Title:
Reusable Envelope
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention provides a reusable packaging system comprising an envelope having first and second substantially planar sides which are secured to one another so as to define a container having an open end, the first and second sides defining respective apertures there through in the vicinity of the open end of the envelope, the apertures being substantially aligned with one another and a closure member which is substantially planar, flexible and has opposing surfaces at least a portion of one of which carries an adhesive coating, the closure member being located adjacent the open end of the envelope such that the surface carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself through the apertures in the first end and second sides of the envelope. Also provided is a reusable envelope and a closure member for use in such a reusable packaging system.



Inventors:
Care, Ronald (Gwent, GB)
Application Number:
12/160236
Publication Date:
01/01/2009
Filing Date:
01/10/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
229/76, 229/300
International Classes:
B65D27/06; B65D27/12
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
BATTISTI, DEREK J
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DINSMORE & SHOHL LLP (TROY, MI, US)
Claims:
1. A reusable packaging system comprising: a. an envelope having first and second substantially planar sides which are secured to one another so as to define a container having an open end, the first and second sides defining respective apertures there through in the vicinity of the open end of the envelope, the apertures being substantially aligned with one another; and b. a closure member which is substantially planar, flexible and has opposing surfaces at least a portion of one of which carries an adhesive coating, the closure member being located adjacent the open end of the envelope such that the surface carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself through the apertures in the first and second sides of the envelope.

2. A reusable packaging system according to claim 1, wherein the surface of the closure member carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself and the closure member is thereby irreversibly bonded to itself.

3. A reusable packaging system according to claim 1, further comprising the surface of the closure member carrying the adhesive coating contacting a surface of a side of the envelope, whereby the two surfaces are non-permanently adhered to each other.

4. A reusable packaging system according to claim 3, wherein the closure member comprises a tamper indicator whereby after adhesion between the two surfaces, removal of the closure member from the envelope will result in damage to the closure member.

5. A reusable packaging system according to claim 1, wherein at least a portion of both opposing surfaces of the closure member carries an adhesive coating.

6. A reusable packaging system according to claim 1, further comprising an insert located within the envelope and extending across at least a portion of the substantially aligned apertures such that the surface of the closure member contacts the insert and adheres reversibly thereto.

7. A reusable envelope according to claim 1, wherein the envelope comprises a waterproof material.

8. A reusable envelope according to claim 1, wherein the envelope comprises a translucent material.

9. A reusable envelope according to claim 1, wherein the envelope further comprises a protective layer located between the two opposing planar sides of the envelope.

10. A reusable envelope according to claim 1, wherein the envelope further comprises a securing apparatus to close the open end of the envelope.

11. A reusable envelope according to claim 10, wherein the securing apparatus comprises a flap extending from one of the planar sides of the envelope such that the flap can be folded over the open end of the envelope and make contact with the opposing planar side.

12. A reusable envelope according to claim 10, wherein the securing apparatus comprises a non-permanent adhesive along at least a portion of at least one planar side in the region of the open end of the envelope on the surface of the at least one planar side opposing the other planar side.

13. 13-17. (canceled)

Description:

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to a reusable envelope and in particular, a reusable envelope in which tampering with the contents prior to delivery to the intended recipient is apparent.

Currently, there exists a mailing system that makes use of placing written or printed information or letters into a paper envelope, sealing the envelope, then placing a stamp onto the envelope and posting to its destination. Once received, the envelope is opened, the contents removed and the envelope is discarded as rubbish or sometimes returned for recycling. However, both outcomes incur waste either in energy or in resources.

Multi-use envelopes exist, for example for use to carry internal post from one part of an office-based organisation to another. However, such multi-use envelopes are generally not suitable for external use and the envelopes cannot be sealed to secure the contents therein. This carries the additional disadvantage that it is often impossible to tell if the contents of an envelope have been tampered with prior to delivery of the envelope to the intended recipient, as opening of the envelope to tamper with the contents and then re-closing of the envelope prior to delivery cannot be detected by the intended recipient on receipt.

