed to provide turning leverage to the peg 312. However, other means may be employed as well, such as providing a textured gripping area on an upper side portion of the peg 312 allowing for a better grip on the peg 312 when a user is turning the peg 312 with his/her fingers. Additionally, the indentation 318 may be dimensioned to allow a user to employ a coin for providing turning leverage instead of or in addition to a screwdriver.

In an alternative embodiment, shown in FIG. 4, the plurality of shafts 106 disclosed in the embodiment of FIG. 1 may be replaced with a series of elongated cut-outs 406, grouped into sets of three, and formed on the upper surface of the container support section 402. As in the previous embodiment, a base section 404 supports the container support surface 402. In each set the cut-outs 406, one cut-out 406a is oriented at a 0° angle, a second cut-out 406b is oriented at a 90° angle relative to the first cut-out 406a and a third cut-out 406c is oriented at a 45° angle relative to the first cut-out 406a and positioned between the right angle formed by the first cut-out 406a and the second cut-out 406b. All three cut-outs 406 are connected at an endpoint 406d.

A peg (not shown) is adapted and dimensioned for insertion into the cut-outs 406 and capable of traveling along a path defined by any one of the three cut-outs 406. A peg is provided for each set of cut-outs 406. It is envisioned that the pegs may be either removable from the cut-outs 406 or non-removably seated in the cut-outs 406.

It should be noted, however, that more, or less than three cut-outs 406 may be grouped together and that the cut-outs 406 in the group may be oriented at any angle between 0° and 180°, relative to each other.

Referring to FIG. 5, an alternative structure of a peg and associated peg shaft are shown, which may be used in the present invention. A cut-away 610 of a container support section 600 showing the internal structure of an embodiment of the shafts 602 having an alternative locking mechanism to the one shown in FIG. 3.

Herein an embodiment of the alternative locking mechanism will be described in detail. In the present embodiment, the shaft 602 has a keyhole shape with a circular portion 604 having a protruding notch 606 at one end, as in the case of the shaft 302 of FIG. 3.

A peg 612 has a bottom cross-section dimensioned to mate with the shaft 602. Specifically, a nub 614 protrudes from a side of a central shaft 616 of the peg 612. A locking chamber 608 is located at the lower portion of the shaft 602, which allows the peg 612 and its nub 614 to rotate by at least a few degrees in one direction. Thus, when the peg 612 has been inserted and rotated, the nub 614 is positioned within the locking chamber 608. Any attempt to remove the peg 612 without first returning the nub 614 to the unlock position will result in the nub 614 contacting an upper surface of the locking chamber 608. In this way, the peg 612 is firmly held in place. An indentation 618 or other means for aiding in turning the peg is provided as well.

The above-described structure of the shaft and peg are similar to those described in FIG. 3. However, the present embodiment of the shaft 602 and peg 612 has several essential differences. The bottom portion of the peg 612 includes a base 622 connected to the central shaft 616 by a connecting member 620. A spring (not shown), or other material having a spring effect, is disposed within the central shaft 616 and contacts an upper portion of the connecting member 620. The spring exerts a downward force on the base 622 by way of the connecting member 620.

The locking chamber 608 of the present invention has a raised portion 624 into which the nub 614 is received when the peg 612 is in the locked position. The spring-base assembly (i.e., spring, connecting member 620 and base 622) allows the peg 612 to be compressed such that the nub 614 enters the locking chamber 608. The peg 612 is then rotated until it is aligned with the raised portion 624. Once so aligned, the compressed spring decompresses and elevates the nub 614 into the raised portion 624. In this position, the peg 612 cannot be pulled straight out of the shaft 602, or rotated. In order to remove the peg 612, the peg 612 must be pushed down first and then rotated.

Above, the pegs have been described as individual structures; however, the pegs as described above may be incorporated into a box or other structure dimensioned for holding and compartmentalizing food storage containers and container lids, as shown in FIG. 6.

Referring to FIG. 6, two types of holding structures are shown. A first holding structure employs a set of pegs 704 of the type described previously and an elastic mesh loop 702, or band. The elastic mesh 702 is stretched around the perimeter formed by the set of pegs to form an enclosed compartment. The size of the compartment can be varied by moving the position of the individual pegs.

An alternative elastic mesh type support structure may be formed from a closed loop of elastic mesh that can be slipped over a set of two pegs. The two pegs may be spaced apart by a distance determinable by a user's specific needs. The elastic mesh is free to stretch in opposing directions perpendicular to the axis formed by the two pegs.

A second holding structure employs a plurality of pegs 710, positioned one at each corner of a rectangular enclosure 708. Unlike the elastic mesh-based holding structure, the second holding structure has rigid sides. However, the sides of the second holding structure may be constructed as shown in FIG. 6a such that the second holding structure may be expandable.

Specifically, each of at least two opposing sides of the second holding may be formed from a first side portion 712 and a second side portion 714. The first side portion 712 having an essentially ‘C’ shaped cross section 716 dimensioned to slideably receive the second side portion 714. The second side portion 714 can slide back and forth within the channels 716a and 716b formed by the ‘C’ cross section 716 of the first side portion 712.

In FIG. 6, the first holding structure is shown placed on a portion of the container support section having the elongated cutouts 706, as illustrated in FIG. 4 and described previously. While the cutouts 706 allow for easier resizing of the compartment formed by the elastic mesh loop 702, this holding structure can be used in conjunction with the peg shafts described above and shown in FIG. 1 equally well. Additionally, it should be noted that the present invention does not limit the holding structures to just rectangular shapes. The holding structures can be shaped and dimensioned as necessary to provide appropriate and efficient organization of food storage containers and lids.

Additionally, other forms of holding structures may be used. For example, a set of pegs, constructed as described above, may be arranged on the container support section such that food storage containers and lids may be placed between the pegs with the pegs providing support for the food storage containers and lids so that the food storage containers and lids are unable to move laterally.

Another embodiment of the present invention is a multi-level organizer 800 as shown in FIG. 7. The multi-level organizer 800 has a base 802 supporting a first organizing shelf 804 and a second organizing shelf 806. To allow easy access to the containers stored in the first organizing shelf 804, a sliding assembly is provided that allows the first organizing shelf 804 to slide outward. A plurality of uprights 808 is connected to the base 802 and supports the second organizing shelf 806 above the first organizing shelf 804. Additionally, a second sliding assembly may be provided for allowing the second organizing shelf 806 to slide outward as well. The first organizing shelf 804 and the second organizing shelf 806 are constructed as described above and shown in FIGS. 1 and 4.

Alternatively, the uprights 808 may be foldably constructed, allowing the second organizing shelf 806 to be folded down towards the first organizing shelf 804. The uprights may also be disposed at an angle, such that an upright may be anchored at diagonal corners.

It should be noted that while the present invention has been described as a structure for holding food storage containers, the inventive structure may be used for holding other types of containers, such as pots and pans, boxes, etc. and therefore, should more accurately be considered as a structure for holding objects in an organized fashion.

Further, the present invention allows the container support section to be removed from the base section and used independently of the base section.

The described embodiments of the present invention are intended to be illustrative rather than restrictive, and are not intended to represent every embodiment of the present invention. Various modifications and variations can be made without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as set forth in the following claims both literally and in equivalents recognized in law.





 
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