There is therefore a need in the art for an envelope which avoids becoming waste after a single use. Further, there is a need for an envelope which allows easy indication of whether the contents of the envelope have been accessed prior to delivery of the envelope to the intended recipient.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention seeks to address the problems of the prior art. Accordingly, a first aspect of the present invention provides a reusable packaging system comprising an envelope having first and second substantially planar sides which are secured to one another so as to define a container having an open end, the first and second sides defining respective apertures there through in the vicinity of the open end of the envelope, the apertures being substantially aligned with one another and a closure member which is substantially planar, flexible and has opposing surfaces at least a portion of one of which carries an adhesive coating, the closure member being located adjacent the open end of the envelope such that the surface carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself through the apertures in the first and second sides of the envelope.

The term ‘envelope’ is intended to cover all container-types having at least two substantially planar sides and is to be understood to include pouches, parcels and packages of a substantially planar cross-section as well as a substantially square or rectangular cross-section.

One or more aligned apertures may be provided in the planar sides and each aperture may be of any desired size or shape.

In one embodiment, the surface of the closure member carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself the closure member becomes irreversibly bonded to itself. Alternatively, at least a portion of both opposing surfaces of the closure member carries an adhesive coating. In either case, any attempt to remove the closure member to access the contents of the envelope will result in destruction of or damage to the closure member.

In a further embodiment, any contact between the surface of the closure member carrying the adhesive coating and a surface of the envelope results in non-permanent adhesion between the two surfaces. Alternatively, there may be no adhesion between the adhesive coating on the closure member and the surface of the planar sides of the envelope.

This allows the closure member to be removed completely from the envelope without damage to the envelope itself and so the envelope can be simply re-used by applying a new closure member to the envelope after placing further documents for transit within the envelope, such that the closure member contacts itself through the apertures in the first and second sides of the envelope.

However, it will be appreciated that even if the closure member bonds irreversibly to the surface of the planar side of the envelope, the envelope can still be reusable if a slit is made in the closure member at the point where the two planar sides meet at what was the open end of the envelope prior to application of the closure member. In this way, the contents of the envelope may be accessed and the closure member simply remains attached to the surfaces of the planar sides of the envelope. The envelope can then be reused by placing a document or the like within the container of the envelope and the open end closed by applying a further closure member in the same manner as the first closure member was applied. However, rather than the closure member contacting itself through the aperture provided in the planar sides of the envelope, the closure member contacts the outer surface of the underlying closure member. It will be appreciated that in such an arrangement, adhesive would need to be provided on at least a portion of each of the opposing surfaces of the closure member being applied over an existing closure member.

The closure member may be dimensioned to receive information thereon relating, for example, to identification of the contents of the envelope or a reference relating to the contents of the envelope, or address or identification information relating to the intended destination or recipient of the envelope. Alternatively, or in addition, advertising information or instructions may be provided on the closure member. Alternatively, or in addition, an identification or authentication stamp or mark or seal of the sender may be provided on the closure member such that tampering of the envelope contents in transit can be detected by the recipient if the closure member is either damaged or has been remove and replaced with another closure member lacking the necessary identification or authentication information of the sender. Alternatively, or in addition, the closure member may be dimensioned to receive time/date stamp information or to receive a franking stamp for postage purposes.

The closure member may be provided with nicks or other cuts or tears along a portion of at least on of its edges such that the closure member could not be removed without causing tearing of the closure member at such a nick, cut or tear along an edge of the closure member. Thus, it would be readily apparent if tampering had been attempted, even if tampering had not successfully resulted in removal of the closure member from the envelope in order to gain access to the contents of the envelope.

In one embodiment, the reusable packaging system further comprises an insert located within the envelope and extending across at least a portion of the substantially aligned apertures such that the surface of the closure member contacts the insert and adheres reversibly thereto. In this way, the closure member cannot adhere to any documents contained within the envelope and which extend within the envelope across the apertures provided in the planar sides of the envelope. This allows the envelope used to be just marginally bigger in dimensions than the dimensions of the document contained within. In the absence of such an insert, the envelope would need to be of dimensions which are significantly larger than the document being contained therein so that the document contained therein did not extend across the apertures in the planar sides.

Alternatively, if the document contained within the envelope extends across the apertures in the planar sides, the closure member may be adhered to the surface of the documents. This will not result in damage to the documents provided the adhesive used does not bond irreversibly to the documents, as the closure member may be simply removed from the documents and envelope by the recipient, and the closure member discarded.

The insert may be a separate insert or may be provided integrally with one or both of the planar sides of the envelope. The insert may be the full dimensions of the planar side or sides or may be of lesser diameter such that the insert extends across the apertures in the planar sides of the envelope, but does not extend the full length and/or width of the planar side, but is instead held in place by attachment to a respective planar member.

Preferably, the envelope is composed of a suitably durable material such that the envelope can withstand being used a plurality of times without becoming damage.

All or part of the envelope may comprise a waterproof or water-resistant material such as a plastics or rubber material or any other suitable waterproof or water-resistant material known to the skilled person. Alternatively, or in addition, all or part of the envelope may comprise a fire-resistant material to protect the contents of the envelope from extreme temperatures or fire damage during transit.

The envelope may comprise any suitable material such as, but not limited to, any one or more of paper, card, laminated card, plastics material, rubber material, durable synthetic material. It will be appreciated that this list is not exhaustive and any other suitable material known to the skilled person may be used as an alternative to or in addition to any of the aforementioned materials.

All or part of the envelope may be provided with a coating which resists permanent bonding to the adhesive used on the closure member. Any suitable release substance may be used, such as silicone or any suitable silicone based material or any other suitable release material known to the skilled person.

All or part of the material from which the envelope is composed may be opaque and comprise and desired colour or pattern. Alternatively, all or part of the material form which the envelope is composed may be translucent or transparent. For example, the whole of the envelope may be translucent or transparent, or alternatively, a translucent or transparent window may be provided in one or both planar sides to allow address or identification information provided on the contents of the envelope to be visible at the exterior of the envelope.

In one embodiment, the envelope further comprises a protective layer located between the two opposing planar sides of the envelope and adjacent at least one of the planar members. Such a protective layer may comprise a layer of padded material or a layer of strengthened material such as card or the like to provide an additional layer of protection for the contents of the envelope. This may be particularly useful if, for example, the envelope is used to carry fragile items such as compact discs or photographs or the like which may become damaged if transported in a non-protective envelope in the normal way.

The protective layer may be provided as an integral part of the envelope or may be provided as an insert which is inserted into the envelope when required. The additional advantage provided by having the protective layer as a separate insert is that the envelope may be used with the protective layer either present or absent depending on the contents of the envelope being transported. In addition, the protective layer insert used may be selected from a range of inserts, each providing a different level of protection, the protective layer being selected in dependence upon the fragility of the contents of the envelope and therefore the protection level required to ensure that the contents reach their destination undamaged.

The envelope may further comprise securing means to close the open end of the envelope. Such a closure means may be used where the closure member is not large enough to hold the open end of the envelope in a closed position to secure the contents of the envelope within.

Such a securing means may include, but is not restricted to, a zip-lock type fastener or string pull.

Alternatively, the securing means may comprise a non-permanent adhesive along at least a portion of at least one planar side in the region of the open end of the envelope on the surface of the at least one planar side opposing the other planar side.

Alternatively, the securing means may comprise a flap extending from one of the planar sides of the envelope such that the flap can be folded over the open end of the envelope and make contact with the opposing planar side. Such a flap may be folded such that it overlaps with a portion of the exterior surface of the opposing planar member. Alternatively, the flap may be folded such that it is tucked inside the open end of the envelope and makes contact with the inner surface of the opposing planar member. In either case, the flap may align with the aligned apertures in the planar sides such that the closure member reversibly adheres to the flap in addition to, or as an alternative to, the closure member adhering to itself through the apertures in the planar sides.

A flap may be particularly useful where the envelope has a square or rectangular cross-section as the flap will allow the planar sides of the envelope to meet and be secured together by means of the closure member.

Alternatively, any other suitable securing means known to the skilled person may be used in addition to or as an alternative to any one or more of the aforementioned securing means.

A further aspect of the present invention provides an envelope for use in a reusable packaging system according to a first aspect of the present invention, the envelope comprising first and second substantially planar sides which are secured to one another so as to define a container having an open end, the first and second sides defining respective apertures there through in the vicinity pf the open end of the envelope, the apertures being substantially aligned with one another.

A further aspect of the present invention provides a closure member for use in a reusable packaging system according to a first aspect of the present invention, wherein the closure member is substantially planar, flexible and has opposing surface at least a portion of one of which carries and adhesive coating, the closure member being located adjacent the open end of the envelope such that the surface carrying the adhesive coating contacts itself through the apertures in the first and second sides of the envelope.

A reusable packaging system and reusable envelopes according to the present invention minimises the waste materials associated with the mailing process. For example, such reusable envelopes may be used repeatedly for greetings cards. The envelope and greetings card may be supplied separately such that when a greetings card is sent, the envelope is kept by the recipient rather than being discarded as is the case with conventional greetings card envelopes. The next time that individual wishes to send a greetings card to another, a greetings card can be purchased (without the need to purchase a corresponding envelope) and the reusable envelope can be simply reused to send the new greetings card. Further, if the reusable envelopes are used for bank and postal account communications, the reusable envelopes can be simply re-circulated on an ongoing basis.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

An embodiment of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a front view of a first embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a further front view of the reusable envelope of FIG. 1 (closure member shown);

FIG. 3 is a plan cross sectional view of the reusable envelope of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 5 is a further front view of the reusable envelope of FIG. 4 (closure member shown);

FIG. 6 is a plan cross sectional view of the reusable envelope of FIG. 5;

FIG. 7 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 8 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 9 is a plan cross sectional view of the embodiment of FIG. 8;

FIG. 10 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 11 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope and closure member in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 12 is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 13 is a cross-sectional view of the reusable envelope of FIG. 12, with the closure member shown;

FIG. 14 is a front view of a further embodiment of the present invention;

FIG. 15A is a front view of a further embodiment of a reusable envelope (closure member not shown) in accordance with the present invention;

FIG. 15B is a rear view of the embodiment of FIG. 15A; and

FIG. 15C is a cross-sectional view of the embodiment of FIG. 15A with the closure member shown.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

A first embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 1 to 3 in which show an envelope 1. Envelope 1 comprises two planar sides 10 connected along three sides 12, 14, 16 such that the fourth side 18 of each planar side define an open end of the envelope 1 there between. The two planar sides 10 define aligned apertures 20 therein, such that the aligned apertures 20 extend through both planar sides 10 of the envelope 1.

In use, documents or the like are inserted into envelope 1 and a closure member 30 applied to the outer surface of planar sides 10 of envelope 1 as shown in FIG. 2, such that the closure member 30 obscures the apertures 20 provided in planar sides 10.

Closure member 20 comprises a sticker or label which takes the form of a blank label with an adhesive back that sticks to any paper or card form, or in this case, envelope 1. The adhesive will not stick to the envelope 1, but will only stick to itself at the points at which the adhesively coated sides of the closure member make contact with one another through the aligned apertures 20 in planar sides 10 of envelope 1.

FIG. 3 shows the envelope 1 in cross-section with the closure member 30 in position over apertures 20 in planar sides 10 of envelope 1. The position of the closure member 30 relative to the planar sides 10 in FIG. 3 shows that on one planar side 10, a large expanse of surface area of closure member 30 is provided to receive any desired information, for example, relating to the sender identity and/or address, the recipient identity and/or address, the contents of the envelope, the date/time of sending of the envelope, franking information, instructions relating to the envelope or contents, or any combination of any of the aforementioned.

FIGS. 4 to 6 show a further embodiment of an envelope 1 and closure member 30 in accordance with the present invention in which the apertures 20 are shown as having different dimensions and location to the apertures 20 of the envelope 1 of FIGS. 1 to 3. However, as in FIGS. 1 to 3, the closure member 30 is arranged such that the opposing adhesive-coated surfaces of closure member 30 which contact one another through the apertures 20 become irreversibly bonded to one another and not to the surface of planar sides 20 of envelope 1.

When the recipient receives the envelope 1 any signs of the envelope 1 having been opened or tampered with will immediately be visible because the areas where a secure bonding has occurred between the closure member 30 adhesively coated surfaces will incur damage if forced apart. Access to the contents of the envelope 1 is only possible if the seal between the rear and the front of the closure member 30 is broken. When the intended recipient wishes to open the envelope 1 the closure member 30 is simply peeled away from the surface of the envelope 1 thereby allowing the permanently bonded region of the closure member 30 (where it has adhered to itself through apertures 20) to tear away from the aperture 20 in the planar sides of envelope 1. The remainder of the closure member 30 is simply peeled away and the contents of the envelope 1 accessed. After the contents of the envelope 1 have been removed, the envelope 1 may be re-used simply by inserting the desired contents and applying a new closure member 30 across the apertures 20 in the planar sides 10 of the envelope 1. This process may be repeated indefinitely.

If at any stage the envelope 1 is to be posted, the postage stamp may be applied to the closure member 30, and thus any time & date stamp or franking marks will be removed along with the said label or labels on removal of the closure member 30 on receipt of the envelope 1 by the intended recipient.

FIG. 7 shows a further embodiment of an envelope in accordance with the present invention in which envelope 1 is provided with a flap 40 extending from one of the planar sides 20. Flap 40 can be simply folded over to either contact the outer surface of the opposing planar member 10, or folded over and inside the envelope so as to contact the inner surface of opposing planar member 10, and is dimensioned so as not to obscure the apertures 20 in planar sides 10 of envelope 1. Closure member 30 can then be simple placed over the planar sides 10 as previously described.

FIGS. 8 and 9 show a further embodiment of an envelope in accordance with the present invention in which envelope 1 is provided with a flap 40 extending from one of the planar sides 20, flap 40 being provided with a flap aperture 45 there through. Flap 40 can be simply folded over to either contact the outer surface of the opposing planar member 10, or folded over and inside the envelope so as to contact the inner surface of opposing planar member 10, and is dimensioned such that the aperture 45 in flap 40 aligns with the apertures 20 in planar sides 20. Closure member 30 can then be simple placed over the planar sides 10 as previously described, and as shown in FIG. 9.

FIG. 10 shows the envelope 1 and flap 40 in its open form ready for a letter or document to be inserted. Envelope 1 is provided with a plurality of small apertures 20 and a slot 50 dimensioned to receive a portion of flap 40 there through. Thus, after insertion of a document into envelope 1, flap 40 can be simply folded over to either contact the outer surface of the opposing planar member 10, or alternatively, flap 40 may be folded over the outer surface of envelope 1 and through slot 50. As shown in FIG. 10, a cut-out portion 45 is provided in flap 40 such that flap 40 does not obscure apertures 20 in planar sides 10 of envelope 1. As demonstrated in FIG. 10, the aperture or apertures 45 in flap 40 do not have to be the same shape or dimension as apertures 20 in planar sides 30 of envelope 1. This is also true for the apertures 20 in each of the planar sides 30—the dimension and shape of the apertures does not have to be identical, only that the apertures may be aligned so that the aperture or apertures extends through both planar sides 20 so that closure member 30 can make contact with itself through the aligned aperture or apertures 20.

FIG. 11 shows the envelope 1 with the flap 40 tucked into envelope 1 through slot 50 (not shown). A document 60 is enclosed within envelope 1 and is located between flap 50 and aperture 20 in planar member 30 of envelope 1. The closure member 30 is then positioned over apertures 20 in planar side 10 of envelope 1 in the direction shown by arrow A in FIG. 11 and is pressed into place, thereby causing closure member 30 to reversibly bond onto the surface of document 60 through the apertures 30 in planar side 10 and through aperture 45 in flap 40.

FIGS. 12 and 13 show the envelope 1 of FIG. 10 further provided with a slot 50 located in one surface of the envelope 1 and dimensioned to receive at least a portion of flap 40 there through. In use, a document or insert would be inserted into envelope 1, and flap 40 folded over and inserted through slot 50, such that the aperture 45 in flap 40 and the apertures 20 in planar side 10 of envelope 1 overlap. Closure member 30 is then positioned over apertures 20 in planar side 10 of envelope 1 and pressed into place, thereby causing closure member 30 to reversibly bond onto the surface of the document or insert.

In the embodiments of FIGS. 11 to 13, if the bond between the closure member and the document or insert is broken and/or there are tear marks on the document or insert, this will be evidence that the envelope 1 and its contents may have been tampered with during transit. It may also be apparent that tampering has taken place if the flap has been removed and/or there may be free movement of the document/insert enclosed within envelope 1.

In FIGS. 11 to 13, although the document e.g. letter may be bonded directly to the closure member, to avoid tearing of the document on removal of the closure member, an insert or blank page may be included at the front of the document to which the closure member is bonded in use, thereby providing the same tamper indication advantages, but avoiding damage to the document.

FIG. 14 shows a further embodiment of an envelope 1 which is similar to that of FIG. 10, rather than being provided with the multiple apertures 20 in planar side 10, planar side 10 is provided with a cut-out portion 20′. This has the advantage of providing additional security as a larger continuous area is provided through which permanent bonding of the closure member to either itself or an inserted document may occur.

Thus, it will be appreciated that various arrangements of apertures/cut-outs may be used in either or both of the planar side 10 and flap 40 of envelope 1, provided that at least a portion of the apertures/cut-outs provided overlap, as discussed with respect to the embodiments of the invention previously described.

FIGS. 15A to C show a further embodiment of an envelope with planar sides 10,10′ provided with respective aligned apertures 20,20′. Planar side 10′ defining aperture 20′ is provided with a flap 70 which folds about fold-line 75. In use, once contents have been inserted into envelope 1, flap 70 is folded about fold-line 75 through apertures 20′ and 20 and folded downwards adjacent planar side 10.

Label 30 is then applied to envelope 1 as previously described such that the label 30 adheres to itself through aligned apertures 20, 20′.

The presence of flap 70 prevents any contents of the envelope being able to slip upwards towards the location of adhesive label 30 and becoming adhered to label 30 during application of label 30 and/or during transit of envelope 1.

Although aspects of the invention have been described with reference to the embodiment shown in the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to the precise embodiment shown and that various changes and modifications may be effected without further inventive skill and effort. For example, the present invention has been described in relation to envelopes, but the invention also extends to parcels and packages which can also use a reusable container with aligned apertures and a closure member as described above, such that the on receipt the closure member may be removed and the container reused.

Further, more than one closure member may be used. For example, where an envelope having a flap is used, the closure member(s) will hold the flap in a closed position. The flap may only be lifted when the permanent bond(s) between the closure member(s) though the aperture(s) in the planar sides of the envelope are broken.

Optionally, the aperture(s) in the planar sides of the envelope is/are arranged in such a way that a stamp or the like applied to a closure member will be damaged when the closure member is removed from the envelope, therefore rendering the said stamp and/or the like void for multiple use.